Log Max Solution for Wisconsin Logger: Phillip Thums Logging Turns to Log Max 6000B When Time Comes to Replace Harvester

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Phillip Thums Logging increases production and reduces fuel and maintenance costs with Log Max 6000B harvester.

MEDFORD, Wisconsin — When the time came to consider replacing the harvester attachment on his John Deere 1270D cut-to-length harvester, Phillip Thums figured there was no need to replace the carrier itself.

The previous harvester head was worn out, he said, and due to be replaced. Phil had bought the six-wheel cut-to-length harvester used in 2008. The head had 6,000 hours on it. Phil put another 8,000 hours on it.

The John Deere carrier was still running well. “Why replace the whole thing,” he asked, carrier and head?

“I started checking around and talking to other guys, wondering how long a carrier would last,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to run these carriers 20-25,000 hours.”

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He began researching and pricing new harvester head attachments. “I really liked the Log Max style,” he said, for the kind of timber he works in. He paired a new Log Max 6000B single-grip harvester with the John Deere machine last fall and has been running it successfully since then.

Phil, 42, doing business as Phillip Thums Harvesting, LLC, lives and works in northern Wisconsin. He contracts for Johnson Timber Corp.., which is a supplier of pulpwood chips, and also a subsidiary, FutureWood, a forest management company.

Phil makes his home in Medford, just under 50 miles northwest of Wausau. He grew up in Rib Lake, about 17 miles further north. When he was young his father worked full-time in logging, felling timber with a chain saw. His father later had a dairy farm, but he still did some work for logging contractors from time to time to earn extra income. Phil began working with his father, peeling poplar logs in the spring and through the summer when he was about 11 or 12 years old. They used an automobile leaf spring for the task, sharpening one end and putting a handle on it.

“I went right into the woods,” recalled Phil, after high school. He began working for an uncle, Bob Ziembo, who had a logging contracting business. Bob had one of the first cut-to-length harvesters in Wisconsin, according to Phil, which Phil operated. It was a John Deere 690 excavator with an Eliminator harvesting head.

Phil continued working for his uncle until 2000, when he bought a truck and began hauling wood for Bob. He did trucking for five or six years until he decided he missed working in the woods. He joined a business owned by another uncle, Mike Ziembo, and a cousin, Ray Duerr, and the three formed a partnership. The company ran two cut-to-length harvesters and two forwarders, and they hired independent truckers to haul the wood. “I really liked being back in the woods,” said Phil.

When wood markets tanked with the onset of the recession about six years ago, they decided to split up the company and form their own independent businesses. Phil bought one of the company’s harvesters, Mike purchased a forwarder, and Ray bought the other two machines. Phil and Mike continued to work together as Phil contracted with him to work behind the harvester.

In the spring of this year Phil decided to add a forwarder to his company and invested in a Timberjack 1110 double-bunk forwarder. The business is small: Phil runs the harvester, and he has a part-time employee to operate the forwarder. His brother, Kyle, who operates Kyle Thums Trucking, hauls the company’s wood and has a self-loading truck.

Phil did not know any other loggers who used a John Deere carrier with a Log Max, but equipment dealers referred him to another contractor further south who was using the combination of equipment. “I went out and watched him,” said Phil. “His was working really nice. That kind of convinced me to go that route.” His uncle Bob has a Log Max harvester, and he watched it in operation, too.

In talking to dealership representatives as well as other loggers who used them, Phil was impressed as he learned about Log Max’s reputation for productivity and reliability.

Other loggers reported being “pretty happy” with the Log Max harvesters, said Phil. “That’s one thing. I talked to a lot of the guys who had them. They don’t really have anything bad to say about them. They’re just nice, steady heads…good, reliable heads.”

“It’s been pretty much bullet-proof,” said Phil of his Log Max harvester.

Log Max is a Swedish company that has been designing and manufacturing forestry equipment since 1980. The company’s main product line is single-grip harvesters. It manufactures close to 400 harvesters annually with its strongest export markets in North America, South America, and Russia. Log Max harvesters are operating in 30 countries.

The Log Max 6000B single-grip harvester is a light-weight head suited for final felling operations. The harvester combines low weight and high power and is especially designed for large wheeled carriers. Log Max lists the most productive range of the 6000B as timber from 7 to 17 inches in diameter, although maximum cutting diameter is more than 25 inches.

Felling is done by a hydraulically driven chain saw with pressure controlled feed force. The Log Max 6000B features high performance saw hydraulics to provide full flow to the bottom saw for fast cutting. (It can be equipped with a Hultdins Supercut saw.) Delimbing is accomplished with four movable knives with patented positioning to minimize friction losses, which increases pulling force. Guards and heavy-duty covers protect internal components and hoses from damage.

With its powerful and easy to use interfaces, Log Max harvesters can be installed on any machine running another control system. The Log Max Interfaces do not require any rewiring of a carrier’s electronics; it translates the signals from the control system to work with the Log Max head. Log Max single-grip harvesters operate with Komatsu-Valmet, John Deere-Timberjack, Ponsse, and other carriers.

Log Max harvesters operate with the Log Mate 500 control system for diameter and length measuring, value bucking, multi-stem and production reports. The Log Mate 500 also provides full system diagnostics. The Windows-based software allows the addition of other programs, such as GPS and Internection connectivity.

(For more information about Log Max or its single-grip harvesters, call the company’s offices in Vancouver, Washington at (360) 699-7300 or visit www.logmax.com.)

Phil’s company works on private, county, state, and federal lands. He frequently works on timber sales in the Chequamegon National Forest. Now and then he has worked on the Michigan Upper Peninsula. “We’ll go anywhere,” said Phil. He normally works about 100 miles from home but has worked as far away as 300 miles.

Phil has a semi-van trailer that he has converted into mobile living quarters for the job site, returning home on weekends. He and other family members have used them in the past, he explained. They frame 2×4 walls inside and insulate the floor and walls. The trailers are equipped with heaters, a refrigerator, microwave, shower, bunk beds, and TV. “It’s like home away from home,” said Phil.

Phil works in both hardwood and softwood timber. The dominant softwood species are red pine and jack pine while common hardwood species are hard maple, soft maple, bass wood, red oak, poplar, birch, “and a little bit of elm here and there.”

The timber varies in size. In pine, where he might be doing a first, second, or third thin, the trees can range from 5 inches to 20 inches in diameter. In hardwoods the trees can get up to 30 inches. Timber on national forest lands usually has not been cut in a long time, Phil noted. “There’s usually some pretty big timber on them,” he said.

Phil normally works in pine forests in the spring and fall, when conditions are wetter, because the pine stands typically are in regions of sandy soils that drain better. Drier conditions in the summer and when the ground is frozen in winter are more favorable for harvesting hardwoods. The slash is spread on the skid trails as a mat to help protect and conserve and forest floor against cutting and rutting.

In recent years Phil has been averaging about 155 cords of wood produced per week. “That’s a yearly average,” he said. Logging conditions have been less than ideal so far this year, he indicated – a hard winter and a wet summer.

Most of his contracting is for FutureWood, which bids on timber sales and hires contractors for harvesting operations. “They’re a really big company,” said Phil.

William Johnson formed Johnson Timber Corp. in 1973 and its chip mill began to supply aspen chips to the paper industry the following year. The company immediately expanded by acquiring two other Wisconsin chip mills to give it greater flexibility and increase reliability to customers. It has since acquired other mills and has continually upgraded and improved its facilities over the years. An affiliated forest management and wood procurement business, FutureWood, was formed in 1990. FutureWood owns and manages lands in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.

“I’ve been working with FutureWood Corporation for a long time,” said Phil. “They’re always been, even through hard years, they’ve always kept me going. It’s really a good company to work for.”

He hauled his John Deere 1270D carrier to ATL Equipment in Rhinelander to have the Log Max 6000B installed last fall. When he replaced the head, Phil also had the hydraulic pumps on the carrier inspected and decided to have them rebuilt at the same time.

Phil has been running the new Log Max 6000B harvester since November. It has enabled him to increase production while reducing maintenance costs, he said. His fuel costs have been cut substantially. “My machine burns less fuel, probably 20 gallons a week less fuel,” he said. “That’s a big difference.” The John Deere carrier is powered by a 6 cylinder turbocharged diesel engine.

“It’s nice when fuel costs are as expensive as they are,” added Phil, although diesel prices have fallen in recent months to about $3.39 per gallon.

Phil typically does more extensive service on his equipment during spring thaw, when roads are posted for weight limits and limit truck travel. His brother, Rodney, has a shop near Medford, and he hauls his equipment there for service.

Phil spends time with his family when he is home. He and his wife, Nora, who does the bookwork for the business from a home office, have been married 19 years in September and have a son and daughter in their teenage years.

He also enjoys fishing and has a cabin in the vicinity of Winter, further north, close to the Chippewa River, where he catches smallmouth bass and muskie. He also enjoys bow hunting for deer.

This past winter was a tough one in northern Wisconsin – cold conditions and deep snow. There were times when it was too cold to work, said Phil – mornings when it was 30 below zero. “When it’s that cold, it’s too big a chance to start anything up,” he said. Metal components are brittle, and the sub-zero temperatures make it hard on motors and pumps, he noted. “When it’s that cold, I’d just as soon let the weather warm up before I run it.”

It has been a wet summer. Coupled with the tough winter, it has not been a good year for logging, observed Phil. “It’s been a rough year here so far for logging,” he said.

With unfavorable logging conditions, log inventories at mills are low. Some mills have depleted their log inventories, and others only have enough wood for a few days, according to Phil. The addition of the new Log Max 6000B, however, has definitely helped overcome some of the challenges.