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Chomper® Cuts a Path to Growth for Canadian Firewood Processor
Chomper® firewood processor from Rainier Hydraulics allows Bob Marcyniuk, owner of Go 4 It Enterprise, to continue to grow his one-man business.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 1/1/2011
ST. PAUL, Alberta — Eleven years ago, Bob Marcyniuk, the owner of Go 4 It Enterprise, bought a wood stove as a secondary heat source for his home. To feed the stove, he started cutting firewood by felling trees on his acreage.
“I enjoyed cutting firewood,” said Bob. “The first year I cut more than I needed. It was a hobby, but it became something more.” Indeed, it became a full-time business, Go 4 It Enterprise. Bob had just retired from the other-employer world, having spent 31 years in co-op retail sales, when he launched his business.
Go 4 It Enterprise gives Bob the umbrella for doing a variety of jobs that need to be done – and often vary from season to season. In summer, Bob may cut some grass, for instance. And he does woodworking, making custom planters.
The core of Bob’s company is firewood, however. And it is a Chomper® SMPLX14D from Rainier Hydraulics Inc. in Rainier, Ore. that sets the pace. The Chomper was purchased from Northland Chipper in Langley, BC, Canada.
Bob bought the Chomper firewood processor three years ago. “I did some research,” he explained. “I was looking for something that was going to work for a one-man [operation].”
The research was Internet based, said Bob. As it happened, the entire purchase and delivery sequence was also arranged in the virtual world. Bob had one non-negotiable requirement: The processor had to be able to handle “dirty” wood, he explained.
Three years into Go 4 It Enterprise, Bob began buying wood by the semi-load, the non-grade lumber that loggers wanted to sell. In the course of being felled, graded and moved, that wood often gets covered with mud and debris.
Bob’s Chomper SMPLX14D has a four-way splitter and a diesel engine. It works in tandem with a Hudson 20-foot conveyor, which offloads to a wood pile. Bob also uses a Bobcat S175 to move pieces of firewood away from the machine.
Bob said the Chomper has “surpassed” his expectations. “When I bought the Chomper, I was dealing with Mike Jennings at Northland,” he said. “I took his word for it. I bought it without seeing it. I must say [that with] Mike Jennings and James McCracken from Rainier Hydraulics, the service is just excellent.”
A good start was guaranteed by some on-site interaction that followed the purchase. “Mike drove up” from Abbottsford, said Bob. That’s a distance of 800 miles. “The service just meant so much to me,” he said.
Weighing the opportunities for his business to sell more, Bob is considering an upgrade from the Chomper. If a bigger machine is in the picture, it will be from Rainier Hydraulics. “I wouldn’t look elsewhere,” he said.
The Chomper offers a real “turnkey” approach, said Bob. “I’m not mechanically inclined,” he explained. So simplicity matters.
Pine or poplar stand as the mainstays of Bob’s processing. Buyers like birch, but he rarely has access to it. “In the last two to five years, I get very little birch,” he said.
Last year, Bob processed close to 1,000 cords. He also does some custom cutting. By that, he means that a customer purchases a semi-truck load of wood; then, he travels to their site with the Chomper to process it. He pulls the Chomper with a one-half ton Ford F15 pickup.
Having a mobile processor is essential to the way Go 4 It Enterprise operates. Consequently, mobility was a characteristic that added to the list of favorable attributes Bob had identified in the Chomper before he had even seen one. Another attribute was the appetite the machine has for wood in any condition.
“[The Chomper] is good on dry wood, frozen wood,” said Bob. “It just doesn’t matter.” A tolerant and flexible machine that keeps the business going is important.
Because the Chomper has an automatic cycle that allows it to shear firewood to length and split automatically, it is a genuine boon to Bob’s one-person business. The market might dictate adding an employee, he explained, but the layers of paperwork a hire would require prohibit it. For someone committed to remaining a one-person business, which he is, the Chomper is just the fit.
The shear blade on the Chomper does not completely sever the log piece it encounters. Instead, it moves through approximately 80 percent of the diameter. Then, with the log still in its grip, the shear blade frame moves toward the splitter head. In that sequence, the leading edge of the log, which is held by the frame, is split. Next, the shear blade moves through the remaining diameter of log. The cycle then repeats.
A clamp arm tamps down the log length on the infeed. The shear blade frame can be set for the length of firewood desired.
Two years ago, Bob started to bundle some firewood. To semi-automate the process, he bought a Twister Bundler, which is made by Twister Industries, Mora, Minn., from Northland Chipper.. He bundles ¾-cubic foot and one-cubic foot packages.
Bob inserts a business card in each firewood bundle that he sells to local retail outlets. He sees a growing market for bundled firewood among local parks in warmer, as well as winter, months.
Wood is seasoned in the open air. Bob uses about four acres for his business. When he spoke to us in early December, he already had 700 cords being seasoned for sales in late 2011.
The Chomper takes up to a 14-inch diameter log, so it handles almost all the wood that Bob purchases. When he does need a chain saw, he uses a Makita. He also uses Makita woodworking tools. For woodworking, Bob buys lumber. The woodworking keeps him busy when he wants a break from processing firewood, especially when the weather is very bad.
Bob uses the Chomper in open air in all weather conditions. He does have a shop for woodworking, which is now heated with a second wood stove.
Ease of use of the Chomper is amplified by ease of maintenance. “There are eight grease nipples,” said Bob. He greases them daily. “You change the oil every 200 hours,” he explained. With that straightforward routine, the Chomper keeps humming.
Although Bob uses a four-way split, the Chomper can be configured with other options. For example, some firewood processors are matched with a splitting system that accommodates no, two, four or eight splits. Rainier Hydraulics developed a head that can be adjusted around the 0-2-4-8 options by deploying two hydraulic cylinders. One of the cylinders propels vertical movement; the other cylinder rotates the rear of the head. What the design means is that the splitting head can be adjusted without being changed to a new head.
The Chomper processor is very economical to operate, said Bob. “I am using approximately 4.5 liters [1.17 gallons] per hour,” he said.
“The Chomper has met all my expectations and then some,” said Bob. “I just can’t say enough about Mike and James and the service,” he said. “For a guy like me, who’s mechanically challenged, they are a godsend.” (We report Bob’s disclosure that mechanical tasks don’t come easily to him. But we have seen the results of his work, including his gorgeous wood planters – designed and built by him – and we contend he is incredibly modest about his expertise.)
The Chomper is a perfect match for his business, said Bob. It genuinely enables a one-person operation. Logs can be processed at ground level, which eliminates the need for lifting them. The machine comes standard with a hydraulic winch that simplifies loading. And an operator can process at a rate of two to four cords per hour, doing it all while standing safely clear of the processor.
The St. Paul, Alberta home to Go 4 It Enterprise is located some 90 miles northeast of Edmonton. The town has about 5,000 residents.
Location serves Bob’s business well. Situated adjacent to Highway 29, a major route, it attracts many passersby. “I also offer [wood] on Kijiji,” said Bob. Kijiji is a Canadian web-based exchange site.
“When I started the business, I was going to do anything that came my way,” said Bob. He likened himself to a magpie that feeds widely on whatever is available, especially remnants others do not want. It’s a good niche, he reckons. But because his firewood component took off, Bob has been able to focus on firewood processing and partake in fewer of the odds and ends sorts of jobs.
A native of Manitoba, Bob moved across Canada nine times – living in four different provinces — while working in retail. He and his wife moved to Alberta in 1995 and made it their permanent home because their children live there. Bob had no logging experience before he bought the wood stove that ignited Go 4 It Enterprise.
In his free time, Bob enjoys golfing. He explained that he very much enjoys working in his business, being outdoors and living with the independence that derives from business ownership. “I’m just happy,” he said.
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