Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 28 May 2017

We came, we saw, and we cut wood

The British APF forestry event showcases the finest woodland management techniques -- and is a must-see for enthusiasts

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

THE APF forestry show in Britain is one of those great events that all serious woodland owners and contractors simply must attend. It is totally focused on forestry and the range of equipment on display covers virtually all aspects of woodland management.

It is a biennial event and this year was held at Cannock Chase near Staffordshire in a large, partially afforested area owned by the Forestry Commission. I travelled there on the Friday after the Ploughing Championships and found the ease of access and the range of machinery on show a major improvement on what was on display in Athy.

The site was a relatively simple 40-minute drive from Birmingham Airport and many Irish foresters and others made the journey to renew contacts and discover what is new in the forestry world. There were more than 230 trade stands plus large arenas for the numerous competitions showing forestry skills in action.

These included the European chainsaw carving championships, with entrants from both America and Europe, the world pole-climbing championships, where competitors ascended two giant redwoods, axe and chainsaw felling, woodland crafts, axe throwing, horse logging and even a specially constructed mountain bike track to show how woodland can be used profitably for recreation and timber production.

From a visitor's point of view, it was easy to view all the demonstrations, try out the equipment and see the different machines, both large and small, working in woodland. The show is held over three days and I regretted having only arranged for a one-day visit as there was so much to do and see.

Along with the astonishing range of displays, there were seminars and lectures on issues of current interest to woodland owners, but the real advantage was to be able to talk directly to the suppliers and view proper demos before making that big decision on what one might buy.

The firewood processors on show included monster machines that could handle mature oak or beech down to the smaller processors and splitters for home use. These processors are constantly improving but I have yet to find one that will cover all needs. Price is of course a huge consideration and it is essential for anyone contemplating buying one to check them all and arrange for a demo.

Back-up for spares and repairs is also very important and it would seem wise when purchasing to ensure if possible that there is a reputable Irish agent to provide aftercare.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a processor that is very fast when dealing with smaller diameter thinnings. Another model that also uses a shear mechanism for cutting was the UK Logmaster, which is speedy but, like all shear-cutters, tends to create a lot of brash. It is, however, reasonably priced and handles scrap timber and crooked branches well but lacks the option of a conveyor for feeding in lengths of timber prior to cutting.

Ideal

One new machine that again is ideal for handling smaller material was the Welmac TR70 branch logger. It is perhaps best described as a cross between a processor and a chipper and simply flew through all the branches and tops one could feed into it. For dealing with small diameter sticks, it looks hard to beat for speed, producing short three to four-inch wood 'nuggets'. It will also chop brash if required and has a facility for bagging the end product.

A few further links that are worth looking at include www.postsaver.co.uk for a simple means of prolonging the life of fencing posts by wrapping a tough dual layer polythene and bituminous-lined sleeve around them which protects them at their most vulnerable point at ground level from decaying organisms. This could be especially valuable now that wood preservative legislation has outlawed most of our more traditional means of protection.

Also, www.fuelwood.co.uk both manufactures and acts as agents for a huge range of processors, chippers, and machinery for bagging firewood and kindling. Well worth a look for ideas, prices and systems for bringing wood to market.

One innovative item I would really like to own is the GTM professional 'elephant's trunk' pulley harness which must be viewed to be appreciated, at www.gtmprofessional.com. It takes the strain and pain out of arm-wrenching jobs such as using hedgecutters, high pruners and other trimming equipment. Email thomasmatheson2000@yahoo.com for suppliers in Ireland.

Another striking machine in the evolution of equipment to handle biomass material was the Anderson BioBaler WB-55, which comes with a mulcher head attached as standard. Making large round bales of biomass, it is designed to gather and bale brash following clearfell. The agent said it can even cut up and bale gorse and return again every three years to harvest the regrowth. It will also bale willow and small diameter scrub but, at a cost of more than £100,000 (€114,000), is definitely for contractors only. But it does appear to present a viable means of collecting brash and other bulky combustible materials from the farm or forest for sale to large end users such as power stations. Check it out at www.grpanderson.com.

At the APF show my son and I looked at just about every shape and brand of processor and splitter on the market and have now come to a few basic conclusions regarding what is best for our own firewood processing business.

I still have a preference for processors that have a circular saw blade rather than a chainsaw head for cutting and I am convinced that the simpler the machine, the better.

Much as I would like to, I cannot afford some of the wonderfully sophisticated equipment with hydraulic racks and computer-controlled links from start to finish. Perhaps in the future the purchase of such machines will be justified but, for now, especially given the uncertainty of supply of the raw material from Irish woods and increasing competition from low-cost wood fuel from abroad, we must stick with proven and easy-to-maintain equipment that reduces labour costs and delivers what the customer wants: dry, clean firewood.

I saw demos of most of what was on offer and found myself returning yet again to the familiar Palax 90 or the 100s which will process logs up to 40cm in diameter. Both seem hard to beat on price and simplicity of operation while retaining my favoured circular saw-cutting system.

For handling really big timber, a horizontal splitter seems the most cost-effective solution, reducing the diameter down to where the split timber can then be run through a processor. Bindenberger make a number of tough looking models, as do others, which can all be viewed in action online.

For the smaller woodland owner, a mini forestry trailer with crane that can be used behind a jeep, quad or tractor, can help extract thinnings from woodland if the area is not large enough to justify hiring a contractor. This type of equipment could be shared by groups of woodland owners rather than purchasing individually. A cheaper alternative is a tractor-powered winch which can be very effective but can damage logs when being towed along the forest floor. Some small self-propelled forwarders, such as the excellent Alstor 8, also have a cutting head for harvesting.

For smaller purchases such as arborists equipment, chainsaw protective clothing and calipers, go to www.stantonhope.co.uk.

I'm still looking for a simple machine to compress paper into fuel logs so I can recycle my bank and building shares. Everything in nature has a use.

Irish Independent



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