There has been a great deal of progress made with felling aids in recent years. Forest Machine Magazine (FMM) has had the Treemans Felling Jack out on trial; this is better suited to big rough heavy branched edge trees and hardwoods. It is based on a high quality, low profile bottle jack and has a self leveling top and spring return. Two professional chainsaw operators have been trialing the jack for a month on behalf of FMM and I have also received a report from a contractor that has used the jack frequently over the last two years.

The results of the trials;

Willie Gordon

Willie is a professional chainsaw operator working for Jim Wilmer and Sons Timber Harvesting and normally uses a bottle jack.

“The jack had great lifting power and I liked the spring set up for returning the top to the base. The pumping handle was sturdy and had a good feel about it.

“It certainly did what it was supposed to on large edge trees and dealt with them efficiently.

“I found that it worked better if the bottom cut for the base of the jack was leaning in towards the tree as it kept the jack in place more. All of the top plate of the jack had to be fully in the tree otherwise it would try to come out.

“It is quite heavy to carry around all day if like me you are covering a lot of ground felling large and awkward trees that are too big or awkward for the harvester to get to.

“I probably wouldn’t buy one due to the weight and cost.”

Wallis Weir.

Wallis is a forestry contractor who amongst supplying other forestry services is responsible for felling large awkward trees on the Forestry
Commissions harvesting sites.

“I like tree jacks, they’re very good tools for putting awkward trees where you want them to go. I’ve used one for years, mostly on outsiders, heavily weighted against the felling direction and often leaning back as well. Obviously there are other ways of felling these, but machinery isn’t always available and pounding wedges into the back of trees like this is very hard work, sore on the body and just generally not a nice experience. Often with this sort of tree you want a pretty big hinge to keep control (you certainly don’t want to skimp on the hinge) and this can make wedging very difficult.

So – enter the tree jack. My jack is a 20 ton unit sourced from Machine-Mart; add to this a plate with some grousers welded on top to give it some grip into the butt of the tree and a ring welded to the bottom to let it sit on the ram of the jack. My welding is terrible so I got the local blacksmith to make the plate up, total cost of the whole thing around £60. Working that to a cost per ton means a cost of fractions of pennies when you consider how many large trees it’s helped to fell. It’s robust; cheap; easily transported; means I’ve always got a 20t jack kicking about if I need one and in general has been £60 very well spent.But, there’s always a “but”, it has a couple of problems. It’s quite heavy so you don’t want to be carrying it for miles if you can help it, most of the time it stays near the road or gets transported in a machine if it has to go a long distance. The grousers on the plate are fairly aggressive which means the plate can stick in the butt and can ping out at fairly impressive speed for a good distance – escape routes need to be thought about. Of course a different design of plate with a less aggressive grouser would solve this problem, as would putting a small chain on the plate to tether it to the jack base. The ring which the the ram sits in is big enough to allow a little movement of the plate, but as the butt of the tree rises the angle changes and this has the potential to introduce a lot of pressure on the plate which is only balanced. Cuts should always be backed up with wedges when using the jack and these can be banged in to relieve some of the pressure and to avoid the tree sitting back if the jack needs repositioned. Last but by no means least there are the legal concerns: there is no CE mark on the plate and jack which can cause some considerable confusion and distress to those who like to look at these things and there is, as far as I am aware, no certificate of competence to cover jacking trees at present. Again, there is a certain type of person who we are all too familiar with in tree felling that is far more concerned about a piece of paper than a technique which offers the operator a greater degree of health and safety in real terms.

Solving all of these problems isn’t easy, but a good number have been overcome by the Treemans Jack. I think it was the 20t high jack which Rab gave me to try and I have to say it impressed. The first thing to do with this is simply to jack it up and then turn the screw to let it back down again – there is a lot of pleasure to be had in simply watching the springs return the plate automatically. After a few goes of this I took it out to the wood and tried it on a few awkward trees. These were about half a kilometre from the road so I managed to get the Treemans a lift out in the harvester which was working with me clearing the felled timber. The trees were Sitka spruce, roughly 30m+ tall and 60cm+ on the butt being felled up a short, but steep bank. All were leaning back with the outsider trees also having all the branches on the wrong side, fairly typical work for a cutter in this part of the world, and fairly typical of where a jack comes in useful.

The Treemans has the plate attached to the jack by four springs which saves the plate pinging off when the tree goes over, the plate is made of alloy so it won’t completely ruin a chain if it happens to get hit (as my steel plate would). The top of the plate is lightly marked to give a grip into the base of the tree and I believe both the plate and the springs are available as spare parts from Treemans, I also believe they will service the jacks should they blow a seal. The plate sits on top of a large ball bearing which, coupled with the springs, allows an impressive amount of articulation when the tree starts to move, I think this is now fitted with a grease nipple on the latest models. It also allows the jack to function perfectly well if the cuts aren’t as level as they should be, we can’t all be perfect all the time. The ram on the jack gives an impressive amount of lift for each stroke of the handle, again an improvement on my jack, which means that it is easier to put a tree over quickly – the quicker the better in most cases. The jack itself is well constructed, when compared to my jack everything is just a little bit heavier duty with thicker metal being used for all components. The Treemans is CE marked and approved for forestry use so it also overcomes that “problem”.

There are a couple of areas where there is no improvement, the Treemans is HEAVY, heavier than my jack and plate combined, but it does feel like a quality item – just one you don’t want to carry very far over rough ground – and you can still transport it in a machine. You still can’t do a ticket in jacking (and nor should you need to in my opinion) and it costs a lot, about seven times as much as my jack and plate.

Overall I was very impressed with the ease of use of the Treemans jack, having not expected it to be that much better than my own jack and plate I found it actually offered a much improved product by refining a couple of features; most notably the ball bearing and springs allowing the plate to move with the tree. The only significant drawback I can see is the cost, it is hard to justify to my wife / finance department why I need to spend a lot of money on a piece of equipment that I essentially have already which is working perfectly well. Nonetheless, I do think they’re worth the money – they’re easier (and safer) to use, have spare parts available and keep the bean counters happier. I’ve got one on the shopping list once I find a little bit of spare cash.”

Stu Liddle

Stu is the owner of Liddle Forestry that specialise in the felling of large and oversized trees that mechanised harvesting equipment are unable to deal with. He works in Northern England and the Scottish Borders and has just taken delivery of his third Treemans Jack.

“Liddle Forestry have being using Treeman’s jacks for approximately two years and have found them an exceptionally useful piece of equipment for our everyday work. We conduct various types of felling operations on a daily basis which require trees to be manipulated into directions that they would not want to fall naturally. We primarily use these jacks for ride side trees, difficult trees that need to be manually felled but do not warrant bringing a skidder on to site and trees that are leaning and need to be felled in a specific direction.

We have tested and own three different models, standard, high lift and the new screw top version. In August 2017 we purchased the standard 20 tonne jack, we found it ideal for us on sites where we were felling trees away from phone lines, streams or power lines or up to somewhere accessible to the harvester. However, we did find that this model occasionally ran out of lift for the larger trees consequently leading us to purchase the high-lift model in March 2018. This model is a lot more effective for larger and more dangerous back leaning trees and provides the power and lift required without any issues. The only issue we have with the High lift version is that it is not as compact as the standard and when we have long distances to walk, especially on large clear fell sites, it can be quite a weight to carry. We have only recently acquired the screw top model (August 2019) but so far we have found it favourable to the previous two models. When using this model, the operator does not have to be as precise with the height of the ‘V’ cut as the plate is adjustable.

Overall, Liddle Forestry has found that the Treeman’s jacks are a particularly useful and practical piece of equipment that we endeavour to continue to use within our company. They are a very safe and effective tool for conducting dangerous operations and we would highly recommend them to any professional hand cutter. Previous to working with the Treeman’s Jacks, we used hydro-wedges and TR30 mechanical felling wedges, but we tend not to use these due to the excellent performance, quality and features of the Treeman’s jacks.”

About Treemans

We are a team of foresters based in the challenging countryside that is Exmoor. After many years of pulling winch ropes up steep hills to pull over awkward edge trees. Felling trees against some troubling winds to get them to fall across rides. With all the work that goes with hammering in wedges, the Treemans was born.

Tree Jacks/ Forestry Jacks/ Hydraulic forestry Bottle Jack. Have been used for years in forestry to hydraulically assist in felling of back leaning trees. But for years we’ve had to make do with standard car jacks. Now we are proud to be the makers of the first fully CE certified forestry jack.

www.treemans-jacks.co.uk

Forest Machine Magazine is written and edited by a forest professional with over 40 years hands on experience. We are dedicated to keeping you informed with all the latest news, views and reviews from our industry.

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