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Author Topic: cable or grapple skidder  (Read 1368 times)

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Offline jb14972

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cable or grapple skidder
« on: February 11, 2021, 10:10:52 PM »
I'm currently running a 3 man logging crew, we are currently skidding with a jd650 and we are hitting 10k ft per day on great days and then only about 5k ft on bad days. im looking to add a skidder and i cant decide if a cable or grapple skidder is better. we are mostly on smaller tracts 20-75 acres and im wanting to average 15k ft per day. Im in WV so the hills can get pretty steep so that makes me lean towards a cable skidder for access and more pulling power, but the conveniences of the grapple sure would be faster than hooking up and unhooking constantly. any advice would be appreciated.

Offline Maine logger88

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2021, 10:23:18 PM »
Sounds like a grapple skidder with a winch would suit you best! Preferably a dual arch
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Offline jb14972

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2021, 10:46:41 PM »
im looking in the mechanical era of skidders so as far as a dual arch im looking at the deere 640 and 648 skidder. only concern is i dont want something slow, i want plenty of power and i have read some of the older dual arch skidders are slower. is the decrease in speed worth the dual arch over a single? 

Offline Skeans1

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2021, 10:49:56 PM »
See if you can find a swinging grapple setup some had winches in the frame as well.

Offline chep

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2021, 11:31:08 PM »
What is the crew setup? Chopper, cable guy, landing guy? Gonna be hard to beat that just by substituting a grapple in. Add a 4th guy. 1 chopper, and cable guy bunching for the grapple. Keep their skid short and the grapple fulltime for the long pull and when he catches up he chops etc? Gotta have that cable machine in wv I would think. I think a bigger cable machine is the way to get the most wood to the landing. 
Just thoughts

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2021, 12:11:40 AM »
My Franklin 170 has a grapple and a winch, all mechanical, Cummins 6BT power and plenty of speed. Don't be scared of the "can't find parts" stories, those were component built machines and many parts can be found at the local NAPA. They articulate and ossicilate so they do well on un even ground. 
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Offline jb14972

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2021, 01:32:35 AM »
1 cutter, 1 guy skidding and 1 guy at the landing bucking. cutter averages 15k ft per day right now, dozer just cant keep up. bucking logs goes fast now, im assuming the landing guy would still have some spare time after bucking. all logs go to my mill via grapple truck and get sorted there so the landing is a pretty easy job.

Online stavebuyer

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2021, 03:40:07 AM »
I seldom see people want to get off a grapple skidder to pull cable; even when in many instances pulling cable would be quicker. Human nature. West Va is cable skidder territory. You have to step up a good bit in skidder size/weight to be able to grapple the same load and there is often that one steep grade/ledge/mudhole you can't cross without dropping the hitch.

Groundspeed of the skidder vs the dozer should get you to your 15K. Dual purpose anything always mean compromise. Grapple skidders large enough to not "need" the winch usually an awkward machine to "winch with" as they tend to be larger and taller machines.

Buy the cable skidder. It will make you enough to pay cash for a grapple skidder to use when you can.  8)



Offline grabber green

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2021, 07:43:29 AM »
Get a grapple skidder with a winch . Use the dozer to set logs out of the rough places to the main skid trail, get them to the landing with the grapple skidder, increase production. On jobs that require lots of winching and no dozer ,remove the grapple and  use the the skidder winch for the win. We have did it like that with success for many years.

Offline BargeMonkey

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2021, 02:47:48 AM »
Dual arch with a winch. Decent fenders you can still run it just like a cable skidder, i get on super long skids will bunch with the grapple, hook chokers and take 4-5 out in the grapple at the same time, downhill i was getting 13-15 decent ones a hitch. How you guys make any money down there skidding with a dozer I dont know 🤷‍♂️ We have very similar ground here and bunch to the skidder, this last job we had 30 chokers getting passed back and forth, drop to the edge of the trail and run back in with the dozer. 

Offline Firewoodjoe

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2021, 06:40:11 AM »
Grapple with arch would be best. But maybe find a cheap cable skidder and you could still park that dozer and only use it for the real bad spots. Your wearing iron out wich is not cheap and itís slow as a snail. Evan a plain old cable skidder will run circles around that dozer. I love tracks but they need to be used only when needed if your trying to watch your overhead. Also it sounds like your cutting only logs. Grapples donít fit many big logs. 1-2 most times if there good trees. 

Offline pwrwagontom

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2021, 11:01:01 AM »
1 cutter, 1 guy skidding and 1 guy at the landing bucking. cutter averages 15k ft per day right now, dozer just cant keep up. bucking logs goes fast now, im assuming the landing guy would still have some spare time after bucking. all logs go to my mill via grapple truck and get sorted there so the landing is a pretty easy job.
Could you use the dozer to bunch logs into hitches (like the books suggest for farm tractor winches) and then skid with the grapple?
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Offline mike_belben

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2021, 11:58:11 AM »
The problem is when hill terrain is too gnarly to get the whole wack up.  In a grapple you have to dump some then come back.  With a big cable you can drop the winch and leave the whole wack wherever you lose traction then drive up and reel them across the challenge spot.



I think a big grapple and winch is the way to go.  Dozer makes trail, waterbars, cuts out the switchback crossings and bunches to the skidder.  Hopefully the dozer can make most trail mild enough to leave the chokers dangling unused.  The time spent on roads is paid back in increased production with the grapple instead of cable.. But atleast the option is there if needed.
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Offline Skeans1

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2021, 03:41:09 PM »
The problem is when hill terrain is too gnarly to get the whole wack up.  In a grapple you have to dump some then come back.  With a big cable you can drop the winch and leave the whole wack wherever you lose traction then drive up and reel them across the challenge spot.



I think a big grapple and winch is the way to go.  Dozer makes trail, waterbars, cuts out the switchback crossings and bunches to the skidder.  Hopefully the dozer can make most trail mild enough to leave the chokers dangling unused.  The time spent on roads is paid back in increased production with the grapple instead of cable.. But atleast the option is there if needed.
The high track skidder is a good combo machine the only bad part is if they had a swinger they donít have a winch.

1 cutter, 1 guy skidding and 1 guy at the landing bucking. cutter averages 15k ft per day right now, dozer just cant keep up. bucking logs goes fast now, im assuming the landing guy would still have some spare time after bucking. all logs go to my mill via grapple truck and get sorted there so the landing is a pretty easy job.
Could you use the dozer to bunch logs into hitches (like the books suggest for farm tractor winches) and then skid with the grapple?
Thatís one reason the swinging grapple skidders are so popular on the west coast they allow you flexibility for bunching and even using a pull through delimber.

Offline Maine logger88

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2021, 05:47:13 PM »
im looking in the mechanical era of skidders so as far as a dual arch im looking at the deere 640 and 648 skidder. only concern is i dont want something slow, i want plenty of power and i have read some of the older dual arch skidders are slower. is the decrease in speed worth the dual arch over a single?
The 648s all the way up to the G series has a mechanical engine and transmission g2 went to the electric shift transmission 
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Offline quilbilly

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2021, 06:02:41 PM »
If you've already got a cable equipped dozer then there is no need for a cable skidder, anything the grapple skidder can't get you can use the dozer for. The grapple is just light-years faster. I ran a 666 for years and will never go back to cable only.

Skeans is right about the swinger, especially in softwood. Not sure about hardwood. A swinger with a low mount delimber like a danzco would put out 15k feet with 3 guys in just about any kind of show. It would also be able to keep up if you decide to upgrade to more higher production equipment.
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Offline jb14972

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2021, 08:05:39 AM »
I would like to stay at 3 guys until I put on a second cutter or get a mechanized cutter. To do that it seems like it makes the most sense to just get a cable skidder. Then add another cutter, grapple skidder and full time dozer man. 

I guess it comes down to can I average 15k per day with out needing a fourth guy to run the dozer. 

I canít see the daily production being much different between a grapple and a cable skidder. Just bc a grapple of the same size will probably pull one tree less and still need to use the winch on 20-40% of the trees. 

Offline mike_belben

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2021, 08:53:03 AM »
When you get a buncher youll get into more pulp and youll sore regret not having that grapple on the cable machine because now it means ANOTHER machine with all its repairs and problems and another operator and all his drama. The buncher will swamp the cable machines.  Another head for comp and employment tax... Your profits will shrink for that production and your stabilty through rain season or any other time when youre idled will decrease.  


Let the dozer man and landing man alternate as skidder operator for a while.   Whoever your worst sitter downer is, keep him busier.
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Offline grabber green

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2021, 09:49:54 AM »
If you ever do get a grapple skidder you will wonder how you could live without it. Having said that I have worked those steep mountain tracts where the grapple was  mostly unuseable . One or two jobs we actually took  the grapple off to keep from ruining the winch cable .   But overall grapple skidders increase production alot  plus less fatigue on the operator.       

Offline quilbilly

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2021, 11:27:56 AM »
If you can rent or borrow a grapple skidder with a winch do it and see what you can do on the ground. If you're in a logging area there has got to be someone around that has a spare skidder they'd rent out for a few weeks. Probably be money well spent. We have steep ground out west here and cable skidders are going the way of the buffalo. We use our 450 dozer with a winch to get anything the grapple skidder can't, and I can't imagine using a cable only. Grapples are seriously way faster.
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Offline Firewoodjoe

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2021, 02:53:02 PM »
Well you keep saying footage so Iíd guess your cutting only logs (cable skidder) you keep saying steep ground (cable skidder) your already pulling line (cable skidder) grapple gets in the way (cable skidder) dozer slow (cable skidder) keep three guys and produce more (cable skidder) keep three guys produce more and most likely cheaper than tracks (cable skidder) grapple skidder around here cost more than cable skidder. 🤨 I think itís been answered (cable skidder) lol

Offline BargeMonkey

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2021, 06:18:59 PM »
Ive said this to guys repeatedly, go buy a fellerbuncher and you don't own a loader / slasher.... i learned this the HARD way. Im still a firm believer that the dumbest way to cut production is to cut up on the landing with a chainsaw. Whatever you buy, cable / grapple or combo is still better than skidding with a dozer. From what your saying in footage your cutting bigger wood, only get 1-3 at a time even with a large grapple. 

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2021, 06:53:01 PM »
Getting rid of the chainsaw at the landing is absolutely the biggest gain lowest cost production enhancement behind limiting the dozer to road work as much as possible. 

A knuckleboom/bucksaw at the landing and limit the dozer to roadwork you might hit 15k with 2 men dedicated to getting it done.


Offline so il logger

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2021, 07:27:19 PM »
Not every job is going to be terrible terrain? D/A machine with a winch is versatile. And you will grapple more of your turns than some may think. The clamp capacity of this 648H is impressive and as long as the skids dont get excessively long it will work a good cutter hard. 15k ft a day is not hard to sustain for a 2 guy crew at all

Offline quilbilly

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2021, 10:49:14 PM »
Going back through the comments it seems like nearly everyone said grapple with a winch. But if you already have your mind on a cable have at it. Been there done that and it just flat isn't as productive, especially on smaller pieces where getting hooked up and turned back around is more important than getting that extra log per hitch/turn. 

Either one will outproduce 15k per day, or at least can I should say, not having  seen the jobs. 15k was a pretty normal out west here for a cable skidder, on decent ground and wood they could do more of course. 
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Offline jb14972

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2021, 04:41:36 AM »
Going back through the comments it seems like nearly everyone said grapple with a winch. But if you already have your mind on a cable have at it. Been there done that and it just flat isn't as productive, especially on smaller pieces where getting hooked up and turned back around is more important than getting that extra log per hitch/turn.

Either one will outproduce 15k per day, or at least can I should say, not having  seen the jobs. 15k was a pretty normal out west here for a cable skidder, on decent ground and wood they could do more of course.
Agreed most are saying grapple, most are also saying to use the dozer to bunch logs in bad terrain. I have 2 concerns that you may be able to clear up. 
1. Can I still hit 15k per day average with a 3 man crew while also having to bunch 30% of the logs with the dozer?
2. Iím also concerned with the steep terrain using a grapple skidder vs cable. Buying the same sized machine a cable skidder has the advantage of getting through a steep spot while pulling a larger load. I donít want to be limited with a grapple to 1-2 trees and hurt footage or end up dumping a log at the hill every time to keep the skidder moving. 
The tract we just finished was 20 acres, it was split by a steep ravine that we put a bridge in to cross but still had a very steep 60í section on both sides. Dozer had to drop the logs and winch them every time. Grapple skidder would have been very limited on half of this job of the dozer would have been working to bunch the logs. 
Iím gonna talk to a few guys about renting a skidder for a week or two and see how it works. My next tract is 40 acres and all down hill skids so Iím sure a grapple will shine.
Also I didnít say it but we have a loader and bucksaw at the landing. 

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #26 on: February 15, 2021, 05:18:15 AM »
Then a grapple makes the most sense. And 15,000 foot is a in a few hours with that set up. 

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #27 on: February 15, 2021, 05:24:02 AM »
And just out of curiosity how long has that dozer been dragging wood to that slasher? How many undercarriage parts been put on it? One year would put some serious wear on that. 

Offline mike_belben

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #28 on: February 15, 2021, 06:04:23 AM »
I dont know the distances in the bridged ravine example but calculate the time from the stump to the slasher @ dozer speed.  Now pencil a grapple into the equation where the dozer bunches logs across the ravine and the grapple fetches them to the slasher at grapple skidder speed.  Depending on the job layout the skidder man might be sitting there waiting at the top for the dozer, okay so he unchokes for the dozer operator and saves him the climb.  Dozer spins right around and goes back in.



Even on a bad site with a grapple only skidder where logs are transferred off, there are minutes saved in there being a man waiting to unchoke the dozer and a rapid speed increase from the ravine top to the knuckleboom.



Like was already said though, just take the grapple off and leave it at the shop on a job where you know its gonna be a winch fest, put some quick connects in the hoses to make it less of a chore.  That way your skidder man cant be lazy and refuse to winch.  Youve got a cable and a grapple without extra engines, trans, tires and wages to cover.  




Theres no tellin what the next 4 years is gonna bring so id be cautious of stretching thin.  Remember that wealth earned on wall street is the end consumer of a lot of wood product.
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Offline grabber green

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #29 on: February 15, 2021, 08:21:31 AM »
Another big advantage with a grapple machine, if the landings full of logs,the loaders loading trucks and you cant bring a drag in.It makes it so easy to drop em and make a stockpile close to the landing. Then you can keep skidding.When the loader needs more trees you can cover it up in minutes while never leaving the skidder seat.   Also with a stockpile close to the landing like that you will be able to run wood and keep the trucks going when it to wet to skid from the woods . Greatly increasing your yearly footage and tonage.

Offline quilbilly

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #30 on: February 15, 2021, 10:13:23 AM »
Going back through the comments it seems like nearly everyone said grapple with a winch. But if you already have your mind on a cable have at it. Been there done that and it just flat isn't as productive, especially on smaller pieces where getting hooked up and turned back around is more important than getting that extra log per hitch/turn.

Either one will outproduce 15k per day, or at least can I should say, not having  seen the jobs. 15k was a pretty normal out west here for a cable skidder, on decent ground and wood they could do more of course.
Agreed most are saying grapple, most are also saying to use the dozer to bunch logs in bad terrain. I have 2 concerns that you may be able to clear up.
1. Can I still hit 15k per day average with a 3 man crew while also having to bunch 30% of the logs with the dozer?
2. Iím also concerned with the steep terrain using a grapple skidder vs cable. Buying the same sized machine a cable skidder has the advantage of getting through a steep spot while pulling a larger load. I donít want to be limited with a grapple to 1-2 trees and hurt footage or end up dumping a log at the hill every time to keep the skidder moving.
The tract we just finished was 20 acres, it was split by a steep ravine that we put a bridge in to cross but still had a very steep 60í section on both sides. Dozer had to drop the logs and winch them every time. Grapple skidder would have been very limited on half of this job of the dozer would have been working to bunch the logs.
Iím gonna talk to a few guys about renting a skidder for a week or two and see how it works. My next tract is 40 acres and all down hill skids so Iím sure a grapple will shine.
Also I didnít say it but we have a loader and bucksaw at the landing.
Without seeing the territory you're in I can't say exactly what's best, but just to answer the above questions. 
The winch on a D/A does work. Are they as good as a pure cable skidder, no. But I have used the one on mine plenty dragging out every last foot of cable. So if we're only talking 30% cable only, you might be able to make that 10-20% only for the dozer. And use the cable on your DA the rest of the time. 
As for hills, that's what I can't speak of for sure. If you're hooked up with the winch on the DA you can of course do the same thing and drop the load, run up, the winch back up. The other thing a DA can do is push you out of a wet spot unlike a cable skidder. When you get some slippage, just push with your grapple. This has been a great benefit to me. No stopping and dropping the load just to get through a small nasty spot. Big time saver. 
People are right about a guy not wanting to get out of a grapple skidder. I do, but don't want to unless I have to. Operator fatigue is just way less. And out here where it rains 9 months a year, the ability to stay in the cab and not get wet is really nice. I don't miss the sour smelling gloves after working a day in the rain. 
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Offline Skeans1

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #31 on: February 15, 2021, 10:25:39 AM »
Another thing to think about is insurance costs for having a guy on the ground setting chokers will be higher then if youíre a complete mechanical show. In my situation I would be hard pressed to give up my grapple cat to a grapple wheel skidder it has ability to stay working year round.

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #32 on: February 15, 2021, 11:03:20 PM »
Guys, i saw  the word "buncher" i understand the verb "to bunch". But i don't know what a buncher is.  :-\

And how do you call this thing. 





Knowing where Pierre and Laurent go. It is sure steep terrain. 
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Offline mike_belben

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #33 on: February 15, 2021, 11:25:54 PM »
Buncher is short for feller bencher which is any mechanized tree cutter that takes a tree down whether by shear, barsaw or circle aka "hotsaw."  Theyre 3 wheeled, 4 wheeled or tracked.  But they dont delimb, measure, record or cut to length.  Thats harvester heads.



That machine is probably just a "euro skidder" to us. Accessorized to the hilt with squirt boom, twin drum, hydraulic butt plate and clam bunk. 
Revelation 3:20

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #34 on: February 16, 2021, 07:29:30 AM »
If you've got a dozer with winch you can go places no skidder will ever get to and cut haul road as you go to get a skidder in behind you. So buying a cable skidder because of a steep pinch or soft spot on your haul road is redundant: fix it, that's what dozers are for.

Anytime I work around a grapple skidder I get the urge to upgrade my cable machine... amazing how much more wood you can pull a day when you don't spend half of it rolling around on the ground setting or retrieving chokes.

Time is money etcetera etcetera etcetera. The only reason I don't upgrade my cable skidder to a grapple is I prefer to buy logs not cut my own... no way would I be able to compete as a logging contractor without upgrading.
The quickest way to make a million dollars with a sawmill is to start with two million.

Offline Loglugger

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #35 on: February 20, 2021, 03:27:55 PM »
We work the mountains in western North Carolina. Hand cut and trim everything, too rough for mechanized machines. We have a 640 cable and a 648 single arch with a winch. The cable skidder runs all day everyday, the grapple only about 10% of the time. The grapple is handy for long skids to the loader after the cable sets out. If I only had one machine in rough country, it will be the cable. 

Offline thecfarm

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Re: cable or grapple skidder
« Reply #36 on: February 21, 2021, 07:26:13 AM »
Loglugger, welcome to the forum.
This thread will keep you busy for a while.

timber harvest methods and equipment
Model 6020-20hp Manual Thomas bandsaw,TC40A 4wd 40 hp New Holland tractor, 450 Norse Winch, Heatmor 400 OWB,YCC 1978-79


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