The feller buncher

A feller buncher is a type of harvester used in logging. It is a motorized vehicle with an attachment that can rapidly gather and cut a tree before felling it.

Feller is a traditional name for someone who cuts down trees, and bunching is the skidding and assembly of two or more trees. A feller buncher performs both of these harvesting functions and consists of a standard heavy equipment base with a tree-grabbing device furnished with a chain-saw, circular saw or a shear—a pinching device designed to cut small trees off at the base. The machine then places the cut tree on a stack suitable for a skidder, forwarder, or yarder for transport to further processing such as delimbing, bucking, loading, or chipping.

Some wheeled feller bunchers lack an articulated arm, and must drive close to a tree to grasp it.

In cut-to-length logging a harvester performs the tasks of a feller buncher and additionally does delimbing and bucking.

And you thought they all still did it the old fashioned way…..
I was sitting on Dave’s front porch quite a few years ago in Mendocino County with a couple other guys and you could hear machinery running a couple miles off. Howard, an out-of-work logger, said “That’s a feller buncher, with one guy putting a half dozen other men out of work.”
That was the first I’d ever heard of them.

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14 Responses to The feller buncher

  1. Veeshir says:

    Huh. I always thought a feller buncher was an orgy room in a gay bath house.
    You learn something new every day.

  2. Sarthurk says:

    That technology has been around for a long time. It actually was developed in Sweden. There’s lots of places in Oregon that have to be cut the old fashioned way due to the steepness of the ground. Hell, there’s places where you can only haul out trees being cut, by helicopter. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  3. Steve says:

    Looking at the treads, it makes me wonder how much of a slope it can handle, before you have to go back to manual logging because the slope is too steep. The ground it’s running on there appears to be fairly level.

    • Wirecutter says:

      They’ve got machines for that too.

      • JeremyR says:

        I went to class one morning wearing my Parker jacket. Another early arrival struck up a conversation. He ran stuff on steep slopes. He used a bit of Parker hose. Told about having some Gates stuff fail just as he got into position on a steep slope. Not a pleasant ride. Said they kept a roll of hose, a crimper, and 55 gallons of hydraulic fluid right on the machine.

  4. Eric Z says:

    This video demonstrates that we have fallen asleep.

    My dad was a logger in Oregon from the 60’s through the early 80’s. I would go with him when school was out during the summer to see how he worked. I would watch as my father selected a tree, determined how the tree should fall, then fell the tree in 5-10 minutes. I would them run down the length of the tree to the limbs and watch as he cut the tree into lengths and cut the limbs off the remainder. His logging partner would then use the Cat to drag the lengths into a central location for loading onto a truck. I learned a lot. I learned how to drive a multi-ton Caterpillar at the early age of 9. I learned how to be very careful about my actions, as being in the wrong place at the wrong time could be fatal. I learned that I was more capable than I realized. I learned that hard work and perseverance played a significant role in maintaining a healthy and happy life. I also learned to respect the balance between nature and humans. I also learned a lot about how things change very quickly, and how that change destroys lives.

    Logging was hard work, and it took a lot of skill, precision and thoughtfulness to make sure only the old growth was taken to ensure a sustainable future. The forest was always logged with the future in mind…never take too much. Men like my father didn’t have many other choices when it came to making a decent living. He respected an industry that served his father and his grandfather well, and felt that following in their footsteps was an honorable way to live. We suffered tremendously when the Japanese timber market started to erode the American timber market in the mid 70’s. Eventually the local mills closed down and my father had to find other work. The stress of the situation destroyed my family and eventually killed my mother. My father remarried and took a different path. Instead of playing a large role in sustaining the quality of our nations forests he was forced to take a factory job assembling plastic parts for phones. The recent wildfires that have ravaged the Pacific Northwest attest to the change brought about by “modernization” and the fall of the logging industry.

    Progress always comes due to increasing pressures to produce more in order to support greater demand. Unfortunately the road of progress destroys the balance that already exists. This video flooded my mind with memories of my childhood and how I would have given anything for that balance to remain. This cycle will never end unless we decide it should.

  5. Bruce Abbott says:

    I cut wood every winter for a commercial farm in Maine, for 15 years. We cut each tree individually with a chainsaw, then limbed and topped it. Once a ‘twitch’ was ready (one load for our cable-skidder, about 1.5 tons of wood), the driver would pick up the farthest tree with a sliding choker cable attached to the main cable on the skidder’s 22,000 winch, then pull it up and move to the next, using the next choker on the cable. Once a full load had been gathered, our skidder (an old Timberjack 225 with 65hp Detroit 3-53 two-stroke diesel engine) would drag the load to the yard, where the various species, logs and pulp were sorted out. What killed the old ways of logging was the cost of Workman’s Compensation Insurance, which drove the mechanization of the industry.

  6. nines says:

    If your friend, Dave, has an Italian last name that starts with a P and ends in an O, please tell him I will love him until my dying day.

    And it makes me sick that Mendo World has ANY trees small enough for a feller buncher. If any of my logger friends had gotten their way, this never would have happened.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Sorry, wrong Dave. This one lived a ways down Irmulco Road off Hwy 20 between Willits and Ft Bragg.

      • nines says:

        Oh! I’m getting old and can’t remember his name, but that would maybe be the son or grandson of the old guy who was pushing the 200-year plan sustainable forestry thing for the county and his wife was a big activist for getting the trains running again.

        I went out there to talk with him about his forestry plan, over twenty years ago now. It was an impeccable plan… except it would only allow for 200 year old redwoods, and that’s infancy for redwoods. He was a cool old guy and spry, up on his ladder pruning back his fruit trees when I arrived. Also had a trout pond and a deciduous redwood from China there. Nice spot.

        If your Dave lives there or near there, that’s darn mellow.

  7. Lofty says:

    These machines are used here in New Zealand in a big way, the main driver for the use of these, are not just because of speed of processing, but also largely due to an effort to reduce feller deaths.

    New Zealand has an unenviable fatality rate in forestry, and many mechanised efforts are being applied to get the rate down, largely successful.

    We still have deaths in the industry but a good concerted effort is definitely paying dividends.

  8. J- says:

    It’s also a hell of a lot safer than the old fashioned way.

  9. Bacon says:

    “with one guy putting a half dozen other men out of work”

    Yep, efficiency and productivity sound good but they are often destructive forces.

    Eric Z is right. We each bear some of the responsibility for permitting such poor choices to be implemented, even though we didn’t actually make those choices ourselves.

  10. Diane Knowlen says:

    We had 12 acres cleared in 4 days with a “slasha” as the logger said. Fascinating to watch.


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