GOOD advice can be more precious than gold and just as difficult to find. Fortunately, for those beginning their careers behind the controls of a harvester or forwarder out in the woods, the Forest Machine Operators Blog offers a fantastic resource, full of sound guidance – for the most part.

The last few weeks saw a couple of examples. One freshfaced harvester driver from Norway posted a pic of his Timberjack 870 and asked: “What tips do you have for a complete newbie? Besides ‘take it easy’?”

As you might expect, the Blog’s members were only too keen to share the benefit of their collected wisdom.

READ MORE: Bites from the Blog: A sting in the tale

Forestry Journal: Aaron Ferguson Aaron Ferguson

One veteran offered the following: “Get comfortable in the seat so nothing’s strained and start slow. Wind the speed down on the crane, but make your functions efficient and place the head where it needs to be the first time. You may want to speed the crane up, but leave it be. Get the right muscle memory in place and it will make your life far, far easier in the future. “

"Speak with your forwarder operator about planning sites together and how to lay out produce so it’s efficient for both of you. Ask questions and try to get in the cab with competent operators. Just watching someone for half an hour can really help.

Forestry Journal: Craig Karsten Craig Karsten

“And, as sad as it sounds, video yourself working. You can be so focused on actual operating that you don’t always see places where you lose time. That made a huge difference with me.

Forestry Journal: Humberto Abreu Humberto Abreu

“The best advice I was told was to remember the machine and head make your money. The better you look after it and the better set up it is, the more money comes your way – and the owner’s way.”

All solid stuff, worth taking note of.

Forestry Journal: Joe White Joe White

Another said: “Learn from your mistakes. I dropped my first tree on the harvester within a month – lesson learned. Quality before quantity. Treat every site and machine like your own. You don’t want anyone to make a mess in your land, house or car. If you can achieve those points, then HERE COMES THE MONEY!”

Forestry Journal: Marco Silva Marco Silva

Getting into the nitty gritty of harvesting technique, one member suggested: “Break the process down. First learn the crane functions. Get good at tapping (not hitting) small blocks of wood placed in various places around the machine.

Forestry Journal: Matthe Rawsthshone Matthe Rawsthshone

“Then start driving the machine in the woods while running the crane and placing the head on trees. If possible, work with an experienced operator and have radios so you can be coached in real time. Add the step of processing trees already on the ground.

“Last, put it all together and start felling and processing trees (small trees first, if possible).”

Forestry Journal: Nevin Peter Lewis Nevin Peter Lewis

A range of comments emphasised quality rather than quantity (at least in the early going), focusing on smoothness – or the ‘slow and steady’ approach.

Forestry Journal: Paul Harding Paul Harding

As one member put it: “You’ve got to learn to walk before you run. It’s easier to make it right from the start than trying to fix a bad habit after a while. And be as smooth as you can. Breakdowns will kill your production at the end of the week.”

Forestry Journal: Paul Linton Paul Linton

Similarly: “Don’t listen to shit talk from other lads about how much they get through in a day or a week. Don’t be afraid to ask a question; no such thing as a stupid one. Most importantly: listen to the right people! A man that keeps his mouth shut is a man worth listening to. Have a think about that.”

Forestry Journal: Peter Guest Rowlands Peter Guest Rowlands

The last word went to another veteran, who said: “Look after that machine as if it was your own. Warm it up, do your checks before you start. Remember, if you break down you lose money and time, so take it easy to start with.

Forestry Journal: Richard Gibb Richard Gibb

“Don’t piss off your forwarder operator. From time to time you need him, so lay it out as he wants. If the wood stacks are under two feet of snow, he should know where they are.

"From time to time, get out of the cab and check the sizes. Do it safely. If not, you might not go home one night. Take note of what the mechanics do and help them. You will learn from them.

Forestry Journal: Richard Makepeace Richard Makepeace

“Do all that and you will make it as a harvester operator.”

Also seeking nuggets of wisdom was a new excavator operator, who asked: “Any helpful tips for someone whose only experience of driving a machine up till now was a trip to Diggerland 15 years ago?”

Advice offered included:

• “Bring a thermos and an apple” • “Eat the apple and don’t leave the thermos on the track” • “Check your levels and don’t forget the slewing pump” • “Check the oil every time” • “Just take it steady at your own pace – no steep ground till you feel confident” • “Keep an eye on the temperature gauges” • “If in doubt, ask” • “When it all goes wrong, and it will, keep the panic monkey in the cage” • “Grease it daily” • “Put a good set of spanners and a socket set in the toolbox – along with a multimeter and a seriously good range of tools”

Then, offered as an alternative to the general consensus: “Flat out or nowt. Keep ’er lit. Drive it like you stole it. Hit everything at ramming speed.”

Forestry Journal: Robbie Robertson Robbie Robertson

That’s advice we’re less certain of endorsing, but this last pearl rings true: “Plenty cold beer in fridge for later on.”

Now that’s the kind of tip we can really get behind.

For more, seek out the Forest Machine Operators Blog group on Facebook

Forestry Journal: Robin Parsons Robin Parsons

Forestry Journal: Simon Pattison Simon Pattison

Forestry Journal: Stephen Tweddle Stephen Tweddle

Forestry Journal: Stig Pig Stig Pig

Forestry Journal: Toms Volksons Toms Volksons

Forestry Journal: Victor Diaz Victor Diaz

Forestry Journal: Wayne Saunders Wayne Saunders