Wood demonstration at Easton College draws crowd

A working demonstration at Easton College of the latest tackle for contractors, tree surgeons and firewood producers attracted a steady stream of visitors.

The booming demand for firewood and woodburners has generated keen interest from woodland managers and landscape contractors for new specialist tackle, said Neal Hussey, of Norwich-based agricultural engineers Ben Burgess & Co.

His colleague Matt Gibson said that there had been keen interest in the range of chippers, especially for the hire market. The firm has a fleet of eight machines, which are hired by a range of users, as well as supplying the bigger-range models for specialist contractors.

Ben Turner, who heads the family firm, said that the growth in area of Norfolk woodland was an opportunity for farmers and land managers.

After major planting in the past few years, there was a need for manage this woodland actively, he added.

But demand for firewood has also encouraged some tree surgeons to look at a new one-person operating system, the JAP 375. Powered by the pto of a small tractor, typically 25hp, the log cutter and splitter can produce about three tonnes an hour.

'This is ideal for one-man operation because it only requires 400rpm and not the standard 540rpm from a larger tractor,' said Mr Gibson.

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'This machine will cut wood to the desired length which can then be split, into two or four logs, and elevated into a trailer.'

The elevator swivels which means that three one-tonne bags of firewood can be filled with ease, he added.

'It will handle a maximum diameter, comfortably 9ins, and is designed for the firewood market.

And with firewood costing about �120 per tonne this season, there has been keen interest in this machine, whether for hire at about �250 per day or purchase from about �8,925.

'We're seeing a lot more interest since the cost of fuel, diesel and heating oil has risen. Many people have installed woodburners. And that has pushed up the price of wood,' said Mr Gibson.

A recent addition to the hire fleet, a 'planker' or Oscar mobile bandsaw has generated interest. Capable of cutting trunks of up to 30ins in diameter, it made light light work of even rather wet Scots Pine logs.

Mr Gibson said that Mr Turner, who heads the family enterprise, had seen the Oscar sawmill and designed a trailer and operating stand for it.

A customer, who had a big tree fall, wanted to make some furniture from the wood.

'It comes on a road-going chassis. By using jacks, we lower it to the ground and set it up. It is simple to use once it is going if it has been properly set up,' said Mr Gibson.

A demonstrator from Oregon chain saws, Richard Fox, who is regional territory manager, attracted interest in a newly-launched easy-sharpener.

He said that the first batch of PowerSharps, which had just been imported from the United States, had all been delivered to distributors. Designed for the so-called baby chain saws of up to 42cc or about 16ins, it could sharpen the cutting edge within a few seconds.

Mr Fox, who lives at Kessingland, near Lowestoft, and covers the eastern region for Oregon, said that the PowerSharp could be used between 15 and 20 times. Naturally, the life of the device would depend on the extent of the abuse and damage to the cutting blade.

Although it was designed for the non-professional user, he said that cutters of Christmas trees had been impressed by the potential of the device. 'Instead of taking three or four chain saws into the field and then having to send them back for re-sharpening, they could use the PowerSharp instead,' he added.

It costs about �50.