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Author Topic: Best combination of cost and safety for my one-man logging/milling endeavor?  (Read 1537 times)

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Offline Mestak

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 I realize this topic has been covered quite a bit, but often the answer comes down to "well, it depends on what you're trying to do and what you have to do it with" so I figured a thread specific to my needs wouldn't be so terribly redundant.

We have about 90 acres of maturing pine in VA. Sometime later this year, about 60 acres of it will be clear cut by a local logger (deal was made through our own forester; I've posted elsewhere about this process). Those 60 acres sit on one side of a power line easement, the remaining 30 on the other side. The easement itself is a moderately steep hill, at the top of which is a good road, 1/4 - 1/2 mile back to the homestead.

Sometime soon I will be purchasing a bandsaw mill (likely a Woodland Mills 126 or 130). I would like to thin some of the remaining 30 acres, mainly to build a polebarn, but also to save on the lumber costs of other planned projects and maybe earn some extra money cutting slabs or making furniture.

Question 1: Do you think it's possible that I could arrange some kind of side deal with the logger to get 20-30 trees from this other lot felled and hauled to the homestead? What would a deal like that usually look like? (Trying to figure this out before I call and ask.) Paying outright erases a lot of the lumber savings, especially when you consider the time/cost of me milling it, but they could do this work a thousand times easier than I could. Just trying to wrap my head around the cost/risk ratio of me doing it myself.

Question 2: If that deal won't work, or even if it does, I will still probably need some way to log the lot moving forward. What sounds like the best plan or implement for me?

I have a 45 HP Kubota L4400 with a Titan pallet fork attachment that I have been using to move dead or downed trees on other sections of the property in anticipation of milling. So far, I typically skid the logs out backwards with a choker chain hooked to snatch straps, which are looped around the crossbar of the FEL. Works OK, but I'm worried about wear and tear on the FEL and carrying 12-16' logs crossways with the pallet forks is unwieldly and tough on some narrow paths.

A better, more feasible option as I scale up is to move towards skidding out the logs with a 3-pt. skidding attachment, loading onto a trailer (left at top of the hill) with the forks, and towing the trailer back to the homestead with either the tractor or my Tacoma. I realize I'd have to keep the loads modest, and hopefully have some brakes on the trailer, but moving even 3-5 logs at a time is better than hauling one at a time all the way back to the homestead at 15 MPH (the one tree per load limit is why I'm not looking too hard at a log arch either).

This skidding attachment has a great reputation and looks like the trick, but I'm wondering if I really need to spend $640.
I have logging tongs. Would those hanging from this $220 attachment essentially give me the same functionality, provided I also hooked a dragging chain to my drawbar for safer pulling? Or is the design of the first one better/safer somehow?

Fairly new to all this. My whole family thanks you kindly in advance for helping to keep me safe. ;)

$640 option


 

$220 option (+ tongs)



Offline Oddman

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Average size of trees your looking at moving? Any physical limitations on your part?

Offline TroyC

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Check on getting or making a log arch if you are planning to take those trees out yourself. Sideways on forks is a hassle. I use a grapple and arch but I'm only doing 2-3 trees at a time.


 

The arch will keep your trees cleaner. Skidding puts lots of dirt on them. The tongs are chained to the rear lift.




 

This is not production work by any means, but I do it just for the fun :) and exercise. Getting your logger to load and deliver your trees will cost him (and you) money but save you time. With a manual mill you are certainly limited how fast you can cut. If you haul a day, it will take you a day or two to mill, clean, spray, and sticker your lumber.

Get your order in for the mill soon as you can. Woodland is probably the most available as of now. My buddy ordered one last month, supposed to get it today, about 4 week wait.

Offline Mestak

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Average size of trees your looking at moving? Any physical limitations on your part?
The pine are 14"-18" now, a little bigger in the future. We have some large-ish Walnut and Oak (20-25") elsewhere on the property, but I wouldn't be hauling those anywhere near as far and I could probably handle those one at a time with the forks.

No physical limitations beyond a slight foolhardiness and a tendency to get into things over my head.  :D

Offline Mestak

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Thanks, TroyC. That looks like the Harbor Freight quick hitch, or something quite similar. Any issues with it when using it for skidding and hauling? Happy overall with the purchase? That was my plan originally, but I've read a lot of scare posts about popping wheelies if the log gets held up.

Offline TroyC

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Yes, that's the HF quick hitch. I've bent a couple of them using the bushog. Put the spacers on the lift pins and it will help keep it from popping loose from the lift arm.

If your tractor is light (I've hauled with a Ford 601) the front end will lift with a heavy log. Makes steering a little tricky. With my 48hp tractor with the grapple don't have that problem so much. The loader/grapple is my go-to toy, makes life easier.

You'll want to lift your 3 point up enough so that your log doesn't dig in or hit a stump. That could be painful. Also, I let the log bump on the draw bar so it doesn't hit the PTO or anything else on the rear of the tractor. I go slow, usually low range and take my time. So far no major accidents. On a long log like 60' or so, you can't really make sharp turns on a trail so keep that in mind. I like to bring in the longest I can and buck near the mill. Less trips that way but a 60' poplar can be challenging on curves.


Offline beenthere

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Mestak
Quote
but I've read a lot of scare posts about popping wheelies if the log gets held up.

Being aware of popping a wheely is good, but being scared off by this is not good. Keeping one's head on business-at-hand while lifting a log and dragging it is all that needs to happen.

Once helped a friend pull out logs with his Oliver 550 and suggested he pull in low gear. He was a jet pilot in the Air Force and was familiar with his 550 so didn't think he would have any problem. As he lifted a log and started pulling, the front end started lifting.
He panicked and jumped off. The tractor front end continued to come up, so I stepped close and turned off the ignition switch key.
The engine stopped and the front end drifted back to the ground. Nothing "fast" about it. Friend could also have dropped the 3 ph instead of jumping off, and also could have disengaged the clutch. No need to panic and jump off. (wondered how many times he popped the AF jet canopy and bailed out?  :D )

I've used the "quick-hitch" for many years.
On an 8n ford, Ferguson TO-30, JD 420, and now JD 4300. Steering with the wheel brakes often is needed as the front is light.






south central Wisconsin
 It may be that my sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others

Offline Mestak

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Steering with the wheel brakes often is needed as the front is light.
Thanks for the tips on getting out of that situation, beenthere. I still may still go with the HF quick hitch but my main 3PH implement is a bush hog and hearing TroyC bent "a couple" using his bushhog, on top of all the other "nothing fits this thing" posts, isn't exactly instilling a lot of confidence.
Can you clarify for me what you mean by "steering with the wheel brakes"? Sorry if the question is dumb, I didn't grow up around tractors.

Offline doc henderson

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most tractors have a right and left brake pedal.  they can be locked together.  for a hard right in loose or muddy terrain, you can steer with the wheel and hit the right brake and augment the turn more like a skid steer.  In our part of the country, many people have died with roll overs and flipping of tractors.  do not assume that any tractor is idiot proof.  The roll over protection only helps if you are belted in.  they have tractor safety courses here through the ag extension offices.  lots online.  remember the old adage about doing something fast, cheap and good.  you can usually only accomplish 2 of the 3.  with practice you will anticipate how your tractor will react and may already have your foot on the clutch as an example.  you have to learn these lessons without killing yourself.  the biggest danger is being new and inexperienced, or an old hand with lots of hours and getting overconfident.  almost losing a finger a few times, helps you not lose one later.  
Timber king 2000, 277c track loader, PJ 32 foot gooseneck, 1976 F700 state dump truck, JD 850 tractor.  2007 Chevy 3500HD dually, home built log splitter 18 horse 28 gpm with 5 inch cylinder and 32 inch split range with conveyor powered by a 12 volt tarp motor

Offline doc henderson

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"One man" phrase raises concern if you are new.  what is your experience and background?  you need to pull from as low as possible with a tractor.  ideally from below the rear axle to reduce chance of flipping.  it may not flip all the way over.  on a slope it may then fall to a side, or you fall off and get ran over or fell on.  the pic of the tractor shows no ROP.  a small tractor may tend to get pushed beyond its limits, and a huge tractor will not even slow down if you make a mistake.  I have not read the whole thread, sorry if I am repeating or missing your point.  good luck and be safe above all else.  
Timber king 2000, 277c track loader, PJ 32 foot gooseneck, 1976 F700 state dump truck, JD 850 tractor.  2007 Chevy 3500HD dually, home built log splitter 18 horse 28 gpm with 5 inch cylinder and 32 inch split range with conveyor powered by a 12 volt tarp motor

Offline Mestak

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"One man" phrase raises concern if you are new.  
Thanks. You're not the only one concerned. I'm a DIY guy to my core, not afraid of hard work, but didn't come up around tractors or chainsaws, etc. Been slowly learning the ropes since my father-in-law died and left me in charge of looking after a homestead that's been in my wife's family for over 100 years. Have a good old boy neighbor who occasionally helps me out and is there in emergency but I'm doing 99% of everything by myself.
That tractor pic is from the people who make that 3PH skidder. Mine (Kubota L4400) has ROPS, though truth be told it has been folded down since we don't yet have a high enough roof on where we park it. New barn will fix that, but would definitely put it up if doing anything risky.

Offline Oddman

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I was first put on the tractor at 14 years old to do start skidding with our 45 HP 4wd landini tractor with no loader, been doing it ever since. Just a week or so ago i was making 1 mile skids pulling 1-3 trees depending on size. Thats over a wide range of terrain. It can feel slow but as another poster said, with a manual mill you will keep yourself pretty busy with just a few skids. 
I like to leave some sacrificial length on the log on long skids, it will get worn away/embedded with dirt and rock. I use a homemade skidding boom on the 3pnt, but it's a bit more dangerous because it lift the log pretty high, which I like for a lot of reasons. Pulling with the drawbar is not good at all for keeping logs clean unless you have alot of snow down.
Some ground rules -
Take it slow, start with light skids
Keep tractor in 4wd
Keep a saw on the tractor with you.
Look back often!
Do not hesitate to lighten the load or unhook and reposition the tractor
Keep your foot on the clutch! 
If your lifting the front very often you may be asking too much of the tractor.

Offline Mestak

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I like to leave some sacrificial length on the log on long skids, it will get worn away/embedded with dirt and rock. 

<snip>
Keep a saw on the tractor with you.

That first point is a fantastic idea that probably would have never occurred to me. Thank you.
I've struggled sometimes to figure out how to keep the saw with me when I don't have the bucket or bush hog on the tractor. Then, just last week I found a spot behind the seat where it will wedge perfectly into the ROPS. The saw in question is a Stihl 028 Wood Boss from 1983 that has become my new best friend.  :D

Offline Southside

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    • White Oak Meadows
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I am speaking from experience here of being the guy working in the woods and being the guy who had to respond to events that happened when folks were in the woods. 

You need to invest in quality PPE, from headgear to boots, AND you need to address the ROPS matter on your tractor before you do any woods work with it. Honestly you need a FOPS (Falling Object Protection System) on there too. It doesn't take much of a bump, whack, or hang up to toss a limb, top, or vine onto you and your tractor. Often there is zero time to react, dive, roll, or even get your hand up before you get hit, assuming you even see the danger.  Look at how logging equipment is built, look at how much guarding is around the cab, look at the damage some sustain,  then look at you sitting in the seat of your open station tractor and understand the increased level of risk involved, combined with your lack of experience. That isn't a put down, nobody was born with the knowledge experience teaches us, but underestimating the risks, especially when you don't understand them, is a recipe for disaster. I have personal experience with someone who was doing woods work with a compact tractor, ROPS folded down. His son discovered him pinned to the steering wheel, he was DOA at the hospital. 
Franklin buncher and skidder
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White Oak Meadows

Offline Mestak

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I'm sorry to hear about that. I appreciate the concern and the time you guys are taking to express it. Have only been hanging out in these parts for a little while but it's easy to tell this forum is full of genuine fellas with good hearts and generous minds.

For what it's worth, at this point (especially when alone) I only do chainsaw work with steel toed boots, a helmet, safety glasses or face shield, and chaps. I'll be sure to have the ROPS up from now on.

Offline Oddman

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We wore out several 028's, great saws! Replaced them with ms270's and theyre not bad, definitely a great size of saw to have on the tractor

Offline beenthere

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Mestak
Quote
main 3PH implement is a bush hog and hearing TroyC bent "a couple" using his bushhog, on top of all the other "nothing fits this thing" posts, isn't exactly instilling a lot of confidence.

The bush hog can be made compatible with the quick hitch so bending something would be hard to do. Mine is a JD iMatch which may be a higher quality than the HF quick hitch. 
Installing the correct bushings to the attachment is a key. 
Here are the bushings.. 


 



And here they are shown on a ballast box attached to the quick hitch. Same bushings on my brush hog, and several other attachments for quick hitching. 


 


And to the steering with brakes, as Doc said, when the front end is light due to the load on the 3ph there is little to no ground contact with the front wheels, so travel direction is with the left or right brake pedals. 

Be aware when the front end comes up, the operator has to do something to limit how high it comes up. Stop moving forward, lower the 3ph, slow down, or get in a bad situation that may not end well. 
south central Wisconsin
 It may be that my sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others

Offline TroyC

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Good advise so far! I'll add a few more things....

Yep, those are the bushings. I did not have them on the bushog at one time and when I backed into a tree it knocked the bushog out of the HF quickattach and bent the pins. My fault on two accounts.

The HF Quick attachments are OK. They do better if you replace the top hook with the aftermarket hook for about 40.00. The HF hook is set in too close and the implements usually have a hard time with the short space on the original hook. I've bent a couple of the Quickattachments  but  it was my fault- no bushings, hitting trees with the hog, stuff like that.

I was bushogging shooting lanes thru an oak hammock not too long after I bought my first tractor, a Ford 2600.  Lucky for me it had a ROPS. When a limb fell from the oak, neither did I see or hear it coming. It bounced off the steel bar but still whacked my head/neck pretty good. I was just about to put the bumper against another large oak when I came to but was able to stop in time. The ROPS prevented what would have been a much more serious accident.

When I bought my first tractor, my dad said "boy- you are going to kill yourself on that thing". My reply was "Well dad, I guess I can learn how to work it". I've learned a little since then about tractors, mostly by reading and doing stuff. Steering with the brakes can be done but you should realize by then you are on thin ice. When the front end comes up, you should be ready for it and immediately push the clutch. I've raised mine several times, probably more should have been done, but I didn't have time to jump off. Stuff happens too fast like that.

Always pull from the lowest point on the rear that you can. The drawbar is a good point but you can't lift or anything down there. The higher point you pull from on the rear the quicker the front will lift.

Offline TroyC

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One more thing about the Quickhitch. A lot of the implement makers claim their implements are 'standardized' for the Quickhitch. Well, the Quickhitch works great for me but it takes a lot of time to get all your implements adjusted to fit them. I don't know if there is really a 'standard' size on 3 point attachments. Some implements fit with just adjusting, I remember some cutting and welding to get another to fit. I have 1 implement that just won't fit so I have to drop the hitch to use it.

Offline OddInTheForrest

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Have you concidered a 3pt winch? 
Here in Norway, you wont see anyone trying to skid with anything but a winch. And after I got mine, I understand why. The terrain I used to log had a bog / swamp at the only acces point from any road. The ability to let the winchline out, to then reccover the logs once I passed the swamp or made it to dry ground, proved valuable more than once. 

Just throwing the idea out there. But I would really really concider a winch. It allows you to access areas where the tractor wont or cant go, can help with felling (often involving a snatch block), and many other tasks.

Best regards
Odd.


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