Timberwolf TW-6 Firewood Splitter
By Bill Gove | Reprinted from Sawmill & Woodlot, March, 2006
The "Northeast Kingdom" of Vermont, up along the headwaters of the Connecticut River, is populated by an unusual number of independent and resourceful workers who take pride in their accomplishments. Take Steve Lowery of St. Johnsbury, for example. He operates his family’s gravestone business, does logging and earth moving, and in the fall, he’s a commercial firewood producer.
When the time came for Steve to expand his firewood business, he did not feel that he could justify the expense of a firewood processor, especially when considering the parttime nature of the venture—busy as it might be. When, after 13 years of hard use, his old Brute splitter wore out, Steve opted to purchase a new Timberwolf TW-6. It appears that his decision has proven to have been a good one.
Steve Lowery’s Operation in North Danville, Vermont
I located Steve in the midst of a busy wood-splitting schedule on his logging operation in North Danville, Vermont. The firewood orders had accumulated, and his crew was busy conveying the wood directly from the splitter into the truck for immediate delivery. Reflecting on his years of experience in cutting logs and firewood, Steve said that the TW-6 was the best firewood machine he has ever used. He reports that he’s had no problems with the splitter since he purchased it in April of 2005.
Steve’s son, Kevin, and cousin, Wayne Barrett, were operating the splitter, filling the 11/2-cord truck in 30 minutes. And they were splitting relatively small wood, so small, in fact, that the operation of the powered log lift was not necessary. The log lift is a powered arm on the side of the splitting trough, used to lift the heavy blocks up to the height of the trough. The crew wasn’t using it until I asked if I could observe the arm in action. The splitting action operates on an eight-second cycle, as opposed to the 12-second cycle on Steve’s old Brute splitter. Steve told me that one person can operate the machine alone if the wood is close enough to the splitter.
Timberwolf manufactures a half-dozen different models of wood splitters, but advertises the TW-6 as their most powerful model. The weight of the splitter is one-and-ahalf times the weight of the company’s TW-5 model, the largest and most popular of the homeowner models. The twin-cylinder 18-hp Honda engine produces 28 tons of force—and it was a real pleasure to watch it work.
On this particular operation, Steve had his splitter set up right at the edge of the log yard. Thus, when the log skidder arrived with another hitch of logs, the firewood logs were easily sorted from the sawlogs without extra handling. An old log loader was set up to move the firewood logs over next to the splitter, where they were blocked up with a chain saw. Steve considers another advantage of the splitter over the processor to be his improved ability to handle the many crooked tops and odd-shaped pieces that he has to deal with on landclearing jobs.
Steve’s wood conveyer is also a Timberwolf product, a 24-foot, cleat-paddle style with a hydraulic top sprocket drive. He believes that he also made a wise decision with this purchase. His former loader had a belt-style conveyer, which was unable to function well when the trough was fully loaded, plus it had the annoying tendency of coming off the drive.
His yearly production is down this year from the 600 cords he formerly produced, but he has the ability to cut more and probably will as the firewood market continues to grow. The market price for his area at the time I visited was $150 to $160 per green cord, and that was before the energy crunch.
Phil Stannard’s Operation in Rutland, Vermont
Down in central Vermont, in the Rutland area, the price rise was already evident in the summer of 2005, when I stopped by the firewood operation of Phil Stannard. Phil didn’t hesitate to tell me that he was charging $200 per cord for partially dry wood. In the New England states, the term "cord" refers to a full cord of 128 cubic feet.
Phil has been in the firewood and logging business for over 40 years, and now operates under the name Wood One Inc., along with an allied wood concentration yard for purchased logs known as General Timber Corporation. Over the years, Phil has seen many ups and downs in the demand and value of firewood.
Last December, Phil purchased a Timberwolf TW-6 commercial splitter. He can’t say enough good things about it when he compares it with other wood splitters that he has had in the past. Phil had been running the new splitter for 10 months and had reported no problems.
I asked why he had chosen a basic log splitter over a processor. His response was not surprising. First of all, he likes the physical work, which has obviously contributed to his good health. Of equal importance is his concern over the period of down-cycles in the demand for firewood. He compares the investment of probably $35,000 or more for a processor with an investment of maybe $7,000 for a commercial splitter. He just doesn’t want a lot of automation. Phil’s final concern is the matter of securing a sufficient wood supply as he competes with the recurring swings in the demandcycles for pulpwood created by the paper mills. He can’t compete when his competition is paying $110 per cord for pulpwood plus a bonus.
Phil is semiretired now, but you wouldn’t know it to watch him wield the chain saw as he cuts up the firewood logs into blocks for splitting. The TW-6 firewood splitter is usually operated by his son.
Phil Stannard’s yearly firewood production has at times been as much as 2,000 cords, but this portion of his business has now been cut back to about 500 cords. Phil’s philosophy is that a firewood producer needs to put as much emphasis as possible on the production of dry wood. Not only is this more profitable, but it also builds a good reputation among customers.
The experience of these two firewood producers is ample proof that a successful producer does not necessarily need to make the higher investment required for a large firewood processing machine. Processors definitely offer advantages, but a basic splitter can possibly do the job—especially a large commercial model like the Timberwolf TW-6.
Bill Gove is a regular contributor to Sawmill & Woodlot magazine.
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