A heel with feel
THE LAST TIME I GOT TO USE A LIVE heel in the forest was way back in 2002. However, just like riding a bike, it didn’t take me long to get the feel for this heel because it was nicely plumbed and set up.
The Ensign live heel is easy to use, but if you are not familiar with that style of heel and how the grapple hangs you can do some damage with the grapple smashing onto the heel. The way it has been set up is exactly how it should be for that combination. Between Bob and myself there was no banging or clashing during our test.
The Kobelco was even more familiar to me. Chris Hurring, my present employer, has got a slightly larger Kobelco SK350 with a standard 1730 grapple, without the live heel, which I have used so I felt right at home on this machine.
Sitting in the cab, it’s very similar to the machine that’s working in my crew, with a few subtle differences, like the new seat, which is very comfortable. Lots of space inside, especially for Bob’s big chilly bin behind the seat.
I like the vision from the large glass area, even with all the guarding around the cab, and the view to the right, just behind the boom, seems a lot better than before. You don’t get much of a view behind any digger, so that rear-facing camera is nice to have and I found myself relying on it, although it did get hit by sun strike in the later hours of the day.
The joy sticks feel quite light, but you still have good control over the functions. Bob seems to like it, as the patterns are pretty much the same as he had on his old Cat, which is always a help. For operating the live heel and grapple, you have the rotator on the left-hand side, while the open and close is on the right side. To work the live heel itself it’s on the bucket function, which is on the right-hand joystick. When you pull it to your left the bucket will come down towards you and if you want to grab with it and push the heel in you push the right-hand joystick to the right and the heel will crowd out, so it is opposite to a bucket crowding.
I was trying to work out if I could tell the difference in the pump upgrades and improvements, but on such a short test it was hard to gauge because Kobelco controls tend to be light anyway and these are lighter still. But the functions do work very well.
The slew and lift are pretty spot on. And because of the light feel of the controls you almost think you are dealing with thinning trees. There’s almost no feeling of weight there when picking up big stems with the help of the heel. But it obviously has a lot of muscle, especially if it can pick up a 5-axle trailer at around 6-and-a-half-to-7 tonnes quite easily, from what Bob told us.
When I switched over to fleeting up on the skid I found there was quite a bit of finesse in the grapple to pick up single logs.
I didn’t do much walking, but the little I did when shovelling down in the gully proved it had enough speed and traction.
I wasn’t game to follow Bob’s lead and try out some digging and blading with the live heel – it’s been too long since I did any of that. But Bob made it look easy and it’s definitely better than stopping to change over to a bucket.
How the Arm Interflow System works.
Iron Tester, Sam Keefe.