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04 Oct 2017

5 Considerations When Choosing A Brush Cutter

Little Wonder brush cutter

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p class=”art”>When you’re looking for new equipment, you want ROI and you want it fast. It often feels like the fastest way to get ROI is to buy the product with the cheapest price tag. It’s difficult to see past the sticker and think about the long-term operation and maintenance costs, as well as opportunity costs and how a different investment might pay off in the end.

While parting with cash isn’t easy, investing in quality equipment pays dividends in reduced expenses later. This is especially true for equipment in the demanding debris management segment. Debris management equipment, such as a brush cutter, requires heavy-duty components and productivity-enhancing features to tackle challenges like thick brush and tree saplings.

While cost is always a consideration, cutting corners on value-added features is seldom worth the savings, and it’s better to look at a lifetime cost versus a short-term purchase price. If investing a little more means extending the life of your equipment by a year or two or being able to tackle a wider range of jobs, it’s well worth the added initial cost.

Plus, when it comes to increasing productivity, features that make maintenance easy keep machines on the jobsite, not in the repair shop. That’s why it’s important to do the research and select a brush cutter built to achieve long-term profits and exceptional productivity.

1. Making the cut

Start the selection process by determining what type of debris will be faced. Brush cutters are designed to take on certain heights and thicknesses, and if that is exceeded, it can cause damage to the machine. Err on the side of caution by selecting a brush cutter capable of taking on multiple jobs and thicker brush than purchasing a smaller unit that might save you money, but limits versatility and opportunity.

Tough jobs, such as clearing vacant lots and establishing trails or paths, require a brush cutter that tackles weeds, heavy brush and overgrown vegetation. Look for a model capable of taking out saplings up to a couple of inches thick and won’t shy away from chest-high weeds. After all, if the brush cutter can’t handle that, it’ll be back to the branch clippers to finish the job.

An efficient machine is capable of clearing an acre of brush or more per hour, which enables contractors to quickly complete the project and move on to the next. To help achieve maximum productivity, consider brush cutters that feature a hydrostatic drive with clutchless variable operating speeds as opposed to a unit with gear selection. Hydrostatic drive allows the operator to simply squeeze the handle to control both speed and direction for easy and intuitive operation in varying worksite conditions, such as when moving from open green spaces to thick overgrowth.

Also, consider if the brush cutter uses cables or solid rods to connect the transmission, parking brake and blade clutch. Models with cables add the risk of branches getting tangled in and breaking the cables, stopping the job. Solid rods are much more durable to withstand the demands of thick underbrush and keep contractors productive.

2. Never skimp on key features

Be sure to cover the basics first. For instance, look for a unit with a wraparound hand guard that runs along the handlebars and front of the machine.

This shields the operator during operation. Some units only have a small hand guard covering the handle grips, but this fails to protect from brush that reaches the operator from the front of the machine.

Next, focus on the deck of the brush cutter, which is the most important feature. Look for a brush cutter with a heavy-duty steel cutting deck and steel front deck plates. These are individually mounted hinged plates that hang down from the front of the cutting deck. They allow the brush cutter to easily move over brush and keep the brush in the cutting zone. Be sure to consider the construction of the protective front deck plates at the time of purchase. If this were a grass mower, a rubber flap would be fine. However, brush cutters tackle thick, heavy brush often in overgrown areas with little or no visibility of what lies beneath. It’s best to trust the durability of steel plates over rubber flaps or hanging chains.

Today’s brush cutters can operate at a pretty fast pace. Sometimes it’s best to slow down. This is especially true when working on unfamiliar or obstructed terrains where operators cannot easily track the contours of slopes and hills. While a hydrostatic drive is quick to react and smooths speed adjustment for the operator, a speed limiting setting on the machine can help avoid overdrive situations altogether. Brush cutters with a speed limiter can set a maximum running speed for optimal control. Look for a unit with a dial configuration, as this will give the greatest level of speed control flexibility for on-the-fly adjustment as conditions warrant.

Lastly, check if the brush cutter features a parking brake. It’s a simple but important feature that minimizes the risk of the machine not staying in place when work is halted on a hill or sloped area.

3. Built to last

Brush cutting is tough work. That’s why it’s important to invest in a machine that’s built to last. Look for a unit constructed of heavy-gauge steel at least where it matters: the deck, skid shoes, push or knockdown bar and handle area.

When clearing brush, the unit selected is only as good as the knockdown bars that feed the blade. Though they might look alike, they are not created alike. Choose a machine that features heavy-gauge, solid steel push bars rather than those made of thin-gauge steel tubing. The hollow tubes dent and bend, reducing effectiveness and increasing the need for replacement. Also, inspect the quality of the skid shoes. These are steel bars or rods connected to the left and right front deck feet. Similar to push bars, skid shoes made of hollow tubing dent easily and require frequent replacement. Instead, solid steel skid shoes will hold up much longer and provide flotation over rough terrain because the steel withstands damage from brush, rocks and low-lying stumps.

Also, select a brush cutter with durable tires. Pneumatic tires are common, but they are susceptible to puncturing. Since they cost roughly $90 to $140 to replace, costs can add up quickly. Alternatively, puncture-proof, foam-filled tires are designed to endure the most challenging work conditions with the ability to withstand punctures from brush, nails, glass or other sharp items, so the tires rarely need replacing.

In addition, look for deep tread or bar tread tires for added traction when moving across overgrown grasses and weeds and tackling undulating terrain. Some manufacturers offer foam-filled tires standard at no additional cost, while others charge a hefty premium for this tire option.

4. Easy or excessive

Never overlook maintenance requirements when selecting a brush cutter — an easy thing to do when blinded by a cheap price tag. The cost of replacement parts and the labor time to fix a brush cutter quickly add up, making the unit’s initial price deceiving. Plus, there’s bound to be lost profits when contractors turn down jobs while their brush cutter is in the shop.

Look for machines designed to simplify maintenance. For example, some manufacturers design the equipment to call attention to greasing points for maintenance technicians. This ensures that technicians can easily locate the grease points and don’t forget to maintain these areas. It may seem small, but this feature helps to achieve the brush cutter’s full service life.

Welded or bolted components also impact maintenance time. For example, wearing components that are bolted, instead of welded, to the brush cutter make it easy for technicians to gain access and replace individual parts. Alternatively, welding requires replacing even more parts, such as the entire cutting deck to make a spindle replacement. This quickly gets expensive, as a cutting deck costs around $200 to replace. When looking to stretch investments a little further, select a unit that uses reversible blades to double the blade life. This simple feature saves $25 per blade replacement, which quickly adds up over the life of the unit.

5. After-sales support

After looking over the brush cutter, there’s one more important aspect to consider: the manufacturer. Is it reliable?

A good indicator is a proven history of developing quality products. Read online blogs and reviews to see what customers say. It’s also important that the machine includes a warranty and a broad servicing dealer network to ensure you can get ready service of the brush cutter if needed. For additional resources, check the manufacturer’s website for online videos and information on the brush cutter, as well as easily accessible support for troubleshooting or ordering spare parts. That combination ensures contractors know not only how to effectively use and maintain the equipment, but also that they will get help quickly when it’s needed.

Choosing a quality brush cutter from a reliable manufacturer yields long-term rewards. Although contractors originally front a few extra bucks for value-added features, it pays off. Between time saved on maintenance and repairs, operators soon make up for the initial cost. Remember, the right manufacturer and machine make the cut for long-term results.

Editor’s note: Steve LePera is the director of marketing for Little Wonder, Mantis and Classen – three brands of Schiller Grounds Care, Inc. a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of outdoor power equipment.

ABOUT LITTLE WONDER
Little Wonder is an industry leader in debris management, grounds maintenance, and asphalt and paving equipment. Beginning in 1922, Little Wonder continues to design and develop rugged, durable and productive equipment for the industry. It offers more debris management products than any other manufacturer in its category, including blowers, brush cutters, edgers and bed shapers, leaf and debris vacuums, truck loaders and hedge trimmers. Little Wonder equipment is available through power equipment and rental dealerships nationwide. Additional information is available on YouTube. Little Wonder is a registered trademark of Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.

ABOUT SCHILLER GROUNDS CARE
Schiller Grounds Care creates and brings to market a broad variety of landscaping, gardening and turf care equipment for residential and commercial use under the brand names BOB-CAT, Classen, Little Wonder, Mantis, Ryan and Steiner.

The post 5 Considerations When Choosing A Brush Cutter appeared first on Tree Service Hampton Roads Services.

30 May 2017

Choosing Ropes and Saddles for Tree Climbing Safety

Climb On

Anytime a product — truck, tool, software program, etc. — helps us go out and earn a living, we tend to develop a little loyalty toward it. When a product helps get the job done and keeps us safe in the process … well, that’s when a real bond develops. For tree climbers, not much matters more in terms of performance and safety than ropes and saddles/harnesses. We asked a few pros which of these products they count on and why.

Hanging on by a thread

When it comes to climbing ropes, the industry standard is a breaking strength of 5,400 pounds.

“Pretty much all the ropes I know of that are marketed for arborists far exceed that,” said Jeremy Williams, certified arborist and owner of Tree Climbers Tree Services in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Williams noted that there are three main types of rope construction most commonly used in arboriculture. First is 16-strand, “which is very abrasion-resistant, but also has quite a bit of stretch,” he explained. “A lot of older climbers use that, because it’s sort of an older style rope. Also, if you’re using natural unions (running the rope through branches), it holds up better.”

Williams prefers to use a double-braided rope, which offers a little higher performance.

“It’s a little more fragile; you have to use friction savers and pulleys and things like that to preserve the rope a bit, but it has a tighter weave, so it runs a little faster and a little smoother,” he said.

The final type of rope typically used by climbers is a kernmantle (or static) rope.

“That’s really only used for going up into the tops of trees; it’s not used for working,” Williams said. “Those have a parallel core with a braided cover. They’re very fragile as far as friction, but they’re also very strong and very low stretch, so if you’re foot-locking into the tree, a lot of climbers will use these and then switch to a different rope once they get to the top.”

Williams said the choice of rope doesn’t depend as much on the type of work being done (pruning versus removals, for example), as on the personal preference of the individual climber. One of the biggest considerations is how much “stretch” you like.

“Some ropes have a lot of stretch, up to 3 percent. With other ropes, it’s 1 percent,” he noted. “Some people like that little extra bit of bounce; there’s a little more of a safety factor because it can absorb some of the shock if you were to fall. But if you’re working on your rope at a weird angle, that same rope will give a little and you’ll move back and forth a little more than some people like.”

While there are many equipment — not to mention technique – tips to be gained by watching top climbing competitors, Williams said it’s important to consider how you use equipment in real-life situations on the job.

“For example, a lot of competitive climbers will use double-braided ropes, because in a competition you’re moving faster through the tree. In a work situation, that’s not as much of an issue,” he explained.

Ryan Bartlett, owner of Sanctuary Tree Service, likes the feel of 11-millimeter rope and a “semi-old-school” leather saddle.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN BARTLETT

Ryan Bartlett, certified arborist and owner of Sanctuary Tree Service in Denver, uses a single line climbing technique with a rope wrench when working in big trees, and prefers a double rope system with a friction saver in smaller trees.

“I don’t like too much spring in the rope I use with the single line system, so I look for something with a little less give,” he explained. “I like 12- to 16-strand ropes, and I like the 11-millimeter size because I like the feel of it in my hand – it’s not so small that your hand cramps up because it’s hard to grab a hold of.” His climbing rope is from Yale, and his rigging line is by Samson.

Paul Guzenski, certified arborist and owner of Paul’s Tree Service in Alaska, started in the business using Safety Blue ropes (from New England Ropes), and more recently has been using Yale’s Poison Hi-vy ropes.

“I really like that; it stays pretty supple, even in the cold we have here in Alaska. When it’s really, really cold, the rope doesn’t seem to suck in the water as much and freeze up as quickly. And it’s always stayed round and hasn’t flattened out on me. I also like the splicability,” he explained.

Guzenski said he tries to swap out to a new rope every year.

“We have a very defined season here, and the off-season is a good time to rotate out gear and retire things. It’s easy to say, ‘I’ll let it go a little bit longer … but it’s good to go through all your gear and make sure you’re climbing on safe stuff,” he advised.

By the seat of your pants

Guzenski uses an A.R.T. Tree Austria 3.1 harness.

“I like the quick clips and all the other convenient features,” he said.

Prior to that he was using a different brand of saddle that used a floating D-ring. Guzenski said the switch to the quick clip system didn’t require much of a change in his climbing style; that definitely was the case years ago, though, when he initially moved from a fixed D to floating D saddle.

Certified arborist and owner of Paul’s Tree Service in Alaska, Paul Guzenski looks for ropes that will stay supple in the cold temperatures that are common for the state.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL GUZENSKI

“That change opened up a whole new world, because my lower back and butt weren’t burning by the end of the day,” he explained. “The biggest thing is to find one that’s comfortable to you; that just means you can spend more time in the saddle without it bothering you.”

Guzenski’s most recent saddle purchase was made for practicality as well as comfort.

“The replaceable parts on the A.R.T. Tree Austria 3.1 was part of what sold me; when the bridge wears out, I can replace it. Where on the old one, as soon as that leather strap wore out the whole saddle was pretty much done.”

He uses the new saddle for all types of jobs.

“You can change it from leg whips to a bottom seat, so if I’m doing something like installing Christmas lighting, I’ll throw the bottom seat on so I’m basically just sitting down throughout the day,” Guzenski added.

Bartlett has used the same style Weaver (model 27617) saddle since he entered the tree care profession 15 years ago.

About five years ago, when he was preparing to take part in a tree climbing competition, Bartlett switched to a different, lighter saddle. “I hated it. Everyone I knew asked, ‘What happened to you? You’re so slow now.’ So I went back to the old leather Weaver. I love it,” Bartlett explained.

“It’s heavier, but it works for me. It’s a comfort thing. And I like the floating bridge … it’s a flat band that’s almost 2 inches wide; I just trust it.”

Another climber at Sanctuary uses the lighter Weaver Cougar harness that Bartlett tried and loves it.

“He forgot it one day about a month ago and spent the day in my saddle, and he absolutely hated it. It’s really personal preference,” said Bartlett, who calls his saddle “semi-old-school.” Joking, he said, “I wish I could say I run the expensive saddles, but I don’t, I’m cheap! It’s not my style.”

Williams prefers to use a treeMOTION harness by Treemagineers.

“That’s my personal favorite,” he stated. “Pretty much all saddles [available for sale now] will meet the safety requirements, so safety isn’t as big of a consideration anymore – it’s fit and function and what you’re doing.”

He appreciates the light weight of the treeMOTION, and the range of motion it provides him when pruning, which represents the majority of his climbing work.

Williams has friends in the business who like Ergovation saddles by Buckingham.

“That seems to be the favorite for those doing a lot of removals; that harness seems to work better in that application,” he noted. It is built a little heavier and can better handle the weight of a bigger saw, explained Williams. Another climber in his company prefers a Petzl Sequoia harness, because it’s extremely light and does a decent job of handling medium-sized saws and is less expensive than some other options on the market.

“Saddles come down basically to personal preference,” Williams concluded. “Each person’s body is slightly different, and each saddle is made a little differently.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated.

The post Choosing Ropes and Saddles for Tree Climbing Safety appeared first on Tree Services.

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