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Oregon Logger Adds Second Log Max at Olstedt Trucking: Finds Harvesters Good Fit for Cable Yarding, Conventional Logging

Olstedt Trucking turns to Log Max 10000XT and Log Max 12000 harvesters as a good solution for its cable logging needs in Oregon.

By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 5/1/2012


JEWELL, Oregon—Logging contractor Herb Olstedt has experienced some tough times in recent years, like most of the forest products industry.

                But he has reasons to be optimistic, too.

                One of those reasons was his decision in recent years to partner with Log Max for some of his equipment needs. The Log Max harvesters have performed admirably in the big timber his company works in. On top of that, the supplier’s personnel and service have been a valuable asset to his business.

                Herb, 58, runs his company, Olstedt Trucking, out of his home in Jewell, which is located in the northwest corner of Oregon, the region where he grew up.

                Although the name of the company indicates trucking, it does not provide hauling services. Herb previously was in business as Herb Olstedt Logging, but in 1991 he took over the empty corporation of his father’s business and continues to use that name, Olstedt Trucking.

                His father, Dennis, is a retired logging contractor, and Herb’s paternal grandfather also was a logger. He went to work for his father as a young man but started his own company at age 23.

                Herb helped his father and uncle as young as age 8, he recalled. At the time, his father and uncle cut alder and sold it in 8-foot lengths to a furniture manufacturer in Portland. “It was unusual to short-log anything in this area,” he said, adding, “We had some big alder in those days.”

                By the time he was in his 20s his father had a conventional logging business, so Herb was well acquainted with logging operations when he struck out on his own.

                He started out working alone, contracting to cut timber. He felled the timber by hand with a chainsaw and hired someone else with a self-loader log truck. Herb bought a used Allis-Chalmers machine for skidding logs but after a couple of months replaced it with a used John Deere cable skidder.

                Today his company has a little more than two dozen employees, not counting contract truck drivers.

                “Out here we pretty much have to run some cable logging,” said Herb. The company is equipped to operate two cable logging sites and one shovel or ground logging operation. The cable logging operations rely on Washington and Thunderbird yarders. The company is equipped with an assortment of other machines, mainly John Deere, Kobelco, and Caterpillar.

                Herb also has two Log Max harvesters. One, a model 10000XT, is virtually brand new, delivered in September 2011. It is mounted on a Kobelco 290. The other, a model 12000, is mounted on a Thunderbird log loader.

                The Thunderbird, a track machine similar to an excavator, has a different type of boom and also features a rather high cab for extended visibility. “It runs that 12000 great,” said Herb.

                He invested in the first Log Max and mounted it on the Thunderbird about two years ago. It was his first experience with Log Max.

                Sweden-based Log Max specializes in single-grip grapple harvesters. The two models owned by Herb are the biggest in the company’s product line. The Log Max model 12000 is the company’s most powerful model and the 10000XT is next.

                The region where Herb’s company works is hilly and mountainous, the terrain marked by steep slopes. “We get some ground logging, but a lot of it’s yard work,” said Herb.

                Although Douglas fir is the predominant species, the company finds itself working in mixed species with hardwoods. Doug fir is about 80 percent or more of what the company cuts, but it also cuts maple, alder (more alder than maple, noted Herb), hemlock in some places, and a little cedar. The work is mainly clear-cuts, although in the past the company has worked on some state timber sales, performing thins and partial cuts. The company typically does 12-15 different sorts for mills, said Herb.

                On one job that company has been working recently, the Doug fir is 40-42 inches on the butt diameter, and the trees go all the way “down to nothing,” said Herb.

                “We’re in a big patch of oversized wood. Tough logging…It’s big wood. Not especially old, either. Just tremendous growing sites.”

                Most of the timber in the region is smaller, younger – second-growth trees that mature quickly. Some tracts are plantations of third-growth trees.

                “A lot of second growth came back on its own and grew tremendously fast and big,” noted Herb.

                Herb’s company mainly contracts for industrial forestry companies. His chief customer is Longview Timber in Longview, Wash., about 45 miles away.

                Mills generally are within 40-50 miles, sometimes closer. A lot of wood goes to the Longview mill; Longview markets logs to other mills and to export. “They’re hitting niches,” said Herb, supplying logs of particular length and diameter to certain mills.

                “Our sorts are constantly changing. They’re taking the logs wherever they can do the best,” he said.

                In addition to Longview, the company supplies pulp mills, sawmills, and wood yards that re-sell logs.

                In the yarding operations, the men on the ground who attach the choker cables to the logs are “the key to the whole thing,” said Herb. “It’s a tough job.” Usually about four or five men work the chokers. “Mainly younger guys and guys that want to work. It’s hard to get those guys and keep them.”

                The trees usually are felled by hand although sometimes the company uses a feller-buncher for cutting.

                At the landing, one man runs the yarder, and another man – a chaser – is undoing the chokers, coiling the cables, and doing some odd work with a chainsaw. He may even run a processor on occasion. In addition, there is one man at the landing running a loader.

                “It’s very labor intensive when you’re running your yarders,” Herb acknowledged.

                The Log Max machines are used both in the yarding log operations and the conventional logging jobs. Although they are used sometimes for felling, the Log Max equipment is used mainly for processing the logs – delimbing the wood and bucking the logs to length.

                “Boy, it eats it right up,” said Herb, referring to the Log max 12000. “The 10000 is pretty amazing, too.”

                Herb owned and operated various other processors and equipment over the years before deciding to invest in his first Log Max.

                “After looking at them and getting to know how they operate, the simplicity of the Log Max – it has less moving parts. I just thought we’d try them. They looked like a lot simpler machine for maintenance. We’d give them a whirl.”

                Since he had used other brands, he was familiar with their trouble spots and the kind of maintenance they required. “We tried to get away from some of that with the Log Max with the way it’s designed,” he said.

                Before he made a buying decision, he talked to several other loggers who had Log Max equipment, some he knew personally and others he did not. Most had smaller harvesters they use for thinning.

                “I had to do a lot of research, finding people who had what we were looking at,” said Herb. “That was the main thing.”

                He talked to loggers who had owned them for several years to learn what their experience had been, and he went to watch a smaller head at work, processing in a thinning job. He did not actually have an opportunity to see one of the bigger models at work in the kind of heavy timber where Herb was anticipating using the equipment.

                “I felt real comfortable,” he said, with what Log Max representatives told him, and he also visited the company’s distribution facility in Vancouver, Wash. “I was impressed with that,” he said.

                He has the benefit of only being a little over an hour away from Log Max in Vancouver, and some of his employees who live in that direction are less than 30 minutes away, making it convenient to get parts.

                He has been very pleased with the equipment, Herb reported. He also said that Log Max differentiated itself with its personnel and service.

                “Service, that’s the main difference,” he said. “It’s tremendous. I don’t think I’ve ever had - I have not had someone take care of and service us as well...They’re great to work with. They’re knowledgeable. They work on their machines. They don’t peddle it out to someone else…It’s been a real good relationship with those fellows.”

                “They’re great to work with as far as anything goes…They just help you out. They’re simple enough we feel that they’re a lot easier to work on, and that helps, too.”

                His son, who runs one of the Log Max machines, usually can resolve any issues via phone with a Log Max technician. “It doesn’t even happen that often,” added Herb.

                Herb is a member of Associated Oregon Loggers and Oregon Professional Loggers. He also stays current with the requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

                Herb’s wife, Barbara, runs the office. They have four sons, and three of them are employed in the business. Dan, who earned a business degree from Portland State University, handles a lot of the bidding and troubleshooting. Matt runs a loader and usually oversees the job where he is working. Ed runs the Log Max 10000 and also lends a hand to the operator who runs the Log Max 12000. Melissa Cokely, the daughter of a cousin, helps Barbara in the office part-time. Herb’s nephew, Roric Olstedt, runs a job with Matt, helping run the loader, sorting logs, and overseeing the trucking and dispatching.

                He relies on his sons to help in the business. “They all kind of specialize,” said Herb.

                “That many things going on, one guy can’t cover it all,” he noted.

                Of course, the past few years have been very challenging for the forest product industry. There are some good signs, although challenges remain.

                “It’s pretty busy as far as the amount of production in the northwest Oregon area,” said Herb, “but I wouldn’t say it’s in good shape. Everybody’s just trying to hang on. It’s a tough go, especially with these fuel prices. We still haven’t recovered what’s gone in the last three years. It’s tough. You have to watch what you’re doing.”

                “It’s been a tough three years is all I got to say,” he added.

                He has delayed repairing and replacing equipment. “I have machines that need a lot of work,” and soon must decide whether to rebuild them or invest in new equipment.

                Although loggers have work, “There’s not a lot of profit in it,” noted Herb. “It’s tight…it certainly keeps you on your toes, I guess. We try to be the most cost effective.”

                Escalating fuel prices take a hit out of profits. Fuel prices in the region passed the $4 barrier a month or two ago, said Herb. He is paying about $4.17 per gallon for diesel and $4.27 a gallon for highway fuel.

                Nevertheless, there is some improvement. “Things are picking up,” noted Herb. “I think most loggers are optimists. They think things are going to get better…You got to have hope. That keeps you going.”

                “This week I heard domestic markets are picking up here…Why, I don’t know, but it’s a good sign, anyway.”

                “People are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but fuel costs are really biting into us, too.”

                Loggers are more optimistic than they have been in recent years, according to Herb.


 

Log Max Known for Single-grip Harvesters

                Log Max is a Swedish company with U.S. operations that has been designing and manufacturing machines for mechanized forestry operations since 1980. The company’s main product line is its series of single-grip harvesters.

                The Log Max 12000, the company’s most powerful harvester, is an extreme-duty head for big tree production, multi-stem processing of smaller softwoods or processing crooked hardwoods.

                With over five tons of delimbing force, the Log Max 12000XT is able to handle the most severe wood with ease. The high production ¾-inch pitch bottom saw cuts up to 40 inches with ease. The specially designed Log Max knives with compound curves and replaceable cutting edges produce clean delimbed wood at a low operating cost.

                The Log Max 10000XT is next in the company’s line of equipment. Like the model 12000XT, it is designed and built to meet the demands of the toughest forestry operations.

                With completely new one-piece cast roller arms and felling link, the 10000XT is a large-size head with a low weight that enables it to be mounted on a smaller size carrier, leading to savings in both machine and fuel costs. It is equipped with powerful 1404cc roller motors with all new steel rollers and a powerful 30cc saw motor with ¾-inch pitch chain.

                Both Log Max models are available in harvester or processor configurations.

                The Log Max variable displacement feed roller motors provide fast speed in smaller wood and automatically regulate to provide more power in tougher limbed trees. Well placed guards and heavy covers protect internal components and hoses from damage. High performance saw hydraulics provide full flow to the bottom saw for fast cutting in all timber sizes.

                The Log Max patented knife control system increases productivity by minimizing feed friction. Unique compound curve delimbing knife profile provides outstanding stem coverage and increased log quality.

                Log Max harvesters come with the Log Mate control system with enhanced capabilities and state of the art communication for all head control functions. A powerful, high performance controller rapidly processes information for precise head positioning and cutting, and highest quality logs are consistently merchandised. The Log Mate control system is easily adaptable to a full range of carriers with its programmable vehicle hydraulic system control.

                For more information, call Log Max at its offices in Vancouver, Wash. at (360) 699-7300 or visit www.logmax.com.




 






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