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Author Topic: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader  (Read 839 times)

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Offline Southern Legacy

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Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« on: September 26, 2021, 09:33:49 PM »
Hey Guys,

I run a firewood operation and we've been using a Kobelco SK200 Excavator (with mechanical thumb) to unload log trucks (tree lengths).  

We are eventually going to get a knuckleboom with buck saw (will have additional questions for that later) but for now I was hoping to learn a little on what it would take to install a rotating grapple on our excavator?

Also we have a Komatsu WA380 Wheel Loader.  Just got it and it has a bucket on the front end.  How do you determine if a log grapple bucket will fit on the machine.  I'm more familiar with the smaller equipment like skidsteers that have universal attachments.

I'm more of the back office guy in our operation.....excuse my ignorance related to equipment.

THANKS FOR ALL THE HELP.

Online mike_belben

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2021, 10:52:02 PM »
You gotta get out your tape measure and dial caliper.  Theres a grapple fork for a wa380 on Attachmart.com for $15k in missoula montana.  No affiliation.

To put a rotator grapple on your kobelco full time youd remove the bucket, H-link, dogbones and curl cylinder.  Then you need a dangle joint to go on the main wrist pin and whatever rotator and grapple you purchase.  Connect the lines from the removed cylinder to the grapple, then you need to plumb the rotator.  Me personally id use a DC solenoid valve out on the stick to select between rotate and grapple.  Mount a momentary switch on the joystick or maybe the floor to switch back and forth.
Isaiah 63:10

Offline Skeans1

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2021, 12:05:47 AM »
@Southern Legacy 

 

 
This is our older sk200 with an excavator boom still using a heel rack and a set of Prentice grapples. At one time this machine ran a pull through with a bucking table off the travel circuits.

Online mike_belben

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2021, 01:15:26 AM »
Howd you plumb that skeans?  Remove the pipes from the drive motors, hook up the saw and keep it stationary?
Isaiah 63:10

Offline Skeans1

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2021, 01:21:24 AM »
When we did that we had a pintle hitch on drive motors side of the car body of the undercarriage that we would hang the diverter valves on with hoses coming off the pipes of each travel motor. One motor would be for the saw and the other operate the open/close function of the knife on the pull through, to move youd close the diverter to allow flow back to the travel motor.

Offline Skeans1

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2021, 01:24:32 AM »
The main thing thats been changed on that boom is the placement of the cylinder mounts on the foot they have been moved forward to allow for more lift for unloading our trailers. That said nothing lifts as good as a true shovel boom theres a huge difference between the two think of a knuckle boom on steroids that weighs in well above 60k for a 200 class machine with some of the big girls weighing over 140k.

Offline Riwaka

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2021, 09:38:19 PM »
I would probably start looking in the local rule/ law books to see what a machine requires to comply with the local etc safety rules.

Different places can have different log machine rules for what is acceptable.

With the SK 200 excavator have a look on the hydraulic valve control unit, to see if there were any spare sections. A spare section could be piped to run the grapple rotate. More expensive to do the extra piping than an electric diverter valve but maybe safer than if an operator mixes up grapple open and grapple rotate functions. Or allow extra 'training' time for a diverter valve set up.
Grapple saws (rather than a chains saw bunk, there maybe greater freedom of movement  using a grapple saw on the excavator/ knuckleboom around the yard where required. ryans, rotobec, intermercato, west-tech etc


Same with komatsu WA loader see if there is a spare hydraulic valve section if you are going to run a hydraulic 'beak'   log grapple. 




Offline BargeMonkey

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2021, 04:43:00 AM »
Where are you at in the country and how much money do you want to spend ? There are aftermarket companies to add plumbing to a machine, they literally sell you a kit. There's a heel plate set up for an excavator with 80mm pins / grapple end link sitting in NH on FB marketplace kind of cheap. The guy has a complete live heel off a hood 24k with a thrashed rotobec also 🤷‍♂️ Down south you can find decent knucklebooms fairly cheap, out Skeans way there's ALOT of shovels, I'm in NY and they basically don't exist here, I've seen 3 so far. Plumbing, heel and a used rotobec your 10-15k easy, there are some out west if you hunt around. I've got a barsaw and circle saw slasher, 2 self propelled loaders, they are good and bad depending what your doing. 

Offline Southern Legacy

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2021, 10:12:35 AM »
Still getting a little familiar with the terms of the equipment.  I've got an experienced operator whose helping me as well.

I'm in GA.

So basically I will need a plumbing retrofit kit (to add another function to the machine.....the curl for the bucket can be used for either the rotation or clamp but not both).  

The heel plate is where the connects the boom of the excavator to the knuckleboom grapple?

I'm thinking the 10k to 15K is a reasonable budget for the set up?

Offline BargeMonkey

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2021, 10:38:55 AM »
Are you a clearing contractor ? Logger ? Your just unloading in a yard or plan to process and load wood ? Are you doing the work in house or paying someone ? 

 What series is your 200 ? Couple calls to a few of the reputable bone yards you maybe able to find 80% of the parts, I'm doing the same thing for an Kobelco SK250 right now seeing if I can find the parts cheap for a hydraulic thumb. 

 My opinion, just hanging the grapple off the bucket pin without a heel is not the way to go, and honestly its not safe if your loading any longer wood. You could use your thumb as a dead heel but 🤦‍♂️ to do it right your 2 circuits. Do you have a couple on your excavator ? Driving pins out to change stuff around all the time gets old. 

 Knucklebooms are CHEAP, there's alot of decent used stuff especially down south. 25-30k you can find something ok, 50-60k gets you a newer 437D Deere, 559 Cat, whatever color paint you like. There's a 2054 Deere shovel in Louisiana not all thrashed you could buy for 45k ? Done. Live heel, rotobec, high rise cab, everything your excavator will never be no matter how much money you throw at it. 

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2021, 11:23:07 AM »
the 15k to convert the excavator would buy a ready to work old barko just 2 years ago.  


whatever you do, beware that stacking differential pressure relief valves causes a situation where when the operator pulls one stick on each valve simultaneously, the pump is not relieved at say 3000psi like it should be, but instead at 6000psi because the upstream valve is seeing a baseline of 3000 and wont open until it has a differential of 3000 more psi.  things can and do explode and people have been killed.  

you dont want some hack adding on your hydraulic functions with a just trust me warranty. i know how much work this is.  id get the knuckle boom. 
Isaiah 63:10

Online mike_belben

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2021, 11:28:25 AM »
before you spend anything... hang a high test 3/8 chain from your bucket like a chin strap and use your thumb as a heel.  i watched a video i can no longer find of some malaysian or whatever export yard loading cans off a pile with completely stock excavators using a thumb and a chinstrap chain so fast it was absolutely amazing.  there was NOTHING a grapple setup woulda done for these guys.  they would use the teeth to scrape a log toward them a bit, hook the sling under, curl, swing it over and slide it in like it was fully automated.  i was blown away. there was a line of trucks and they were getting loaded in minutes.






this is kinda similar, my boy playing around a while ago, maybe 6 or 7 at the time. hes practicing loading with the stump grapple bucket i modded, if you look youll see that tee brace welded into the bucket.  the grapple can be opened and the log will still stay up.  this is how i most prefer to grab a log if at all possible, like a cigarette coming out of the pack.  you grab the filter and pull. to me a log going in a box is the same. and the bobcat rides best when the back tires are off the ground, doesnt churn dirt or bounce at all on the toes. 
Isaiah 63:10

Offline BargeMonkey

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2021, 12:23:39 PM »
It would have to stay a dedicated log loader to justify spending that kind of money to me. There are some nice Barkos 295-495 self propelled for 40-60 running around. Alot of stuff down south. 



 

 
 For 45k and a ride from Louisiana you can buy THAT ☝. If it was in NY-PA-NH I would have already, I make some money this winter I'm just going to bite the bullet. I can buy my old buncher back, less than 2k hrs on an older machine, hang that live heel the kid in NH has for 1500 bucks, I'm talking 12-13k in a COMPLETE shovel. The stuffs around you've just got to look for it. 

Offline Southern Legacy

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2021, 09:51:29 PM »
Are you a clearing contractor ? Logger ? Your just unloading in a yard or plan to process and load wood ? Are you doing the work in house or paying someone ?

 What series is your 200 ? Couple calls to a few of the reputable bone yards you maybe able to find 80% of the parts, I'm doing the same thing for an Kobelco SK250 right now seeing if I can find the parts cheap for a hydraulic thumb.

 My opinion, just hanging the grapple off the bucket pin without a heel is not the way to go, and honestly its not safe if your loading any longer wood. You could use your thumb as a dead heel but 🤦‍♂️ to do it right your 2 circuits. Do you have a couple on your excavator ? Driving pins out to change stuff around all the time gets old.

 Knucklebooms are CHEAP, there's alot of decent used stuff especially down south. 25-30k you can find something ok, 50-60k gets you a newer 437D Deere, 559 Cat, whatever color paint you like. There's a 2054 Deere shovel in Louisiana not all thrashed you could buy for 45k ? Done. Live heel, rotobec, high rise cab, everything your excavator will never be no matter how much money you throw at it.
Currently we are buying 8-12 tree length loads per week and processing that into firewood.  We are  looking to expand our operation to a full log yard and increase our purchasing to 25-30 loads per week.  This will require a dedicated operator to handle the incoming logs.  We are working with another group more experienced in merchandising logs to set up this new operation.  The idea being to bring in more logs and merchandise / sort the good out of the logs and process the rest in firewood.  It will slow down the firewood production but should reduce the cost of our wood in the process.
I agree its probably best to simply buy a good stationary knuckleboom with a slasher or buck saw as it will be required to sort the logs.   We can easily load the cut logs on to trucks leaving with our Volvo 120 Loader....but I see us eventually needing a mobile knuckle boom.  I've been told the cost of owning a tracked machine vs one on a carriage is much higher......the idea of converting the excavator was a temporary solution knowing we'd need to upgrade later on.
Again...I'm the back office guy at the operation (and owner).  I have a good bit of experience running equipment but never really messed with forestry machines.....its a different language.  
THANKS FOR EVERYONES HELP!

Offline Skeans1

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2021, 10:08:09 PM »
@Southern Legacy 
Its going to depend on what youre really going to do with the machine that old 200 I have really hasnt cost us much since we bought it in 93. For sorting Id rather be in a shovel any day vs a knuckle boom its easy to move around youll normally have more reach and having a live heel is a must in my book for doing tree length. 

One thing to think about are you planning on high decking any? If so a knuckle boom is not the machine for a mill yard use you wont have the reach of the track shovels.

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2021, 09:16:58 AM »
Your location is very important.  The equipment available to the PNW is completely different to what is in the SE and trucking big iron right now could add $15k to a purchase. 


How big is your yard and is it flat or sloped?  

If you have a flat area large enough to do all your unloading, sorting and reloading in one place, a stationary KB or shovel might work but if its gonna be spread out the travel will be a problem. A wheel loader can drive right down the road like its a bicycle so if the yard is spaced out the wheel loader with a grapple fork will win in efficiency.  Where it will suffer is in spinning logs around.  


This is just my opinion here...  There is no way a knuckleboom guy on a bucksaw with his eyeballs 30 feet from the log can recover as many dollars in those loglengths as a man on the ground with a chainsaw bucking for grade.  If you wanna pay off that iron 30% faster, get someone who knows how to sell high end wood to teach you how to break a tree down for maximum dollars.  You put some hired guy in a knuckleboom and all he knows is levers and which rungs make 10s 12s 14s 16s.. Youre gonna make less money. 


If this were me, and im not too far from exactly what youre doing.. Been building the site for years..  Id buck by hand with a tape measure for maximum grade, that means cutting out defects.  And id make more money.  Yes, someone will have to be man enough to actually run a saw and use a brain which i hear we are running out of.  

It is more profitable to make good money on 10 loads a day than less money on 25 loads.  You need to consider that being a producer of fine saw logs will bring the higher tier of log buyers TO YOUR YARD with a truck and prime rates. Blah logs you will have to ship and take what its giving.  Tally up your costs in fuel, grease, repairs and machine replacement at 25 loads a day at low margins vs 10 loads a day at high margins.  

Again my opinion here. Bulk processing is for pulp, hog fuel and mulch where you dont even look because its all the same, dump it in.

  Wood to be sawn is the opposite, its all different and the pay differs tremendously when you can continually produce a volume of high quality fiber with no defect attached to it. That is not done well up in a machine listening to a podcast.  If you can make staves and truly sound #1 sawlogs you wont need to run 25 loads a day to make the money. The buyers will be coming to you. 

Theres never been a better time.  Even the crotchetiest old mill owner i know is out begging for wood, literally offering idiots that are cutting to drive 30 miles out to the site and show them where to cut the tree because theyre doing it all wrong.   That is desperation. Years ago hed find an insult for any nice stick of wood i brought him just to get it cheaper, which is why i dropped him. 
Isaiah 63:10

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2021, 09:21:25 AM »
Another thought, high cab tracked shovels really are a PNW thing, the rest of america never got the volume of them.  However back east we are industrialized with scrap yards and building demo so the city areas have the sennebogen long reach loaders.  

Theyre that big green monster with a hydraulic high rise cab and 8 tires that all steer with stabilizers at each corner.  Theyre designed for loading scrap into 13ft high end dumps while looking down into the truck.  Would work okay in a log yard scenario if you just remove two of the 4 fingers on an orange peel grapple, though not as good as a live heel and log grapple. Youd have to grab the log at its balance point or have a heel stick built which would then be pretty epic. Nothing comparable has the reach of a sennebogen that im aware of and theyre fairly plentiful east of the mississippi
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Offline Skeans1

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2021, 09:44:30 AM »
Most of the sennenbogen have the same reach as a 300 sized shovel setup for mill yard application. Theyre ran some out here but not as common for high decking because you cant built yourself a deck to sit on and keep high decking from there.

Your yard tooling is going to really depend on what youre getting for intake, sure a bucking table can work but its slow and inaccurate. If youre doing tree length pine into saw logs Id be looking into a harvester head of some sort itll speed up your production and have less inaccuracies in measuring vs a bucking table.

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2021, 10:17:12 AM »
That is true, a sennebogen has to be on a very stable and fairly flat site.  It doesnt makes sense if better loaders are available for comparable money.  Region will dictate a lot of that.
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Offline Southern Legacy

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Re: Log Grapple For Excavator and Loader
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2021, 08:02:56 PM »
Your location is very important.  The equipment available to the PNW is completely different to what is in the SE and trucking big iron right now could add $15k to a purchase.


How big is your yard and is it flat or sloped?  

If you have a flat area large enough to do all your unloading, sorting and reloading in one place, a stationary KB or shovel might work but if its gonna be spread out the travel will be a problem. A wheel loader can drive right down the road like its a bicycle so if the yard is spaced out the wheel loader with a grapple fork will win in efficiency.  Where it will suffer is in spinning logs around.  


This is just my opinion here...  There is no way a knuckleboom guy on a bucksaw with his eyeballs 30 feet from the log can recover as many dollars in those loglengths as a man on the ground with a chainsaw bucking for grade.  If you wanna pay off that iron 30% faster, get someone who knows how to sell high end wood to teach you how to break a tree down for maximum dollars.  You put some hired guy in a knuckleboom and all he knows is levers and which rungs make 10s 12s 14s 16s.. Youre gonna make less money.


If this were me, and im not too far from exactly what youre doing.. Been building the site for years..  Id buck by hand with a tape measure for maximum grade, that means cutting out defects.  And id make more money.  Yes, someone will have to be man enough to actually run a saw and use a brain which i hear we are running out of.  

It is more profitable to make good money on 10 loads a day than less money on 25 loads.  You need to consider that being a producer of fine saw logs will bring the higher tier of log buyers TO YOUR YARD with a truck and prime rates. Blah logs you will have to ship and take what its giving.  Tally up your costs in fuel, grease, repairs and machine replacement at 25 loads a day at low margins vs 10 loads a day at high margins.  

Again my opinion here. Bulk processing is for pulp, hog fuel and mulch where you dont even look because its all the same, dump it in.

  Wood to be sawn is the opposite, its all different and the pay differs tremendously when you can continually produce a volume of high quality fiber with no defect attached to it. That is not done well up in a machine listening to a podcast.  If you can make staves and truly sound #1 sawlogs you wont need to run 25 loads a day to make the money. The buyers will be coming to you.

Theres never been a better time.  Even the crotchetiest old mill owner i know is out begging for wood, literally offering idiots that are cutting to drive 30 miles out to the site and show them where to cut the tree because theyre doing it all wrong.   That is desperation. Years ago hed find an insult for any nice stick of wood i brought him just to get it cheaper, which is why i dropped him.
Great Info!!!  Mike.   Thank you for the thoughts.
1.  We are in the North GA Mountains.  Our property is 22 Acres with around 12 Acres in the log yard area.  While not flat its tiered off in two areas and mostly useable.
2.   We do have a nice Volvo 120 with Log Grapple Bucket so loading bunk logs (if organized and staged / stacked properly) shouldn't be an issue.  I think we can make an area large enough to unload / buck and sort in one location.  Once separated though we will have to stage the logs in different areas.
3.  I agree that you can squeeze more juice out of the log by having a man on the ground.....but time is money and labor is really expensive these days.  I think training is the key and try to get 85% efficiency in 3X time.
4.  My goal is to provide a good yard for sellers to bring us logs and turn them around quickly / pay them each week.  We can then try and merchandise the logs to make a profit.  The good news in our situation is we have an end use on site for the pulp wood......we process around 18-20 Cords / Day.  The cost of our wood makes up around 35% of the cost of our finished product.  By merchandising logs we feel like we can get the cost down significantly on our raw material for the firewood product
5.  I'm about 90% sure the best option for me at this stage is a good dependable stationary knuckle boom (with live heal) and buck saw.   If things progress we can look at a tracked shovel later on down the line.  Regardless of the log yard.....we need a knuckle boom on site for our firewood operation.
Keep the thoughts coming.....this is very informative and helpful.




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