Maine Logger Keeps the Big Picture in Mind

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White Oak Inc. uses Log Max® heads and Tigercat equipment for lead roles in wide-ranging processing operations.

SAINT FRANCIS, Maine — Seeing really is believing. At least it was for Mike Nadeau, who co-owns White Oak, Inc. with his father, Vernal Nadeau.

Mike explained he began to consider the fit between Log Max® single-grip harvesting/processing heads and the scope of his logging operation when he observed the heads in action. “There were many other contractors [in the area] that had them,” he said. “They liked them.”

Of course, Mike did not rely solely on word-of-mouth recommendations when buying his first Log Max head two years ago. He did his own research.

Today, White Oak runs with four Log Max heads: one 7000B, a 7000C and two 7000XT models. Each Log Max head is mounted on a Tigercat 822 track carrier.

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Working five job sites, the 32-person team at White Oak generally harvests trees in the range of a 16-inch to an 18-inch diameter. But trees can be as small as a 10-inch diameter. There’s confidence in knowing, said Mike, that his Log Max heads can tackle trees up to a diameter of 25 inches. Chain saws are simply not needed.

Because White Oak harvests softwoods and hardwoods with a fair mix of cedar and poplar, versatility in a saw head adds to its utility and contribution to production. For example, the Log Max 7000XT is a head designed to be strong and adaptable. (The XT in the model number signals the tie to the [e]XTreme series of Log Max machines.) The low-profile steel rollers in the Log Max head are designed to provide a mark-free — but a strong grip — on any species.

The Log Max low-profile rollers achieve the result from friction control that is built into the head. The same

friction control also helps to reduce fuel consumption.

Much of what Mike appreciates about his Log Max heads ties to the fundamentals. “The availability of parts and the tech support” are good and reliable, he said. Though Log Max Inc. is headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, Mike works with Log Max Forestry Inc. out of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada Log Max Forestry Inc. handles all Log Max sales, support, and dealer training east of Manitoba Canada, as well as the New England states. Mike commended the after-sale support from Log Max Forestry, mentioning both, Rob Moran, the Territory Sales Manager, and Danny Cormier, a product specialist with over 20 years working with the Log Max line. TimberLine spoke with Rob Moran, who also commended his associate saying, “Danny is a tremendous support person. He has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada, and is fluent in both English and French. That is extremely helpful in communicating with loggers on both sides of the border.” Rob continued regarding their service of Log Max products, “We support the product, we stock the parts. Loggers count on us to keep them running, and we do. There is not enough margin for lengthy downtime so support is critical.”

Mike and his father started their company in 1988, when they moved away from a trucking business. “We had four trucks for about 10 years and it seemed we were always looking [for loads],” said Mike. “By harvesting, we could control our destiny.”

White Oak still does some of its own trucking. But a significant portion of it is contracted. “We focus on harvesting” said Mike.

A great deal of the equipment on the robust roster at White Oak was purchased from Frank Martin Sons, Inc., which has locations in Fort Kent and Madison, Maine. In addition to the four Log Max heads paired with Tigercat 822 carriers (processors), the list includes two Tigercat 1055 forwarders, six Tigercat 822 feller bunchers (each paired with a Tigercat 5400 series saw head), two Volvo EC 210C delimbers, five Tigercat 630C grapple skidders, two Prentice 410 log loaders and two Caterpillar 574 forwarders.

Tigercat has long been a favorite at White Oak. “It’s the overall structure that’s built for the long term and the service,” said Mike. Both keep him returning to Frank Martin Sons, a Tigercat dealer.

Though Tigercat offers a number of felling heads from processing heads to shears, it is the Tigercat 5400 series saw, which White Oak has made much use of, a good match for the company’s select-cut and final-cut jobs. A light-weight, single-post felling head, the Tigercat 5400 series saw can be used with track and rubber-tired carriers, but again is paired with Tigercat 822 track carriers at White Oak. It can collect several stems into a bunch before dumping the bunch. As many as ten six-inch diameter trees can be collected and stored before being dumped.

Tigercat feller buncher heads are designed to accumulate trees in a tight, parallel configuration to maximize the number that can be bunched. The concept is simple: Optimize tree bunches – or the small stems — so that time (and fuel) are not wasted trying to gather unwieldy groups for skidding.

Working ten months a year — with downtime for the spring mud season, White Oak cuts within a 100-mile radius of its home base of Saint Francis, Maine. The town of Saint Francis is part of Aroostook County. It is on the Canadian border. The entire county of Aroostook has fewer than 7,000 residents.

The general approach at White Oak encompasses cutting – all types – on private land. “The landowners approach us,” said Mike. “We harvest for landowners, they pick it up roadside.” Most of the product goes to sawmills or a holding yard. Some is destined to be chipped.

White Oak generally runs two shifts each day. The crews had been relying on the xenon lights affixed to machines. But Mike began changing to LED lights and now most of the illumination is provided by the LEDs, which are brighter and less expensive to operate. He explained that he buys the LED lights on eBay.

Mike sometimes runs a Tigercat 822 processor, which he enjoys. “It’s one of the few machines that I can operate that I don’t have to wait for the machine,” he said. “It can keep up with what I want to do.” That’s how responsive the machine is, he explained.

At the same time, while on Monday Mike and the machine are at full speed, as the rigors of the week accumulate, things change. “By Thursday, I’m so tired, I have trouble keeping up [with the machine],” he said, laughing.

Through several encounters with serious intrusion of arctic air in winter 2014, the machines at White Oak all performed well. Even so, Mike called a halt to work a few days because the low temperature and wind combination presented a danger to employees who were not in heated cabs – or just transiting from one machine to another.

The belief that White Oak has in its equipment is confirmed when a machine joins the lineup. “Log Max – they come whenever you first purchase a new one,” said Mike. “They come for two or three days.” While onsite the Log Max representatives make certain that the operator understands the machine and that Log Max understands the objective of the logger.

If Mike does have a question at any hour of the day, he said that he can call Log Max. And he gets an answer fast from technical support.

Seeing the big picture for Mike begins with keeping all things in perspective. Sustaining a logging business requires determination and optimism in 2014. Yet that’s a bit different from the grit and positive outlook that individuals fighting cancer have, he explained. And that’s the short explanation of how White Oak became involved with Loggers for Cancer, as well as why the company has a pink Tigercat 822C feller buncher.

Being concerned about the number of breast cancer and other cancer diagnoses in his region, Mike was receptive when one of his employees, Dustin Marquis, suggested painting the Tigercat 822C pink to generate awareness and support for women with breast cancer. Not only did Mike join the project, but he also contacted Keith Michaud, the sales manager at Frank Martin Sons, to recruit others for the effort. In turn, Keith took the idea to the corporate offices of Tigercat in Branford, Ontario, Canada.

When Keith approached Tigercat with the idea of using the pink Tigercat 822C to raise funds for programs that support Maine residents dealing with cancer, the company committed $2 for every hour the machine runs up to $100,000. (Funds raised by Loggers for Cancer support the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund and the Maine Cancer Foundation.)

As for how the fundraising is going, here’s the answer: “As long as we own the machine and don’t paint it another color, we have sponsors for the next 10 years,” said Mike.

In spring 2013, the pink Tigercat 822 was displayed at the Northeast Forest Products Equipment Expo in Bangor, Maine. “When it went to the Bangor show, just about eight out of 10 people stopped and took photos,” said Mike, who estimated at least 1,000 photos were taken.

Moreover, Mike has a theory about the photos. He believes they were being taken and sent to many individuals who were at that very moment fighting cancer. “I think it was about giving hope,” he said.

Recognizing there are struggles of all kinds can keep one in equilibrium, explained Mike. It’s a lot easier to deal with a rough patch in the economy, for instance, than to take on the 24/7 challenge of fighting cancer. Getting involved in something beyond one’s profession contributes to a fresh and vigorous outlook. Balance is what keeps one from becoming distracted by the challenges that are part of life.

“The challenge” of being a logger is something he very much enjoys, said Mike. He wants to succeed and he wants his company to succeed.

The focus on success matters. “That drives us harder and farther,” said Mike.

What about free time? “Well, if you’re a logger, what spare time is there?” said Mike. “I’m always thinking about how to do it better.”