Learning not to be greedy
IT’S HARD NOT TO BE GREEDY WITH A SKIDDER like the Tigercat 632E. You’ve not only got that big grapple hanging off the boom, just waiting to be filled, you also have an abundance of power to lift and pull wood back to the skid.
Result? It’s easy to take too much wood on board and, if it isn’t held tightly in the grapple, then you’ll likely lose a few on the way.
That’s exactly what happened to me on my first drag. I was so impressed with how Rick was working the machine I just jumped in, boots and all.
Serves me right that I looked like a Jack-ass, spilling stems all over the place.
This is a machine that rewards measured and thoughtful operation. It was a real pleasure to see someone like Rick makes this machine sing. Once I relaxed and started to think more about what I was doing, instead of charging in, everything began to fall into place.
I suppose it threw me a bit when I found that the joystick steering was in the opposite hand from the machine I had been operating in the morning. Took a while to get used to that. I’ve driven other machines with joysticks, but very few skidders, and my brain still wants to go back to the old steering wheel method.
The joystick operation comes into its own when you start using the boom and grapple. It’s relatively the same as other skidders in the controls of the boom and grapple, which are on the right-hand side. The steering is on the left, so forward, reverse and neutral – that’s opposite to what I was driving in the morning on the Komatsu.
With the swivel seat, going forward was fine. I had more trouble when I turned around to face backwards and then using the joystick steering – mind over matter, I guess.
I’ve been on a few different skidders over the years and I would honestly say that the 632E has the best visibility when facing the grapple. I found that opened-up arch really good. Looking through to the boom attachments, the extra bits that they’ve taken out of the middle makes a hell of a difference. You can see down to where the end of the grapple tips are, so when you are grabbing wood you have better control because you can see what’s happening.
That grapple holds a lot of wood. On that first grab I just got greedy, took too much, and it took it all even though it required a little bit to lift. Ease the arch back and then work it around and suck it in, and you really can get hold of big loads.
But I agree with Rick about grabbing just enough and keeping the wood flowing – much more productive. Lifting the wood up is also necessary. You don’t want to be dragging too much on the ground. On some lifts I had a bit more lead in my logs, which restricted my lift. The last drag I got a little bit shorter and had a lot more lift so I could bring it in more. I noticed that I was able to drag the stems to the skid a lot quicker and easier.
The machine is so well balanced that I didn’t really notice the weight. Even though I had too much in the grapple on that first drag, the machine still pulled it but when I learned not to be so greedy I was able to move faster and with more ease.
Everything on that machine works a lot faster than you expect, including that grapple, which seems to have the same speed as a loader grapple. You can almost drop a log and grab another one in the same movement before you lose the whole lot. That’s down to the speed of the hydraulics, which is really impressive.
Once I got my mind around the joystick steering I was able to enjoy how easy it was to move such a big machine around the skid and put the stems right where I wanted them.
Other aspects I like are the quietness, outside and in the cab. You notice the hydraulics working more than the engine. And I’m impressed with that TurnAround seat – click it with your foot and around she goes. A really good feature.
It would have been nice to spend more time getting to know the 632E better than just this bit of speed dating.
Iron Tester, Stan Barlow.
Left both pics: New FPT engine in the 632E is smaller than competitor skidders, but delivers more peak power.
Right: The blade extensions were made in the Tigercat factory to suit New Zealand contractor demands.