New Hampshire Loggers Rely on Risley – Again

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High-Tech Harvesting Co. Turn to Timbco, Risley Equipment, for Replacement Machines

LOUDON, NH – When it came time for partners Mike Barrett and Todd Carmichael — both New Hampshire-certified loggers — to think about purchasing a new timber harvester, the friends did their homework. They pretty much knew what they wanted — a Timbco 425 harvester with a Risley Rolly II harvester — the same equipment they had been using for a number of years.
“We bought the Timbco because we liked what we had already been using,” said 35-year-old Todd, co-owner with Mike of High-Tech Harvesting Company. “We liked the service, and we went with what we already were comfortable using.” They bought the new machine at The Oliver Stores in Lancaster, N.H., located in the Great North Woods of the Granite State.
Mike, 34, agreed that sticking with a machine they know inside out and are comfortable with was what sold the partners. “We really know the head and the machine,” said Mike, who runs the harvester while Todd operates the company’s forwarder.
“We went around looking at other heads from other manufacturers,” Mike added, “but in my opinion, the Rolly II head is still the best one out there, especially for hardwood. We cut a lot of really nasty hardwood that’s big limbed, and the Rolly II head works the best on these kind of jobs. They did a lot of upgrades to this latest head. It saws a lot faster, and it’s a lot more robust with much better delimbing power.”
They had operated the previous Timbco past its useful life, and it required periodic repair. They were faced with having the equipment rebuilt or investing in a new machine. “There is a lot less downtime now for us, and that means more production for the company,” said Mike.
The Timbco harvester, without the Rolly II, weighs about 54,000 pounds and is powered by a Cummins 300 hp engine. “This turned out to be another good investment,” noted Todd, referring to the powerful engine. “Someone had suggested that we give that a try, but we were kind of hesitant because we didn’t think we would need all that horsepower. But we are really glad we took their advice and went with it because, now that we have it and we know what it can do for our business, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
One of the benefits of the Risley Rolly II harvester is that it holds a strong, constant rpm. “It doesn’t matter what kind of wood you are delimbing,” said Todd. “The Cummins engine won’t drop down and drag the harvester down, even on wood that you think might be hard to cut.”
A feature they like on the Timbco is the pre-heating system, which can really be appreciated on those cold winter mornings in New Hampshire. “You just set the timer to the time you want to begin working, and the motor starts to heat up a few hours before that time,” explained Todd. “So, once you get to work, your machine is all heated up, and you just need to do your hydraulic warm-up, and then you can get right to work in the woods.”
The customer service they received at The Oliver Stores and from Risley also made them feel comfortable with their buying decision. “They knew what we were cutting for wood and what would best fit our operation,” said Todd. “We are really pleased with their suggestions. Risley was also really decent, and they helped us make our final decision on which head would be best suited for the kinds of jobs we do.”
“Mike and I did a lot of research in order to make sure we decided on something that wouldn’t be a problem for us,” he continued. “We traveled around to see what other kind of equipment was out there. We also visited other logging companies to see what machines they were running. We also did a lot of research on the Web, and we read all the literature that’s out there.”
High-Tech Harvesting also has a 2004 Timberking 458 forwarder purchased from Milton Caterpillar in Hopkinton, N.H. The forwarder is powered by a John Deere 170 hp engine. “The best thing about the Timberking forwarder is it’s a lot easier on your body,” said Todd. “We wanted to buy it close to where we are based so we would be near the service department,” he added. “We didn’t want to have to drive a few hours if we needed parts or service.”
The company has another forwarder — a 1997 Timbco 815 that is powered by a Cummins 216 hp engine and has a load capacity of 15 tons.
High-Tech Harvesting produces 600-800 tons of wood a week. “This includes everything in hardwoods and softwoods and logs,” Todd said. The Timbco-Risley Rolly II has enabled the men to increase production by about 30%.
Mike and Todd typically work in rolling hills with some swampy areas. “It’s also quite steep and rocky, so the way to go in our area is with tracked harvester machines,” said Mike.
“For forwarders, an eight-wheel forwarder with tracks all around is the best way to go in order to get the best flotation possible because it’s pretty unsettled ground here with all the rocks and the steeper ground we have to deal with. Then, in the lower areas, it’s very wet, so we always try to put the lightest footprint in the ground as possible, and our tracked machines help with getting the flotation we need.”
High-Tech Harvesting performs cut-to-length logging. The partners usually work on contracts ranging from 15-1,000 acres. “We cut mostly white pine for saw logs, and for hardwood logs we are cutting oak, yellow birch, white birch, maple, cherry, and rock (sugar) maple for the most part,” reported Mike. They also produce hemlock and hardwood pulpwood from low-grade logs.
The grade logs are supplied to sawmills to be manufactured into lumber, and the low-grade logs go to paper mills and pallet manufacturing companies.
The partners produce hardwood saw logs in lengths ranging from 8 feet, 6 inches to 16 feet, 6 inches, with diameters ranging anywhere from 10-24 inches. Pine saw logs are cut in lengths from 10-16 feet and from 8-30 inches in diameter.
“The pine pulpwood is produced from the minimum diameters, such as eight inches down to just a few inches,” explained Mike. “Pulpwood on the hardwood side is produced from trees that are 10 inches down to just a few inches in diameter.”
Mike and Todd offer forest management services, primarily for private landowners and a variety of forestry foundations. “We don’t do many clear-cuts,” said Todd. “Mostly what we do is maintain the woods and keep them thinned.” Both men are certified loggers through the New Hampshire Timber Harvesting Council.
Sawmills have very clear specifications about the logs they buy, and using good logging skills and cutting to spec can pay big dividends. “You really have to look for all the defects in the logs,” explained Todd. “Mike does that as he’s running the harvester. When I get the wood, Mike’s already decided on what needs to come out of the stem we have just cut so that we make sure we run a profitable business.”
On most of the jobs the partners work on, trees have been marked and spray-painted by a forester employed by the landowner. “The forester paints the trees that need to be thinned and managed,” explained Mike. “We bring in the harvester, and I cut all the painted trees on a selective cut. Then the forwarder comes along and pulls out all the logs and takes the logs and the pulp to the landing.”
During the process, the partners make piles of pulpwood and saw logs. They have their own truck and truck driver, and they also own two trailers. “We always have an empty trailer on the landing so when we load the trailer with wood, the truck driver can deliver the load and when he returns to the landing, there will be another full trailer loaded and waiting to go to the sawmills again,” Mike said.
Finding independent truckers to depend on proved to be iffy, so Mike and Todd recently purchased their own tractor for hauling their loaded trailers. “We decided to purchase the tractor because we needed to be able to guarantee delivery of three or four loads a day in order to satisfy our customers,” explained Todd. “So now the wood is there at our customers when we promise them it will be there.”
Talk to enough loggers and you will probably find they are in their chosen career because it is a family tradition – or they just plain love working in the outdoors. Todd, for example, does not come from a family of loggers. He was working in a paper mill for about five years when a friend asked him if he wanted to help him log on weekends. “We were doing selective cutting for foresters and private landowners,” he said. “I enjoyed the work a lot, and I especially enjoyed just being outdoors.”
So, when the timing was right, he decided to quit his job at the paper mill and try his hand at his own business as a cable logger. “I did this for nine years,” Todd said. “There is no mechanized logging involved in this kind of operation at all. It’s all hand-felling, with a chain saw, and a cable skidder.” Then, three years ago, he and Mike decided to go into business together and formed High-Tech Harvesting.
Mike, on the other hand, comes from a logging family. “When I was in high school, I logged with my father, who owned his own cable logging company,” he said. Once Mike graduated high school in 1991, he did cable logging off and on as well as other jobs, including working for a well-drilling company. “I helped drill commercial wells throughout New England and New York State,” Mike said. In 1996 he decided to get back into cable logging and started his own company, which he ran until 2003, when he joined up with Todd.
Todd has a wife and four young boys, ranging in age from 10 months old to 10 years old. “My oldest son is already interested in the forest industry,” he said. In his spare time, Todd enjoys spending time with his wife and boys; that means playing all kinds of sports with them and fishing and camping together.
Mike is also married and he, his wife and two young boys enjoy hunting and fishing together. “Work and family is really what sums up me and my life,” he said.
When Mike and Todd talked with TimberLine in early spring, they described working conditions and the New England market. “This time of year it’s usually wet, and roads are posted and some are out of commission,” Todd explained. “So from around March 15 through May 1 it’s kind of a wet season, and then we get busy again. Getting the chance to slow down a bit during this time gives us a little time off to rest up for when our business picks up again.”