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Hard Work, Head for Business and Lots of Luck Led to Young Logger’s Success
Tim Jacobs – Wisconsin Logger Pleased with Cat C-T-L Machines
Date Posted: 2/1/2008
ANTIGO, Wisconsin – ‘Dusty’ is parked just inside the overhead door of Tim Jacob’s pole barn. The two-year-old Fabtek track harvester, with only a few hundred hours on it, comes out in the winter when Tim joins his logging crew in the woods.
“I don’t like to have it in the sun,” he joked. “It fades the paint.”
Tim may be finicky about his pet harvester, but, to be fair, he did not name the machine. His crew did. They also refer to the pole barn as ‘the shrine.’
Tim, 37, is one of the biggest logging contractors in central Wisconsin. Although he has not had any formal business training, he is a shrewd businessman and entrepreneur. At any point in time, Tim manages four forestry jobs that employ 15 workers, mostly machine operators and truck drivers, and a couple of other ventures.
Tim is a first generation logger who started part-time during high school and went full-time after graduation. Unlike so many who have grown up in the business, he doesn’t talk about logging being in his blood; it’s just a way to make a living.
“I wouldn’t say I ever liked it,” he said. “Everyone needs a job, though. I guess I like it better than any other job I ever had.”
Tim was 19 when he bought his first machine, a 1970 John Deere cable skidder. He worked by himself, cutting, skidding and blade piling. After a couple of years, he hired someone to work with him in the winter although he continued working alone in the summer. By the time he was 22, he had his first full time employee.
Over the years Tim traded up and added equipment. At age 28 he bought his first processor, a John Deere excavator
At the last Lake States Logging Congress, Tim went on a shopping spree and picked out two Cat 550 rubber-tired harvesters and a Cat 574 eight-wheel forwarder. The new Cats joined a stable that includes a Fabtek six-wheel forwarder, four Fabtek harvesters (including Dusty) and seven log trucks.
Until his recent acquisitions, his harvesters were all on tracks. Tim went with rubber tires for the ride and mobility. “We can move from job to job quicker,” he said. “If we have a job two miles down the road, rather than having to haul the machine on a low boy, we just drive it right down the road.”
Tim bought two different heads. One of the new harvesters is equipped with a Prentice PD-46 dangle head, and the other is the company’s first rubber-tired harvester equipped with a fixed head, the Prentice PF-48.
“I’m not totally sold on the dangle head yet,” said Tim. “Some feedback from different foresters is that they don’t believe they are doing as well. The fixed head does a better job in select thinnings. But there is a longer reach with the dangle head, and, from what I have gathered, once you are used to running them they are pretty good.”
He’s taking a wait-and-see approach, although the operator who runs the harvester with the dangle head already likes it. Tim’s goal is to be able to send either the fixed or the dangle head to any job, depending on which operator is available.
Tim supplies wood to several mills in the area — Stora Enso, Louisiana Pacific, Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), Wausau-Mosinee Paper Corp. and others. He contracts on private, county and state land. He also operates a wood yard north of Antigo that he leases to Stora Enso as a satellite yard. In the winter, the wood he cuts for Stora Enso is stored there, and it is trucked to the mill in spring and summer.
Logging pays most of the bills, but Tim has a few other ventures. In the summer, he does excavation work, such as digging foundations, grading yards and hauling dirt. He also owns two farms and has a small dairy and crop operation.
The ultimate multi-tasker, Tim often does his wheeling-dealing via cell phone from the cab of the machine that he is operating for the season. In the winter he runs Dusty, in spring he drives a tractor, in summer he operates an excavator or drives a truck, and in the fall he may be driving a combine.
Right now, his attitude about the logging industry “kinda sucks,” Tim said. He doesn’t think the near future looks very good. “Markets are okay, but prices are terrible. I can get rid of stuff but at their price. We need it back to the way it was a few years ago, when mills were running low and the loggers named the price.”
Those who work smart will survive. “I see a lot of stupid bids on county and state land,” said Tim. “Sometimes, it seems the bidders really don’t care what they pay for wood and if there is a market available. There are a few who don’t put much analysis into it and just throw a bid out there and try to figure out how they’re going to come out on it later.”
Tim prefers to keep his logging production numbers to himself. “The only thing I can say about that is that it’s not enough.” When pressed he added, “It would be nice to be producing half again as much, but it’s probably not possible.”
What is the secret to his success? “Let’s say it is a combination of luck and hard work,” said Tim, “but probably more luck.”
Equipment Operators Discuss Features, Performance of Cat Machines
At the last Lake States Logging Congress, Tim Jacobs went on a shopping spree and picked up two Cat 550 rubber-tired harvesters and a Cat 574 eight-wheel forwarder. One harvester is equipped with a Prentice PD-46 dangle head and the other is the company’s first rubber-tired harvester equipped with a fixed head, the Prentice PF-48.
When the machines were delivered, Tim set up the controls to match the Fabtek track harvesters his operators had been running to make the transition as easy as possible.
He ran one of the harvesters for 10 minutes and said, “Yup, I think it will work,” and turned the machines over to his operators. After a little more than a month with the new machines, here’s what they have to say.
Harold ‘Gramps’ Prince, 61, has worked in the woods most of his life. Harold has worked for Tim for 11 years and operates the new Cat rubber-tired harvester with the dangle head. He previously ran a Fabtek track harvester with a fixed head.
“It took about three weeks before I started feeling comfortable with it,” said Harold. “Before that, I was a little nervous about cutting the bigger trees. Now, I understand how to move it to make the trees go the right way. It’s just getting a feel for that.
“At first I wasn’t sure,” he continued, “but now I think you can do more things with the dangle head than the fixed head. You can get at the trees in different positions. You can spin the head around instead of moving the whole machine
“I like the rubber tires way better,” Harold added. “It’s way smoother going through the woods. With a track machine, you’re bouncing around and slipping off the seat. It’s faster and easier to get around. The track machine is slow.”
“The visibility is real good. I can see behind me, both sides, frontward and up. There is really nothing in the way so that you can’t see. I can listen to country music on the radio. The cab’s real quiet in this one.”
“It’s easy to grease. The boom has a central grease bar, so you don’t have to crawl up on the loader.”
Jeff Mosher, 28, began helping his father when he was 12. He helped his dad with an early form of c-t-l by running a measuring pole. His father would drop a tree, and Jeff would hold the measuring pole while his father cut the log. Jeff has worked for Tim for six years and operates the new Cat rubber-tired harvester with the fixed head.
“I like the ride and the self-leveling cab,” said Jeff. “The only thing I really miss about running the track machine is spinning 360 degrees. I can spin about 180, but the ride and leveling cab make up for that. You can go home at the end of the day and chop firewood or whatever you have to do and feel like doing it. You get slammed around in a track machine all day, and you feel like going home and sleeping. The rubber-tired harvester is like driving your car down the freeway; running the track machine is like driving your car down railroad tracks.”
“Maybe someday I will try the dangle head, but right now I’m happy with the fixed head. I know everything there is to know on that head. I like the control I have. I like the power in the rollers. It isn’t as fast as the dangle head, but I like having control of the tree. I cut around a lot of buildings, and I don’t want a dangle head for that.”
“I know some people running Fabtek-Prentice heads on track excavator carriers,” Jeff added. “Not good. They sit so low and bounce around so much because they are not built for that heavy of a head.”
“The Fabtek and Cat harvesters are built for the woods and that head. You can cut whatever size tree you want if you know what you are doing. I cut a 44-inch oak by sawing on one side and then just pushing it over.”
“This being the first four-roller fixed head on rubber tires, it’s pretty impressive how stable it is. This little bit of rain we got today doesn’t bother it. If we get a lot of rain, then I’m going to have to put my tracks on, but without tracks the machine handles that head perfectly. Although I have not had to put the tracks on yet, I hear that the ride is even smoother. But without the tracks, if we need to go down the road to the other landing, I just shoot down the driveway and out onto the road and go.”
“The motor is back further, and the exhaust runs out the back. I can hardly hear the motor running inside the cab. Seems easy on fuel — probably burning around 35 gallons a day, so about 3.5-4 gallons an hour. I think that is pretty good.”
“I knew the limits in the track machine. I have to learn all that with this one. How big of a hill can it handle? How far can I swing when I’m coming downhill? I’m stretching it. Got to push it to the limits to find the limits.”
George Dalka, 42, has worked for Tim three years. When he first got out of school, he spent some time cutting with a chain saw and then milked cows and worked for a delivery service. He had never operated a forwarder when he had breakfast one morning with Tim to discuss a job. Tim hired him on the spot. George operates the Cat 574 eight-wheel forwarder. His last forwarder, the one he learned on, was a six-wheel.
“The boom is faster,” said George. “The whole machine is more stable, more powerful.”
“The cab is new. Inside is so much nicer — a lot quieter. Now you have the heat and air all the way around. The windows have defrosters. It’s roomier than other cabs. I can bring a lunch box into the cab. I can spin around in the seat without my feet bumping the walls. I can tighten the armrests into the position I like and leave them there. When I swing around they don’t hit the sides. I can stretch my legs out so I don’t get cramps.”
“On the Cat forwarder, I can see the blade at all times,” noted George, “even when it is lowered. It is also more heavy duty. The hood, everything, is stronger. The stakes aren’t stationary. They swivel, so if I ever hook a tree or anything, I won’t break them. With eight wheels rather than six, it’s more comfortable. The ride is so much smoother with the front bogies. I know I never would have climbed that hill today with the six-wheeler. I would have spun out.”
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