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N.C. Farmer Moving into Firewood Sales

Pete 1X37 firewood processor distributed by Hakmet runs off tractor PTO.

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 1/1/2004


EDEN, North Carolina—Ted Johnson is a busy man. He has a full-time job as the senior project manager for a construction company. He also owns a farm and raises cattle. In his newest endeavor, he has a fledgling firewood business.

        Processing and selling firewood is something Ted got started doing less by design than by serendipity. “I have 100 acres,” said Ted. “Sixty of it’s wooded.”

        It’s important to cut the undergrowth and thin, said Ted. “I don’t want to clear-cut,” he said. But with a steady supply of timber, he sees an opportunity to sell firewood. His forest land contains mixed hardwoods and pine.

        Ted also has plenty of need for firewood for him and his family. For some time he has been using wood to fuel three boilers. One boiler provides heat for his home, another for his mother’s home, and the third is at his father-in-law’s residence.

        Ted had been thinking about firewood processors for some time. “I kind of got interested in them five or six years ago,” he said. At first he considered buying a used machine. “I tried to find a used, higher production model,” said Ted.

        Because he has three farm tractors, he wanted a machine that could be run off a tractor PTO. The more Ted learned, the more he decided that something new would best suit his needs.

        In July he bought a Pete1X37 firewood processor from Carl W. Neutzel Services Inc., which is one of the dealers for Hakmet Ltd., a Canadian company with headquarters in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec. “It’s been a labor saver for me,” said Ted.

        At 51, Ted knows something about the labor involved in making firewood. He first started helping with wood cutting and splitting at age eight. “We used to do it the old-fashioned way with an axe and splitting maul,” he recalled.

        Ted said that the Pete1X37 from Hakmet is “ergonomically a plus.” He does not have to lean or stretch in ways that would take a toll on his body.

        It also can be moved quickly and efficiently. “It’s handy,” said Ted. “It’s maneuverable with the tractor.”

        For felling trees, Ted uses a chainsaw, and he has a clear favorite. “I well prefer Husqvarna above all,” he said.

        Ted uses the Pete1X37 for logs that are 8-10 inches in diameter although the machine can handle logs up to 14.5 inches in diameter. For a faster machine and increased production, Hakmet offers the Pete2X, which has two splitting cylinders compared to one on the Pete1X37. Even with two splitting cylinders, the Pete2X can handle logs over 11 inches in diameter. The biggest model in the series is the PeteBigX47, which can handle logs up to 18.5 inches in diameter. All models mentioned previously use a chain saw for cutting. A fourth model, the PeteOH60, uses a circular saw for cutting. The PeteOH60, the smallest model in the series, handles logs up to 11 inches in diameter.

        With the Pete1X37, Ted has more firewood than he can use for the three wood-burning boilers. He started selling firewood to friends, and now he is now working on a business strategy to sell more.

        Ted also owns a portable sawmill, a Wood-Mizer LT25. He saws lumber to sell to some woodworking arts and crafts entrepreneurs in the area and also supplies some to his father-in-law, who builds furniture.

        “I’m kind of a gadget guy,” said Ted, pointing to his interest in doing the research and finding the machines that are best suited for him. Locating a firewood processor that could run off the 55 hp tractor engine was important to him, for example.

        Ted has three Massey Ferguson tractors. He also owns a Bobcat and a Case 580 backhoe, as well as a one-ton pick-up truck with a dump on it, so he is pretty well equipped for a firewood business. He skids the logs with a tractor and uses the pick-up truck for hauling the firewood.

        Carl Neutzel, owner of Carl W. Neutzel Services Inc. in White Hall, Md., sold Ted the Pete1X37. He anticipated that Ted would find the machine a good fit. “It works well for top wood and small wood,” said Carl.

        Farmers like the Pete firewood processors from Hakmet because the machines can be powered by a tractor. However, the machines can be paired with an auxiliary power source, too, Carl noted.

        Hakmet offers several other optional features that expand the range of the basic firewood processor. For example, an optional log lift picks the log up from the ground. The log lift also allows the machine to process logs that are 2 feet longer — to 14 feet.

        When Carl talks about the Hakmet processors, he speaks from the experience not only of an equipment dealer, but also of a user. Carl also keeps a supply of logs at his dealership so that he can fully demonstrate the firewood processors.

        What he likes most about the Hakmet Pete model series, said Carl, is its safety and simplicity.  The machine is also very compact, he noted. The Pete1X37 that Ted owns, for instance, folds to a dimension of just 82 inches wide for transit.

        The standard versions of the Pete1X37 and Pete2X have a hand lever to operate the infeed conveyor, cutting saw and splitter while the easy versions have joystick controls.

        Standard features include a grid that allows wood debris to fall off and away from split pieces of wood. The infeed conveyor is at a slight angle off, which helps to hold and feed crooked logs. The chain saw has an automatic oiling system.

        The Pete1X37 adjusts automatically for log size. It processes small logs at a higher speed and larger logs more slowly, with more power.

        Many of the logs that Ted processes have knots, but the Pete1X37 can handle them, he said.

        The Pete1X37 is a good match for him for multiple reasons, said Ted. “It’s very easy to work on if you have any problems with it,” he explained.

        Eden is located about 30 miles north of Greensboro and very close to the state border between North Carolina and Virginia. The town has a population of 15,000.

        Not only does Ted have a good potential market for firewood, but he also has several excellent sources of logs. Adjacent to his 100-acre farm, a tract of about 1,000 acres is being logged. Ted has arranged to obtain some of the wood, such as limbs and tops, as well as trees that have been removed at some construction sites where he works.

        Ted’s move into firewood sales is so new that he still does not have a name for the enterprise. It may just stay part of Johnson Farms, but he is also considering a separate name for the firewood business.




 






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