Williams Logging – Stripper Pull-Through Delimber Boosts Production for Vermont Logger
WELLS RIVER, Vermont – When Terry Williams Jr. was 20 years old, he took a proverbial leap of faith and landed squarely on his feet.
He had been working in construction immediately after graduating high school. “I spent about two years in the construction business,” he recalled. “Then one day I decided I wanted a cable skidder, and I just went right out and bought a Timberjack 230, and that was the beginning of my business, Williams Logging.”
Fourteen years later, Terry’s business has grown, and now it is poised to diversify and expand in another direction.
He admits he didn’t really have to think twice about his decision to leave the building trade. Before he bought the skidder, he worked several weekends with a friend who was a logger.
“This kind of work just seemed like a lot of fun to me,” Terry said. “Then, after I bought my skidder, I started working with another friend, Troy Oliver, and his father, who was an old-time logger. They both found a lot of private lots for me to work. I also worked with foresters in the New England Forestry Consultants group.”
Of course, Terry started small, relying heavily on his own labor. “I was cutting the trees down with my chain saw and limbing everything out in the woods,” Terry recalled. “I had to hook onto every tree individually with the choker chain, and after I cut down five or six trees, I would have to get off the skidder to do the limbing.”
When he started out, he primarily cut trees for private landowners who were doing selective cuts to earn money to pay their property taxes. “Then, once I got more into mechanized logging, my company has continued to grow slowly and steadily over the years,” said Terry.
Crew of Four
Terry lives in Wells River, Vermont, which is located next to the Connecticut River – the New Hampshire border — and just above the north-south midpoint of the state. He operates within about a 150-mile radius and works in both Vermont and New Hampshire.
He has established a group of dependable men to work with. These include his father, Terry Sr., and a couple of friends, Danny Leonard and Ben White.
Terry Sr. drove an oil truck most of his career but quit to work with his son; now he operates a John Deere 648 grapple skidder. Danny has a CAT 525B grapple skidder, and Ben has a Tigercat feller-buncher. Terry owns a Hood loader and slasher and a Stripper Delimber, which he added in the spring.
“Ben finds jobs for me where he is cutting down trees, and then he calls me and my guys in to do the skidding,” Terry explained.
When Terry was interviewed for this article, the men were working in Dorchester, New Hampshire for a landowner with about 8,000 acres.
Ben usually prepares the job site, including the landing. “We go in, and my father and Danny are pulling hitches out with their grapple skidders,” said Terry. “Ben has already laid out all the hitches after he cuts the trees, and the whole trees are brought to the landing.”
Ben fells the trees and groups the tree-length wood into bunches of about 30 trees. Danny and Terry Sr. divide them up and begin skidding the trees to the landing. Meanwhile, Ben works ahead of them, cutting more timber and assembling more hitches.
At the landing, Terry takes over. He uses the Hood loader to remove the limbs with the Stripper pull-through delimber, then puts the stem into the slasher to buck it to the appropriate length. The logs are sorted and stacked. Terry relies mainly on one trucker, Chuck Perkins, for delivering the wood, and loads the truck.
Pulp wood usually is bucked to 8 feet and frequently is trucked to the Versao paper mill in Jay, Maine. Saw logs, supplied to various mills in the New England region, are bucked to lengths ranging from 8 to 16 feet, depending on a mill’s specifications. For example, most of the pine saw logs are supplied to King Lumber in Wentworth, New Hampshire.
The men work in both hardwoods and softwoods. “We cut all kinds of woods,” noted Terry. “Right now we are cutting pine, spruce, fir and a lot of soft maple. We also cut hardwoods, like white birch, oak, rock maple, and ash.”
Since the limbs and tops are removed at the landing, all the slash is accumulated there. Another friend of Terry’s, Bruce Limlaw, contracts to chip the slash. The chips are blown into trailer vans and usually hauled to a power plant in Ryegate, Vermont.
Stripper Delimber Boon to Production
Terry had been considering buying a Stripper Delimber for quite some time. He was looking for a way to increase overall production. Until he added the Stripper, he was cutting off the limbs by hand with a chain saw.
Of course, cutting off the limbs manually was time consuming. It also took away time he could spend running the loader, bucking the stems and sorting, stacking and loading wood. “Now I can just stay put and keep the production going on,” said Terry.
In addition, delimbing by hand could impact the tasks performed by the other men, Terry noted. “If I happened to get behind the guys, one of them would have to stop their skidder to help me limb. This meant that only one skidder would be pulling. Now they both can just keep pulling wood and our production can be ongoing.”
Production varies, depending on what kind of forest the men are working in, what they are cutting, the conditions, and other factors. In a recent week the men produced 60 loads of wood, said Terry.
Terry met Sam Sessions, president of Stripper Manufacturing in South Paris, Maine, at a trade show in Burlington, Vermont. Sam developed the Stripper Delimber.
Sam exhibited one of his delimbers at the Vermont trade show. “What really caught my eye was the simplicity of the machine,” Terry recalled. “It is so simple to operate and to maintain. There are no hydraulics involved at all, and it only has three grease fittings, and that’s it. So it is very easy to maintain.”
The Stripper pull-through delimber weighs about 1,600 pounds. It is designed for simplicity, safety and high production, and it sets up in minutes. The Stripper is equipped with reversible, bolt-in, easy-slide alloy knives. The double-sided knives are interchangeable and can be reversed when worn; they can be changed easily in minutes. The delimber is light-weight, so it is easy on trailers. It is designed primarily for fir, spruce, hemlock, pine, cedar, and other softwoods, but is also effective on poplar and other smaller diameter hardwoods.
Depending on the operator, wood and conditions, the Stripper can delimb up to 180 trees per hour, according to the manufacturer.
Terry chose the trailer-mounted Stripper for use with his truck-mounted loader. Other options include an adapter plate for easy attachment to the gooseneck of a trailer when the loader is mounted on the trailer. Another option is a Hultdins hydraulic bar saw for topping; it features a self-tensioning chain, proportional chain lubrication and automatic bar return.
The Stripper is simple with only two moving parts. When a stem is placed into it, gravity and the weight of the tree cause the knives to align into place before the tree is pulled through. There are no hydraulics to adjust, maintain or repair.
Sam was “great to work with” when he was considering the purchase, said Terry. Although the delimber is pretty foolproof, Sam explained it thoroughly.
“I called him up one Saturday afternoon because I had a big hemlock job coming up that I had to do,” Terry said. “When I told him I wanted to order a Stripper Delimber, he told me he would meet me the very next day, on a Sunday. He met me half-way – in Lancaster, New Hampshire – to deliver it. He was very easy to work with and was very helpful to me.”
Looking to Diversify
Diversification in any business is a key to continued success and can help a company thrive during trying times, especially if one business segment experiences a slowdown. Since logging is slower during the winter, Terry is planning to diversify by expanding into firewood.
“I just bought a Timberwolf firewood processor,” he said.
Terry plans to set up the firewood processor right at the landing when he is on a job. He will sort out low-grade logs for firewood and buck them to 16 feet to run through the Timberwolf, which has a live deck with chain infeed. He will stack the firewood logs adjacent to the processor and run the Timberwolf when the loggers have bad weather.
The firewood processor, made by Vermont-based Timberwolf, uses a bar saw to cut the logs to fireplace length. The pieces drop into a hydraulic splitter, and the finished firewood falls onto an outfeed conveyor to be loaded into a truck.
Terry expects firewood demand will be strong this coming winter because of the high cost of heating oil. “There will be a lot of people up here who will be burning wood this winter rather than oil for their heat,” he said. “Selling firewood is really a growing business up here.”
Terry does not have to worry about marketing or promoting his services. “I get all of my work through word of mouth and through the relationships the people I work with have with their clients,” he said. “Ben cuts for a lot of people in the region, and he knows a lot of people. So, between all of us, we always have plenty of work.”
Dealing honestly and forthrightly with landowners and doing a good job are part and parcel of doing business. “We always give our customers what they expect from us,” said Terry. “Even if I wind up losing money on a job, I will still pay the price I agreed upon with the landowner.”
“Another thing about my company is that we are happy to do any job,” he added, “whether it’s big or small. And we always strive to utilize all the wood that is in the trees so we are not wasting any of the resources.”
When Terry is not working, he likes to spend time with his family – his wife, two daughters and a son. He also enjoys deer hunting in Vermont and New Hampshire.