Maine Logger Expands into C-T-L Logging: Robin Crawford & Son Add TimberPro with Log Max Fixed Head to Equipment Lineup

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To gear up for its foray into cut-to-length logging, the company invested in a Log Max 7000XT fixed head harvester mounted on a TimberPro 735 track carrier.

LINCOLN, Maine — Robin A. Crawford & Son Woods Company Inc., a logging company based in central Maine, has been around a good number of years.

It was not until this summer, however, that the company decided to venture into cut-to-length logging.

To gear up for its foray into cut-to-length logging, the company invested in a Log Max 7000XT fixed head harvester mounted on a TimberPro 735 track carrier. The machine is coupled with a TimberPro forwarder.

The company buys timberland and harvests timber off its forests. It also bids on timber on state land and does contract cutting for HC Haynes Inc. All Crawford wood is sold through Haynes, which owns and manages forestland throughout Maine and also functions as a wood broker and wholesaler.

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Haynes wanted to use cut-to-length equipment on some of its lands, and Crawford was thinking of moving in the same direction. “The Haynes family wanted one,” explained Robin Crawford Jr. “We wanted to try one. It seems to be the way people are going.”

Robin Crawford & Son is based in Lincoln, almost 50 miles north of Bangor. It conducts timber harvesting operations within about a 200-mile radius in four vast Maine counties with abundant forest resources – Washington, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Aroostook.

At its home base in Lincoln the company has an office, a garage for servicing trucks and a second garage for serving equipment. It has its own fleet of three service trucks and mechanics to service equipment in the woods.

The company has about 100 employers, according to Robin. Its operations include trucking, logging, and chipping. Robin Crawford & Son aims to produce about 300 loads of wood products per week.

Its lineup of equipment includes seven harvesters, nine delimbers, about a dozen grapple skidders, about 10 log loaders, and a chipper.

His father, Robin Crawford Sr., began working in trucking; he started with on truck in the late 1960s and grew, hauling wood for the Haynes family and other businesses. In 1986 he expanded into logging, hiring seven crews to fell timber by hand with chain saws. “We just started growing from there,” recalled Robin.

His father, who will be 69 in December, is still active in the business. “He’s still the boss,” said Robin.

“He’s right there, every day…He’s slowing down a little, but not much,” he added with a laugh. The elder Crawford still puts in six days a week.

Robin has two 23-year-old sons in the business, Robin Crawford III, who drives a truck, and Kenneth, who helps manage the trucking operations.

There are two other family members employed in the business, sons-in-law of the eldest Crawford: Danny Larlee and Glen Foster, mechanics who work in the garage.

Three men oversee operations in the woods, each supervising numerous timber harvesting crews: Steve Bates, Bill Dye, and Ryan Worster. “They take care of business in the woods,” said Robin.

Robin, 50, began working for his father as a teenager. He began driving trucks during summer vacations from school when the company was based in Wytopitlock, about 40 miles north of Lincoln.

The company operates a log yard for high grade saw logs in Bridgewater, supervised by Dale Clifford, and another log yard in Lincoln. All hardwood saw logs are stored at the two yards.

“We cut everything,” said Robin. About 60-70 percent of the timber it harvests is hardwood, and the remainder, softwood. Species include cedar, spruce, fir, hemlock, maple, birch, and some oak. “Whatever’s there, we cut it,” said Robin.

The company expanded into chipping operations about 8-10 years ago and currently is equipped with a Morbark 5058 whole tree chipper. Chipping is conducted on-site in the woods. The company primarily chips tops.

The company supplies numerous mills in the region that produce paper, studs, and other wood products. It also supplies chips to biomass plants. “You see our trucks everywhere,” said Robin, hauling wood products to various mills.

Robin Crawford & Son purchased the Log Max and other cut-to-length equipment from Anderson Equipment’s dealership in Bangor about two months ago. “We’ve been doing business with them a long time,” said Robin.

Although it is the company’s first partnership with Log Max, the Swedish-based manufacturer of single-grip harvesters is no stranger to Maine. A number of other loggers in the central Maine region use Log Max dangle head harvesters, noted Robin. “They’re real popular around here,” he said.

The Crawfords talked to other loggers who already had experience with Log Max harvesters. “There’re plenty of them around…We asked a lot of people,” said Robin.

Robin Crawford & Son went in a slightly different direction, however. Instead of the dangle head model, the company selected a Log Max fixed head harvester. In fact, it is the first in the region to put a Log Max fixed head unit into operation, Robin believes.

He explained why the company went with a fixed head, not a dangle head. Increasingly, owners of timberland are requiring loggers who bid to buy stumpage to have fixed head timber processing equipment, said Robin.

The Log Max 7000XT fixed head harvester gives the operator much greater control over the tree, noted Robin. “We just felt we’d have more control of the tree and we could lay it down where we wanted.” The fixed head makes for safer timber cutting and harvesting operations and also helps reduce damage to residual trees, he said.

A fixed head harvester is “not so dangerous,” said Robin’s son, Kenneth. In addition, state contracts for timber on public land increasingly are requiring cut-to-length logging operations with a fixed head harvester. “They want controlled felling,” said Kenneth.

“We just wanted to open up this opportunity to us,” he added.

The company is using the LogMax 7000XT primarily to harvest softwood trees in stands containing stems ranging from about 12-16 inches in diameter.

“We’re liking it so far,” reported Robin.

“It does a nice-looking cut, and all the brush stays in the woods,” he added.

“It’s going good,” said Kenneth. “It’s working real well.”

The first four weeks, the Log Max was used to harvest timber on a 150-acre Norway spruce plantation. A couple of weeks ago the machine was put onto a track with fir and poplar. “That’s where we’ve been lately,” said Kenneth.

The Log Max has proven it is up to the task in the hardwood poplar, said Kenneth. “I was actually surprised…It goes through the limbs with no problem…So far, so good.”

Log Max technicians were on site to help set up the equipment, and support is provided through Anderson Equipment.

Robin Crawford & Son hired Larry Howard to run the new Log Max. “He’s been running one for 10 years,” said Kenneth, a dangle head version. “After a coule of days, he caught right onto it.”

Log Max has been designing and manufacturing machines for mechanized forestry operations since 1980. It’s main product line since 1988 has been single-grip harvesters. Log Max manufactures nearly 400 harvesters annually, and its biggest export market is North America. Log Max harvesters are working in more than 30 countries.

The Log Max 7000 XT fixed head model features a frame with a top saw, a minimized saw box, and a fixed protection plate. The hydraulically operated rotation unit with positioning and free floating function is attached directly to the frame.

The Log Max 7000XT fixed head harvester allows the operator to fell and control the fall, bunch, and process timber up to 28 inches in diameter with a maximum cutting capacity of more than 31 inches in diameter.

It features a hydraulically driven chain saw with pressure controlled feed force. Standard equipment is a 60 cc bar saw for felling and a 19 cc top saw.

The four movable delimbing knives with patented positioning minimize friction loss, which increases active pulling force. The new generation floating top knife with active friction control automatically adjusts the amount of friction between the log and the harvesting head’s frame. The system’s active friction control reduces fuel consumption and improves timber quality.

The harvester comes with the rugged, compact Log Mate 500 state-of-the-art control system. The Windows-based computer system allows the installation of other programs, such as GPS, and Internet connection. Log Mate 500 has powerful reporting features for operator production, multi-stem reports, average stem volume, monitoring machine performance, and more.

Log Max, which offers an entire line of equipment of varying capability for different timber applications, provides a four point system on its harvester heads to measure log diameter. The four point system allows more reliable measuring, more accurate volume, better bucking, and improved reliability and productivity.

(For more information about Log Max or its equipment products, visit www.logmax.com.)

Asked how he liked the new TimberPro 735 carrier, Robin responded with one word: “Awesome.”

“We really like that,” he added quickly.

Although the cut-to-length machines are being used primarly to harvest and process softwood timber, the Log Max also is cutting some hardwood, too, noted Robin. “It’s working well with it,” he said.

“In recent weeks, we’ve been averaging 80 percent softwood, 20 percent hardwood,” said Robin, but those percentages are expected to even out to about 50-50, he added.

The rest of the company’s forestry equipment is a combination of Caterpillar, John Deere, and Tigercat machines. “We have a lot of CAT skidders,” said Robin. “We bought a new John Deere this spring,” to see how they like it. The company has an assortment of CAT, Tigercat and John Deere feller-bunchers, CAT and John Deere stroke boom delimbers, and CAT and Tigercat loaders. For trucks, the company relies on Peterbilt, Western Star, and Kenworth.

The company’s logging operations go steady year-round except for about four to six weeks in the spring, when conditions are too wet and muddy. “You can’t work in the spring,” noted Robin. Employees take a brief layoff, “get rested up and get ready for the season.” The company’s trucking operations continue year-round.

Crawford & Son is a member of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. The company also participates in the Northeast Master Logger Certification Program, which provides independent third-party certification of logging companies’ harvesting practices. The innovation of point-of-harvest certification within the NEMLC program is integrated with its parent organizations, the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands and the Forest Stewardship Council. The goals of the Master Logger program include documenting harvest planning, protecting water quality, maintaining soil productivity, sustaining forest ecosystems, and more.

The company provides group health insurance – Crawford and employees share in the cost – and vacation time for its workers. Robin expressed sincere appreciation for his quality office support. “The ladies in the office make it easy to keep rolling in the woods,” said Robin. “Knowing that business details are being handled professionally and efficiently is a tremendous help to me.” The office team includes Tammy MacEachern, Charlene Cram, Robin’s wife Melanie, and his daughter Andrea, and company mascot Brutus, an English Bulldog.

Asked about the business climate of the recent years, Robin repeated. “It’s been a struggle, it’s been a struggle, it’s been a struggle. Yup, it’s been tough.”

Fuel prices have been increasing, he noted. Diesel is up to $4 per gallon.

Mills have been struggling, too, observed Robin, and have not been in a position to increase the prices they pay for wood.

“We’ve had to adjust, cut back some,” said Robin. “We used to run eleven harvesters” but have reduced that number to the current seven or eight. The company also sold off some land.

“It’s what everybody’s been doing around here,” he said.

“They say it’s getting better, but we haven’t seen it,” said Robin.