Rodney Rosetta, owner of One Man and a Load of Firewood, finds increased productivity using his new Hahn HFP160 Firewood Processor.
Wilsonville, Alabama — In his early days, Rodney Rosetta, aka “The Firewood Man”, sat on the side of Highway 280 with “lots of rednecks” to sell his firewood. When he first started 20 years ago, there were only 15 to 20 competitors trying to woo the business of drive-by customers. But now according to Rodney, there’s 30 to 40 trucks “lined up like roaches” along the two-mile stretch with no guarantee of any sales. Rodney only did that for about four years before he got some consistent customers and changed his strategy. But then about six years ago, Rodney jumped onto the internet super highway, and now he literally drives by all those guys with his six trucks loaded and emptied every single day.
Because of the drastic increase in business, Rodney’s company, One Man and a Load of Firewood, needed high-powered equipment to keep up with the demand. Over the years he graduated from using a single ax to three hydraulic splitters (two NTV’s and a Northern Tool Northstar), and a C175 New Holland skid loader with grapple. And in 2009, Rodney purchased the Hahn HFP160 firewood processor. With the addition of the HFP160, his production volume increased exponentially.
According to Rodney, prior to incorporating his Hahn firewood processor, it took 10 to 12 hours per day to produce two loads of firewood, which is equivalent to about a cord of wood. Now, with the HFP160 attached to his New Holland skid loader, it takes him just 15 minutes for the same amount of volume, which includes the cutting, splitting and dumping of the firewood. Rodney loads up his five trucks, four Chevrolet Silverados and a GMC Sierra, with two and a half cords each. He sells in ½ face cord increment orders, and each truck carries five loads/orders. Rodney modified his trucks with five-foot railings and stacks the wood about a foot above the cab. His trucks also serve to advertise for him with his name and number brightly scrolled on the doors of each truck.
“There’s just no comparison to the amount of time that my new Hahn is saving me now,” Rodney said. “I’m a perfectionist. When I was doing it by hand, I would measure, cut, then re-measure, cut again, and so on. I was careful not to waste any wood. (But)With the Hahn I am confident of that perfect cut every time and I can still watch it to make sure that it’s what the customer wants.”
According to Rodney, his main customers are 8 to 10 restaurants for his regular and year-round business, as well as 400 to 500 loads to residential customers during the winter time. His average revenue annually is at least $90K to $100K, with $38K to $45K being the residential portion of his earnings. He specializes in wood for “romance fires” and he has hit that industry niche in a big way.
“My wood is for those who are sitting around in the afternoon drinking their totties by the fire,” remarked Rodney with a chuckle. “Unlike those in the North, our wood’s not for any heating purposes.”
Rodney, who spent 37 years as an employee at the local steel mill, worked his way up from sweeping the floors to building heavy steel pipe for the railroad for the last 12 years. But as of last January, he’s retired to run One Man and a Load of Firewood full time. While working at his former day job, Rodney used to operate his firewood business from 10p.m. to 1a.m. and sometimes it was all night long just to fill his orders. Now he continues to work single-handedly from daylight to dark, at least 8 to 10 hours per day on days with no deliveries. On average he delivers 30 to 40 loads per week in the winter and up to 10 loads per week during the summer, depending on the his restaurant customers’ needs. Rodney tries to stay ready with his trucks already pre-loaded so that when he gets the call for an order he can deliver right away.
Depending on the weather, Rodney goes up to his property to cut and fill his Chevrolet C60 dump truck. His truck fills up within an hour and a half for random cut lengths or within five hours for sized wood. He then delivers his wood back to his residence and dumps it on his property near his 12-foot bay garage. Then it’s back to the lot for refilling. Rodney said his skid steer loader uses a whole tank of fuel per day. Saw dust and scraps are also burned on site to keep his yard in better shape. Rodney prefers to keep his firewood near his home to prevent theft because his cutting yard is not fenced in.
Rodney gathers his wood from insurance jobs due to storms or from residents. He also buys local timber between 30 to 100 miles from his home. In years past, he’s averaged between 10 to 15 tractor-trailer loads; however, this last year he purchased close to 20 tractor-trailer loads. He purchases all his wood as locally as possible so the cost is minimal, between $800 to $1,000 per load. The wood is delivered to his 2-acre lot that’s adjacent to his home. He focuses on 30′ trees with 10” diameters so that he can have a longer cut time on his HFP160. According to Hahn Machinery, a max of an 18′ tree is recommended. But Rodney through his trial and error methods over a six month period has learned to master his HFP160 so that it performs to his needs with all the possible variables that occur in the firewood processing industry.
“It takes hours to learn to run this thing to its fullest capacity and to have it work like I want it to work,” said Rodney. “It took me about 6 months to get this thing. I tore up chains, saw blades and the chain bar trying to see what it could do and not do. I persevered to own this equipment because I knew it was a good piece of equipment. Gary (of Hahn Machinery) was johnny-on-the-spot with replacement parts and he was readily available for my questions.”
According to Gary Olsen of Hahn Machinery, the HFP160 is the first skid-steer mounted processor that attaches to skid-steer loaders with at least 20 gpm auxiliary hydraulic flow. It can pick up a log, move it to a pile, a conveyor, or a truck, cut it into firewood lengths and then split the blocks into four, six, or eight pieces. Many advantages exist including: increased productivity, reduction of operating costs, improved operator comfort and safety because all work is performed inside the cab, improved flexibility for the operator to work at his own pace and schedule, mobility to transport the equipment into the woods as well as moving the wood directly into a trailer or other location, and increased versatility.
“The HFP160 can be mounted on virtually any machine that has the lifting capacity,” Gary explained. “Since its introduction in 2009, we’ve seen the HFP160 installed not only on skid loaders, but compact track loaders, compact wheel loaders and several on Hydraulic excavators as well.”
The HFP160 is designed to cut 16” lengths but Rodney has also modified his machine to cut 18” lengths. He sells 14”, 16” and18” lengths. He also hand cuts and splits 24” lengths for many early 1900’s model homes in the upscale Birmingham region. Rodney also owns three wedges, two eights and a six. He primarily uses his eight-way wedge. He finds that it only takes five minutes to “swap” out his HFP160 for his grapple when necessary. Rodney’s also learned through experience to raise his HFP160 up about six feet higher to gain increased visibility from the cab.
Just as Rodney’s business was discovered by his customers through the internet, so did he discover Hahn and the HFP160 via the internet. A steel mill co-worker showed Rodney an internet video of the Hahn HFP160 and told him that’s what he needed for his business. Rodney bought the equipment the very next day.
“When I saw it work on the internet I bought it immediately,” Rodney explained. “I was the 10th or 12th person to buy one. I didn’t research anything! If it did what I saw on the internet, then I wanted it!”
“Purchasing the HFP160 Firewood Pro on the initial contact has happened,” stated Gary. “But it’s certainly not what I’d call common! I’d have to say that there have been three or four others who had decided to buy when they first saw the machine…Rodney seems like the kind of guy who knows what he needs or wants and he just makes it happen…Rodney’s the first one in Alabama to have our HFP160.”
Since 2009, 83 HFP160 processors have been sold in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Hahn Machinery has been able to hold the price at $32,500 for the past two years. According to Gary, the manufacturer is trying its best to hold the line; however, with mineral and energy costs continuing to rise, price increases may occur in late 2012.
Hahn Machinery, a small company founded in 1972, introduced its first mechanical delimber. And over the past 40 years Hahn has built shortwood processors, tree length delimbers, mobile slashers, and a variety of harvester heads.
“Our machines have gained a reputation for being some of the most productive, reliable, and long-lived machines of their type,” Gary stated. “We cut our teeth in the logging equipment business and the HFP160 Firewood Pro reflects those years of experience.”
Because of Hahn’s reputation and quality equipment, Rodney gets to further his reputation as “The Firewood Man”. It’s a name that began nearly 15 years ago when he delivered his wood door to door. The children often peeked out the window and he would hear them announce, “Momma! The firewood man is here!”
“I’m very happy with what I do,” stated Rodney. “I am 60 years old. I get to do it all day long. I’ll do it till I can’t do it anymore…After all, I am the firewood man.”