Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to Use a Stump Grinder

If you're like me then there was a point in your life where you thought you could remove a stump in your yard or on your property by digging it out. Shortly there after you told yourself "never again." You probably had to use a chainsaw, shovel, ax, and a WWII style flame thrower just to finally get it out after a whole day of work. Only to be left feeling dissatisfied knowing there could have been a more efficient way of doing it. Well guess what, there is! 

Using a Stump Grinder can make the stump removal process a whole lot quicker and easier. Basically a stump grinder uses a spinning wheel outfitted with teeth to chip away at the wood and shave it down until you can cover the remains with dirt and grass. It's still a lengthy process, but compared to digging it out it's a fraction of the time.

When getting rid of a stump you have a few options depending on your situation. If you have a small one-off project it would probably be a good idea to hire a tree removal company to do it for you. If you have multiple stumps or a larger project you might want to consider renting one and handling it yourself. If you are constantly trying to remove stumps on a regular basis, for whatever reason, buying your own might be the way to go. Asses your situation and proceed with the option that will save you the most time and money.

 Safety First

Before we get down to brass tax we should discuss using the proper safety techniques when operating a stump grinder. First and foremost you should thoroughly read the instructions or have a seasoned operator explain how to safely use the machine, since different models operate differently. You should make sure you are always wearing hearing and eye protection, and it would be a good idea to wear gloves as well. 

Before You Start

Before you fire up that stump grinder and start digging away there are a couple things you will want to do to make the job a little easier. First, you will want to make sure you clear the area or any loose rocks or other solid material. This will prevent the teeth from getting dull and it will keep random objects from flying up and hitting you in the face.

Next you will want to take a chainsaw and cut the stump down as low as possible. It's not necessary, but it will help save you time. The stump grinder shaves the stump from the top down, so the lower it is to the dirt the less time will be spent grinding it.

 Dig In

There are different types of stump grinders out there, some that use a hydraulic arm and some that are manually maneuvered. With either one you will want to start by positioning the wheel over the edge of the stump and begin to shave off 1-2 inches moving the wheel horizontally across the stump. Continue this motion back and forth moving down the stump until you're about 3-4 inches below the dirt. Continue this process until the entire stump has been shaved down at least 4 inches below the ground. Here is a time lapse video of the process for reference.

Depending on the size of the stump and if you were able to trim it down with a chainsaw, the whole process should take you 30 minutes to an hour. That is far less time than it takes to try to get it out by hand. It is also a lot less work intensive.

Finish Up    

Once the stump is removed it's up to you to decide what to do with that space. Maybe you want to fill in the hole with soil and plant some grass, or maybe you want it to be the start of a garden. Either way, you now have the option instead of just looking at an unsightly stump all the time.

If you would like more information on stump grinders or to check out a great selection, just visit Chippers Direct. I am available to take your calls and answer any questions you may have.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

So You Fancy Yourself a Logger?

If you have been working in the forestry or arborist industry for a while, you might think you have what it takes to go up against the best in the world in a logging competition.

There are events held each year that pitch the best loggers and lumberjacks in the world against each other in competitions of speed, strength, precision, balance, safety, and just overall raw talent! All centered around the use of chainsaws, axes, saws, climbing gear and anything logging related.

For most competitors there are three main events you can compete in. In the US the biggest annual competitions are the STIHL Timbersport Series, and Lumberjack World Championships. In Europe it would have to be the biannual World Logging Championship. All consisting of their own individual, yet similar events.

Stihl Timbersport Series

Started in 1985 in Wisconsin, it is one of the most popular logging competitions today. It consists of six different disciplines with collegiate and professional divisions. The most recent championship was held on June 20th-22nd, 2014 in Norfolk VA, and featured athletes from all around the world.

The six events consist of:

  • Springboard - An athlete cuts two notches in a 9 foot pole where they insert the spring boards that they use to climb up to chop off the top of the pole.
  • Stock Saw - Competitors use identical Stihl chainsaws to make two cuts through identical logs marked by black lines.
  • Underhand Block Chop - Standing on a log, the competitor uses an axe to chop it in half. They must make cuts from both sides. 
  • Single Buck - Using a single man cross cut saw, the athlete cuts through a piece of 18"-20" white pine. They can have a helper that lubricates the saw and wedges the wood.
  • Standing Block Chop -  Competitors use and axe to cut through a piece of white pine that is 12"-14" in diameter. They must cut the log from both sides.
  • Hot Saw - In this event the competitors use custom saws with modified engines to make three cuts as fast as possible through the log.

Lumberjack World Championships

This is the oldest competition of the three and is the only one that involves climbing and log rolling events. It is also the only one that does not change locations. Held annually beginning in 1960 in Hayward, Wisconsin this event features men's, women's, and team divisions.

The list of singles events include:

  • Underhand Block Chop - Same as above.
  •  Standing Block Chop - Same as above.
  • Springboard -  Same as above.
  • Single Buck - Same as above.
  • Hot Saw -  Same as above.
  • 60 and 90 Foot Speed Climb -  Using climbing gear, the athletes scale the respective distance up a pole and then descend against time. Time starts at the "go" mark and is stopped when they return to the ground. The contestants must also touch the pole every 15 feet on the way down.
  • Logrolling -  Two athletes compete head to head in this event. Standing on a floating log each contestant tries rolling, stopping, or changing direction of the log to throw their opponent off balance and putting them in the water. 
  • Boom Run -  Floating logs are set up end to end between two docks. The athlete then sprints to either end of the booms for the best time.
The team events are as follows:
  •  Double Buck - Two contestants team up to use a two-man bucking saw to cut through a 20" white pine log as fast as possible.
  • Jack and Jill - This is a double buck competition with a man and a women competing on the same team.
  • Team Relay -  Two teams race for time. Events include a 60-foot speed climb, 2 boom runners (one male, one female), hot saw, female single buck, and a standing block chop.

World Logging Championships

This event is held every two years in a different location around Europe. As opposed to the other two competitions, the WLC consists of 5 different disciplines mainly focus on chainsaw skills. The last event was held on September 10th-13th, 2014 in Brienz, Switzerland. The next event will not be held until 2016.

The 5 disciplines preformed in order include:

  • Tree Felling - The competitor must fell a tree in three minutes towards a spot selected by said competitor. Points are awarded based on time, proximity to the selected target, and length and depth of the cut.
  • Chain Fitting -  In this timed event the competitor must remove the existing bar and chain, rotate the bar, replace the chain, and reassemble. The trick is though that the chain must be properly adjusted as the saw has to be used for the next two events. Points are deducted if they have to re-tension their chain.
  • Combined Bucking - On a sloping log, the competitors cut two discs from the stump starting with an under cut. They then move to another log slopping in the opposite direction. Points are awarded for how straight and even the cuts are.
  • Precision Bucking -  This event requires the competitor to make as straight of a cut as possible without cutting into the wood situated under the log. Points are deducted based on angle of the cut and cutting into the wood underneath. 
  • Limbing -  In the limbing competition the participants must saw off 30 limbs specifically placed on a 20-foot pole as fast and as close to the pole as possible. If the branch is left too long (5mm or more) or if they cut into the log (5mm or more), time penalties are assessed. Watch this video from the 2012 WLC limbing competition. 

All of these competitions have team relay races, so if you got some buddies who you think could take on the best then you better call them up and get your names in. The Lumberjack World Championships requires that you have women on your team, so if you can find this girl you'll be better off - 

So there you have it. If you think you are worth your salt as a logger, brush up on your chainsaw skills and get signed up for one, or all of these events!

Top Earth Augers of 2015

With ground-thaw just around the corner, I thought it'd be wise to share with you the top three earth augers of 2015.

In my expert opinion, I've chosen to list the top three in good, better, and best format.

First, I'll give the good:

GOOD: Earthquake 43cc One Man Earth Auger

The Earthquake E-43 one-man earth auger delivers outstanding power and a solid design that will have you drilling holes quicker.

It's great for building decks, installing fences, and many other outdoor projects.

The E-43 has a compact design. The 43cc Viper 2-cycle engine delivers powerful output, taking the work out of hard digging.

Whether it’s a deck, fencing, planting trees or installing a mailbox – you’re sure to find multiple uses around your property for this versatile machine from Earthquake.

The Viper engine starts with ease, thanks to a direct inject primer and choke system, and the wrap-around foam anti-vibration handlebar grips provide additional comfort while drilling.

One of the best features is its heavy-duty transmission with five ball-bearings, giving it the ability to hold its own against the toughest soils.

BETTER: Earthquake Dually 53cc 2-Cycle One- or Two-Man Earth Auger

The Earthquake Dually earth auger enables you to drill holes by yourself or with a partner. It's the first one/two-man gas-powered earth auger ever created.

The Dually handles incredibly well when operated by two people.

What sets it apart is that the Dually can also be run used by a single operator - a first for powered earth augers.

This Earthquake auger features unique job site handlebars that are specially shaped for its dual-purpose use.

It has throttle controls mounted on the handlebars in two different user positions, giving operators the versatility to control the unit from the position best suited for their individual use.

The handlebars are also virtually indestructible, and are formed into a protective cage that guards the engine on all sides.

The Earthquake Dually is powered by a high-RPM 52cc two-stroke Viper® Engine, so it has the power you need, whether working alone or with someone else to drill each hole faster. The Dually features a durable, five-bearing transmission and solid steel heat-treated alloy gears for added strength.

BEST: Earthquake 190cc Two-Man Earth Auger

The Earthquake 9800B two-man earth auger gets big jobs done faster and more reliably. They're designed for the very big jobs, able to tackle a wide range of soils and rip holes as large as 14 inches in diameter with exceptional control.

The 9800B is equipped with a 675 series Briggs & Stratton® engine, featuring low gear ratio to provide powerful torque and durability.

The 9800B will even remove rocks and stones that would stop most smaller earth augers.

They're perfect for landscaping businesses, some commercial applications, and any post hole digging or landscaping jobs where the soil is very hard or rocky.

The Earthquake 9800B earth auger comes equipped with anti-vibration handles providing multiple hand positions for a comfortable grip. This is ideal for any job that requires digging multiple holes, as it'll help to reduce the time needed and put less strain on your back.

These are perfect for building decks, installing fences, planting trees and shrubs, mailbox installations and many other projects.

For more information on earth augers, visit  TillersDirect's Earth Auger Buyer's Guide

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wood Chipper vs. Chipper Shredder - What's the Difference?

If you have been shopping around for a new wood chipper, you have undoubtedly came across wood chippers and chipper shredders. They are very similar in appearance and purpose, and could easily be confused if not careful. The style that you choose will be dependent on the type of work you are planning on getting accomplished. In this article I will highlight the major differences between the two and the specific functions of each.

 Wood Chipper (No Shredder)

A wood chipper is a style of outdoor power equipment that is used to reduce wood, usually in the form of stumps, branches, and sticks into smaller manageable wood chips. They have a large hopper where the wood is fed into, a long chute that looks like a giraffes neck that ejects the chips, and are typically powered by a gas engine.

Internally the chipper typically consists of a large fly wheel with a blade or blades attached to one side (top image on the left). It spins at a high rate of speed and cuts the wood into smaller pieces. Those pieces are then ejected from the machine through the chute.

Wood chippers come in many different sizes that can handle larger or smaller diameter branches. They are typically used by industrial and municipal workers that need to reduce a large amount of debris into manageable chips for transport, storage, or disposal. Stand alone wood chippers will not shred the debris into mulch or compost.

Chipper Shredder

A chipper shredder looks similar to a stand alone wood chipper only smaller with a few cosmetic differences. One of the first things you will notice is that a chipper shredder has two hoppers instead of one and does not have the long ejection chute the wood chipper has.

The insides of a chipper shredder are not much different than that of the stand alone wood chipper. There is still a fly wheel with blades attached for chipping purposes. However, on the opposite side there are sets of dull blades or hammers called flails that are used to pulverize soft material such as leaves, twigs, and other organic debris (top image on the right). The wood chips or mulch is then ejected either out of the bottom or side of the machine.

Chipper shredders are typically smaller and used more often by homeowners. They can be rolled around on the property and easily stored when not in use. The shredding capability allows the user to transform yard debris into valuable mulch that can be used in garden beds or compost piles.

Which is right for you?

The style you're going to want to go with depends on the work that needs to be done. If gardening and composting aren't your thing, and you constantly have a lot of large branches that need to be cleaned up then you will want to go with a wood chipper. If you have less property and could use the mulch for gardening, then you are going to want to go with the chipper shredder.

For more information on wood chippers, chipper shredders, and stump grinders, or to shop around for the right product, please visit

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seasoning Your Firewood!

If you have a fire place or a wood burning stove and use it regularly, properly seasoning or drying your firewood is a must. Burning unseasoned firewood can be a hassle in the short term and dangerous in the long term. Freshly cut wood can contain up to 50% moisture and when burned can create a lot of smoke, low fire and heat output, and short burn times. Over a long period a substance called creosote can build up in your chimney and can be potentially dangerous.

Creosote is a black oily substance that builds up around the inside of a chimney or flue that is caused by burning wet wood at low temperatures. The low heat causes incomplete combustion of the oils in the wood, which are then carried up the chimney as a gas by the smoke. As the gas cools it condenses around the sides of the chimney causing the build up over time. If enough creosote accumulates it can cause smoke to back up into the house and even ignite, potentially causing a house fire.

 Creosote Build Up

To prevent this you must reduce the moisture content in the wood to around 20%. This ensures that the oils have not fully evaporated, which help the wood burn at a higher temperature. This will allow the wood to burn hot enough to completely ignite the oils reducing the creosote build up.

Here are the steps involved in properly seasoning your firewood:

1. Selecting the right wood

Not all wood is the same. Some are harder with more knots, some burn hotter, and some smell different while burning. Knowing what kind of wood you are using is important in knowing how long you need to season it. For example, oak is a very good type of wood for burning. It is dense, burns hot, and you should season it at least a year before burning. Check out this quick guide on Best Wood for Fires.

You will first need to select the tree you are going to fell. You want to make sure it is not dead and rotting as it will not burn well, and there will be a lot of mold and bugs living in there. It is a good idea however, to remove it to allow for healthy competing trees to grow. You will want to select trees that are crowded or inferior that are competing for sunlight and soil nutrients. This will allow the healthiest and most productive trees to thrive.

2. Cutting and Splitting

After your tree comes down you're going to want to remove the limbs and cut it into chunks, also known as limbing and bucking. The most important thing here is to make sure you get the right length and are consistent. Uneven lengths will make your cords unbalanced. Sixteen inches is pretty standard, if you have a 16" bar you can use that to measure, otherwise you can use a tool like the Mingo Log Marker.  

Once you're done bucking the tree, you're going to want to split the chunks into manageable pieces. There are a few different ways you can go about this depending on the amount of wood that needs to be split. You can use a traditional splitting maul, which is good if you have minimal work as it requires a lot of energy. There are manual log splitters that require less energy but are more time consuming. And then there are gas or electric powered hydraulic log splitters which will be your best bet if you have a lot of wood to split.
  22-Ton Gas Powered Hydraulic Splitter

3. Stacking and Storing

Now that you have enough pieces of the right size and type of wood, it is time to stack them up. This part is where you are not going to want to get lazy and pile your wood up like this:

The wood in the middle of pile will mold and rot before it has time to dry. You also want to keep the wood off the ground so it doesn't absorb moisture. Stacking in rows with a couple of feet between them to allow wind and sun light to dry them out is ideal. Getting a log rack is great for keeping the rows nice and neat.

The size of your stack is dependent on how much space you make available but wood is measured in cords. A cord of wood is 4' x 8' x 4' and is 128 cubic feet. You can even get artistic with it if you want!

After you have it all stacked up, you're going to want to cover it. Using a tarp secured to the top works perfectly. Make sure you don't cover everything, you want the ends of the wood exposed to help dry it out.

4. Wait

Most wood takes 6 months to a year to completely season depending on what type of wood you're burning, so you're going to want to plan ahead for that. You will know your wood is seasoned when it looks like this:

Once it is a darker color with cracks on the ends it is probably good to go. Another way to check is by burning a piece. If it doesn't ignite well and hisses then it is too wet to burn.

So there you have it! Seasoning your firewood will make your life easier if you are the kind of person who burns it on a regular basis. Take these steps and apply them properly and you will have plenty of great burning firewood to last you for many winters!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why You Can't Buy Stihl Online

Whether you're new to the chainsaw game or you have been doing it for a while you have undoubtedly heard about Stihl, and you might have tried to shop for it online only to come up short. If you are looking for a convenient shopping experience by ordering online then you might want to consider another chainsaw brand.

It has been the policy of Stihl since the beginning to not sell their products online. Instead they stick to strictly selling their tools through dealers in "brick-and-mortar" stores. The reason for this, according to their website, is because "Dealers are required to unpack, prep, and test every unit they sell, and then take the customer through a short training session on the parts and controls of the unit both for their safety and protection as well as for familiarity of the power tool in question."

This business model has served them well for many years, and as many of the die-hard Stihl fans will attest, it is an admirable approach to servicing their customers. So if you have your heart set on a Stihl product you are required to make a trip to the nearest dealer. However, if you're the kind of person who prefers to do their shopping online you need not worry. There ARE other options!

When it comes to power equipment most people are willing to pay extra for top quality products. And when it comes to Stihl there are few that compare; some even following a similar "no-internet" business approach. But if you're looking for a top-quality product that allows for the convenient, money saving online shopping experience, you need look no further than Husqvarna (pronounced husk-var-na if you're unfamiliar with the brand).

The Stihl vs. Husqvarna rivalry is comparable to that of Chevy vs. Ford. Two top-of-the-line products with die-hards on either side. Just punch in Stihl vs. Husqvarna into Google and you will find a whole slew of articles and videos comparing the two.

When it comes to shopping for a new chainsaw it all just boils down to personal preference. Do you want more torque to cut through the tough knotty wood, or do you want more speed to get the job done quicker. If you're looking for some help on how to pick the perfect chainsaw, visit Chain Saws Direct or give me a call and I would be more than happy to help.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Leaf Mulch Advantage

A lot of people see leaves as a nuisance, but when the trees on your lawn shed their leaves this autumn, you may want to think twice before dragging them in bags to the curb.

Leaves are of course organic, and therefor they hold nutrients. Even after they die and fall to the ground, they're still nutrient-rich. However, you don't want to just leave them blanketing your lawn because they'll prevent sun, rain, and oxygen from getting to your lawn's roots.

Instead, break them down into smaller bits and you'll have an incredible fertilizer and mulch. Once the leaves are shredded, they can be added to a compost pile, spread over the soil in your flower bed or garden, or even sprinkled into your lawn.

Chipper shredders are a great way to accomplish this. They're available as electric chipper shredders or gas chipper shredders, though the electric shredder type is all you need unless you're looking to chip branches and limbs as well.

If you're mostly interested in using shredded leaves to fertilize your lawn, you can use mulching kits for lawn tractors, and serve multiple purposes at once. A mulching kit will allow you to mow your lawn while mulching any leaves and evenly spreading them into the grass. 

As the shredded leaves break down, they add nutrients to the soil, acting as an organic fertilizer for anything from grass to flowers or vegetable gardens. No need to spend money on inorganic fertilizers at the store when you can recycle what you're already getting for free year-after-year.