Massachusetts logger chooses skid-steer mounted firewood processor from Hahn Machinery.
ROWE, Massachusetts —
Riding the tide of the inevitable ebb and flow of business is something of a passion for Tom Danek Jr., the owner of Danek Excavating, Logging and Firewood. Most recently, with the construction industry flattening and firewood sales climbing, he decided to process more firewood.
`Tom wanted to be able to process more than one cord every two hours. “I got online and started looking,” explained Tom. “I saw Hahn.”
Hahn Machinery, Inc. provides a video of its Hahn HFP160 Firewood Pro on the Web. “I watched the video – and I watched it,” said Tom. He explained that he was fascinated by the fact that he had found precisely what machine he wanted.
In May, Tom took delivery of his Hahn HFP160. He mounted it on a 2008 Bobcat S250, which has an air-conditioned cab. He bought directly from the Hahn Machinery factory and headquarters in Two Harbors, Minn., and he worked closely with Gary Olsen at Hahn.
Tom was able to mount the Hahn firewood processor on his Bobcat in just four hours. Within one day it was running at peak performance.
The Hahn firewood processor speeded up Tom’s processing by a factor of four. “I can comfortably do two cords an hour,” said Tom. “To cut and split a cord of wood and just have it fall into the truck is priceless, absolutely priceless.”
Being able to stay in a climate-controlled cab and process firewood is another advantage that will be important at all times of year. Tom has offered firewood to customers since the inception of his business.
“I used to cut about 75 cords a year by hand,” said Tom. Then he moved to two wood processors from Timberwolf, one of which he will keep along with the new Hahn.
Tom cuts logs to 12-foot lengths after felling them. Right now he is using a Husqvarna, which has been his chain saw of choice since he was a teenager. In the future he would like to move to a felling head.
The Hahn is a perfect partner to a one-person operation, explained Tom. From the inside of the cab, he can pick up a length, put it on processor and split it. The only pause comes for a change of wedge configuration.
“You’ve got to change the splitting wedge to [accommodate] the type of wood,” said Tom. All the firewood derives from hardwoods.
A 16-inch diameter log is the biggest that the Hahn HFP160 handles. The processor has a standard four-way wedge and optional six-way and eight-way wedges. It can be mounted on any properly equipped skid-steer loader, wheel loader, or excavator which has an auxiliary hydraulic flow of 20 gallons per minute and 2800 pounds per square inch pressure capability, and a rated operating or lifting capacity of 2500 to 2800 lbs.
The raw material that Tom sends to the Hahn firewood processer is the lowest grade material. He sells veneer logs to veneer buyers and he shops around all graded lumber to get the best price.
Over the years, Tom has made many changes in his operation. He started the business in 1986, but before doing so he had logged for others both in the Bay State and neighboring Connecticut.
The array of earth-moving equipment on Tom’s roster belies that his versatile operation depends on just two people. Tom does the excavating, the logging and the firewood processing. His wife, Helen Danek, helps him. But Tom is the only employee, as well as the owner of the company. Employees are not a possibility because of the prohibitive cost of workers’ compensation premiums.
“I’ve been running a chain saw since I was 14 years old,” said Tom. He took jobs after school. (The McCulloch chain saw that he used for a time had been a Mother’s Day gift from his father to his mother.)
Tom is one of the participants in a new enterprise, which includes his uncle and nephew. The men are aiming to provide stump to build-out service for those who would like to live in custom-built timber frame homes.
There is a rich tradition of custom sawing in the region around Rowe, Mass., the home of Danek Excavating, Logging and Firewood. “Up here in New England, we have a lot of hardwoods,” said Tom. “[Popular are] cherry post and beam, pine post and beam, sugar maple post and beam, oak – oak is a big one. A lot of people like red oak.”
The custom-sawing effort will also encompass custom hearths and meet the needs of those who want something as conventional as 2x4s. The machines that will fledge the custom sawing and building operation are already in place. They are a TimberKing sawmill (new in 2011) and a TimberKing 25-inch combination planer, moulder and sander.
Being involved in multiple ventures is a way of life for Tom. In Rowe, his family lives on 30 acres. Rowe is a town with a population of 300 in Franklin County, Mass.; located in the northwestern part of the state near the border with Vermont.
A native of Rowe, Tom brings to his business the experience of traveling around the world – literally. “It all happened before 9/11,” said Tom. “I took a trip around the world with my cousins.” Staying in hostels made it financially feasible. The learning experience was terrific.
Yet Tom was happy to return home and be able to look out and take in the vast meadow on view from the front of his house, which has a southern exposure. “There’s no place like home,” said Tom.
Being able to stay in a scenic, rural part of the United States and make a living is very gratifying to Tom. The Hahn HFP160 Firewood Pro makes it easier to do so. Thinking about being in control of the Hahn firewood processor, Tom has several reactions almost simultaneously.
“The greatest thing about it is you don’t have to get out of the machine,” said Tom. “Its speed… The way it is designed, the electronics. You don’t even have to touch the log.”
In 2012, Hahn Machinery will celebrate 40 years of manufacturing heavy-duty forestry equipment. The agile Hahn HFP160 firewood processor incorporates all the best knowledge of the company.
It is an understatement to declare Tom’s knowledge of machinery expertise. He got to know equipment as he added it and sometimes refurbished it. And he gets to know it better as he does maintenance.
“I started out in 1986 with an old pickup and a Caterpillar D2 with a scoop and boom,” he said. “I ended up buying a backhoe.” More used equipment was added quickly as Tom worked at both excavating and logging, logging with a chain saw and skidder.
To move log lengths from the woods, he needed something. So soon after buying the backhoe, he bought a Ford F8 dump truck, which had been new in 1950. “It was an antique, really,” he said. “I fixed it up.”
In Massachusetts, a full cord is defined by law as 128 cubic feet. Since adding the firewood processor, Tom is busy gearing up to surpass his all-time yearly sales total of 75 cords. He already had requests for 35 cords on standing annual order. A direct mail advertising campaign brought in orders for another 45 cords almost immediately – and at the beginning of summer. So Tom is looking forward to a big year with firewood sales.
The interest in firewood does not surprise Tom. He sees wood fiber as a very important energy source in the years to come. Indeed, he got started cutting firewood, as an adolescent, as he helped his father prepare to heat the family home in winter. Now, others can enjoy the same, reliable source of heat without doing the cutting and splitting themselves, thanks to enterprises such as Tom’s.
At present, Tom sells only full cords of firewood, both green and seasoned. He is exploring the option of adding a solar-powered kiln, which would allow him to prepare packaged firewood, as well as dry lumber for other endeavors.
Tom holds a Timber Harvester license from his state, and continues in all required education for loggers. He is an active member of the Lions. One week a month for two months each year he cooks the barbecue chicken that the Lions sells as a fundraiser at local fairs and social venues.
If he has one philosophy of business, it would be “The customer is always right.” Taking care of customer requests in a streamlined way is possible because of the great help that Tom gets from his wife. “There’s no way I could do this without my wife.”
The couple has three children. And the family enjoys several sorts of outdoor activities, including hunting. “I love to hunt,” said Tom. “Come Thanksgiving, we shut down for two weeks – for deer hunting. We grind our own [venison] hamburger and put in the freezer.”
There are many facets of being a business owner that Tom appreciates. “A lot of it is self-worth, accomplishment,” he said. “[I] just get up and do something different every day.”