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Washington C-T-L Logger Relies on Log Max

JL&O Enterprises uses Log Max processors matched with track carriers for thinning.

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 11/1/2004

KELSO, Washington — Recent volcanic activity at Mt. St. Helens brought back memories for Jim Oldis, owner of J.L.&O. Enterprises, Inc. “I was working there when the mountain went off” in 1980, he recalled. Fifty-seven people on the mountain were killed when the volcano erupted 24 years ago.

        “Had it gone off on Monday, I’d probably not be talking to you,” Jim said. The 1980 eruption occurred on a Sunday. Jim, who was working as a forestry technician at the time, was far enough down the mountain to escape the initial effects of the blast. On a weekday, he normally would have been much nearer and likely would have been killed.

        Jim worked on Mt. St. Helens Tree Farm for Weyerhaeuser from 1972 to 1986, when he decided to launch a logging business. For the first 11 years of his business, he commercially thinned for both Plum Creek Timber (three years) and Weyer­haeuser (eight years). He decided to get into cut-to-length logging in 1997.

        Cut-to-length logging provides a number of benefits for the environment when applied to thinning work. It reduces residual stand damage and ground and site disturbance. Biomass left in the woods is placed in front of machines, providing a mat to run on and preventing rutting. In the hands of operators, cut-to-length equipment increases the ability to select trees to be thinned and those to be left, and it increases utilization of wood fiber by merchandising to the greatest value. Processor heads have the ability to always and accurately know the length and diameter to make the best log merchandising decisions based on value.

        When he decided to enter cut-to-length logging, Jim began looking at options for equipment. “I spent six months doing a whole lot of research in terms of doing cut-to-length,” he recalled. He scrutinized machines and equipment from a number of manufacturers. To get started, Jim was looking for a processor head that was compact, durable, able to handle 8-inch to 14-inch dbh trees, and would work well on a small carrier. After extensive research he chose the Log Max 840 to mount on his Komatsu PC 128 short tail swing excavator, modified with a purpose-built harvester boom by Pierce Pacific.

        Log Max no longer manufactures the 840 processor, which was replaced by the Log Max 5000 in November 1998. Jim added a second head to his fleet in 1999 — one of the first Log Max 5000 heads. After running the Log Max 5000 for several years, Jim replaced it with the latest version, the Log Max 5000 III HDX, in 2003. Jim’s new Log Max 5000 III HDX has improved hydraulics, better guarding and a heavier frame structure for North American forest conditions.

        The contract work he does now for Weyerhaeuser involves thinning in high density, 20-year-old second-growth stands. “They needed compact mechanized harvesting equipment that would not damage the residual stand when thinning,” said Jim. “The small, compact Komatsu PC 128 special harvester front linkage really fit the bill.” Before utilizing cut-to-length equipment for thinning, Weyerhaeuser relied on corridor thinning with cable yarders and conventional ground skidding equipment. However, the residual stand damage from using traditional technology to extract tree length and long logs was not acceptable, and the company was looking for a better way.

        The Log Max processors at the core of the J.L. & O. Enterprises operation are mounted on track machines. The Log Max 840 is on a compact Komatsu 128-UU; the Log Max 5000 is mounted on a Timbco 415 carrier. Both carriers have front linkages with extended reach, permitting more harvesting with minimal site disturbance.

        The harvester-processor heads made by Log Max, a Swedish company, come in a range of sizes from the 20-inch cut Log Max 3000 to the 40-inch cut Log Max 12000, which is new in 2004.

        The South Fork squirt stick on the Timbco gives Jim 8 more feet of reach, and that’s important to him. The ability to grab more trees from a single position means more ground covered with less roads, further minimizing ground disturbance.

        Both the Log Max 5000 and 840 heads use Log Max’s patented floating top knife, which automatically controls opening and closing of the delimbing knives in relation to tree diameter. The result is higher delimbing quality and less friction losses because the tree is not constantly pulled tight against the back of the head and there is less drive roller slippage. The Log Max 5000 has a high capacity saw box with 25-inch cutting capacity to cut closer to the ground in stands with high butt flare. An optional topping saw is available for hardwood work and more efficient processing of trees with broken tops. Jim commented favorably on how easy both heads are to operate and troubleshoot using the Log Mate control and in-cab display.

        When Jim talked with TimberLine in September, he was using the harvester-processor in a 23-year-old stand. The trees averaged 9-10 inches dbh, and most were 50-60 feet tall. The stand was being thinned from 300-325 stems per acre down to 160 per acre to promote maximum growth according to a Weyerhaeuser harvesting model.

        The J.L.&O. crew is so experienced that the men are allowed to mark trails and make their own tree selections decisions. The men are avid outdoorsmen, and they pay extra attention to protecting streams and wet areas with a buffer zone.

        Douglas fir predominates on the tracts where Jim contracts to thin. “That’s the basic species here,” he said. Some stands have other species, including red alder and Western hemlock. At higher elevations, true firs may be in the mix.

        The logs merchandised from thinning fall into two primary sorts. Saw logs are run out to a 5 inch top with lengths from 8 feet to 20 feet. Everything else is used for pulp.

        After launching his company with the Log Max 840, Jim found every reason to stay with Log Max when he upgraded his equipment later. “That 840, I’ve had little trouble with it,” he explained. The Log Max 840 has some 5,000 hours on it, Jim estimated. “It’s still going strong,” he said.

        He kept the 840 when he added the Log Max 5000 in 1998 because the second head gives JL&O greater versatility and ability to do a better job meeting the thinning and residual stand damage criterion set by his supervisor, Bob Keller of Weyerhaeuser. The Log Max 5000, with the Timbco 415 carrier, has more reach while the Log Max 840, mounted on the Komatsu, is more compact.

        Before buying the new Log Max 5000 III HDX, Jim used a Log Max 5000 that was already mounted on the Timbco 415 when he bought it. When he acquired the used Timbco and Log Max head, Jim
began talking regularly with the local Log Max dealer, Papé Machinery, Inc. and also with representatives of Log Max Inc. in Vancouver, Wash. Jim also taps the expertise at Modern Machinery in Portland, Ore. for assistance with Timbco and Komatsu equipment.

        “Log Max is right down the road in Vancouver, 40 miles away,” said Jim, whose company is headquartered in Kelso, Wash., just northwest of Vancouver on the Columbia River. “The service I’d gotten,” said Jim, was a big factor in the decision to stay with Log Max.

        When Jim bought the new Log Max 5000 III HDX, Log Max Inc. did the conversion, removing the old head and putting on the new. “All they had to do was drop a pin in, update the Log Mate control software and adjust the settings for our conditions,” he said. The entire changeover took just six or seven hours.

        Jim’s used Log Max 5000 still had plenty of life left in it. After being refurbished, it was sold to a logger in Montana, where it is now working full-time, doing fuels reduction work.

        The Timbco 415 was important to business from the start, said Jim, because of its ability to move and maneuver on the steepest slopes. To a novice, he explained, some of the slopes on which J.L.&O. Enterprises works would seem quite steep, but they are just part of a day’s work, and the Timbco 415 meets the challenge.

        J.L.&O. Enterprises typically works within a 40-60 mile radius from its base in Kelso, Wash. Kelso has long been a logging center. It is the county seat and has some 12,000 residents.

        Jim’s contracts with Weyerhaeuser prescribe where he will cut. A harvest manager ensures that all environmental requirements are met. “The harvest manager works very closely with the Department of Natural Resources,” explained Jim.

        “Our biggest problem here is rain,” said Jim. “If it’s raining too hard, we quit. We are very sensitive or protecting the region’s fish resources and do not tolerate any possible stream siltation. To protect salmon, environmental rules are written to restrict sediment runoff into streams.

        “In the lower elevations we don’t get much snow, mostly rain,” added Jim. “However, above 2,000 feet we can get quite a bit of snow, and I love working in snow.” Both track machines easily traverses any incline in snow or not.

        Jim’s company has two full-time and one half-time employees, plus himself. In addition to the harvesting-processing equipment, he has two Timberjack 1010 forwarders — one purchased in 1999 and another in 2003. The employee operating the forwarder picks up the logs and sorts them as he goes.

        The forwarder moves the logs to a landing along the road. Pat Farrell Trucking of Kelso, Wash., provides trucking services, and Jim uses a LinkBelt 2800 shovel to load the trucks.

        Jim contracts with two trucking companies to move his equipment to the next job site. He prefers to stay away from trucks because they require too much maintenance, he explained. C.C. Logging in Kelso and Papé Machinery provide hauling services for equipment.

        J.L.&O. was working in September on tract that encompassed 220 acres — a typical size job for Jim’s company.

        The durability of the Log Max equipment simplifies the job for J.L.&O. Enterprises, said Jim. “I’ve just been very impressed with how it’s built,” he said. Moreover, explained Jim, he is always satisfied with the way he gets a response from Log Max. “I can call on the phone and get prompt, pointed answers to questions.”

        A knowledgeable person on the other end of the phone means everything to his business, said Jim. “What you’re talking about is being able to shorten downtime,” he said. “The people at Log Max — there’s great product support. They have knowledgeable people you can work with.”

        When Jim talks about technical support, he is talking as someone who knows the workings of equipment in general. “We do all our basic maintenance,” he said. “We have a shop truck on site everyday to provide service if needed.

        “I do a great deal of tinkering in my shop,” said Jim. What he calls “tinkering” makes him quite a tough evaluator when it comes to determining whether technical support measures up.

        “All the people that come out of Log Max know their products,” he said. “Their whole dealer network” keeps a Log Max owner “talking to people who know what they’re doing.”

        The Vancouver installation of Log Max Inc. serves as a central contact point for management, communications, technical support and service. It is also a training site for customers and dealers.

        Of course, said Jim, the good service all begins with and depends on the equipment. “They build a good product, a sound product,” he said. “I’ll keep buying Log Max.”

        Jim is a native of California. He and his wife moved to Washington 32 years ago when he was offered a job at the Longview Tree Farm of Weyerhaeuser at Mt. St. Helens.

        When he was a senior at Sonoma State College in California, studying to be a teacher, there appeared to be few teaching job prospects in sight. He learned he could get a forestry technician certificate by enrolling at Santa Rosa Junior College in California. For one full year, Jim attended two schools simultaneously, finishing the work on his history degree and earning his forestry technician certification at almost the same time.

        A friend introduced Jim to Longview Tree Farm. It took six months for a job to open up there. Once it did, Jim immediately moved his family north.

        As for which part of his career Jim has most relished, that is not something he can single out. “I really enjoy” everything, he said. “I’ve done it all.”

        Jim has seen the fruits of his earlier work. “I have literally thinned stands I planted,” he said. “I can truly say I love what I’m doing.”

        Jim entered the logging business for reasons. One was to try his hand at a new but related endeavor. “With my previous background working in the woods,” he said, “I had a passion for that.” And, he explained, he felt he could make an important contribution in a new way.

        Having been in the woods for more than 30 years in one capacity or another, Jim has been able to make some observations about the way the logging industry keeps changing.

        New technology, along with increased focus and awareness of environmental issues, have made for much better harvesting, utilization and regeneration results. “In regards to logging, what was done in the 1970s was good, but what is being done now is miles in front of that,” said Jim.

        Ten-hour days are common for the J.L.&O. Enterprises team in September. Longer workdays sometimes prevail in summer. “We follow the sun, so to speak,” said Jim. “We will work six days a week
as needed.” In the winter, usually because of weather, the work week sometimes gets shortened.

        Besides “tinkering” in his shop, Jim enjoys spending time coaching girls’ club volleyball and being with his children and two grandchildren. Jim and his wife, Lura, have three grown daughters — Beth, Jessica and Amy.


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