Small tractor for logging
Is an old Ford tractor suitable for working in the woods? June 24, 2001
I need a small "woods tractor" for logging and was wondering if anyone is using a Ford 8 or 9N? My grandfather used one, but he had a team of Belgians to help him out.
Do yourself and the forest a favor and get your own team of Belgians! You cannot imagine how much of a joy it is to work the timber with real horsepower. People really love my big horses. They will open up timber stands that the mechanical guys are not welcome in. Go for the horses!
The trick is to get one end of the log up off the ground. There are tractor winches available for logging that help do this. Farm tractors were not built to be logging machines, so watch out for dangers like sidehill and falling objects. Steep ground will be trouble for you. If you stay within your equipment's capabilities, you will be alright.
I have used a small Ford 1600 (about 24 hp) tractor for logging in tight places where there had to be a good job done. It would haul a 350 bf pine log as long as I got one end off the ground lifted with the drawbar. Tire chains and a differential lock make a big difference, also. Be careful of falling limbs. A light bump on a tree could dislodge dead branches. Also, most farm tractors don't have puncture-resistant tires. Watch out for sharp stumps, etc.
Take the time to build a roll type cage. Take off fenders and replace with some steel. It doesn't have to be fancy, just safe. I logged with a Farmi winch and tractor without a cage and top. Then I built one. I have been saved several times from falling limbs. Also, if you pull short logs (8'), there is the possibility of the log catching a stump or root and flipping toward the tractor. Very dangerous. I saw a big farm tractor that a fellow was using with the back glass smashed out this way. Think safety.
N series Fords have weak hydraulics and won't pick up much. Then there's the problem with them being VERY front-end light. If your heart is set on one, stay away from bigger logs. I'd look for a WD or WD45 Allis Chalmers, as it's a lot more tractor for less money, and it is reliable. If you could swing it, something newer yet would be best!
One of my tractors is a Ford 1910 4wd. It was rated as a 28 hp drawbar with the 4wd providing the equivalent of another 1/3 of power, which made it better than 35 hp drawbar. I think that quote was pretty generous, but I still am very glad that it is 4wd. I use it almost exclusively for pulling logs on my property, which is pretty wet. It goes where my 3000 won't and doesn't tear the place up. I recommend at least this size tractor, preferably diesel, and definitely 4wd. A rollbar (ROPS) is a must, and a cage would be high on my agenda. A front-end loader will protect your tractor and help get you unstuck. It also makes a pretty nifty wheelbarrow.
I use a 1952 Ferguson 2085 tractor, which is basically an 8N, to drag logs around my yard. Its maximum load is about a 10', 24" diameter log if the drawbar can lift one end (a sheet of roofing tin underneath helps). It is definitely not a 'bush' machine.
I use a Ford 9N to pull out my logs. Generally, I wrap a logging chain around one end of the log, then back up to it and lower the drawbar onto the log. Then I run the chain through a loop hitch on the drawbar, lift the log with the hydraulics, adjust the chain stays on the drawbar as high as I can, then lower the hydraulics.
I have two chains on each end of the drawbar, which connect to the pin where the top link goes; where the chains connect is adjustable so you can put the weight of the logs on the chains and not strain your hydraulics while pulling the log. One end of the log is off the ground and you only get dirt on the end that's dragging.
I've pulled 25 inch 12 footers this way; tire chains help if you're on ice/snow. (I'm usually on flat ground and stay away from mud and swampy areas). Sometimes I'll do a little wheelie, but never came close to flipping yet (have your foot near the clutch, just in case).
From the original questioner:
I have a Ford 5000 that I use for logging/loading work right now, but with the loader on front and the size of the machine, I'd really like something smaller for use in the woods. I intend to build an arch to lift one end of the log while coming out of the woods. This should help, as well as leave the strain off the 3 pt. hitch.
I just finished up another productive winter of logging with my 1948 8N. Almost all of my timber is 22" + diameter red oak and hard maple. My biggest limitation is weak hydraulics and the belly of the tractor dragging in the snow. I can't believe the traction that this little mule has. I have new skins and a set of chains, which does help, but be careful, as the front end will get a little squirrelly once in a while. I also have a JD 4010 and I needed that monster only once for a 30" red oak. Overall, those little 8N and 9N Fords are hard to beat. I also installed a block heater on the 8N to help with starting on those -20 days, but to my surprise, I never even came close to needing it. Take your time and have a lot of fun with your little Ford. I was told that they used to make half tracks for those era Fords. I bet that would be just incredible!
You should see the boggy/marsh traction devices you could put on the old tractors. Looked like two long pontoons with screw-like grippers that spin in line with the tractor. Very inventive!
When they were using this tractor to farm with after WW2, there were a lot of bad injuries or worse when not used with 3 pt equipment. They would wind over backwards. You need front weight!
That's a very real danger with pulling with a tractor. With the point of attachment ABOVE the rear axle, it will pull the tractor's front end up and over and there is no room for the operator under that mess. Keep the attachment UNDER the rear axle to pull the front down. These are the things that happen when you use a piece of equipment in a way that it was not intended for. Be careful.
Leave the 8Ns in the museum. I prefer a 35 hp or greater tractor. Sold my 49 8N last year. Now I'm using a Ford 4000. Definitely think about the roll over and roof for protection.
The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).
Comment from contributor A:
I use a 51 Farmall A series tractor wide front, with a 1 cd knuckle boom loader from some vintage, refurbished with independent hydraulic power and a 9hp jJonsered iron horse mini-skidder for the tough terain, i.e. hills and swamps. The Farmall can wiggle through tight plantations and go over slash and tops and stump, but hills are out of the question. I can't get the production of the big boys, but then they can't thin a 5 acre stand. I use it primarily as a forwarder and not as a skidder. All Ii have is a draw bar and a ball. I am afraid the front doesn't have the weight to manage the lift necessary to skid big logs. Maybe I'll try with a cone or something.
Comment from contributor B:
I have logged with a tractor. It can be done, especially with small jobs. But remember what you are giving up. A real log loader holds the log in a stiff embrace, a tractor holds it in chains. Chains allow roll and carry.
The first issue is your terrain. If you have hills, this is a problem. The solution is to winch your logs out to the clear and then cut a single straight road down - obviously, if it is too steep you cannot, but remember that every turn is an opportunity for log rolls. Logs have a deep desire to fly downhill with enormous inertia and will take you and your tractor with them. A rollbar will not protect you on hills because a logged area is filled with stumps that will crush, rip and pentrate your cage area in an instant. I prefer the open and was always ready to launch myself away from the thing if I lost it. The second item on hills is you may have to keep adding power as you descend, because your lifted log is like a spear and if you slow, it might not... and that kind of enema nobody needs.
Keep the log length long on hill work, because it is the log that will keep the tractor weighted and secure as you descend. If it is too light, you get the spear effect with no braking effect and Disneyland provides rides like that with less risk. Now, if you are on flat land, then toss away all this advice, get a roll cage cause you'll only flop once and it will protect you.
Comment from contributor T:
All logging with an 8N should be done while in reverse. Many farmers have died pulling logs and stumps in forward gears!
Comment from contributor L:
If you are in woodland with many ground obstructions, never log in reverse. The front end is where most tractors are axel articulated, wich gives you time to adjust your path in case you hit a high spot such as a leaf covered rock. If you hit a high spot with the rear, you stand a better chance of going over faster than you think. I have logged a very rough section of New England land for 20 years with a tire loaded JD 750 4x4. It might take two or three trips to bring out a 60' high 14" red oak, but it gets the job done. I do wish at times to have gotten the 850, but I only use 4 or 5 cords a year. Anything more than that, get a bit bigger tractor.
Comment from contributor P:
I use my New Holland 40 HP tractor to pull the logs out of the area with a logging chain and attach it to the drawbar. I would not advise using the 3-pt hitch, since it may not be designed for that type of strain. I am able to pull out logs as long as 200 feet. Make sure that the end of it is slightly lifted off the ground, to avoid the digging in.
Comment from contributor U:
I have been logging for a few years now and I started with a Ford 8 N then moved up to a diesel Kubota 4X4 just for the better traction in winter. I worked on a lot of hills so I needed it, but the payments where outrageous so I sold it and bought a new 2006 John Deere 3320. The payments are low through John Deere, less than $200 a month and it is reliable. This will be my first winter with it but all of my friends had one last winter and it worked and started every time they used it. They donít have a block heater. I do and bought it for $50 through John Deere and it is really nice to have. 4X4 has also made all the difference in the world as well.
Comment from contributor D:
I would recommend an N series tractor for light logging. My grandpa used several small Ford tractors in logging for years, and they always give him good service. Like someone has already said, the hydraulics are a little weaker than some newer tractors but they will average picking up around 800 lbs.
I have a 1946 2N with a set of logging tongs and I've pulled logs as big as 18" in diameter and a 16' long poplar log up a pretty steep hill and it worked fine. The trick is getting the butt of the log off the ground. As far as "logging in reverse" as someone has said a 9N, 2N, or an 8N wonít hardly do it. These tractors were made specifically for plowing. Pulling is what they do best. Be careful if you decide on a 9N or 2N because clutch and the left brake pedal are on the same side. Take time to practice with them before you put it to work.
Comment from contributor C:
I believe that the 8n and 9n are the same as any other tractor in the woods. Ground skidding can be unsafe, due to the fact that the log could get hung up on stumps, roots, and etc. If you are going to ground skid you need lots of front weight and probably a bigger tractor depending on your log size.
Comment from contributor E:
Many years I worked with a Ferguson tractor. We had half tracts and we were hauling 10 foot hardwood logs to be sawed into RR ties, and they were heavy. We had poles extending from the rear wheels past the radiator with a bag of sand on the front to keep the front wheels on the ground. That truly was good rig for hauling logs. It would go through at least 2 1/2 to 3 feet of snow. We also yarded logs with the draw bar. The safe way to do this is to ride with your foot on the clutch at all times, in case the front wheels decide to come up.