Vahva Jussi 400 Forestry Crane. Image used with permission.
I have always been intrigued by the small-scale. Don’t misunderstand—industrial-scale sawmills, for example, are absolutely astonishing, and I have had many hours of enjoyment touring and observing the production processes at such facilities. Even so, nothing piques my interest quite like the guy with a portable gas-powered sawmill cutting boards for a friend of a friend who is planning to build a camp this spring. These sorts of businesses are not necessarily high-production operations, and they do not occupy a significant portion of the industry, but none of that is necessary to fill an incredibly important niche in the market. The same concept holds true for virtually all aspects of the forest products industry, especially logging.
Gone are the days of horses and cross-cut saws. Equipment in the woods these days is large and heavy. Feller-bunchers, grapple skidders, processors and forwarders dominate the landscape—and for good reason. With much higher rates of production, these hulking machines can generally bring down the cost of harvest per cord. Notwithstanding the machines’ economy and aptitude for felling trees, there are times when they do not quite cut it (no pun intended). They have the negative consequence of requiring large trail systems to bring wood to roadside. It will vary, of course, but a grapple skidder can be around eleven feet wide, and feller-bunchers are comparable.