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Anderson Tree & Chipping Grows a New Branch

Anderson Wood Products: Michigan Tree Service Company Adds New Branch with Morbark

By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 7/1/2000

BYRON CENTER, Mich. ó One way to welcome in a new millennium is to get involved in an exciting endeavor. And that is exactly what Don Anderson did.

Don has owned Anderson Tree & Chipping Service since 1987. In January, he decided the time was right to start a second business, Anderson Wood Products.

The established tree and chipping service retains its emphasis on land clearing. On most jobs that means cutting down the trees as well as the corresponding complete removal of trees and brush, usually through conversion to chips. The new business focuses on recycling wood waste.

Anderson Wood Products is built on the concept of reclamation, a method to replace outright solid waste disposal. Instead of paying tipping fees to put wood waste into landfills, companies can have their scrap pallets, railroad ties, trees and other wood material recycled ó reduced to ground wood fiber ó by Anderson Wood Products at less cost. For example, other land-clearing contractors haul their logs and debris to Anderson Wood Products. The only material the company does not accept for recycling is wood waste from construction sites; the possibility of contamination with other building materials, such as dry wall, coatings and metals, makes it too risky.

Recycling transforms wood that could otherwise take up valuable space in landfills to useable chips and mulch. Some wood produces chips that are of sufficient quality to be sold to paper mills; wood ground into hog fuel is sold to power plants. "Itís better to use the waste than to throw it away," said Don.

The tree and chipping service has 11 employees and the new business has five. Anderson Tree & Chipping Service is equipped with three 721E Hydro-Ax feller-bunchers and two 525S CAT skidders for clearing land.

Felled trees are skidded to one of three chipping machines. A Morbark Model 30 Chiparvestor and a Morbark Model 30/36 whole-tree chipper handle the large material. A Bandit Industries Model 1400 tree chipper is used on smaller, often unwieldy material. The Bandit can chip trees as big as 14 inches in diameter but Don has found it especially useful for limbs and tops. Both Morbark machines are equipped with grapples, and the Bandit also has a loader.

The Morbark model 30 Chiparvestor handles up to 30-inch diameter logs. (Model numbers in the Morbark chipper series indicate the maximum diameter of the log the machine can accept.) The single-operator Chiparvestor takes an infeed of whole trees, including limbs and tops, and can produce up to 500 tons of chips per shift. Because the machine is equipped with a dirt separator, it is ideal for handling trees that have been skidded. The Morbark Model 30 Chiparvestor can produce quality chips for pulp and paper mills or hog fuel.

The Morbark Model 30/36 also can handle entire trees. Its design makes it particularly suited for brush, slash and tree tops. The 30/36 has a drum-style cutting system that directs more material across the anvil and effectively provides a bigger surface area than a disc-type cutting system. The model 30/36 operates with fewer horsepower and experiences less wear than a disc system. Its production rate is about 50 tons per hour.

Don likes the way the Hydro-Ax feller-bunchers perform. "The Hydro-Axes are very dependable," he said. "They get the job done and can handle everything from small brush to large trees."

Stumps on clearing jobs are attacked with a stump grinder from Rayco called the Model T275 Prime Mover. Don has had a Rayco stump grinder for about six years and recently upgraded from the earlier model T175.

The customer base of the tree service is diverse. "We clear land for developers, private individuals, state highways, counties and road commissions in western Michigan," said Don.

Although logs from the land-clearing operations normally do not wind up in sawmills for commercial lumber production, occasionally Don needs some lumber. "Sometimes I take logs to a sawmill and have them sawn for myself," he said.

The tree service cuts "lots of pine," said Don, as well as oak, maple, sassafras and basswood. (White pine is the state tree of Michigan, although the Wolverine State boasts the greatest variety of trees in the U.S., according to the World Almanac of the U.S.A.) Trees are so plentiful in Michigan that at one time the state led the nation in timber production. The top ranking is gone, but hemlock and hardwoods, particularly maple, birch and beech, are still important resources.

Clearing land struck Don as a very natural choice. "Iíve been in the woods all my life," he said. "I cut firewood as a boy." As for how he actually made the leap into his first business, Don explained that it was through "hard work, long hours and taking chances." He enjoys every aspect of his two businesses, but one of the greatest rewards of the path he chose is that it keeps him outdoors, he said.

Since Anderson Tree & Chipping Service often works for municipalities, Don knew first-hand the ever-greater emphasis that communities are putting on recycling. He believed there was a good opportunity to fill a growing niche as a recycler of wood products.

Anderson Wood Products was launched with two key pieces of Morbark machinery, a Morbark Model 1300 tub grinder and a Morbark Model 4000-P mulch coloring system. The company uses a Toledo truck scale to weigh incoming wood.

The Morbark Model 1300 tub grinder is about three years old. Don had rented the tub grinder for his tree service business and then decided to purchase it for his new company. "This machine is very dependable," he said. "It just keeps going and going like a Duracell battery."

He was not surprised by the tub grinderís performance given his experience with Morbark. In fact, he expected it based on the track records of the Morbark Chiparvestor and whole-tree chipper. "The reliability of these machines is over and above that of other name brands," he said about his experience with the manufacturerís equipment.

The Morbark Model 1300 tub grinder processes wood waste at rates that range from 120 cubic yards per hour to 320 cubic yards per hour. It can serve as a primary or a secondary grinding device. The tub is 13 feet in diameter, and the machine comes complete with a knuckleboom loader.

Anderson Wood Products operates the Morbark Model 1300 tub grinder about eight hours each day. The machine requires about two hours of maintenance per day. Upkeep includes daily greasing, hose and bearing checks ó and changes as necessary ó and replacement of the hammer inserts as required. When there is a work lull, Don seizes the opportunity for major servicing. The maintenance schedule required by the tub grinder spurred Don to take on the maintenance for all his companyís machinery.

Don Fenske operates the tub grinder. He brings 20 years of experience with forestry equipment to the job as well as credentials as a certified welder. He also has a commercial driverís license, which is useful when the grinder must be transported to a job site.

Although Donís wife, Susan, assumes no paid position in either business, she is a keen observer of the operations and often helps out in the office and running parts. Susan has been as impressed by the way the Morbark Model 1300 tub grinder tackles large stumps. The reason the tree service began to rent a tub grinder was because it was encountering some very tough stumps, she explained. "The stumps were too big" for existing equipment, said Susan. "In order to get paid for the whole job, we had to get rid of them."

Although the machine is sometimes hauled to job sites, it often stays at the main facility for the businesses. One tractor-trailer rig is dedicated to transporting the tub grinder.

Six vehicles keep the tree service mobile, and Don also owns seven tractor-trailer rigs, some older Ford and Hendrickson International models and some newer Western Star rigs. "We are moving toward all Western Stars," said Susan. "They hold up well and they take a heavy load."

Susanís knowledge of trucks pre-dates the tree cutting and wood waste recycling businesses. At one time Don cut firewood in the winter and the couple ran an organic truck farm in the summer. It was not easy to make money farming, she admitted, and Don decided to pursue a more predictable enterprise.

But coaxing the land into production is still a big part of life for Don and Susan. They reside on 10 acres of land, including a garden and two ponds. When Don is not working in one of the businesses, he likes to work on their property, either tending the garden, doing a bit of tree farming, or experimenting with landscaping ideas. The Anderson home is becoming something of a showcase for the latest product from Anderson Wood Products, colored mulch, which is being used to nurture and highlight the trees on their property.

The decision to add a mulch coloring system to Anderson Wood Products was easy, according to Don. "The demand was there," he said.

The Morbark Model 4000-P coloring system uses organic pigments that are available in red, gold, brown, rose and black. It can be positioned directly under the conveyor that carries mulch from the tub grinder. It has a self-governing system and easily adjusts the rate of color application. A drum dispenses the colorant and the drums, each with a single color, are simple to change.

The coloring system is such a new addition that Anderson Wood Products still is exploring the best way to market decorative colored mulch. The company has added a sales person who is busy assessing markets and opportunities. Anderson Wood Products currently sells colored mulch on a wholesale basis although its strategy may change.

The Morbark machines are used to produce a variety of wood fiber, mulch or other ground covering products. "Some customers specify chip size," said Susan. "Some want a certain mix of leaves in mulch." Customers request all sorts of combinations.

"[The Morbark] has quite a bit of versatility," said Susan. The company tried several other grinders. Don liked the ease with which the Morbark grates could be switched to produce different grades and sizes of wood fiber.

The company sells chips to a broad base of customers. Don sells high quality chips to paper mills in nearby Muskegon and also hog fuel to power plants, such as Decker Energy.

The Morbark Model 1300 tub grinder produces about 1,000 tons of ground wood fiber and 500 tons of mulch each week. It has a permanent home, as does all the equipment for the two businesses, on a 23-acre site that includes a 9,600-square-foot steel building. Offices and a shop area are housed in the structure.

Donís businesses are located in southwest Michigan in the small community of Byron Center, which is about 10 miles south of Grand Rapids, a city of 175,000. The location puts him close enough to two of his machinery suppliers to be within a 90-minute drive. Morbark has its headquarters in Winn, about 45 miles northeast of Byron Center; Bandit Industries is headquartered in Remus, about 15 miles northwest of Winn and approximately the geographic center of Michigan. The central Michigan region shares a history with logging, and Grand Rapids has long been known as a furniture-producing city.

Susan often makes the drive to Winn. "I like the people at Morbark," she said. "They help you get what you need. When you go to get the parts, the parts are always ready."

Both Don and Susan are natives of Michigan; Don was born in Pontiac and Susan is originally from Freemont. The couple shares a love for a state that has high name recognition but is not all that well known and actually claims several surprising features. The boundary of Michigan encompasses almost as much freshwater as it does land. When the area for freshwater and land are combined, Michigan ranks first in size among the states east of the Mississippi River. The only state that has a longer shoreline than Michigan, which borders four of the Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron, Erie and Superior), is Alaska.

Susan said the hopes she and Don have for the future of the new business are tied to its purpose. They want Anderson Wood Products to become known as "the recycling place," and recognized for the good it does, "eliminating waste wood by turning it into useable products."


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