Power to Produce: Nelson Forest Products goes with a 1200-horsepower Bandit chipper to maximize production

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Minnesota’s Nelson Forest Products doubles production with the Bandit Model 3590XL whole tree chipper.


Just about everyone is familiar with Minnesota’s nickname as the “land of 10,000 lakes.” Anyone who’s flown over the state can attest to just how much water is visible from the air, but are there really 10,000 lakes? The answer to that question is no, but not for the reason you might expect. Minnesota is actually home to 11,842 lakes of at least 10 acres in size.

From the air it’s also easy to notice Minnesota’s extensive forest coverage, notably in the northern regions. There are 17 million forested acres amongst the thousands of lakes, but Minnesota is special because it’s something of a crossroads for three major ecosystems. Prairie lands lie to the west, with lush boreal forests to the north and hardwoods to the south.

Nelson Forest Products is equipped to handle everything Minnesota has to offer. Headquartered about an hour north of Minneapolis in the modest town of Mora, the well-established company has been in business since the early 1980s and employs around eight people. Their jobs include land clearing, logging and chip production, with projects lasting anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

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With over 30 years of experience in forestry, the company has learned a thing or two about getting the most out of their crews and equipment. Having recently purchased a Bandit Model 3590XL whole tree chipper, “getting the most” is taking on a new meaning, and not just because of the big chipper’s 36-inch capacity. The Model 3590XL at Nelson Forest Products is the first one built with a 1200-horsepower CAT diesel. According to Bandit, the machine is capable of producing 5 tons of chips per minute while consuming approximately a gallon of fuel for every 4 tons thrown.

It’s a claim Doug Nelson and his father Jim have seen firsthand. Doug purchased the company from his father in mid-2014, but Jim stays involved as a contractor. He had the opportunity to feed their new Model 3590XL on a jobsite just outside of Hinckley, Minnesota earlier in 2016.

“What has amazed us is that we are consuming only eight gallons of fuel per load, which is what we were getting with our previous chipper,” said Jim Nelson. “What is most impressive about the 3590XL is that there are no hiccups when you feed it; everything flows smoothly through it. You are not fighting the wood to feed it through. Rarely do you have to trim anything to get trees through the machine.”

A big part of that feeding performance can be traced to the Model 3590XL’s five-wheel feed system, which features two top wheels set on a diagonal with two vertical side wheels and a bottom wheel. The top wheels climb the trees being fed into the chipper, and working with the other wheels they provide great surface area for crushing and feeding large, limby trees.

“The 3590XL has more than doubled our production,” said Jim Nelson. “We can now fill 50-foot, 30-ton vans in anywhere from 6-10 minutes.”

“We were fighting wood with the old chipper,” added Doug. “The loader operator would feed it and get another grapple load of wood, but then the wood in the chipper would hang up. He’d need to set down the new load to assist or untangle the old one, then reload the wood into the chipper.”

The old chipper Doug mentioned was a 26-inch capacity chipper with 765 horsepower. They were easily keeping that chipper busy, but when they realized they were cutting and skidding more than they could chip, they began looking for more productive chipping solutions. Doug said the chipper did everything they needed it to do, but they still felt more could be done.

“When we aren’t waiting on the chipper, it’s amazing how much more efficient we are,” Doug said. “We cut load times from 20 minutes to anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes. Our skidder and forwarders rarely have to wait to drop their loads at the chipper, and we don’t have empty trailers and truck drivers sitting idle, waiting to be loaded.”

The chips produced by the 3590XL go to numerous fuel wood markets in the area, both large and small. The increased production allows Nelson Forest Products to keep up with demand better, which is a win-win situation for everyone.

“All that wasted labor time really adds up,” said Doug. “The one guy that I don’t mind sitting is the guy feeding the chipper, so long as the rest of the operation is running as planned. He was always busy with our older chipper.”

Bandit custom-built this particular Model 3590XL for Nelson Forest Products. Previous versions had been produced with a 1050-horsepower diesel, but Nelson’s 3590XL is the first of its kind to feature 1200 horsepower. Bandit President Jerry Morey said that, despite the size and the power of the engine, it’s still remarkably efficient simply because of the speed at which it processes material. He said the feed system is also designed to help eliminate chip discharge under or behind the conveyor. They’ve seen as much as a 5 percent increase in chip yield, which according to Morey is like getting another dollar per ton of chips.

Investing in a powerful chipper has allowed Nelson Forest Products to power ahead, finding new levels of production along the way. In a land of endless lakes and thick forest that nurture both exaggerations and legends, there’s no exaggerating this company’s ability to get jobs done at record pace with a little help from the big chipper from Bandit.