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Big J

Branch logging as an alternative to chipping in a forestry setting

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Starting in November, I've got a fairly large hardwood thinning job to do (circa 400 tonnes), comprising of mostly ash and beech. The owners of the woodland would like a very tidy finish and have asked for all branchwood to be chipped. 

 

I don't own a chipper, and I don't really want to own one if possible. However, I've always liked the idea of branch loggers as a means of producing a low grade, cheap wood fuel. I realise that the product is quite bitty and not favoured by everyone, but the low price of it will mean it's appealing to many. 

 

I would think that this site would produce at least 50 tonnes of branch wood, which would produce 120 odd cubic metres of log wood, maybe a little less. Even if you wholesaled it out at £40 a cubic metre (£3 a bag), it would mean a return of nearly £5k, and I can't see it being that much slower than normal chipping?

 

I could maybe have it mounted onto the forwarder, utilising a hydraulically driven PTO. I've 44 bhp on the machine to work with. Then a small farm trailer could be towed behind the forwarder to take the filled bags. 

 

It's never going to make much money, but perhaps it could turn a job that costs money into something that produces a bit of income as well as improving the overall yield from the site. 

 

Thoughts?

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I think 120cube is very optimistic, I would be going 80-90, but it's good idea, only downside over chipping is I would think it will take a lot of chainsaw work to cut out all the v's and that will still leave offcuts and thinner pieces.

 

As you say though any product is a bonus and even if it only pays for itself you'll get rid of a lot of brash for free.

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The website was saying 13 bags to the cube, each bag 25-30kg, so I was working off that. You may be right though. 

 

I can't see it making much money, but it would perhaps save a fair bit on sites like that. I have a feeling that I'll find quite a few customers demanding a super tidy specification.

 

You can already get a branch logger with a hydraulic motor:

 

http://www.lumagireland.com/branch-logger-urban-hm-70/

 

All you'd have to do is fabricate a frame which would serve as a coupling between the forwarder and the logger. I already have auxiliary hydraulics.

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10 minutes ago, gdh said:

only downside over chipping is I would think it will take a lot of chainsaw work to cut out all the v's and that will still leave offcuts and thinner pieces.

 

As you say though any product is a bonus and even if it only pays for itself you'll get rid of a lot of brash for free.

Yep prepping wood for the branch logger eats time or you let all the small side branches through but that makes the product extra messy. Never sussed how to market it myself but be great if you could make use of it. 

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I'll have a chat with one of my neighbours - they have an 80kw solid fuel boiler that would probably take full bags of the stuff. Not a worry if you've got bits and all in it then.

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I take it u couldn't empty the bags into a sort of trommel type thing?

Where they would spin round a small stuff fall throu, means re handling it again thou.

Unless u could figure something out to bodge onto the logger in the field (a long chute+ big fan so lighter stuff gets blown out but heavier stuff would drop into bags (off top of my head and never really seen a branch logger work so may not be vaibleor even a completely stupid idea))

 

I could see it being very time consuming snedding the branches/tree tops out tidy enough for ur logger

 

Could u not just sell the chip? I know a local arb conractor is selling his chip to local power station, think getting £25ish a T, and from wot i can gather that is 'as is' with leaf's and every thing

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10 minutes ago, Big J said:

I'll have a chat with one of my neighbours - they have an 80kw solid fuel boiler that would probably take full bags of the stuff. Not a worry if you've got bits and all in it then.

Biomass customers are a good choice as they're less fussy on size, although usually expect very dry.

 

Campsites is another idea, thin logs are perfect for the little log baskets some have. 

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2 minutes ago, drinksloe said:

I take it u couldn't empty the bags into a sort of trommel type thing?

Where they would spin round a small stuff fall throu, means re handling it again thou.

Unless u could figure something out to bodge onto the logger in the field (a long chute+ big fan so lighter stuff gets blown out but heavier stuff would drop into bags (off top of my head and never really seen a branch logger work so may not be vaibleor even a completely stupid idea))

 

I could see it being very time consuming snedding the branches/tree tops out tidy enough for ur logger

 

Could u not just sell the chip? I know a local arb conractor is selling his chip to local power station, think getting £25ish a T, and from wot i can gather that is 'as is' with leaf's and every thing

I very much like the idea of branch loggers, but not snedding the branches out. If they can't be fed if (mostly) whole, it's going to be too time consuming to be viable. 

 

Maybe I ought to go back to the idea of a chipper mounted onto the bed of the forwarder which I crane feed. Probably a lot quicker than branch logging, albeit it's then only a cost as I have no product to sell. 

 

The bed of the forwarder could carry a fairly substantial chipper (provided you could drive under it and lower it onto it - the crane wouldn't lift anything larger than about 750kg) and being self powered, it would make short work of the brash if it was crane fed.

 

1 minute ago, gdh said:

Biomass customers are a good choice as they're less fussy on size, although usually expect very dry.

 

Campsites is another idea, thin logs are perfect for the little log baskets some have. 

 

There are a lot of campsites in the area too. You could push the sustainability angle from the point of view that it would otherwise just be left on site to rot.

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The ash would be just about OK put thru whole as the branch tips are still quite thick

 

the beech would really need to be trimmed or put in thick end first and whipped out as the twiggy tips enter the blades.  Then of course you are still left with piles , albeit much smaller, of brash

 

i have tried a few barrow bags full of branch logs but not convinced they dry ok

but quicker 

 

i do put mine in a vigas boiler mixed with logs works fine

 

 

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Within conventional commercial forestry thinking (fell something, make it into a product, move it, sell it, next site, repeat), I think it's probably a non-starter. Everyone I've talked to about it and everyone I've seen talking about it on forums etc have failed to sell it easily enough for their liking. I'm sure there's a market but I don't know what it is and neither does anyone else (anyone who'll admit it anyway).

 

They're not nice machines to use. They're a massive fag with leaves. They're still a pretty big fag with twigs and the idea of pulling out early is as bad an idea as when you were eighteen. The stuff doesn't dry well but the surface area means it gasses like fuck when you get it going. Unless you only load small amounts, you need high tech burning equipment to recirculate and reburn gas, air etc or it smokes like a bastard.

 

I'd do it if I could use it myself, probably burnt in the sort of thing your neighbour has, or charcoal it and that's a conversation in itself (lots of processing and marketing required).

 

I imagine that if you have to ask (i.e. you haven't worked out one of the very niche ways of working with one yourself), your life will be easier and better if you just chip and move on. A massive shame. I've been really wanting it to work and trying to think of ways to make it work for years. I've not given up but I know the odds are still well against it.

Edited by AHPP
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