Essential equipment for a small-scale logging operation. April 25, 2001
I log with draft horses and have recently purchased a Lucas mill. I am trying to limit my financial output at this stage of my milling business, but I have quickly discovered that I need a piece of equipment to handle logs at the saw and bundles of lumber into the barn. If you had to pick one piece of equipment only, what would it be and why? I am in northern Illinois and will be cutting the usual hardwoods for this area.
I also own a Lucas mill and am into the same stuff as you, minus the draft horses. Log handling is really the most difficult part of this job for me. I am on an equipment search-and-buy program, too.
The next most important bit for me is a powered winch from Austria. It looks a bit like a small jet ski with a chainsaw motor and can move a ton and a half of log or lumber though any terrain (even swamp) with ease - great for recovery from forests.
Next and most expensive is an articulated teleporter. This beastie is a rugged terrain 4WD fork lift which can pick up 6 tons and telescopically drop it into the mill or anywhere. The teleporter will need a 7 ton truck to go with it, naturally, and I suppose when you go that far, one may as well put a grab on it (just for show, you understand).
I use a tractor with front loader. I also use it to skid.
How much weight can the lift on the front handle? What model New Holland is it?
It's a 1925 Boomer with 7308 loader. It will lift about 1200lbs, more than the back end can stand. I have a set of hay forks for the back and pick up a big log for counterweight when lifting heavy stuff on the front forks. I also put a quick disconnect on the front so I can change between forks and bucket, as I use the tractor for farm work, too.
The winch is just sooooo cool. It's from Norway, via a dealer in MD. Has 150 of 3/8" cable and will drag a surprisingly big log out.
Some years ago, I acquired a Ford 555 rubber-tired backhoe. It is very handy around the mill. A set of forklift type forks attached to the front-end loader bucket moves even large logs and the backhoe boom with a lifting type skidder tong will set logs and unload trucks and trailers. I even use it for what it was designed to do on occasion.
A good tractor with forks is hard to beat, the winch makes it even better, and for woods work, a cab is a must!
I agree--a cage would be nice. I just am careful and don't get it near anything falling and work by myself anyway. The roll bar folds down, and I like this, as I can get the tractor in my basement door.
The cab does have its drawbacks, as I'm not quite as careful as I was before I bought the new ('79 Ford) loader.
I have owned a Lucas mill for several years. I have found the versatility of a backhoe to work very well along with the mill. Utilizing a combination of forks, log tongs and a hydraulic winch mounted above the hoe bucket for yarding to be hard to beat in my situation. My machine is two-wheel drive. A four-wheel drive backhoe would be great if you have that option. I use the machine about half of the time as a log handler, and the other half, it does standard backhoe duty.
I have hauled a heck of a lot of logs with a 10 ton running gear. The flotation tires allow me to pull it right through wet spots, even when loaded with several big logs. I always stay on back roads, and no one bothers me when I'm pulling a running gear with logs on it. I have two of these, and I pull one behind the other on longer trips. I use chains around all the logs with binders, and SMV emblems for safety while on any public roads.
I have been using an IH 574 tractor (no front wheel assist) and have done the 30" x 8' white oak log lift, with two people standing on the drawbar. Now, because of a job that I had to deal with some pulpwood to get the saw logs, I bought a forwarder and it is a joy to use. It will go through 3 feet of snow with ease, the back wheels follow the track of the front wheels so you can snake between trees, and it will reach out and pick any size log without getting lined up exactly perpendicular to the center. At the mill you can sort logs, stage logs for the saw, load logs on the mill, and remove slabs. The only things I haven't figured out how to do are to move lumber or sawdust.
In northern Wisconsin you can usually buy an older Iron Mule or later called Gafner forwarder for a reasonable price. The newer versions with joystick controls front and back, powershift transmissions (no clutch), heated and air conditioned cabs are much more expensive.
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Comment from contributor G:
I own and operate a Hudson Oscar 36" portable bandmill. This mill is a stationary setup on my father's farm. It didn't take me long to realize I need something to move around logs and lumber. I bought a new 50hp Kubota 4wd tractor, loader with pallet forks. This machine works very well for supporting a sawmill business. The biggest log I have sawed out on the mill with the help of the tractor is a 550 bft. red oak log.
My dad, brother and I also do some logging. We purchased the mammoth log drawbar to help with skidding logs.
The reason I decided to go with a farm tractor as my sole piece of equipment is because of how versatile farm tractors are. A tractor that is properly equipped will make life much easier when supporting a sawmill and logging business.
Some important options to keep in mind when purchasing a farm tractor to support a sawmill and logging business are as follows... Industrial 6 ply tires (better weight carrying tire than ag tires). Fill the rear tractor tires with methanol (this helps as a counterbalnce when using the loader). Industrial grade pallet forks and industrial grade loader bucket. Make sure the tractor is 50hp or more (this will ensure you have enough lift capacity and muscle to get the job done).
Just remember you can move the sawdust with the loader bucket, load logs and lumber at your mill with the pallet forks, help out at the timber site with skidding logs, moving logs, or loading logs. Also, you can put many other implements on the tractor to do farming and agriculture work. Now, that is versatility.
Comment from contributor F:
I use a regular farm tractor for the whole job. It skids the logs and I pick the logs up with forks. I have made the three point hitch so it powers the bandmill to run from the PTO of the tractor with a hydraulic pump and motor.
Comment from contributor S:
I've been using a white tractor; 85hp with loader and a Metavic log loader grapple trailer to handle my wood supplies and load my Wood Mizer sawmill, as well as handle the flitches. The Metavic also has a 100' 5/16 cable winch built in and works great. The best part about the trailer is the logs are clean!