The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Git 'er Done

Time to get back in the woods. Jump in the cab, slam the door shut, rev the engine...and get to work harvesting aspen trees like they are asparagus. The following video from the forest equipment manufacturer Eltec shows you how precise and efficient woods-working is getting to be. And what it feels like to have real raw power at your disposal.

Of course, there is power and there is power. Here's the John Deere 1470E harvester in action, with a background of blues rock to really get the adrenalin pumping.

One more video, this one from TigerCat. It contains some excellent footage of harvesting in large Eucalyptus plantations, and they mention that their harvesters can take on 8-inch Eucalyptus in Brazil at the rate of over 600 trees per hour. Not bad. The nice thing about this video is that it provides you with a lot of detail about the different types of equipment used in harvesting operations, and the capabilities of each. And nice video from operations all around the Southern Hemisphere.

These videos point out three interesting and important concepts:

  1. Research and development by the heavy equipment companies, and subsequent investment in it by timber companies and loggers, is greatly increasing the efficiency, and thereby lowering the cost per ton, of wood delivered to the sawmill, pulp mill, and pellet mill. This is a primary reason why wood products are still relatively cheap, by comparison, to most other consumer goods. And why timber companies have been able to remain profitable even through an historically bad national housing market.
  2. These increases in productivity allow the forest manager to significantly improve harvesting operations, not only from an operational standpoint, but from the perspective of stand ecology. Notice the tracks and high-flotation tires and the relative ease with which ground is covered during the harvesting, and the precision of the selective capability the logger has in operating one of these beasts. Better decisions and more precise execution make for better stand management options, and residual stands that more easily recover to full productivity.
  3. These machines greatly increase the safety of, and decrease the number of man-hours of labor needed for any logging job. Higher efficiency makes for safer working conditions, but also decreases the number of jobs available. When you compare the amount of human labor going into these operations to the old videos in prior posts (here, here, and here) then it dawns on you why jobs seem so scarce and hard to get these days. There are only so many people who can write software for cell phones. If you're fortunate enough to be the operator of one of these babies, then you're lucky, indeed.

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