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Illinois Man Grows Firewood Business
Jamie’s Firewood Service uses Iron & Oak equipment for splitting firewood because it is cost effective to run and easy to use.
By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 1/1/2004
“That first year”, he recalled, “I split approximately 40 loads by hand, using an old chain saw I had bought at a farm auction along with an old splitting maul. There was demand for firewood, and I figured I could supply processed firewood just as good as anyone else around here.”
He earned enough money so that in his second year he bought a hydraulic splitter from a company called Brave Products. “They had both a homeowner’s consumer line and a commercial line at the time,” said Jamie. “I couldn’t afford any of the company’s commercial splitting units, which were being marketed under the Iron & Oak name, so I started off with a consumer unit.
“The reason I chose Brave Products was because at that point in time, they were the best and had the biggest bang for the buck around,” he continued. “I could have gone with several other brands back then, but I felt dollar for dollar and production wise, the Brave line was the best for my young business.”
Jamie eventually bought the truck he wanted and finished high school. Today he is employed full-time as a tool and die maker, but firewood still is a big part of his life. Each weekend he continues building the business he started as a teenager, working 10-14 hour days producing firewood. The weekends are in addition to working four or five hours some week nights.
All the extra work has paid off, according to Jamie. His business, Jamie’s Firewood Service, has grown into a substantial enterprise serving northwest
He has come a long way since his teenage years, when he used that old chain saw and a splitting maul. Brave Products now is known as Iron & Oak Commercial Products. Jamie has used an Iron & Oak BH4003 Commercial Firewood Splitter for years and recently added the upgraded, redesigned version — the Iron & Oak BHV2202 22-ton, fast cycle Vertical/Horizontal splitter. He added the newer model to keep up with the growth in his business. Instead of selling the smaller splitter, he decided to keep it to give him some added flexibility in his operations.
He also recently invested in an Iron & Oaks’ heavy-duty, three-point grapple skidder. When he talked with TimberLine, it was still in a crate, and he was waiting for some hydraulic lines to be made for it. He hoped to have the machine in operation soon, working behind an International 574 tractor.
Jamie’s Firewood Service operated from a three-acre landing near
Most of the hauling is done with a 7x14 tandem axle dump trailer from Bray Manufacturing. “It has been a big asset to my business,” said Jamie.
Felling the trees, removing the branches and bucking the logs are accomplished with a Stihl chain saw. “I just love them,” said Jamie. “They just do an outstanding job for me.”
About 75% of the wood that Jamie cuts and sells for firewood is oak; the remainder is a mix of ash, hickory and cherry. His forest tract also contains other species, such as pine, willow, cottonwood, headge, mulberry and locust.
“I actually sell every stick of wood I cut each year,” Jamie said. “Business will go in spurts, and weather can be a major factor. Right now, for example, I’ve already run through all my oak. This probably already has been one of my biggest years.”
Jamie has come to rely a lot on Iron & Oak and its firewood processing equipment. His experience with Iron & Oak and its service have made him a dedicated and enthusiastic customer.
“Their service and reliability is just fantastic,” he said. “If there is a problem, they just come out and take care of it. All I have to do is call up John Fideo (sales manager for Iron & Oak) and say, ‘Hey John, there is something wrong here,’ and he is there to take care of the problem. John has come out on Saturdays with repair parts for me. If I have problems with a cylinder, they just send me out another one. With other companies, my closest dealer is in
The Iron & Oak equipment also has proven to be very durable and reliable, according to Jamie. “Down time is very minimal on this equipment. Generally, if something breaks, I was doing something with it that I was not suppose to be doing. As to fuel efficiency, I will go through around 8 gallons of fuel on the weekend, running the commercial machine 16 hours for the two days,” which works out to two or two and one-half hours per tank of gas. “I am really getting my money’s worth out of these machines for the cost of the equipment.”
Maintenance is minimal, said Jamie. “You put gas in and change the oil. I change the hydraulic oil every 4 months. You don’t have the large cost of other large processors with 30 to 40 gallon tanks.”
Iron & Oak designs its equipment to be easy to use, noted Jamie, an important factor in a business known for its back-breaking work. “Compared to other equipment that I previously owned and used, I am more comfortable with and consider the Iron & Oak equipment a lot more user friendly,” he said. “What I really like about the commercial log splitter is it sits higher. I am six feet tall and weigh 200 pounds, and I don’t have to stoop over it all day. It’s more comfortable, and I can split about a load and a half of wood in an hour very easily. (His truck-loads are equal to half or three-quarters of a cord.) The log lift on the commercial splitter is a real back saver. It will lift up to 750 pounds, and I have had 900 pounds on it. My personal best with this machine on a good day (10-14 hrs.) is approximately 12 truck-loads.”
Efficiency and productiveness are other attributes of the Iron & Oak equipment that he has come to appreciate — especially since he does most of the work himself for Jamie’s Firewood Service. “Over the past year especially, my dad has helped out a lot,” he said. “And I get help from a couple of buddies whenever I can, especially Bob Hoskins. For the most part though, this is still a one horse show, and I do just about everything.”
Standard equipment on the Iron & Oak BH4003 Commercial Firewood Splitter includes a log lift, hydraulic four-way wedge, log holder and auto cycle valve. It also features an 11 hp engine, 22-gallon hydraulic pump, 12-inch tires, 10-gallon hydraulic system, 8-inch beam, and 12-inch wedge. The machine has an 8 second cycle time.
The smaller BHV2202 is used for second splits, especially when Jamie wants smaller pieces of firewood. Splitting large, over-size logs on the new machine some times leaves large pieces of firewood; they are put through the smaller machine to split them in half. “That way I don’t have to run it back through the big machine,” he explained. “With two guys working it, I can run wood through the big machine and the second guy can pull the big pieces before they go up the conveyor and recycle them back through the smaller machine.”
Jamie believes there is still plenty of room for his firewood business to grow. “I’d like to get a couple of more commercial units from Iron & Oak and start doing wood processing full time and do tool and die part-time,” he said. “I love the outdoors and being outside.”
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