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What kind of equipment do you need for felling in your own forest? Chainsaw, a mini processor, personal protection, etc. … Here we try to sort out what you might need and what options you have when you go shopping or write to Santa Claus.  

Tree farmer equipment for felling

First of all, you have to decide what kind of felling you will do on your own in your forest. Are you going to get firewood for a season, do commercial thinning or even final felling? What level of job you choose to do decides what equipment you will need.

Most likely, you will use a chainsaw. For that, it´s important that you have protective clothing and other items for your own safety. You must never forget that a chainsaw can be lethal. This you can read about in a previous article at Forestry.com here.


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Firewood felling

“I´m just going to cut some firewood” is a classic comment that I have heard from amateurs who wanted to buy or borrow a chainsaw from me. But also firewood comes in different dimensions. For thin trees there are quite a few chainsaws to choose from that are affordable as new saws. The major brands, Stihl, Husqvarna (Husky) and Echo all have small handy saws in their range. If you plan to work just a couple of hours per day you should maybe consider a battery-powered saw, which all the above mentioned also offers?

If you are to take bigger trees for firewood, e.g., dead, dry trees, you might need a larger chainsaw. In this case, I would recommend a second-hand professional saw, that is also suitable for cutting firewood in the yard. Most professional users get a new saw before the old one starts to break down, meaning that second-hand saws normally still have a lot to give.

When you work with dead trees – bear in mind that they break easily. Try to fell them without hitting other trees. WEAR A HELMET!! A point-blank hit by a top from 10 meters height hurts.

When working with chainsaws – keep the chain sharp! The risk of kickback is much smaller when the chain is sharp. Working with an unsharp chain is also very tiring.

Commercial thinning

Chainsaw

In commercial thinning, you should consider buying a new chainsaw. Of course, it depends on how much you will cut. It´s all about financing, and that´s a calculation you have to do yourself. In general, a new saw is always better as you then know that you have a reliable, modern and safe saw with a warranty.

The size of the chainsaw is decided by the size of the trees you´re going to cut. If you are planning to cut various sizes of trees you have two choices: Get yourself two saws, one big and one small, like Ronny in the article A man and his chainsaw. Or get a midsized saw that could be used as an all-rounder.

Education

If you are new to using a chainsaw, some education is highly recommended. Never forget that a chainsaw is a dangerous tool, especially if you are not used to it. Some basic education and training can save your life.

A good chainsaw dealer should be able to help you both to decide what model you should have, and where you can find a proper course to learn about using a chainsaw. Some education can be found by State Forest Commissions and organizations like AFF (American Forestry Foundation) and ATFS (American Tree Farm System).

Here are links to the three above mentioned chainsaw brands:

Stihl

Echo

Husqvarna

There are of course other good chainsaws out there. The above mentioned are the most common.

Here are a couple of links concerning safety when working with chainsaws:

Stihl chainsaw guide

Husqvarna safety manual

chainsaw license

My fellow students Martin, Niklas and to the right the instructor Lasse discussing whether I made the right cuts when felling this pine tree.

Beware of bad copies

Cheap copies, often made in China, of the above chainsaw brands, are quite common. They may look like the original but they shouldn´t be compared. The quality of the copies is often poor and when they break down it can be difficult, even impossible to get spare parts.

It may be tempting to buy a number of cheap saws and just take a new one when one breaks down. But there is a safety issue to take into consideration. You can never be sure that the safety functions on the cheap copies will do its job. So, if nothing else, to buy original saws could be life insurance.

Husqvarna chain saws

Stihl MS 361

The saws are ready to hit the forest.

Processor

If you are doing a lot of commercial thinning, you may consider getting a mini processor or even a harvester. A decision like that is easier to make if you already have a suitable tractor to mount it on.

Even if you already have a tractor, we are talking about quite heavy investments compared to a chainsaw. But if you have a lot of thinning to do, if your body tells you to take it easy and if you have the money anyway, it´s definitively an option to take into consideration.

The variety is huge. There are simple stroke delimbers and harvester heads with feed rollers. There are options with or without measuring systems. In some cases, computer-supported measuring systems are offered. When it comes down to it it´s a matter of what you need and what budget you have.

The manufacturers often present some kind of capacity figures from which you can make a simple calculation. Bear in mind that the manufacturer’s figures might be a bit optimistic.

Processor manufacturers

Here are a number of manufacturers of different types of processors for tractor mounting. Each brand is linked to the manufacturer’s homepage.

Hypro,  Kranman,  Vimek,   Usewood,  Kesla,  Naarva,  Nisula,  JoBo,  Kinetic,  Farma,  Biojack,  Alstor and  Tapio.

Also here there are more brands available and you can see those as examples.

Swedish forests Hypro

Ronny and his Hypro harvester.

Second hand “real” harvesters

Second hand, or maybe third or fourth hand, harvesters of the large-scale segment, could be priceworthy. If you have a lot of thinning, or final felling, to do this could be an option. Compared to an advanced processor for tractor mounting, it could even be cheaper to buy a used harvester. One problem for the manufacturers of professional harvesters is that those machines (almost) only could be used for harvesting trees. This makes the secondhand market limited, and the prices low.

If you decide to go for that option, you have to think about a few things:

  1. These are old machines that has been used fulltime for many years, meaning that they can be more or less worn out. Tires, bearings, hoses, pumps, electronics and engines are expensive parts to buy.
  2. Professional harvesters are complicated machines with lots of electronics and hydraulics that doesn´t feel well by being parked for a long time. A machine that has been standing for years might need a lot of persuasion to get back to its normal capacity.
  3. Professional forest machines often use customized parts for their brand and models which make some parts very expensive.
  4. Many older machines run out of spare parts. The market for professional forest machines is small and the manufacturers have limited possibilities to keep spare parts in stock for more than 10 years. There are scrap dealers that offer used spare parts for some years after the manufacturers gave it in, but eventually, there are no parts available. Be sure to find that out before you buy your cheap dream machine.
  5. Wearing parts, like saw bars and saw chains, are special and can be more expensive than expected. Also, traction aid and wheel tracks should be properly checked before a deal is closed. A set of tracks and chains to an old machine could cost the same as the whole machine.

Final felling

As being a former harvester operator, I would say that there are few, if any, tractor mounted processors that are suitable for final felling. Of course, it´s depending on the size of the trees, but normally clear cuts contain big trees.

Manufacturers of all kinds of processors have a max diameter that their machines can handle. But that doesn´t mean that the machine is built for handling the max size all the time. It is the average diameter of the trees that you shall cut that is interesting. If that diameter is the same as the max diameter of the machine you intend to buy – think again. Consider a bigger machine or hire someone to do your clear cut.

Next article

I promised you at least three articles on the tree farming equipment theme. This was #2 and there will be one or two more.

The next one will focus on getting the timber out of the forest after you have cut it. So, keep an eye on Forestry.com!

Films of processors

Here are films of two different processors in action one Hypro and one about Kinetic: