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Wisconsin Logger Leans on LogMax

Three Cut-to-Length Crews Equipped with LogMax 7000 for Felling, Processing

By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 9/1/2007


HAYWARD, Wisconsin — Stan Hershey, owner of Grindstone Enterprises LLC, a logging company, had some reservations when he decided to move into cut-to-length logging about 10 years ago.

            “I was the first one to buy in this area,” he recalled. “I was apprehensive. Today, you almost cannot not have a cut-to-length operation.”

            Stan has turned for more than a decade to Nortrax to purchase John Deere equipment. He actually got started with Timbco through Nortrax, too. “I bought my first Timbco in 1996 from Nortrax,” he said, the dealership located in Ashland, Wis. When Stan began investing in cut-to-length equipment, he bought Fabtek machines from Nortrax.

            Stan has built relationships with two equipment dealers in his region over the years. His most recent purchases were from Roland Machinery Co., a well-known logging equipment distributor in the five-state region of Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Michigan. Roland Machinery represents Komatsu, which now includes the Valmet and Timbco name plates. The Fabtek was a great transition machine, explained Stan, because it was basically a John Deere excavator — a proven performer — that was converted to forestry use.

            Stan’s company has 20 employees. He operates four crews — three do cut-to-length logging the other crew does tree-length logging. “Right now, we’re cutting about 1,200 cords per week,” said Stan when he talked with TimberLine in July.

            Each cut-to-length crew uses a LogMax 7000 for felling and processing. Two of the LogMax heads are mounted on Timbco 415 track carriers that were bought new in 2005. The third is mounted on an older Timbco purchased in 2001. The older Timbco is followed by a Valmet 840.1 forwarder, and the newer ones are paired with Valmet 840.2 forwarders.

            The Valmet 840 forwarders are six-wheel machines. In winter they are fitted with chains for better traction in the deep snow. With the state Department of Natural Resources keeping a watchful eye over job sites, machines that tread as lightly as possible in all weather conditions are a must. Being able to put a powerful LogMax 7000 on a relatively light Timbco 415 gives Grindstone Enterprises an edge in meeting expectations for minimizing ground disturbance.

            The crew that performs conventional or tree-length logging is equipped with a Timbco 425 carrier with a disc saw felling head. Two Caterpillar 425B grapple skidders move the trees to a landing where the limbs are removed by a John Deere 220 delimber. A Barko loader working with a HanFab 60-inch slasher saw finishes the job of bucking, sorting and stacking the wood and loading it onto trucks. The company also has a couple of dozers and two backhoes for building roads.

            Stan bought his first LogMax at a machinery auction. He knew very little about LogMax or its equipment. At the auction he was interested in buying a Timberjack carrier with low hours; it was equipped with a LogMax processor. A LogMax representative from Sweden, Patrick Hahn, was present at the auction. He told Stan that LogMax would provide him with the necessary service and support for the processor.

            “Patrick came over to me and said, ‘We will follow it through,’ ” Stan recalled. And LogMax kept that commitment to him. “Patrick Hahn gave me excellent support in my first experience with LogMax,” he added.

            The reason he stayed with LogMax and has bought more of the processors is simple, Stan said. “It’s because of their product support,” he said. “It’s second to none.”

            LogMax manufactures its equipment to be reliable and durable. Designed for heavy timber, the LogMax 7000B — the current, updated version of the 7000 — combines power and speed. With variable speed rollers, it can speed up when processing smaller wood and reduce speed for increased power when handling bigger trees. Guards and heavy-duty covers protect the components, reducing maintenance and repairs.

            Stan’s maintenance and repair costs were substantially reduced by moving to LogMax. Using the same equipment is another plus, he noted, because he buys replacement parts for the same processor.

            LogMax gives Grindstone Enterprises the capability of performing select cuts and other timber harvesting operations in pine or aspen and other Northern hardwoods. The company works on public lands as well as private forests.

            As indicated above, the company is totally mechanized. “We don’t carry chain saws,” said Stan. “My service trucks do not carry chain saws.” The last time he recalled the need for a chain saw was two years ago when the company worked in a stand of large, virgin pine timber. He contracted with another logger to manually fell some trees.

            Stan began his logging business in eastern North Carolina in 1978. He worked there three years before returning to his native state.

            “My dad was a farmer-logger,” said Stan. Horses were used to skid the logs out of the woods in those days. When Stan was a boy, his father took the family to Guatemala each spring, and his father did missionary work. Stan would attend schools in Guatemala, learning Spanish and other subjects.

            When he was in his late teens, Stan used to peel pulpwood to earn money. Although rarely done now, loggers used to peel the bark off pulpwood to speed drying. “You take the bark off down to the cambium layer,” said Stan, and then the wood was cut and stacked.

            Stan endeavors to work in different types of forests. “I like multiple types of soil. I like to have sandy soil, clay, sandy-loamy, loamy-sand, total clay — all types. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket.” If rain, wet conditions or other factors make it unsuitable to work in one type of soil, he can switch to other jobs in different terrain.

            Merchandizing wood is important and something Stan strives to balance carefully. “It’s a tough industry now,” he said. Mill prices allow little “wiggle room,” he noted. “The mill sets prices. We have very little flexibility.”

            Added to the low mill prices is the cost of buying standing timber. In Sawyer County where Stan works, stumpage prices recently were about $27 to $38 per cord, depending on the species.

            Hayward, the town where Grindstone Enterprises is based, is in northwest Wisconsin and has about 1,800 residents. Stan contracts for jobs mainly within 100 miles, although the company has traveled to the north-central part of the state before to work.

            Stan’s oldest son, Linwood, supervises the tree-length logging crew. Another son, Ben, just graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in forestry, and he will take over the logistics of the company soon. Shannon, another son, runs the chipping operations. Stan’s fourth son, Wayne, is in high school.

            Grindstone Enterprises has five Peterbilt, two Kenworth and one Western Star tractors to deliver wood. The company also owns a dump truck to haul gravel when it is building roads.

            Each logging crew is supplied by a service truck and monitored by a woods manager. The arrangement allows crews to resolve minor equipment problems at the job site, reducing downtime.

            Stan has experienced changes in the logging industry. He aims to keep pace with them or even try to anticipate them. He is hopeful of the interest in using wood for fuel. Last year he invested in a Morbark 22 whole tree chipper. So far, he is only using it to chip tops and reject wood, but he wants to be positioned for a market shift. Grindstone Enterprises has a contract to supply wood chips for fuel to XCel Energy, and the market is growing. Stan also bought a Morbark 1200 tub grinder this year and is using it exclusively to grind tops into fuel chips.

            The timber that Grindstone Enterprises cuts generally is too big to consider a smaller processor, although LogMax manufactures a range of sizes for different applications. For example, the LogMax 5000, which weighs 40% less than the LogMax 7000, is a good match for loggers who do lighter final felling.

            LogMax processors can be fitted to many brands of carriers, including tracked carriers and wheeled carriers. For instance, like the LogMax 7000, the LogMax 6000 also handles heavy timber; however, it weights about 20% less, making it suitable for a wheeled carrier.

            With its four movable knives controlled by a patented positioning system, the LogMax 7000 does a good job at delimbing for Grindstone Enterprises. Stan also has been impressed with the durability and longevity of the hydraulic hoses on the LogMax 7000.

            Stan is a member of the board of the Wisconsin Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, or FISTA. The alliance provides training and education to improve professionalism, reduce accidents and encourage good environmental policies. For instance, his XCel Energy arrangement is one of a growing number of such efforts that is sanctioned by the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative, or WEI. WEI aims to bring citizens from all walks of life together to build consensus on using natural resources. The idea is to sustain the environment in a way that different parties can agree to, to forge consensus and avoid conflicts.

            Stan enjoys the trials and challenges of the industry, and he likes the freedom of being in business for himself. Although the hours are long, he finds enjoyment in his work. “Hard work is satisfying,” he said. It makes a “satisfied mind.” When he has free time, Stan enjoys boating and relaxing with his family.

            “I’ve been blessed,” he said. “It is my desire to live and do right. All that I am or have, I owe to the Creator of the universe.”




 






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