A heel with feel

New Zealand Logger - - Iron Test: Sam Keefe - iron test: Sam Keefe

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.

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