Wisconsin Loggers Stay with What Works

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Father-Son Team Replaces TimberPro, Risley Rolly II Combination with Newer Version

PITTSVILLE, Wisconsin — A couple of great experiences marked the fall of 2006 for Frank Frost, who with his son, Seth, owns Frost Forest Products.
Frank and Seth went hunting in northern Quebec, where they each bagged two caribou.
And Frost Forest Products put a TimberPro 630 fitted with a Risley Rolly II processor to work. The six-wheeled TimberPro 630 works in conjunction with a TimberPro 830 eight-wheel forwarder.
This is the second time that Frank’s company has matched a TimberPro with a Risley Rolly II. Frank bought a TimberPro 620 with a Risley Rolly II harvesting head in December 2002. “It was an excellent machine,” he said. The combination served him so well that there was no question he would stay with the TimberPro and Risley Equipment when it came time to upgrade the machines.
“I’ve been trading both the harvester and forwarder every four years to keep the best production possible,” said Frank. The TimberPro 630 retains the best features of the TimberPro 620, he noted, such as the reversible fan on the radiator, and adds to them. “It’s got a lot of new features,” he said.
The TimberPro 630 also is powered by a Cummins 300 hp engine, an increase from the 215 hp engine of the previous machine. “You have plenty of power,” said Frank. Yet, he has seen no noticeable difference in fuel consumption.
As for “fuel, you can’t see the difference at all” in usage between the two machines, even though the 630 runs on a bigger engine.
The reversible fan on the radiator is now standard on TimberPro equipment. Reversible fans are designed to purge debris from the radiator and air intake screens. Keeping them clean helps prevent overheating of the engine, transmission and hydraulics system, extending their life and improving fuel economy.
Other improvements include the open left side, gull wing access, separate cooling radiators on opposite sides of the engine, new style booms with 25,000 pounds of lift at 10 feet, and xenon lighting package, which pick up the marking paint much better. A new option, a remote rear view camera, provides added visibility.
A rubber-tired machine and a fixed harvesting head work best for Frost Forest Products, said Frank. “That’s the perfect set-up for us,” he explained.
In moving to the TimberPro 630 with the Risley Rolly II, Frank expected some good things to happen, and they did. “It’s a lot faster than the old one,” he said. The Risley Rolly II has two-speed rollers that make it possible to tailor the force to a particular stem.
When Frank purchased his first TimberPro in 2002, it was actually the very first rubber-tired TimberPro 620 manufactured by Pat Crawford’s then-new company in Shawano, Wis. Frank had used Pat’s equipment in the past and was confident in the new line of logging machines. (Pat previously owned Timbco, which he founded; when he sold the company, he retained the rights to the wheel division.)
Another factor in Frank’s buying decision was the equipment dealer — Woodland Equipment Inc. in Iron River, Mich. Frank began working with Woodland Equipment when he put his company on a fully-mechanized footing to do cut-to-length (CTL) logging. The principals at Woodland knew that Frank wanted to find a way to put a Rolly II on a wheeled carrier. Everyone — Pat, Frank and the team at Woodland Equipment — was thinking along the same lines.
Frank started logging with his father, Jack Frost, 30 years ago. Jack logged in the winter and did construction work in the summer until his son joined him. The two men used chain saws and felled by hand for more than a decade before migrating to mechanical felling.
When Frank was ready to go to a processing head, he went to Woodland Equipment. “They’re really nice to deal with,” said Frank. “They’re really stocked. I can get what I need.” Getting prompt answers to questions and easy access to parts is important to Frank.
He was reluctant to single out one person as pivotal in his decision to stay with Woodland Equipment over the years. “Everybody’s great,” he said. Frank has worked closely with Ron Beauchamp, president of Woodland Equipment, over many years, and the two men have a good rapport.
Woodland Equipment keeps the lines of communication open, said Frank. “I talk to them quite a bit,” he explained. “They keep in touch pretty steady. Pat Crawford comes out” from TimberPro, too.
Woodland has an expert staff, some with over 30 years of experience. If a customer’s machine breaks down, Woodland usually has a technician there within the same day.
Seth runs the TimberPro 630 with the Risley Rolly II. “He’s really good with computers,” said Frank. “He started out in logging, running a shear right out of high school.”
“This year, we’ll be up to 12,000 to 13,000 cords, even with the bad winter,” said Frank. With the ground in Frank’s region still not frozen several weeks into winter, the prospects for a good winter — where the ground is good and solid, thanks to cold weather — were dimming in January.
Winter logging conditions are a big factor in production for Frost Forest Products. Wet, soft terrain slows or even cancels operations. The first priority for loggers in Wisconsin is meeting the state’s exacting environmental regulations. Frank works exclusively for Stora Enso, which has additional specifications for logging contractors.
Soggy ground often is off limits to loggers, so warm winters this year and last dampened production. “With the Tim­berPro 620, we would probably get around 11,000” cords, said Frank. “In two good (cold) years, it was close to 15,000 cords.”
When low-lying wet areas are impassable or restricted, Frost Forest Products must cut around them and return to finish the job later when the ground is solid, which slows things down.
Since March 2005, Frank and Seth have been the only two employees. That’s when Frank traded in his Franklin 632 forwarder and his Tree Farmer C5F for a TimberPro 830 forwarder with a grapple saw. “I run the forwarder,” said Frank. The eight-wheeled TimberPro 830, which Frank ordered with a Hultdins bucket and grapple saw, has so much capacity that it eliminated the need for a second forwarder.
The TimberPro 830 easily keeps pace with the TimberPro 630. It’s also comfortable, said Frank, which is important when he is in the cab nine hours a day. Cabs of both machines have heated/air-ride seats and are insulated for noise reduction.
The TimberPro 630 and Risley Rolly II combination is fast and powerful. “We cut everything with it, 40-inch trees on stump,” said Frank. “With the 620, we cut mostly hardwood and oak. With the TimberPro 630, it’s now a mix of hardwood, oak and aspen being cut.”
The fixed Rolly II head from Risley Equipment is a great match for the kind of work they do, mostly thinnings. “You don’t damage the residual trees” with a fixed head, said Frank.
The Risley Rolly II is designed for harvesting and delimbing. The head can handle all coniferous limbs and hardwood limbs up to 6 inches in diameter.
Frank’s wife, Betsy, does the bookkeeping for Frost Forest Products. (She also works as a transcriber for the Clark County Sheriff’s Department.) She is a vital player in the business that Frank and Seth own, making it possible for father and son to focus on logging.
Pittsville, home to Frost Forest Products, is a small town 100 miles northwest of Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. The region is sparsely populated, and Pittsville has less than 1,000 residents. Logging jobs take Frank and Seth as far as 85 miles from home, but most work is within 50 miles of Pittsville.
Stora Enso often puts together three or four jobs in a ‘package.’ The arrangement makes it possible for Frank to get his equipment to the initial location on lowboy trailers and then drive the TimberPro machines from one tract to another. “That’s the thing with rubber,” he said. “It’s so nice that you can drive down the road.”
The TimberPro 630 also has leveling capability, which is important to Frank. It can shift 22 degrees forward in order to work in steep terrain. “Working on steep slopes, you lose production a lot,” said Frank. “There’s no way you can pick up speed. It’s a slower process.” But the TimberPro 630 helps keep that process going safely and as fast as possible.
Terry Frost Trucking does all hauling for Frost Forest Products. Terry hauls logs to mills specified by Stora Enso.
Stora Enso, which is headquartered in Finland, sets precise requirements for each job, including the disposition of unwanted material. “The wood they don’t want, bolts and so on, they tell us where they want it to go,” said Frank.
Frank and Seth do as much of their maintenance as possible. “We run our bars and chains on rotation,” said Frank. The saw bars are changed about 10 times per year, and the saw chain is changed out about 20 times. Father and son do re-tipping themselves, which keeps their maintenance cost under $500 a month. Seth is such a smooth operator that the 620, when traded in, still had 75% wear left on the tires.
Warm, wet conditions prevailed when Frank talked with TimberLine early in this year. He had put eco-tracks on the tires of the TimberPro 830 forwarder, something he rarely does.
Complying with state environmental regulations and Stora Enso specifications is a must. Foresters of the state Department of Natural Resources keep a watchful eye on logging. “We’re audited all the time,” said Frank. “Stora Enso is audited.”
Wisconsin foresters provide technical assistance to help loggers comply with regulations, and so does a Dan Peterson, a forester for Stora Enso. “He’s a super guy to work with,” said Frank.
As Frank sees it, the pieces of his business are really in place. He is contracted to work for a good company and is backed up by good equipment and a good dealer.
“Pat Crawford builds one hell of a machine,” said Frank. “It’s an excellent machine.”
The TimberPro’s computer controls get the most from the Risley Rolly II, said Frank. The two pieces of machinery fit together perfectly.
Woodland Equipment was one of the first U.S. dealers for Risley. The Rolly II was developed in the 1990s and benefited from the input of Ron at Woodland Equipment. Ron spent time at Risley in Alberta, Canada, offering his insights into what would make the Rolly II a top performer in the Great Lakes states.
The Rolly II is suited to work in both hardwood and softwood, and it can be used for tree-length logging or cut-to-length logging. The geared rotational control of the Rolly II holds the stem firmly at all times.
The TimberPro 630 and 620, even when fitted with a durable head like the Rolly II, are still agile and nimble and can work in select cuts and thins. The cab is on a large swing bearing, which gives it continuous swing. The engine is placed behind the compact cab, which means there is no tail swing and excellent visibility, which allows processing over both ends and sides.
Frank and Seth are Master Loggers. They earned their certification through the Wisconsin Professional Loggers Association.
Frank enjoys logging and working outdoors. He appreciates the opportunity to work alongside his son, who “loves working out in the woods, too,” he said. Both men like to hunt and fish in their free time.