Maine Logger Embraces C-T-L: Log Max 7000C Enables E&L Logging to Make Conversion

- Advertisement -

Lance White, part of a fifth generation logging family, owns E&L Logging. Escalating fuel prices spurred him to convert to cut-to-length logging. He had little trouble settling on a Log Max 7000C dangle head harvester.

DIXFIELD, Maine – Lance White has been an observer of cut-to-length logging for years. When escalating fuel prices finally spurred him to convert to c-t-l, he had little trouble settling on his choice for equipment: a Log Max 7000C dangle head harvester.
White lives and works in Dixfield, which is about 40 miles northwest of Augusta in the foothills of western Maine. He was born and grew up in the region.
Lance, 41, is part of a fifth generation logging family, and he got an early introduction to the forest products industry. His father, Elijah, was in business with Lance’s paternal grandfather when Lance was a boy. His father drove a logging truck equipped with a crane.
Lance began operating equipment as a boy. By the time he was 18, he was a seasoned operator, and he and his father went into business together as E&L Logging.
His father, 76, just retired last spring. “He retired about 15 years ago,” said Lance, “but he never left.” His father is still involved in the company, but not the production end of it.
“He’s the kind of guy who would never give up,” Lance added. His father was inducted into Rangley’s Logging Museum Hall of Fame this past July of 2011.
Father and son started with a conventional logging operation. They bought stumpage and felled trees by hand with chain saws. They had two cable skidders to skid the logs to a landing to remove the limbs and buck them to length – all chain saw work. Lance bought one of the skidders as his initial buy-in into the business.
His father suffered a serious accident in 1991. He fell off the top of a load of wood, landed on his head, and broke his neck in three places. He had to wear a halo-type brace for more than five months, but he recovered “with flying colors,” Lance recalled.
They purchased a Timbco 425 equipped with a hot saw in 1998. At the time they had about six employees and were running five cable skidders, but father and son were not pleased. Each logger did his own felling and skidding. “Every logger on every skidder was doing a different job,” recalled Lance, and landowners were not satisfied.
They purchased the Timbco because it would enable them to ensure the same level of quality and performance in the felling operations. “I controlled everything that went on in the woods,” said Lance, and his father controlled all the delimbing and bucking operations. Elijah ran a Hood loader with slasher at the deck.
“That made logging very successful for years for us,” said Lance. The change kept all the skidders working and provided additional benefits. It eliminated the dangerous aspect of felling by hand with chain saws. It increased production and improved the consistency of production. “And we had a better looking job,” said Lance.
Later, they subcontracted with another logger who owned a delimber and another who operated a grapple skidder. They continued to operate that way, fully mechanized tree length logging, until converting to cut-to-length in the spring of this year.
The main reason for converting to c-t-l was fuel costs, said Lance. Fuel costs last winter were particularly high, he noted. His fuel cost at the time was $15.08 per ton from the stump to the mill, he said. Asked about figuring his cost so precisely to the penny, Lance said, “You’ve got to today. It’s that serious out here.”
By contrast, when he and his father bought their first Timbco, their fuel cost was $3 per ton.
While his fuel costs were more than $15 a ton for wood delivered to the mill, his average price was $26.80 per ton delivered.
It was an issue that Lance wrestled with for a number years. “I went too long,” he said, and the business struggled in recent years. “I said times will get better. Fuel costs will go down and mill prices will go up…They didn’t.”
“It was the deciding factor this spring,” said Lance. “If we’re going to stay in business, we’re going to cut-to-length.” At the time he made the transition, Lance had five employees.
He has been an observer of cut-to-length logging practices since about 1994 and has been closely watching the developments in equipment since 1994 – and listening to other loggers. “The logging community here is family,” he said. “My neighbors are logging contractors.” The loggers go to the same place for their morning coffee and talk. “You talk to this guy, you talk to that guy,” said Lance. “You go out on a job site and see his equipment work.”
Lance researched buying two new cut-to-length machines but ruled it out. He had bought a new Timbco 425 with leveling capability in 2001 and had been running it ever since. He decided to continue using the machine and to pair it with a cut-to-length head – a new Log Max 7000C harvester, a dangle head. He rebuilt the Timbco and also retrofitted it with a longer Southfork boom. He bought the Log Max, the boom, and all the other components from the Oliver Stores. The Oliver Stores installed the Log Max as well as the new boom and hydraulics, and Lance refurbished the track system and sent out the hydraulic pumps to be rebuilt.
He went with the dangle head for speed, he said. “You get into a smaller diameter tree, and productivity is a lot quicker in the dangle head application,” explained Lance. “And it’s easier on the machine. You’re not carrying that (extra) weight around.” The head is lighter and has more reach capability.
Learning to work with the Log Max took a little longer than he expected. “The learning curve was a little longer than I thought it would be,” he said. “I kind of blame myself…but it’s been very good.” Lance has been running the equipment now for six months. “It’s really fitting me well now,” he said. He added the longer boom because he needed a longer reach with the machine. “I needed reach,” he said. “My client landowners, they don’t want to see skid trails every 25 or 30 feet apart. They want them 75 feet apart. So you need to be able to reach into your wood.”
“Everything is automatic,” said Lance. “It’s got its own brain.” The head can make the first cut to the last cut, all automatically, and is very precise to 1/16-inch, he said. It has 10 pre-select processing solutions.
Lance prefers to run it most of the time in the manual mode because the stands he works in are natural, not plantation-type forests. So, he cuts and processes many different types of stems.
Lance also added a used Timberjack 1410 eight-wheel forwarder from Nortrax; both Timberjack and Nortrax are subsidiaries of John Deere. The combination has worked “very well,” he reported.
Lance also praised Log Max for its technical support and service in getting him up and running. A Log Max representative from Washington came to Maine for two days to work with Lance. “The guy was super,” said Lance. “There was nothing he didn’t know about the head…He could tell you what size wrench you needed,” he said, to remove a bolt. “He was amazing.”
The first day was spent setting up the head and making the necessary calibrations. On the second day, Lance began working with the equipment. It was raining. “It was pouring. I mean raining buckets.” The Log Max rep stood outside in the rain, patiently watching Lance. Lance got out of the Timbco three times and went to him and tried to persuade him to get into a vehicle and out of the rain. The Log Max rep told him, ‘I’m here for you. I’m going to stay side by side with you.’
“I really liked that,” said Lance. “If that’s what they do for people out there, there’s no other head on the market as far as I’m concerned.”
Log Max is a Swedish company with U.S. operations that has been designing and manufacturing machines for mechanized forestry operations since 1980. The company’s main product line is its series of single-grip harvesters for cut-to-length logging.
The Log Max 7000C is a large head for heavy timber. The head combines high power and high speed and performs well in heavy trunks with tough limbs. It is equipped with dual feed rolls, upper and lower knives for delimbing, and a bar saw for bucking.
Variable displacement feed roller motors provide fast speed in smaller wood and automatically regulate to provide more power in tougher limbed trees. Well placed guards and heavy covers protect internal components and hoses from damage. High performance saw hydraulics provide full flow to the bottom saw for fast cutting in all timber sizes.
The Log Max patented knife control system increases productivity by minimizing feed friction. Unique compound curve delimbing knife profile provides outstanding stem coverage and increased log quality.
Log Max harvesters come with the Log Mate control system with enhanced capabilities and state of the art communication for all head control functions. A powerful high performance controller rapidly processes information for precise head positioning and cutting, and highest quality logs are consistently merchandised. The Log Mate control system is easily adaptable to a full range of carriers with its programmable vehicle hydraulic system control.
Oliver Stores represents TimberPro, which has a business relationship with Log Max USA.
“We’ve been doing business with Oliver Stores since before I could look over the counter,” recalled Lance. The employee in the parts department is the same person as when Lance was 7 years old, he said.
“They’re a very small company,” said Lance, although the Oliver Stores has four locations. “I like dealing with people…it’s the same with landowners…I don’t really care so much for the corporate world. It’s a family-run business, basically, and my roots are from there.”
It is a tough time for the logging industry, acknowledged Gary Baker, a sales rep for Oliver Stores. “Prices of equipment are high, and the price of wood is the other way.”
Many loggers have gone out of business or downsized their operations, like Lance, Gary acknowledged. “The market is still oversupplied,” he said, “because the mills have disappeared as fast as the loggers have.”
Yet, there is a strong interest in cut-to-length equipment in the Northeast, he noted. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont dominated new sales of cut-to-length equipment in 2010, said Baker, referring to an industry report about equipment sales.
“We have developed over the years a very strong, good equipment base,” said Baker, representing leading manufacturers of logging and other equipment.
The Oliver Stores has been in business since 1939, providing equipment, parts, and service for loggers, contractors, and mills throughout New England.
The company is an authorized dealer for the leading manufacturers of timber harvesting and processing and construction equipment. It represents such companies as CTR, Cummins, Hultdins, MultiTek, Prentice, Propac Industries, Quadco, Risley Equipment, Rotobec, Timbco, Valmet, Wood Beaver, and others.
The Oliver Stores, offering both new and used equipment, has three locations in Maine – in Bangor, Farmington, and New Gloucester — and also Lancaster, New Hampshire.
Lance now has three employees. Travis Waite, his son-in-law, operates the forwarder, Clifford Virgin drives a truck, and another works in a small excavation business.
Lance still works primarily for private landowners. In fact he has worked 100 percent for landowners the past 10 years.
“I really enjoy working with private landowners,” he said. It was a conscious decision on his part. “I didn’t like how the larger companies were going about it. I treat every acre like it’s the only acre. The big companies, they manage millions of acres, not a single acre.” Some landowners have as little as 10 acres, others, up to 50,000 acres.
In recent years his work has been 98 percent select cutting. He does occasional clear-cuts, but they are small in scope, such as three acres for wildlife openings or for food plots for wildlife. For wildlife opening and food plots, his company also will remove all the stumps and plant vegetation. Typical plantings, mainly for the benefit of deer, turkey and grouse, are clove and grasses, he said.
His two main pulp markets are the Verso Paper mill in Jay and the New Page paper mill in Rumford. Markets for softwood saw logs vary, depending on the species, but he supplies two stud mills. Spruce and fir logs go to Stratton Lumber in Stratton, and white pine goes to Irving Lumber in Dixfield.
The hardwood sawmill business in Maine has dried up, according to Lance. “I don’t know of an existing hardwood sawmill in Maine at this time,” he said. Hardwood saw logs are supplied to Timber Resource Group, which exports them to mills in Canada.
Lance and his father have worked in both hardwood and softwood and a wide variety of species. The job he is currently doing involves 13 species, said Lance.
Lance usually cuts about 50-50 hardwood and softwood, although since spring it has been about 75 percent softwood and 25 percent hardwood.
In recent years he has seen a lot of loggers go out of business or downsize their operations, like he did.
Markets are good, however, in terms of demand for wood. “Our markets are wide open,” said Lance. “Things are great. We can’t cut enough wood. Pulp markets, log markets – everything is wide open.” Most of his markets have been strong the past year, he said. On the downside, mill prices have not changed for five years, he noted.
Lance is active in a couple of trade associations, the Northeast Loggers Association and the Certified Logging Professional program of the Maine Tree Foundation. He has been a Master Logger since 2006 and was named the CLP Logger of the Year in 2008.
He enjoys deer hunting, particularly bow hunting. He likes to take on occasional trip to other states to hunt deer, such as Ohio and West Virginia and spend time with his family.
Lance lives with his wife of 23 years, Tessia. They have three daughters – Kathy, 23, Kristina, 21, and Katrina, 20. – and a 1-year-old granddaughter and newborn grandson. They have been raising a five year old niece, Megan, since she was seven weeks old.
“I really like cut-to-length,” said Lance. “I like at the end of the day, walking out where I cut. Some people do it for money. I do it for pride. I do it because I love it.”
It also is more efficient and gives him greater control over the job because there is no other employee on a deck or yard, bucking. Lance controls it all. “I’m a control freak,” he said. “I have to run my job…right, and I have to be involved in everything that goes on.”
As my family always said, “If it’s not done the White way, it’s not done the right way.”