Gordon Lumbering, a Maine logger, Bought a 630 TimberPro Feller Buncher with a 7000XT Log Max Head from The Oliver Stores for Fuel Efficiency and Cutting Versatility.
STRONG, Maine — Recalibration has been a way of life for Tracy Gordon, the owner of Gordon Lumbering. As for getting into logging, Gordon quite literally followed in his father’s footsteps. (The two men collided now and then.)
“My father was in the [logging] business since before I was born,” said Gordon. When his father passed away five years ago, Gordon took over what had sometimes been one and sometimes been two separate logging operations.
“From the time I was in the fifth grade, I built logging roads with my father,” said Gordon. Operating a bucket loader, he worked summers for his father. “I hated it,” he said, referring to the road building.
“Finally, I talked my father into letting me run the skidder – [that] fed the chipper,” said Gordon. That was in 1986. By 1987, he had talked his father into letting him fell trees. And for the next ten years – first at his father’s company, then at his own business and then back at his father’s – Gordon cut with a chain saw. “I always ran Husqvarna,” he said.
“Today, I don’t even have [a chainsaw] on a job [site],” said Gordon. That’s just one of the many changes that have occurred over the years. Gordon Lumbering is fully mechanized today. Every bit of wood is merchandised for maximum value. And chips are sold to ReEnergy Holdings LLC, headquartered in Albany, N.Y.
Along with the many changes at Gordon Lumbering, there has been a constant. Gordon’s father began buying equipment from The Oliver Stores decades ago. Gordon has continued to rely on the equipment dealer.
In May, Gordon purchased a new 630 TimberPro with a 7000XT Log Max® head from The Oliver Stores. He worked with Gary Baker, product support manager at the Farmington, Maine location of the dealer. The Oliver Stores also has two other Pine Tree State installations — in Bangor and New Gloucester, as well as a facility in Lancaster, N.H.
“I’ve worked with Gary Baker for years,” said Gordon. “He’s got his heart in the business. He’s a straight shooter.”
When Gordon sought out The Oliver Stores for his most recent purchase, he knew exactly what he wanted, a 7000XT Log Max head on a rubber tire carrier. A colleague had a 6000 Log Max head and Gordon liked it very much. But he wanted to go a bit larger than the 6000 Log Max.
“In Maine, we’ve got so many different species of wood,” said Gordon. Versatility in a cutting head is essential. “One week I’ll be in small pine. [The next] I’ll be in big hardwoods. Seventy-five percent of my work is in big hardwoods.”
Gordon wanted a Log Max head, absolutely. “Log Max is a lot easier on fuel” than some heads, explained Gordon. “It has a saw chain instead of a circular saw.”
Gordon also wanted a topping saw, something he uses “an awful lot,” he explained. “The TimberPro [carrier] was the only wheeled machine that would put the 7000 [Log Max] head on.”
TimberPro on the carrier side was fine with Gordon. He has had a TimberPro eight-wheeled forwarder since 2005. The forwarder is a top performer, running flawlessly after seven years.
Why did the carrier have to have wheels? “Wheeled machines are really good on rocks,” said Gordon. There’s “no bouncing around” like there sometimes is with tracks, especially when felling.
The entire experience of working with The Oliver Stores to get the TimberPro and Log Max combination was great, said Gordon. “It’s a pretty good undertaking” to make the match, he explained. “They worked with me real well” to ensure everything moved smoothly.
Eighty percent of the work Gordon Logging does is for T.R. Dillon Logging. The other 20 percent is primarily on lots of timber that Gordon buys. He also owns 5,000 acres of timberland.
Gordon cites Scott Dillon of T.R. Dillon Logging as the expert at merchandizing wood. Dillon is exceptionally adept at finding the best price and extracting the most value from every bit of fiber, explained Gordon.
“He’s a broker, too,” said Gordon of Dillon. And Dillon is expert at brokering as well. Every sort of wood fiber venture from hardwood lumber mills to biomass fuel plants are among the varied customers.
Gordon Lumbering operates with 18 employees. It hauls its cut lengths and chips to customers with a fleet headed by six tractors (four Kenworth, one WesternStar, and one Sterling). Chipping is done with two 4036 Morbark chippers. When the 2008 Farm Bill put the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in place, Gordon Lumbering got into chipping in a big way. BCAP was supposed to offer incentives for at least a couple of years to those businesses that chipped. It was more like three short months, said Gordon.
Unfortunately, Gordon’s company had purchased several pieces of equipment that were designed to contribute to the giant shift toward chips. There were grapples and stroke delimbers. Not only did the BCAP not become the program it was expected to be, but the grapples and delimbers also made logging according to prescribed environmental regulations a slow process. Going too fast could mean tangling with standing vegetation, which would violate environmental rules.
It was a difficult period, said Gordon. Having sold cut-to-length (CTL) machines to move toward chips, he had to liquidate equipment he bought for the chipping venture and retool for CTL. The Oliver Stores, and especially Baker, helped him a great deal, he said.
Baker said it’s been a pleasure to work with Gordon. He was happy to see Gordon choose Log Max, a product line that his company has sold since 1998. “Log Max is a good match for the mixed hardwood – heavy hardwood” that Gordon’s company typically fells, explained Baker.
Working closely with customers is something that Baker has been doing for decades. “Understanding their needs” is where it begins, he said. That’s why he spends a great deal of time visiting job sites of customers. He wants to assess how things are going and learn how the 40-member team at The Oliver Stores can do more.
From Gordon’s perspective, The Oliver Stores genuinely does understand the logger experience. “If you break a part – downtime is what kills you,” he said. Knowing he can get a replacement part fast takes away one big worry.
“You can pretty much build a head out of the parts available at [The Oliver Stores],” said Gordon. So there’s no waiting on anything.
That said, Gordon emphasizes that performance of TimberPro equipment is exceptional. “The TimberPro product line is a good one,” he said.
Gordon aims to give his customers the same excellent service that he receives from The Oliver Stores. “I pride myself in good work,” he said. “I do whatever the landowner wants – space trees, if he wants it to look like a park.”
Yes, Gordon’s company still does road building. He owns two excavators, a 200 Hitachi and a 160 Hitachi. Gordon can – and sometimes does – run all equipment. But he usually restricts his endeavors to management and mechanical intervention – including on the truck tractors.
Thinking about the tempestuous relationship he sometimes had with his father, Gordon has an explanation. “We were more like brothers than father and son,” he said. So it was natural that there would be disagreements. On the other hand, Gordon credits his father with motivating him to keep building his business – to buy a skidder, for instance and then a grapple.
In 1991, Gordon was injured (broken back) when a tree fell on him. When he was ready to work again in 1992, he returned to his own business, but he began to work more and more with his father, and eventually father and son were on the same path and their businesses fused.
Gordon Lumbering operates all year. In the mud season (generally April and May), Gordon tries to line up jobs near existing roads so that meeting environmental expectations is easier. He runs his wheeled machines with tracks year around.
“Maine is brutal in terms of the weather and the terrain,” said Baker. Ledges, swamps, rocks, steep slopes, snow and mud are all in the mix.
Strong, Maine, the home base for Gordon Lumbering, is in the southeastern part of the state. The town, which has 1,400 residents, is part of Franklin County. Gordon strives to stay within a 30-mile radius of Strong, but often goes as far as 100 miles to reach a job.
“I like logging,” said Gordon. “But I’m frustrated with the government getting into it too much.” Foresters now use overhead surveillance tools (satellite, helicopter) to monitor job sites, he explained.
“It used to be a good living, now it’s just a living,” said Gordon. Still, he does like the opportunity to rethink, recalibrate and keep the business on solid footing.
Gordon, who is divorced, works seven days a week except the days when he is the caregiver for his young daughter. He enjoys taking his daughter skiing in winter and camping in summer.