Shovel logging is a ground-based logging system that uses a log loader—often called a “shovel”—instead of a skidder or forwarder to move logs.
For Ken Oleman, president of Ken Oleman Logging in Tillamook, Oregon, logging just seemed like the natural thing for him to do. It’s a family tradition that was the right fit for him, and he is happy to have had the opportunity to work in the woods the way his father and grandfather did.
“My grandfather and my dad were both loggers,” he said. “I worked for my dad when I was in high school. We did every kind of logging there was. Whatever needed to be done, we did it; we did whatever the job required.”
When Ken turned 18 he went to Tillamook, Oregon, and worked for a logging operation there for a while.
“What we did there was yarder logging,” he said. “And I would still go back and help my dad off and on.”
Ken started working in Tillamook in 1972, and continued working for other people until the mid-1980s. Then he decided to go out on his own.
“I started doing a few little private jobs while I was still working for another outfit,” he said. “I kept doing more and more private jobs, and they gradually worked into bigger and bigger jobs.”
Ken continued to do yarder logging jobs until the late 1990s. Then he switched to a shovel logging operation.
Shovel logging is a ground-based logging system that uses a log loader—often called a “shovel”—instead of a skidder or forwarder to move logs. The shovel moves the logs a short distance at a time from where they were cut to a location near the road where they can be loaded onto a truck. Logs may be picked up and “swung” several times between the site where they were felled and the loading area. The distance the logs can be moved at any one time is limited to the length of the boom on the loader, so it can take quite a while to move logs any distance.
One advantage to a shovel logging system is that a small operation can work efficiently and cost effectively. At its simplest, an operator needs only a chainsaw and a tracked excavator equipped with a grapple to grip and move logs. This kind of operation leaves few or no skid trails, and uses existing roads for the most part. Another advantage is that the operator can pile brush at the same time he moves the logs. One disadvantage of shovel logging is that its use on slopes are limited because of equipment instability on steep hills.
Ken doesn’t do the cutting of the timber himself.
“I hire the cutting done,” he said. “Then I just sit the log loader in one place and grab the logs. You swing the loader around and drop the logs you’re holding. Then you turn the loader back around and pick up some more logs with the grapple and swing them around to where the others are.”
Ken said he avoids working on some of the really steep areas.
“This works well on flatter ground,” he said. “But it takes fewer people. It helps to have an extra loader so you can take it out in the brush to move logs from there.”
The processor head that Ken uses on his equipment is the Log Max 7000XT. According to Log Max, the 7000XT is part of the XTreme series of harvesting heads that were designed specifically for tracked carriers. The 7000XT has large, high-torque feed motors that provide up to 45kN or 11,600 pounds of feed force and de-limbing power; high-flow hydraulics provide high level performance for any application and under the toughest conditions. The XT Series was specifically developed to provide the logging industry with a productive and durable head for the most extreme applications and to produce wood at the lowest cost per ton possible.
According to Log Max, the 7000XT can be installed on almost any carrier. The Log Max heads are easy to install and don’t require any rewiring of the carrier’s electronics; the Log Max head is designed to translate the signals from the control system the Log Max head. That way the operator is able to use the standard control system delivered with the machine.
The control system that comes with the Log Max 7000XT is the Log Mate 500. According to Log Max, the Log Mate is more than just a control system. The computer that runs the Log Mate is Windows based, and allows the operator to install programs such as GPS and an internet connection. Because the control system is built using rugged hardware, the Log Mate 500 will withstand the rough logging environment. The computer is IP65 standard compliant and has a solid state drive. New communication modules are all built according to IP standards. Log Mate 500 works together with the new StanForD 2010 forest standards.
One Log Mate module is mounted on the head, and two are in the cabin to transfer and receive data and power to the harvesting head. They all feature standard M12 and Deutsch contacts. All communications are made over a two channel CANbus system.
The Log Mate 500 is available in 8 languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. The panel P has an all-in-one touch screen and has no moving parts; the hard drive has been replaced by a solid state memory drive.
“The 7000XT limbs and bucks the logs, and is capable of picking them up and sawing them,” Ken said.
This is not the first piece of Log Max equipment that Ken has had.
“I’ve had a couple of Log Max 750s,” he said. “I ran the most recent one from 2007 until June of 2016, when I bought the 7000XT. I stayed with Log Max partly because I appreciate the customer support that I have received from their personnel. If you have any problems, they are right there to help you. I also wanted to stay with a product that I was familiar with, and I knew that Log Max manufactures a quality head.”
Moving to the Log Max 7000XT has made his operation more efficient, Ken said.
“It has increased our production,” he said. “It’s a lot better head than what I had, and it’s jumped us up a couple of loads a day.”
Ken runs the Log Max 7000XT on a Doosan DX225 log loader. The DX225 was developed specifically for forestry applications, and pairs the power of Doosan excavators with the specialized features required for forestry operations. It has a fully guarded, high-walker undercarriage, and an upper structure designed to hold up to forestry jobs. Each track has heavy-duty links with double grouser shoes, rock guards, and full-length track guiding guards. Heavy-duty top rollers have specialized clean-out brackets.
The upper structure has specific forestry protection. Machine guarding includes mainframe reinforcement with full under-house plate guarding, boom cylinder guard, integrated catwalks, heavy-duty side doors with guarding over the hydraulic pump and cooling system doors, and undercarriage guarding. The cab features a 4 foot riser with front and top guarding that provides protection without sacrificing visibility. The cab also features hydraulic tilting for transport.
Ken’s son Aaron, 31, has worked with Ken since 2007.
“All throughout school I helped Dad on spring break and in the summertime,” Aaron said. “When I graduated high school in 2004, I went to work for a tire company. I didn’t like it, so I quit and went back to work for Dad.”
Aaron said that he and Ken work for a large lumber company that owns a lot of land in the Tillamook area. Ken said, “When we get a job, we cut on a mixture of terrain. Some of the jobs are flat, and some are kind of hilly.”
Most of the trees they’re cutting, Aaron said, are western hemlock, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir.
“The trees are going for saw logs,” he said. “We have a guy with a John Deere feller buncher who cuts for us and puts the trees in piles. After the trees are cut and on the ground, I take my loader out into the brush and take a pile of logs and start swinging them until I get them to the landing where the processor is. I put them in a pile just off the landing, and Dad delimbs and processes them. We have another guy who sorts them and loads the trucks.”
Aaron said that Ken cuts the logs to length, so that when they are loaded on the truck they already are the length that the mill needs to cut saw timber.
“The timber company has me pile the limbs and brush into big piles and they burn the piles,” Aaron said. “Then they replant.”
Most of the time, Aaron said, he and Ken are working fairly close to the mill.
“We’re usually just ten or fifteen miles away,” he said. “We hire the trucking out.” Working that close, he said, means a considerably lower cost for trucking than if they were working several hours away from the mill.
Ken said the biggest challenge that he has had with his logging operation has been the weather.
“The worst thing is fighting the rain,” he said. “We get a lot of rain in the wintertime. In the summertime when the ground is not wet and slick, you can get around a lot better.”
Aaron agreed that the weather is the biggest challenge they have to face.
“Wintertime around here is really wet,” he said. “It’s a hit and miss thing. If it rains too much we have to stay home and let things drain. Sometimes we miss a couple days, but it’s just here and there. Most of the time we can work, but when we get two or three inches of rain in a night, then we have to take a day or two off.” The best thing about what he does, Aaron said, is just being out in the woods.
At age 62, Ken has no near-term plans to retire. When he does, however, Aaron will take over the operation. Whether or not another generation will step up and become a part of the company remains to be seen.
“My brother and sister are not involved in the business,” Aaron said. “I don’t have any children, but I have a nephew that I think might come into the business. He’s pretty young, but he’s also pretty interested.”
As far as the future is concerned, Aaron said, the company is on a good path that he would like to see continue.
“Things are working out really well right now,” he said. “I’d like to see us stay right where we are.”