Michigan lumber producer adds logging operations to secure timber supply
FAIRVIEW, Michigan –
John Gusler has been in the lumber business for 20 years, operating a business that cuts quality lumber as well as industrial grade lumber products. In order to ensure that his sawmills had an adequate supply of logs, he decided he needed to take the plunge and establish his own logging operations instead of relying on independent contractors. His choice for logging equipment fell on Woodland Equipment and Tigercat forestry machines.
Fairview Woodyard is located in Fairview in the northeastern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Huron-Manistee National Forests are divided into two large, non-contiguous sections on the west side of the peninsula; Fairview Woodyard is on the northern edge of the other section on the east side and about halfway between the eastern and western limits of the forest.
Fairview Woodyard is located on approximately 100 acres. The sawmill company manufactures quality and industrial lumber products, including cut pallet parts, pallet cants and railway ties. The company has three buildings with two sawmills in one and a sawmill in another. They cut hardwood and softwood although about 60 percent of the production is red oak. The other dominant species are aspen and pine. With both mills running and little downtime, the company can cut about 380,000 board feet per week and produce about 11 trucks of lumber products. The company’s lumber production and pallet inventory are sold to customers primarily in Michigan as well as others in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Canada. Plant operations employ 24 people.
John owned a trucking business in the past and also operated a log yard that supplied logs to a Canadian company, but had no previous experience in the sawmill industry before building a sawmill in 1999. It was destroyed by fire in the spring of 2004, but John rebuilt the mill, and it was in operation again in late 2004-early 2005.
John’s business buys timberlots, but almost all of the timber it harvests comes from successful bids on sales on state forest land.
“I started the logging crew out of necessity,” said John, after losing the logging contractor who was his biggest supplier of roundwood. It also competes for logs and lumberjacks, with the opening of a new Auraco particle board plant in Grayling, about 35 miles to the west. “Everyone is fighting for logging contractors,” added John.
John was introduced to Tigercat forestry machinery by the company’s dealer in the area, Woodland Equipment. He purchased four new machines in the fall of 2018. Afterwards, he took a trip to southern Ontario and visited seven Tigercat manufacturing facilities. John added three more Tigercat machines in early 2019 and plans to add three more this year.
“I liked the way they build their equipment,” said John, “and I liked Ron Beauchamp’s approach when he spoke to me. “
Woodland Equipment has been operating out of Iron River on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for over 40 years, serving loggers in northern Wisconsin and both Michigan peninsulas. Tigercat appointed Woodland Equipment a dealer in 2016, strengthening its dealer network in the Great Lakes region. Ron, the owner of Woodland Equipment, decided to open a second location at Gaylord on the Lower Peninsula in 2018. Gaylord is located approximately 60 miles northwest of Fairview and conveniently on the North-South Corridor of the I -75. Within six months, John decided to start a relationship with Ron and his business.
“John and I have become very good friends,” said Ron. “We think the same. We have the same general view of the world and what partnerships should look like.”
John has invested in seven Tigercat machines so far and plans to purchase more this year. So far he has purchased two Tigercat 822 tracked harvesters with Tigercat 575 harvester attachments, a Tigercat 822 tracked feller stacker, Tigercat 1055 and 1075 forwarders, a Tigercat 620 grapple skidder and a grapple machine. used, a Tigercat 822 tracked harvester fitted with a Risley Rolly harvesting attachment.
John had no previous logging experience, Ron noted. In addition, he chose to invest in Tigercat equipment, considered high-end forestry machines and more expensive than some other brands. “It’s a big dice game to roll,” Ron observed.
“His mill is his profit center,” Ron added. “He cannot afford not to have wood available for his mill. The use of independent logging contractors has not always provided an adequate supply of logs. In addition, the new particle board plant that has opened in the region is competing for logs. “If he told me 10 times, he told me once,” Ron recalls, “’I’m not going online because I want to. I’m going to log in because I have to.
Tigercat machines deserve serious consideration from other logging contractors who are considering investing in equipment, Ron suggested.
“These machines are heavy,” John said. “For me, that’s what we needed. He considered other manufacturers and observed loggers who exploited these brands of equipment. “Just watching them work I wanted to try something a little different,” he said.
John was very happy with his purchase decision. Tigercat machines offer “excellent performance,” he said, as well as good fuel economy. The machines are powerful and productive, he added, and easy to maintain. “I can’t wait to buy more. “
Tigercat offers a full line of forestry machinery, including wheeled and tracked feller-stackers, tracked and wheeled fellers and felling and harvesting attachments, skidders and forwarders, and forestry machinery. on tracks that can be configured for a variety of forestry tasks, from felling and processing to logging and loading. Based in Brantford, Ontario, the company’s approach is to build forest machines that harvest lumber at the lowest cost per tonne. Tigercat also offers off-road land clearing and preparation equipment and heavy-duty transport vehicles for niche applications and industries such as utilities, oil and gas, and forestry.
Woodland Equipment is committed to keeping customers up and running with parts in stock, technical support, and field or shop service. In addition to Tigercat, the company also represents TimberPro, Log Max, Quadco, Risley Equipment and Kesla. Woodland Equipment also offers the Woodland computer system, which it developed for cut-off harvesters.
John recruited an experienced lumberjack, Josh Herbert, to lead the logging team. He also asked Josh to train him in the use of Tigercat machines and spent a few months working with the team in the woods to gain an understanding of logging and timber harvesting operations. “I just thought I needed to know,” John said. “I had never done this before.”
The forestry operations employ seven men. The team stays together on the same job and generally works within a 120 mile radius of factories. The terrain varies from flat terrain to hills and swamps. Most of the time, the team performs cut-to-length operations.
The company’s logging operations largely allow sawmills to supply enough logs, and John also sells logs and pulpwood produced in his logging operations. At the time John was interviewed for this article, the logging crew were working in a northern hardwood stand, thinning as well as clearcutting some plots.
Sawmills are equipped with sawmill equipment and pallet lumber from well-known brands. The listing includes a Precision Rosserhead Machine and a Nicholson A-522 Log Debarking Machine. The main sawmill building has two head platforms, each a Cleereman cart associated with a circular saw; they are used for squaring large diameter logs and removing quality material as well as cutting railway ties and pallet slopes. Other equipment includes a Crosby fine line saw and a Crosby edger.
For the manufacture of pallet lumber, the primary work tool is a Timberland logger supplying logs to a Timberland Big Jake scragg sawmill which removes four sides to make a cant. The production line also includes a Timberland slab edger and two Timberland wood saws. (The Timberland brand was acquired by Brewco.) The cants are remade on three Brewer band saws that feed two Hanged board stackers. The other key machines are a Brewer 5 Head Multi Cut Saw and a Newman 3 Head Multi Cut Saw.
For the treatment of residual materials, the shredders are fitted with a Vermeer 4400 shredder, and John is in the process of transforming his shredder into a Nicholson machine. Chips are supplied to the Auraco particle board plant. The grindings are sold as hog fuel, playground surface material and as a raw material to fuel pellet manufacturers.
Most of the company’s lumber production has recently been industrial lumber products – about 80 percent – because grade prices are so low. “The price is in the tank, to say the least,” John said, after dropping steadily for about seven months. As a result, the company mainly cuts the stock of pallets, pallet cants and railway ties.
John works in the log yard almost every day, operating an articulated boom loader and unloading log trucks and stacking logs in the yard. His wife, Debbie, and their sons, Jared, 26, and Brett, 24, are also involved in the business. Debbie works in the office part-time. Jared and Brett “run a lot of the sawmills,” John said, and also manage a lot of sales.
In their free time, the family enjoys boating, fishing, hunting, clay pigeon shooting and clay shooting, and travel.