Renowned for harvesters of exceptional quality and reliability, Danish manufacturer Silvatec went bankrupt in 2017, bringing an end to three decades of machinery production. Glen Barclay investigates the cause of the brand’s downfall and speaks to a few operators who continue to hold it in high esteem.

SILVATEC was a leading manufacturer of forest machines and equipment for over 30 years, with its range of Sleipner harvesters a rival to anything available on the market at the time. Its basic values of ‘quality and complete solutions’ remained unchanged from the start of production in 1986 all the way through to its ultimate bankruptcy in 2017.

Throughout, its aim was to supply the best product on the market. To many, the name Silvatec brings forth a smile as they recall fond memories of operating the Danish machines – whether it be the flagship harvesters, so synonymous with their ability to combat steep and treacherous ground, or the mobile chippers which allowed for on-site chipping of brash and debris.

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Silvatec Skogsmaskiner (Forest Machines) was officially founded on 2 February 1984 as a partnership between Det Danske Hedeselskab (an association which supports the development of knowledge in the fields of nature and the environment) and a machine repair garage run by Peter Voigt in the nearby town of Hornum in Northern Denmark.

Forestry Journal: perators praised the Sleipner for its reliability and performance.perators praised the Sleipner for its reliability and performance.

Through their research it was concluded that the forestry industry in Denmark was in serious need of mechanisation in order to help with the growing demand for timber as well as to compete with the industrial developments in nearby Finland. Silvatec was the brain-child established to assist with production. After several years of development, the Silvatec 866TH and 868TH models were released, bringing a new range to the market.

With its base in Farsoe, Denmark, Silvatec soon began to expand its operations, establishing subsidiaries in France, Ireland and Wales (with the French branch still active in the distribution of harvester heads, but more on that later).

The auto-tilt of the Silvatec cab was a development that was far ahead of its time, allowing for smoother operation. This, along with the eight-wheel-drive base, meant its machines were unrivalled in their heyday. Many of the fundamentals of the Silvatec harvesters have been replicated in modern machines, but none more so than the 
tilting cab. 

The crux of Silvatec’s success came in the form of the Sleipner range of harvesters, which combined the well-developed 445 MD50 head with Loglift’s superior 220 V/83 crane, boasting an impressive lifting torque of 188 kNm. The Sleipner name originated in Norse mythology, where Odin (king of the gods) rode upon an eight-legged horse, Sleipner, which could travel on land and air. With the Silvatec harvester boasting eight wheels, it made for an easy comparison and, with Silvatec arguing “Sleipner the horse had no equal among gods or humans; Sleipner the harvester has no equal among harvesters”, the branding had immediate traction. 

The model was devised by a team of industrial designers with close cooperation and input from a group of local contractors, allowing the machine to be designed as practically as possible for both comfort and efficiency. It was considered to be the most versatile harvester on the market, with its reduced height and centre of gravity allowing for ease of operation on steep terrain, combined with the power of the Loglift crane, which meant it was a match for even the largest of trees. Following consultation with contractors during development, it was revealed that operators were not satisfied with the light produced from previous machines.

Therefore, the Sleipner was fitted with 10 gas discharge lamps which reduced power consumption while also increasing light output, allowing for optimum working light in the dark Scandinavian winters. When it was introduced to the market at a forestry show, it was revealed in a bright pink livery which caught the eye and meant the Sleipner was a talking point for every magazine or newsletter that quarter. 

Forestry Journal: Named after Odin’s eight-legged horse, the Sleipner was promoted as the ultimate harvester.Named after Odin’s eight-legged horse, the Sleipner was promoted as the ultimate harvester.

Two Silvatec forwarder ranges were released. The first, in the ’90s, was the 854F, clearly evidencing the same impressive vision as the harvester. However, despite receiving positive reviews, financials dictated that it was not going to be a long-term project and rivals with more advanced technologies soon swamped the Silvatec forwarders out of the market. In 2010, Silvatec attempted a reboot of its forwarding fleet but, once again, it proved a non-starter, with the Autocargador model selling only 6 machines. This was despite the introduction of Silvatec’s rotating cab to the machines.


Silvatec was at the front of the pack when it came to forest clean-ups with the invention of its 878 CH mobile chipper, which could tackle the terrain and chip within the wood, removing the need for a forwarder to heap the hag at roadside. It is a design that few have replicated in modern times, with many opting for the forwarder-driven disposal of brash. 

As well as producing in-forest chippers, Silvatec also developed a line of mountable smaller chippers which could be used by arborists in more small-scale operations.

Despite the financial hardship that would befall Silvatec, the idea of a chipper which could manoeuvre around the forest floor and chip brash as it went was a lucrative one.

So, when the doors eventually closed on the years of Silvatec production, Danish company Green Chip took over the rights and design of the Silvatec Grane chipper to produce its own variation. The new Green Chip CH 838 used the German HSM 208F – known as the ‘Big Foot’ – as its base, but the chipper itself is almost identical to the Silvatec Grane (including both its chipper motor and chip bin). The style of front-fed disc chipper was unique to a machine which could navigate through the wood, and the practicality of a machine which required brash to only be handled once before chipping was a masterstroke, meaning it was inevitable that someone would take over the production when Silvatec drew to a halt.


Between 2006 and 2008, shares in Silvatec were sold to the Russian group Tractor Plants, an enormous conglomeration with a workforce of over 30,000 employees and an internationally renowned portfolio. Kaj Poulsen began his career as a Silvatec operator, working as a contractor in Denmark, before moving on to join Silvatec technical support under the original regime. He climbed the ladder and became a director of the company before it was purchased by Tractor Plants and continued in the role after the sale. While running the day-to-day operation of Silvatec, Poulsen began discussions with Swedish machine manufacturer Gremo about a ‘strategic cooperation between companies’. This form of partnership would have seen the larger Sleipner model design exported to Sweden where it would be dressed up and presented as a Gremo harvester – a practical solution to Gremo’s lack of a large machine.

Forestry Journal: The standard 8266 TH was fitted with a Loglift 220 V crane, Silvatec 445 MD50 harvesting head and TM 2200 computer.The standard 8266 TH was fitted with a Loglift 220 V crane, Silvatec 445 MD50 harvesting head and TM 2200 computer.

In exchange, Poulsen and his team would have received the smaller Gremo 1050H and modelled it as a smaller Silvatec machine, allowing it to be used for thinnings. This foolproof idea was well in advance by the time the Russians came on board, but cultural and directional differences between Tractor Plant and those at the top of the Silvatec group saw the deal collapse before it could come to fruition. The Russians wanted to move the base of operations closer to home, but the technology available in Russia at the time was severely behind what its Danish counterparts could offer so, up until closure, the headquarters remained in Farsoe.

In the end it was the difference in mindset shown by the Tractor Plant group which led to the collapse of Silvatec. Its efforts to change too much too quickly left the funds lacking and, in December 2016, Silvatec began restructuring following a court declaration of bankruptcy in Aalborg. Silvatec Forest Group (a new start-up) took over the development of harvester heads, parts and manufacturing and continues to export to this day, but on a smaller scale. Matfor, the French distributor, is still involved in supplying contractors with the newer Silvatec 560 head. The last true Silvatec harvester left the workshop in 2015 in the form of the Sleipner 8324H and, since its production, has received much praise from those who have had the chance to operate it, including Poulsen himself, who said: “It was very quick, stable and looked amazing.” 

Forestry Journal: The Silvatec Sleipner 866 TH.The Silvatec Sleipner 866 TH.

Following bankruptcy, Poulsen was called in to help sell off assets, which included the 8324H that now resides in Germany and remains in successful operation. He said: “I get phone calls once a week from contractors asking me to build them one of the new Silvatec harvesters; from France, Germany, Sweden, even Ireland – and the truth is, I would.”

In a market that is becoming increasingly dominated by a few, Silvatec has undoubtedly left its mark. Its progressive innovations in harvesting technology laid the groundwork for those that followed and, to this day, the Danish horses still have their diehard operators who would not give up their seat in a Silvatec for anything. 


Gareth Edwards, a machine operator who worked for various different contractors in Rhayader, Mid-Wales, throughout the ’90s and ’00s, is a strong advocate for the abilities of the Danish harvester, calling it “the machine that comes out on top”. Beginning his career in the wood operating tracked machines with Silvatec harvester heads, Edwards became a fan immediately. The JS200 with the Silvatec 445 head on proved a particular hit. 

“It was more reliable than the other machines I had driven,” Gareth said. The only problem he found was that the pipes which came from the back of the head had a tendency to burst and weren’t the easiest to access. The computer was simple to navigate, but most of the head adjustments had to be done on the ground level. “The 555 head would feel and cut up trees so big it would sit you up cutting them down.” 

After several years of operating a Timberjack harvester, Edwards was given the opportunity to drive the new Sleipner model, which his company was given for a demo. He said: “Its low centre of gravity, with the axle and unit so close to the ground, meant that when you were in the cab you felt so stable. Even on the steep and rocky ground of Mid-Wales.”

Compared to the Timberjack he had come off, Edwards said the Sleipner would glide up the hills, without tracks on either back or front. Despite his best efforts to convince his employer to purchase a Sleipner, it came to no avail. Now a tractor driver, Edwards looks back on his time driving Silvatecs with fondness and finished by saying “they were as good as anything I ever operated”.

A relative newcomer to the industry, Paul Owens’ only experience of operating a forest machine is at the helm of a Silvatec Sleipner Mountaineer and he couldn’t have hoped for a better induction to the world of timber. While looking to get involved in contracting, Owens deduced the best value for money would be to purchase a Silvatec, stating it “ticked all the boxes at almost 40 k below what its competitors were looking for”. 

Forestry Journal: The Sleipner’s reduced height and centre of gravity made it stable and easy to manoeuvre in the forest.The Sleipner’s reduced height and centre of gravity made it stable and easy to manoeuvre in the forest.

He continued: “Its versatility makes it good for thinning and clear-felling, and while it’s fast enough, the fuel consumption is still competitive with newer machines.” A fan of its power and its even weight distribution, Owens said his Sleipner glides across the ground leaving barely a mark. Another positive he noted was the basic nature and robustness of the parts on the machine base, which makes it easy to acquire spare parts, despite Silvatec no longer being there to repair them.

With Silvatec being at the head of the game when it was producing new machinery, Owens believes they are “ideal for starting out in the wood. Bang for buck it is without doubt the best value harvester”.

Simon Dodds has been operating Silvatec machines since 2003, when he first brought home a Silvatec Atlas with the smaller 335 head, equipped with a crane designed for thinning. He immediately developed a liking for the Danish machine and opted to invest in a larger harvester, this time in an 856 Silvatec. With eight wheels and the 445 head it was better suited for larger clear-fells and, following reconditioning in Farsoe, its new six-cylinder engine made it a force to be reckoned with. Simon recalled that it was “ahead of the game and far beyond anything else available at the time, including the Timberjack 1270”. 

In 2014, a further Silvatec was purchased, the 896 Sleipner, with its unique three pumps and the largest Silvatec head, the 555. Simon said: “They made 35 triple fives and two came over to Ireland and we managed to get the last one they ever built.”
Still in remarkable working condition, its power and oil flow set it apart from the competition when it first came on the market. To this day it still provides a good showing for a machine of its age. Even now, Dodds is still a Silvatec man, with an 8266 Sleipner coming home to Knighton, Mid-Wales during lockdown.

Forestry Journal: The 878 CH mobile chipper is renowned for its high capacity. The 878 CH mobile chipper is renowned for its high capacity.

The only notable hiccup he experienced with his Silvatecs was when the 896 arrived in Wales. “It had been sitting for three years not doing anything and they’d been using bio-oil, which in that time had separated,” he explained. “When we started up the machine, it forced water through the system first and into the valves, which cost a penny to fix.”

However, Silvatec eventually covered the cost of replacements.

Simon concluded by saying that Silvatec made “good, solid machines; without bandtracks they still manage to climb, the long crane reach and power was spot on. They are reliable and with the tilting cab you never feel in any danger working on steep ground.”