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Oregon Logger on the Rebound: Log Max a Key Supplier for Sword Logging
Scott Sword, owner of Sword Logging, Inc., is rebounding from the poor economy as his company has revived his company by moving to cable logging. Sword Logging has relied upon Log Max and its head attachments for eleven years.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 11/1/2012
SILVERTON, Ore. – The forest products industry of the Pacific Northwest has endured some tough times in recent years, but things are looking up.
That’s the view of Scott Sword, 54, who operates Sword Logging, Inc. out of Silverton, Oregon.
Although the economy, still sluggish, has rebounded somewhat along with the forest products industry, there is a distinct difference, observed Scott. “Pretty much every logger I know is working,” he said.
However, the difference is there are fewer loggers. During the economic collapse of 2008-09, many loggers exited the industry. For some, their businesses could not survive. For others, they simply chose to move on or retire.
Scott grew up in Vernonia, which is in the northwest corner of Oregon. He eventually relocated to Silverton, which is further south and about 15 miles east of Salem. He operates his business from his home and has a shop on his property. The company has nine employees. It averages in the range of 60-100 loads of wood per week.
Sword Logging cuts under contract for industrial forestry companies, harvesting mainly Douglas fir and hemlock that averages 20-24 inches in diameter. The company works primarily for Longview Timberlands and supplies wood to a number of different mills in the region.
Scott’s company performs cable logging although it is relatively new to the type of logging that is a way of life for many in the region. He and his employees work strictly at the landing; he contracts with another business, Barth Contract Cutting, for felling. Barth normally supplies a crew of four men on the ground who fell the timber by hand and do the cable work.
Sword Logging is equipped with a Thunderbird yarder and Acme carriage for pulling the trees to the landing, a pair of Kobelco 295 machines paired with Log Max attachments for processing the stems, and three Kobelco track loaders for loading the wood onto the trucks of contract haulers. The slash is left in piles, and the company Scott contracts for typically sends a crew later to burn the material. Sword Logging also owns some excavating and road-building equipment.
The Log Max attachments, used mainly by Scott for processing although occasionally for felling, have become integral to his operations. He has been using them for 11 years and has owned about six different Log Max attachments. Scott currently owns a Log Max 10000XT and a brand new 7000XT that he just bought a month ago. Over the years he has briefly considered one other manufacturer, but Log Max’s performance, service, and pricing have kept him coming back.
Sword Logging works in the Cascade Mountain Range, and the terrain is mountainous. The crew currently is working at an elevation of about 3,800 feet. “That’s about as high as we go,” said Scott.
Although logging with yarders and cables is common in the Northwest, Scott’s company is relatively new to it by choice. He avoided it until about five years ago and then transitioned into it. “It opened up a whole new area of opportunity for us,” said Scott.
The company had done a little cable logging in the past, but when he took the business in that direction Scott hired employees with more extensive experience.
Scott bought his first Log Max – a Log Max 750 - 11 years ago after he had been using stroke boom delimbers at the landing for about 10 years. “We were moving into a different sort of timber,” he recalled. One of his machine operators suggested trying a Log Max, and they demonstrated one, liked it, and bought it.
The Log Max head was supplied by Feenaughty Machinery Co. in Portland, which has been supporting the forestry and construction industries for over 100 years. The company serves loggers in Oregon and Washington. In addition to representing Log Max, Feenaughty Machinery offers other lines of forestry equipment and is also particularly known as a dealer for Kobelco and Dooson excavating machines, which it retrofits with forestry attachments to convert them to log loaders and other equipment.
Bob Payton has worked for Feenaughty Machinery nearly 30 years and has done business with both Scott and his father before him.
Log Max installed the attachment for Scott at the Log Max facilities in Vancouver, Wash., noted Bob. They are one of the few manufacturers that do their own installation, he observed. “We like that as a dealer,” said Bob, because there is more consistency when a manufacturer does its own installation. “To me that’s very important.”
One of the biggest benefits of the Log Max equipment was their compactness, particularly as the company transitioned into cable logging. The company operates in very tight landings, noted Scott. “We didn’t have enough room for any more stroke delimbers. They took up too much room.” He also found the Log Max machines were “a little simpler for the operator to use.”
“Service has been excellent,” said Scott. The Log Max parts center is only 45 miles from his home, and the company has a service technician in the region who lives a mere 10 miles away. “They’ve been Johnny on the spot,” added Scott. “They’ve been really good about providing great service for us.”
He has two of the Log Max machines for processing different size stems. The 10000XT is used for larger trees, the 7000XT, for smaller wood. Both processors have a butt saw and topping saw.
“Our new 7000 is really awesome,” said Scott. The attachment’s electronics have been updated. “The computer system is dead-on,” he said.
The new Log Max 7000XT also is one of the first with 360-degree rotation; there are no hoses to get caught or wrapped up. “That’s made it really operator friendly,” said Scott.
It is “pretty rare” to see a stroke boom processing machine on a logging job now, he indicated. “Especially under the yarder.” With the guy lines for the yarder, there is not enough room for the machine, he said.
The region where the company works has experienced an unusually hot, dry summer, and loggers have not been able to work lately because of the fire hazard and restrictions imposed by state forestry officials. The restrictions include what hours loggers can work and what operations they can perform.
The last time there was a good rain was early July, said Scott. “It’s been years since I’ve seen it like this,” he said.
Scott comes from a logging family. His grandfather worked for the logging industry although not as a logger; he worked mainly building roads and trucking.
Scott’s father, Bob, went to work for a mill right out of high school, served a few years in the Air Force, then returned to work for mills as a scaler and a scaler supervisor. He started a small logging business in 1961, and he worked mainly thinning second growth timber until the mid-1980s.
Scott began working for his father as a youngster; as a young teenager he was already operating equipment. A few months before graduating from high school he enlisted in the Air Force, where he worked in electronics for weapon guidance systems. After his stint in the Air Force, he returned to Oregon and worked for his father’s business as well as other logging companies.
After marrying his wife, Holli, they moved to Arizona, where Scott began attending college to earn an electrical engineering degree. About a year later his father called and offered him a job, and the couple returned to Oregon.
His father expanded in the mid-1980s by buying another logging company that specialized in loading. Within a few years the company added feller-bunching equipment and, by 1992, was fully mechanized.
Scott’s younger brother, Max, also worked in their father’s business, but he was killed in a traffic accident in 1997. Just a couple of months later, his father retired, and Scott was running the business. He and Holli relocated further south, where the work was, and eventually settled in Silverton.
Not long after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Bill sold the business to his son. Scott was well prepared. He had plenty of experience in the industry, and since his father had retired Scott had been negotiating contracts and Holli was keeping the books. Scott bought the company and formed Sword Logging, Inc.
Scott, who is a member of Associated Oregon Loggers, pays employees for six holidays a year and a week of vacation. The company also provides group health insurance and pays for employee coverage.
Scott has played a very active role in the communities where he has lived. He served on the Silverton City Council from 1996-2000. When he and his wife lived in Vernonia, he served as the town’s mayor for six years; he also served on the city’s planning commission as well as a number of various committees.
Scott confesses to only two hobbies – golf and British sports cars. He played around with Shelby Cobra kit cars for a while but eventually lost interest. He gained a renewed interest in a leisure automobile when he came across a Triumph TR6 on a used car lot. He bought a 1970 model, his interest revived, and he bought a second one, same model year. “I tinker on them,” said Scott.
He and Holli have three children, and one son, Orion, 28, works in the business; he currently is running the new Log Max 7000XT. They have another son, Billy, 30, who is a software engineer for e-Bay, and a daughter, Talena, 25, who recently married.
The forest products industry in the Northwest was hit hard a few years ago leading up to the global financial crisis. The industry took a nosedive in the spring of 2008, well ahead of the stock market’s historic plunge in October of that year.
“It just flat stopped,” recalled Scott. Mills had huge inventories and overnight stopped buying wood as sales plummeted. “Loggers are usually the first to get hit,” noted Scott. “Sometimes we’re the last to wake back up” since mills seek to have hefty inventories in place.
When the business abruptly dried up, “We parked every piece of equipment we had in our front yard,” recalled Scott. “I don’t think we moved a machine for five months.” He had to lay off all his employees.
“It was very difficult,” said Scott. He survived financially by cutting back and “good management of our assets.” He sold off a few pieces of equipment but was able to hang onto the rest.
Although Scott cuts under contract and does not sell to mills, his understanding is that mill prices in the region currently are “pretty fair” although they are not as good as the immediate years leading up to the economic crash.
For contractors like him, prices are “still under stress,” he said. “Things are improving,” said Scott. “I think it’s got more to do with there’s a demand for loggers right now. We may soon start seeing that the demand for logging companies…hopefully will improve.” As the economy strengthens, so should the demand for forest products.
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 company has recently upgraded its computer system for its harvesters, the Log Mate 500. Built from high quality components, the Log Mate 500 computer system will withstand the harsh outdoor environment. A solid state drive eliminates moving parts. One module is mounted on the head and two in the operator’s cabin to transfer and receive data and power to the harvester. The Log Mate 500 uses a Windows operating system, which allows the installation of additional programs, such as GPS, and it also can be connected to the Internet.
The Log Mate 500 enables precise head positioning and cutting, and highest quality logs are consistently merchandised. The Log Mate 500 control system is easily adaptable to a full range of carriers with its programmable vehicle hydraulic system control.
Another recent innovation from Log Max is continuous 360-degree rotation on its harvesters. They now have a manifold that allows continuous rotation like a merry-go-round.
The Log Max 12000XT, 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, and smaller attachments are available in the series.
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.
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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