Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 24 July 2017

Bilke cleans up the competition

Fast processor proves a class act in my Northern test

Despite the Bilke being a small and simple design, its ability to speedily cut and split logs to pre-determined lengths makes it an impressive piece of kit
Despite the Bilke being a small and simple design, its ability to speedily cut and split logs to pre-determined lengths makes it an impressive piece of kit
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

PRODUCING logs in order to meet each customer's requirement is a time-consuming task, especially if you are dealing with hardwood thinnings such as ash, beech or sycamore.

For anyone cutting logs for home use, a good trestle and chainsaw are probably all they need. But to produce wood fuel in commercial amounts for sale requires high-output machinery.

Log processors, splitters, cranes for moving bundles of timber, crates for storage, bags, elevators and a loading shovel, plus lots of storage space, are all required. These are costly and need careful consideration before purchase, for there are so many different makes and sizes of firewood processing machinery on the market. With the current level of competition and the scarcity of credit, overspending has to be avoided. Anyone who is handy with a welder and angle grinder can save a lot of money adapting second-hand equipment such as elevators and potato cleaners to clean logs and remove brash -- but it is still necessary to dig deep into the bank account in order to gear up adequately.

I have used a Palax 70 processor for several years and have found it to be a really good, tough machine that was not over-expensive to buy and has given little trouble. I now, however, must find an additional processor to speed up handling those awkward lengths of small diameter timber that are an unavoidable side product of broadleaf thinning.

Timber that is 7-10cm in diameter is slow to process with any conventional machine, as one can only safely cut it one length at a time. Once dried and cut to the required lengths, it is a valuable by-product -- but processing it can be slow and tedious. We could bundle these smaller pieces onto a trestle, maybe 10 lengths at a time and log them off with a chainsaw, but that is not as easy or as quick as it sounds.

Designed

Unfortunately, most processors are not designed to quickly handle small-diameter material but will happily deal with larger logs all day long, splitting them four, six or eight ways.

Lengths of spruce or pine that are straight and evenly matched are far easier to work with and most processors are built with these in mind. Conifers, in general, grow straight and true (with the notable exception of Japanese larch) and are a delight to work with when producing high volumes of firewood. However, I also have these small, awkward lengths of hardwood and must now find an economic way of dealing with them.


Five years ago I attended the APF forestry show in England and among the huge range of machinery on display was a Bilke processor. I had not seen one before and liked its small size and simple design. Its ability to speedily cut and split logs to pre-determined lengths was astonishing and I thought of it again as a possible solution to our problems.

The Bilke will cut logs up to 22.5cm in diameter and will also safely handle two or three smaller-diameter lengths at the same time.

The agents for Ireland are in the North so my son and I drove there to again see it in action. We brought along lengths of ash of different sizes to test its worth and were not disappointed. What appealed to us most was the fact that working it only requires one man and his task is to just feed in the timber.

The Bilke does the rest and the speed at which it cuts and splits is remarkable.

The only drawback is that it tends to create a fair amount of brash and kindling through its shearing action as opposed to cutting with a chainsaw arm or circular saw.

The manufacturers say that the new model cuts more cleanly -- and it would want to, aspecially when bagging logs. If the ends are rough they tend to catch the edges of net bags when filling and emptying. Also, while splinters and chips of wood are useful as kindling, we find most of our customers only want logs and prefer to buy kindling separately. This means the woody bits would need to be removed via a log cleaner -- something we do not, as yet, possess.

However, for a simple and fast machine that is reasonably priced and will cut those smaller, awkward lengths, the Bilke looks hard to beat -- especially if one wasn't too concerned about the appearance of the end product. It's all going to be burnt after all.

Irish Independent