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Delimber Performs Well for Mississippi Logger

Rolison & Sons using Timberline Equipment SDL2a stroke boom delimber for big hardwoods

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 9/1/2003

RIPLEY, Mississippi — The combination of summer heat and humidity in The Magnolia State is frequently intense. It can be so powerful that it dissuades people from working outdoors or taking employment that is out in the elements.

The desire to retreat from hot, humid conditions is understandable. But it is definitely not a good thing if one happens to be a logger who is looking for employees to wield chain saws and delimb hardwoods.

Just ask Gary Rolison, owner of Rolison and Sons Logging Inc. The hot, muggy summer months in Mississippi mean few — if any — takers for jobs that require working outside in the heat with a chain saw.

Yet, ultimately, there is a solution to every problem. Sometimes it is a new machine.

Gary invested in a SDL2a stroke boom delimber about three years ago from Timberline Equipment, an Oldenburg Group Company headquartered in Kingsford, Mich. Gary had several reasons for buying the Timberline SDL2a, including the capability the versatile machine has to handle a large range of limb diameters.

There is one thing about the Timberline SDL2a that Gary really appreciates above all else. "You don’t have to run a chain saw," he said.

With prospective employees less than eager to work outdoors in the summer heat, Gary had been stepping in regularly to delimb trees with a chain saw. The machine has freed up his time to do the things to which Gary must give his highest priority: managing the business and buying standing timber.

As the head of Rolison and Sons and responsible for buying timber, Gary already has a full-time commitment. With the Timberline SDL2a running, he no longer needs to get out and fill in on a labor-intensive task in the wearying heat and humidity.

The Timberline SDL2a has some important capabilities that fit the operations of Rolison and Sons Logging. The company performs a lot of clear-cuts. In addition, it has found itself doing more and more timber harvesting in recent years in mixed hardwood stands that typically are filled with very big trees. The Timberline SDL2a can handle hardwood limbs as large as 32 inches in diameter, but some times Rolison and Sons faces tree limbs bigger than that. The company still has a few chain saws — Stihl brand — for tackling unusually big trees.

Gary has owned other delimbers before. A CTR pull-through delimber, mounted on a Prentice 410E knuckleboom loader, served the company well in pine plantations, but Rolison and Sons is working in fewer softwood stands now.

The Timberline SDL2a gets plenty of work each week, and some weeks it performs all delimbing for the company; the machine is running about 50 hours per week, Gary estimated. Given the work-out it gets every week, Gary characterized it as a strong performer. Rolison and Sons Logging performs nearly all the maintenance on the machine.

Before Gary bought the Timberline SDL2a, he watched a demonstration to see what it could do. Don Bush, owner of Bush Forestry Equipment in Huntingdon, Tenn., brought a machine to a site near Ripley where Rolison and Sons was working. Gary and his team were able to watch the machine work in the same species they were logging.

A logger himself as well as a dealer for Timberline and Timbco, Don has keen insight into what loggers need in their machinery and how they can get the most out of it. Gary has worked with Don many times over the years, and he values his advice and help. Moreover, he is able to get help from Don any time he has questions about a machine.

Gary’s son, Gary Rolison, Jr., runs the Timberline SDL2a. It took his son "no time to learn" how to operate the high-tech machine, said Gary, and "he likes it" very much.

Rolison and Sons has 10 employees. Several are family members. Besides Gary Jr., Gary has two other sons, Tony and David, who work in the business, along with two sons-in-law, Bill Melton and Jason Jeter.

Tony had been running a Tigercat 726 feller-buncher. But when Gary talked with TimberLine recently, he was running the cutter so Tony could learn to use a new Timbco 445E feller-buncher that the company added.

Philosophical about equipment, Gary believes there is an element of personal preference in the final choice of most machines. For example, Tony made the choice on the Tigercat 726. The machine has performed well, said Gary.

Yet Gary explained that he has always had a personal preference for Hydro-Axe. And given the years he has logged, he has ample experience with varied machines. No matter which machine he has decided to buy, Gary has made certain that it meets his expectations before he commits.

Don helped Gary assess the Timbco before he bought it. Once again, he did it by demonstrating the machine in the environs where it would actually be used.

Because the Timbco 445E is a track machine, it got Gary’s attention immediately. He wanted a track machine because the ground conditions where the company works are as challenging as they are deceptive.

Weeks and weeks of early summer rain had left the ground saturated by the time the Timbco 445E was delivered. There had been so much rain by the beginning of August that Gary and his team were spending a significant amount of time putting down gravel so they could get their machinery into the woods.

When Gary talked with TimberLine, his company was working on a site three miles off the road. On a typical day, it took them until noon to reach the job site — after starting out in the early morning and fortifying the path with gravel.

The performance of the equipment, including the Timberline SDL2a and the Timbco 445E, has been great despite the wet conditions. The problem, explained Gary, was getting the trucks to the deck so they could be loaded.

The soil within a 60-mile radius of Ripley, where Rolison and Sons Logging usually works, can easily fool a novice to the region. "It looks like sand," said Gary. But "when it gets wet, you can’t stand on it. It gets real slick. You can’t keep a truck on it."

Since the Timberline SDL2a and the Timbco 445E are track machines, they are able to maneuver and function on the slippery terrain. They have been able to keep working even during the unremitting rainfall.

Heavy rain this summer throughout many portions of the Eastern U.S. has
particularly impacted the hardwood industry — and loggers. Like other loggers, Gary has been frustrated by the wet
conditions, which have been taking a
toll on the company’s production for weeks. With the Timberline SDL2a
working in average-size hardwoods, Rolison and Sons Logging normally produces 20 truckloads of wood per day in good logging conditions. Because of the heavy rain and wet ground conditions, however, production has dipped to 12 truckloads per day.

Trees normally are felled with the Tigercat 726 or the Timbco 445E, then skidded to an area to be delimbed and bucked by the Timberline SDL2a. Gary Jr. separates the stems according to pulp wood and saw logs, and they are skidded to a Prentice knuckleboom loader — operated by David — to be placed on waiting trucks.

The company has three skidders, a Caterpillar 5254 (operated by Bill), a Caterpillar 518 and a John Deere 648G3. Jason drives one of the company’s Mack logging trucks.

Gary Jr. has become very adept at running the Timberline SDL2a and is also an expert when it comes to identifying tree species. The hardwood species of northeastern Mississippi are exceptionally diverse. There are more than 100 hardwood species native to the region, including oaks, which usually predominate, tupelo, sycamore, persimmon, magnolia, sweet gum, hickory, elm and maple.

Rolison and Sons buys standing timber. "Most of it is bid sales," said Gary. The company also owns some timberland.

"We cut it all," said Gary. Timber is harvested and the logs are sold to a number of different markets. The company supplies logs to mills that manufacture utility poles, veneer, lumber and paper.

When Gary entered the timber industry just over 30 years ago, he worked alongside his father, who owned a sawmill and logging business. Working in the woods and in the mill, Gary learned both aspects of the forest products industry from the ground up. His grandfather also was a logger.

The sawmill cut pine almost exclusively. Gary sold it when he incorporated Rolison and Sons Logging in 1988, figuring that buying and harvesting timber kept him plenty busy enough.

One of Gary’s chief concerns is maximizing his investment in a stand of timber by harvesting the trees efficiently and merchandising the logs effectively. Rolison and Sons is "trying to make it as easy and productive as we can" to log, said Gary. "And safe." The Timberline SDL2a is an important piece of equipment that helps him accomplish those objectives. "We pretty much like the delimber," he said.

The Timberline SDL2a is built to be flexible and tough at the same time. It handles limbs as small as 4 inches in diameter. In the case of Rolison and Sons, it is the upper limit of 32 inches that really got Gary’s attention. The machine has eliminated the manual labor of removing limbs with chain saws.

The Timberline SDL2a has a standard 42-foot stroke boom that extends more than 28 feet. Other standard features are a front topping saw, butt saw, butt plate, and 5.5-inch delimbing knives. Combined with tracks, the four-way, cab leveling system provides tremendous stability — just what the operator needs on sloping, slick terrain where the crew has been working.

The hydraulic components that power the boom are enclosed and protected. There are no exposed cables that can snag on limbs and no need for exterior cable supports that also can become snagged.

The Timberline SDL2a stands up to the very hot conditions thanks to a heavy-duty auxiliary air cooler and large hydraulic reservoir. Both help to ameliorate the effects of ambient temperature on the hydraulics and engine.

The Timberline SDL2a Smart System is an accurate computerized measuring system that provides the operator a wide selection of choices and enables easy, quick and efficient merchandising. Measuring diameter is accurate to +/- ˝-inch, and length, +/- 1 inch. Functions include preset lengths, diameter measurement, auto positioning, auto reverse for fast preset lock, butt saw measurement initialization, top referenced cuts, and butt-to-butt saw lengths.

Timberline Equipment has made a number of improvements to the SDL2a after consulting with its customers. The improvements were aimed at making the machine even more effective for loggers working in hardwoods. The improvements include stronger and straighter knives, stronger T-1 boom, heavier headbox, redesigned grapples, smoother hydraulics, and larger leveling cylinders. A new computer chip improves processing of trees with crook and sweep.

Ripley has grown in recent years, gaining more than 500 people during the 1990s. The county seat of Tippah County, the town has no more than 5,600 residents.

Tippah County borders Tennessee. The elevation in the region creeps up close to 800 feet above sea level, but on the whole Mississippi is a state that is nearer to sea level. Much of the land area is subject to flooding.

The average rainfall of over 50 inches fuels growth of hardwoods. It also contributes to the sub-tropical climate.

The sultry summer days have inspired more than a few authors. Some of America’s best-known writers were born in Mississippi, including William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams.

Perhaps the most widely known 20th century native of Mississippi is an entertainer, however. Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley, is just 20 miles southeast of Ripley.

Mississippi is the only state that has a state flower and state tree that are one and the same. So The Magnolia State nickname is well deserved.

A native of Quitman in southeast Mississippi, Gary has been working full-time in the forest products industry since he graduated from high school. What he really likes to do, he said, is to get some time away from the business for fishing. Leisure time is very difficult to come by, though. He has a pond on his property, so he does not have to travel far if he can carve out a few hours for fishing.


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