Processing timber on farm can be a time-consuming and tedious business, but thankfully there can be decent rewards for those willing to put in some effort.
As a guide farmers can expect between £35/t and £55/t for firewood-quality hardwood, which goes up to about £150/t if it is split and properly seasoned.
Better-quality hardwood attracts even higher prices and woodchip going into biomass boilers supported by the RHI can make as much as £100-£115/t delivered.
So with these figures in mind, it might be worth investing in some equipment to make the job a little easier. Here is our pick of useful timber-handling kit.
Logosol Chainsaw Mill
Milling and planking timber might usually be viewed as a job for proper sawmills, but in Scandinavia it is pretty common for farmers and landowners to do the job themselves.
Swedish company Logosol makes clever milling rigs that can be used to turn felled trees into useful lengths of wood simply by using a chainsaw equipped with a ripping chain.
A sectional steel-and-aluminium frame supports and clamps the timber in place, while alongside it a carriage clamping the chainsaw on its side runs along its own railway track. Jacklegs lift the wood in quarter-inch increments so that either thin boards can be stripped off or chunkier rails can be produced.
The standard version comes with a 4m guide rail but, being modular, extra 1m sections can be slotted in to cater for longer lengths. Its construction also means it can be easily assembled and taken down to be moved or packed away, according to Logosol. Prices start from £1,099.
Safely clamping lengths of timber to cut for firewood is never an easy tas,k but a simple invention from Irish fabricator Des Geraghty might solve that problem. Tagged the Timbercroc, it is a box-section frame that has a series of swinging, toothed jaws that allow you to push a piece through, but then use a cantilever effect to clamp it in position.
It will hold anything from 2.5cm to 25cm in diameter, including the corner of a pallet or just straight cordwood. There are free-standing and three-point linkage mounted versions, with prices starting from £125.
If you want to clear a lot of trees in a short space of time, there is probably no quicker way to do it than fitting a tree-shear grab to a 360 excavator. On the Continent they’re now a common sight in forestry operations where it is all about output.
East Sussex-based Marshall Ag Engineering imports the Woodcracker range of shears from Austria that will deal with trunk diameters from 25cm (ideal for 8-15t diggers) up to 55cm (more suited to 25-tonners and above).
They are not cheap though – prices range from £26,000-£28,000 – but they are said to be ideal for clearing roadside trees where total control of felling is essential. At the business end, one set of jaws grips hold of the standing trunk and, once these pressurise, the lower set of cutting jaws are triggered to shear their way through the timber. The middle clamps can then be used to accumulate a number of trunks at once. An electric diverter valve then sends oil to the rotator head, allowing the operator to gently lower the trees to the ground.
For £4000 Marshall also offers a screw-type log-splitter mounted on loader brackets. Hydraulically-powered, it can be swapped for an auger to double up as a post-hole borer.
Riko is one of a number of companies selling rocking-table saw benches specifically for firewood processing. Much safer and less inclined to snatch than old-school belt- or pto-driven table saws, lengths of timber are held in a trough that pivots forward and back, exposing the tungsten-tipped saw blade to the wood.
Built by Italian firm Collina, it will handle rounds up to 30cm in diameter and doesn’t blunten as quickly a chainsaw, according to the company. Available with a petrol engine, pto-drive or three-phase electric motor, the unit costs £1,130.
Wessex machinery now builds a lightweight horizontal log-splitter. Although it is mounted on Cat 1 link pins and is really designed for a compact tractor, it’s capable of generating 10t of splitting force. A simple offload chute means logs can be discharged into a trailer, shoved along by the next bit coming through the machine. And, because it all happens at waist-level, it is reckoned to be much less of a back-breaking job. It costs £1,250.