Emerald Valley Thinning, Inc. Has a Long History with Log Max® Heads

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Three Log Max heads contribute power to a robust logging operation.


PHILOMATH, Oregon – Vanadium reminds us to see the big picture. The element not only contributes the color green to some emeralds (crystals of beryllium aluminum silicate), but just a small percentage of the element makes vanadium steel (V-steel) hard and tough – the stuff of the strongest tools.

Tracy Smouse, owner of Emerald Valley Thinning, Inc., is a great example of a logger who sees the big picture. “We’re timber harvesting specialists,” he explained. That means being prepared to get to work on any bid or negotiated job – from thinning to final cuts – with the optimal equipment.

Emerald Valley Thinning has a large equipment roster and every piece of equipment on it was bought the same way. “Everything was purpose purchased,” explained Tracy. That includes two Log Max® 7000XT heads and a Log Max 10000XT head. One of the Log Max 7000XT heads is seven years old. The other 7000XT and the Log Max 10000XT are two years old. Log Max Inc. is headquartered in Vancouver, Wash.

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Rollers and endplates in Log Max heads incorporate V-steel. And so, the beauty of the big picture intensifies.

“Everybody goes with track machines” in his region, Tracy explained. For carriers, he relies on Link-Belt. Each Log Max 7000XT rides on a Link-Belt 240. The Log-Max 10000XT is mounted on a Link-Belt 290.

Tracy bought his carriers and had his Log Max heads mounted by Triad Machinery in Coburg, Ore. “[Triad] is a good dealer,” he said. “Service [is good] and parts are available.”

The powerful Log Max heads Tracy has in service now are not his first. “We started out with the Log Max 750,” he said, adding he went through “generation” changes as Log Max innovated over the years.

Seeing others adopt Log Max heads first got Tracy interested in trying one. “They were getting pretty popular around here,” he said. “Other loggers had them. They got good results.”

As for the division of work between the Log Max 7000 XT and the Log Max 10000XT, it’s rarely sharp. “The majority of the time they can both handle [the job],” said Tracy. “The [Link-Belt] 290 has a little more boom on it so when a longer reach is needed, often in thinning, the Log Max 10000XT is the preferred machine.”

Most of the time the Log Max heads are working in stands being thinned or at the landing. It’s common practice for Tracy to run three sides, one thinning, one cable and one yoder.

Among the many machines in use by the 20 employees of Emerald Valley Thinning are a Komatsu 220, a Thunderbird TMY 50 yarder and a Caterpillar 517. “The yoder bounces back and forth wherever it’s need,” said Tracy. “The bigger yarder, the Thunderbird, stays [in one place]. We do some thinning with a swing loader.”

Also in use are a John Deere grapple skidder, a 550 John Deere and two dozers. As for operating equipment, Tracy has the chance to run machines as well as manage the company. “You get this much machinery working and someone always calls in sick,” he explained. That’s when he fills in as an operator.

Tracy contracts for all trucking. “We’ve had log trucks [in the past],” he said. Yet focusing on felling, processing and loading works better. “We cut, yard and load and hire trucks to get it to mills.

The Emerald Valley team loads trucks at the landing, where some sorting is done. “We’ll have a pulp sort on the landing,” said Tracy.

When buyers receive their logs, they may undertake two or three to one dozen sorts, said Tracy. “There’s variety. It depends on how far they want to merchandize it.” Everything from dimension lumber to plywood to pulp is in the mix.

Tracy also contracts to have equipment moved from one site to another. Emerald Valley Thinning cuts for companies such as Hancock, Plum Creek and Weyerhaeuser.

“We work with all kinds of landowners,” said Tracy. His company has done a great deal of thinning for the U.S. Forest Service. “We’ve done BLM stuff in the past.”

The landowners have foresters on staff, who are “good personnel,” said Tracy. And he relies on them for solid advice and instructions.

Approaches have changed dramatically across the years that Tracy has been logging. Emerald Valley Thinning was established in September 1995, but he worked as a logger long before that.

Tracy laughs a bit when he recalls the transition from buttrigging to shotgun carriages to motorized carriages that occurred over several decades. He laughs, he explained, because his younger team members cannot quite imagine the system of swivels, shackles, links and tags that connected the haulback and mainlines – and to which chokers were attached – in the early days.

Today, Tracy relies on three ACME carriages, a model 28 that works with the Thunderbird yarder, a model 24 that works with the swing yarder and a model 22 that is on reserve. Each carriage is fitted with the Talkie Tooter® radio communication system. “I’ve had good luck with them,” said Tracy. ACME Manufacturing, Inc. is located in Eugene, Ore.

Emerald Valley Thinning is based in Philomath, Ore. The town of Philomath has approximately 4,600 residents and it is part of Benton County in the west-central part of the Beaver State.

As for travel from Philomath, it depends on the needs of landowners, explained Tracy. “We’d like to stay close to home, but that’s not always the case,” he said. Often, travel means two and one-half hours in one direction.

Tracy’s son, Travis Smouse, joined the Emerald Valley Thinning 18 years ago. After high school, Travis worked in a truck shop and studied mechanics. Then, he realized logging was what he wanted to do. Travis focuses on managing the thinning operation.

“When we’re in thinning, we get paid by the ton,” said Tracy. “All the [contractor] trucks have on-board scales.”

Loading logs correctly at the landing is a must for Tracy’s team. “The big mills take in 150 to 200 truckloads a day and run three shifts a day,” he explained. A crooked piece or a load that slips can disrupt work flow.

“You’ve got to give them [the customers] what they want,” said Tracy. That starts with “log quality” and it encompasses ensuring the load has full integrity. “It has to be loaded in the right manner. They don’t want a load to fall apart.”

The attention to detail brings rewards – to the forest and the contractor. “Over the years, you build a reputation and do it right,” said Tracy. For each job and each load the exacting approach is repeated. “You do it right every time.”

On most jobs, Emerald Valley Thinning is cutting Douglas fir. Toward the Pacific coast, though, there is often a mixture of hemlock and spruce with the Douglas fir.

The Log Max 7000XT and Log Max 10000XT heads are big enough for many final harvests of trees, said Tracy. And they are used in both thinning and final cuts (for smaller standing timber in final cuts).

The XTreme series of Log Max heads was developed to provide a heavy-duty, track-carried partner in tough jobs. The Log Max 10000XT cuts wood up to 35.4 inches in diameter. Both harvester and dedicated processor versions of the Log Max 10000XT have an integrated top saw.

The single-grip Log Max harvesting and processing heads are available in a range of sizes. The Log Max 12000XT is the biggest model, built to handle big trees or multi-stem approaches. Its aggressive roller is made of V-steel and has studs that sink deeper in the trunk.

Tracy has a full-time mechanic on staff. That’s important in maintaining equipment.

Fully committed to the industry, Tracy is a member of the Associated Loggers of Oregon in Salem, Ore. and the Oregon Logging Conference (OLC) in Eugene, Ore. He also serves on the board of directors of the OLC.

“We all do our part,” said Tracy. Loggers in his region are “a nice group of people” and one of the facets of his profession he most enjoys is “the people you work with,” he explained.

The logging industry is a good industry. “A lot of our guys have been here several years,” said Tracy of his team.

“Somebody’s got to tell the story [of good],” said Tracy. “We’re not out here raping and pillaging. We’re replanting the forest.”

Green growth as beautiful as emeralds will begin to replace old growth harvested the next growing season, explained Tracy. It’s like a corn field harvested, he said. Return the next growing season and see a field of green and no sign of stubble.

Having a profession that allows him to be in the woods suits Tracy very well. “You get to see the seasons come and go,” he said. “The wildlife – we see a lot of elk, deer, cougar, even an occasional bobcat. We see salmon.”

In free time, Tracy enjoys travelling with his wife. He also rides a motorcycle for recreation.