WHEN it comes to choosing a machine, chainsaw, or even a replacement part, the sheer wealth of choice in forestry is enough to make you think Sophie was just being dramatic.

Think of a cinema pick ‘n mix and you’re on the right lines. Only there’s more oil. And you’d need an even bigger wad of cash for the four squares of fudge you’d have dusted off before the end of the adverts than a shiny new John Deere 1510G. 

Logset or Eco Log? Stihl or Makita? LogMax or Westtech? Iggesund or Oregon? Where do you even begin? 

Take last month’s (brilliant) Swedish Forestry Expo (SFE). By the time you’d made your way across the showgrounds, your senses had been inundated with gleaming forwarders and mean-looking harvesters, all promising to be THE one that would make the job of turning trees into timber that bit easier. 

READ MORE: First-ever Swedish Forestry Expo hailed a resounding success

In this world of choice, it’s a good thing there are operators out there to help you make your mind up. The best place for information and advice is usually the Forest Machine Operators Blog, and June was no different, with members on hand to answer several machine-related queries. 

Forestry Journal: Andrew DouglasAndrew Douglas (Image: Bites)

Sometimes the machine in question is small. Take this example. 

“Just a quick question,” one member posted. “What harvester bars are people using? We are struggling with the ones we are using at the moment as they seem a bit to flimsy and wear very quick.” 

The operator was duly inundated with replies, that ranged from straight to the point –

“Iggesund for me,” offered one operator – to the more in-depth. 

“Iggesund Blue Lines, if you can get the right fitment. I got the occasional rail cracking after it has been bent a foot (at tip) out of sawbox, but apart from that, well worth it.

Went off Oregon because the sprockets never lasted like Iggesund.” 

But don’t let this fool you, there were plenty lining up to make the case for Oregon, including: 

Forestry Journal: Craig MckerralCraig Mckerral (Image: Bites)

“I’d go for Oregon every time. Tried other makes but seems to be different issues with the other makes. End up going back to Oregon bars after the boss man can get them.” 

“Oregon... Seem to take a fair battering and a few straightens before they give up the ghost.” 

Another brand getting its fair share of praise was GB. 

“GB Harvester Bars are by far the best if you can get them, they usually sell very quick,” wrote one. “GB Harvester Bars are good,” replied another.

But we aren’t finished the harvester bar discussion quite yet. Up popped another operator with this: “Iggesund is the best of these three but I’m okay with all of these.” 

So yeah, it sounds like you really can’t go wrong with any of the brands (or you can go wrong with all of them). What was that we were saying about it being difficult to choose? 

Forestry Journal: Kelly SpencerKelly Spencer (Image: Bites)

It can be even more difficult when the decision involves a bigger machine and, by virtue of that fact, an even bigger outgoing. One of the blog’s American members appeared with a query that took us all back in time and got the blog talking. 

“Anyone have any knowledge on a Valmet 546H harvester?” he wrote. “I’m from the USA and looking at getting into a cut-to-length operation. It has a 960 head. We will be cutting mostly hardwood.” 

READ MORE: Bites from the Blog: Forestry operators on welfare units

One member was quickly on hand with some advice. 

“Wow, that’s a grand old machine. If I remember right, have a VERY close look round the pivot point at the top of the k/post for cracks. Rust streaks will show some up. The low lateral pivot, too, that’ll have slap on it. Otherwise just previous owner abuse, and possible spare part supply probs.” 

Forestry Journal: Mark RichardsonMark Richardson (Image: Bites)

Not content with having been very helpful already, he later returned with this titbit:

“Before you jump in with both feet on the old lass and put you dollars down etc, get Komatsu on the horn and see if its main consumables are still available from them.

“It is old, and over here in the UK I don’t think the manufacturers have to produce/keep parts for machines over 10 years old.

“I’ve always had issues getting stuff for our older Ponsses, Logsets, Rottnes and the many even older Bruunett 678s (the 678s were early 80s to early 90s in production... ish).

“Choose carefully ‘cause it can turn into a money pit!” 

Seems like sound advice indeed. 

Forestry Journal: Rob Thegoathearder MorganRob Thegoathearder Morgan (Image: Bites)

A couple of other members also pointed out one obvious flaw in the 546H that could render the whole thing moot. 

“Definitely not the best machines for hardwood.” 

“Not going to be a great hardwood cutting machine, not much power. My main concern would be making sure you can find parts somewhere faster than two weeks, and that you have enough money to pay for all the parts you’ll need. 

“I don’t know what region you’re from or what kind of hardwood you’ll be cutting, but if it’s very big at all it’ll be a battle.” 

Going briefly back to the SFE, we’re sure you’d agree it was well worth the wait. Still to be convinced? Head to pages 36–40 to read our in-depth coverage from the event in Stockholm. 

Members certainly appeared to enjoy themselves – even if pints cost an arm and a leg – and Blog founder Mark Curtis summed it up when he posted: “Just recovering from a great few days at the Swedish Forestry Expo with the fantastic hosts SB Forestry. 

“Until the next time!” 

We’ve already got it marked on our calendar. 

Finally ending on a rather sombre note, several operators responded to our exclusive story regarding the impending closure of BSW’s Southampton sawmill in the New Forest.

By the time you read this, the mill – dating back to the 1940s – may very well have shut its doors for good. 

Forestry Journal: Robbie FilgateRobbie Filgate (Image: Bites)

But, it appears it’s been on the cards for a while, if these comments are anything to go by. 

“Said something was going on.” 

“Saw this coming months ago.” 

To keep up with all the latest forestry chat, head to the Forest Machine Operators Blog on Facebook.