"Improving..But still Risky outThere"

Dave Williams Logging Inc.
Hoquiam, Washington

Over the span of his 41 years in business, Dave Williams has run the gamut of logging shows, from skidding, to towers, clear cuts, thinning, cut-to-length systems and trucking as well. He’s changed systems with changing times, and willing to take a new opportunity, research it, and commit when the situation is right. First and foremost, he’s a professional explaining “I’ve had enough practice, and I don’t do this for a hobby.” He and his crew takes great pride in doing their job right. “We give the thinnings a lot of attention to give the customer what they want.”
Williams explained that his background in logging goes back to, “...my grandfather was a gypo logger out of Tillamook, Oregon.” William’s father graduated from Washington State in Forestry, and worked in that capacity all of his life, also serving as a friend and advisor until he died in July of 2012.

There was little doubt of Dave Williams interest in logging, although the fall after graduating from Hoquiam High School in ‘67 he enrolled at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon for one year then served in the Marine Corp. for two years, returning to Washington state. Then he went to work for Elmore Boom Company in Port Angeles, working on a boom on the river, rafting logs, breaking bundles, and sorting out there on the water. He returned to Hoquiam, and working on land, “...working on the rigging and a chokerman for $3.86 an hour,” in 1971 and launching his career, learning by doing.”

Dave Williams Logging

When in 1973 Williams decided to start his own company he passed the idea by his father, whose only question was, “...are you sure that’s what you want to do?” Williams answer was launching Dave Williams Logging, “...Cat logging at the time,” with a D7E Caterpillar and a model 4L Northwest heel boom line machine, gradually making his mark and growing as the opportunity presented itself.

He was prudent buying equipment always conscious of his debt levels and paying attention to his father counsel. “My dad always said, ‘... if you cannot afford it don’t buy it. If you need it, save for it.’” It was a habit fostered in his youth, which carried forward to his business practice. “I’d give up a lot of things being in debt, and I’d work extra hours and extra days, six day a week, Saturday by myself then,” all aimed at getting out of debt quickly. “I’m careful with money and careful with our debt. We keep close track of it and I work a lot of hours on my own to get ahead.” It’s a habit that’s served him well both in good and bad times, in each of the business cycles he’s been a part of in his now four plus decades in business.

Stages and cycles

In 1976 Williams purchased his first tower, a Hyster 98 triple drum, adding to their versatility, and at one time had four tower sides running. In addition he had an assortment of loaders, both to support the tower sides and for shovel logging.

Around 1978 he’d seen some advertising on Pullmaster drums that sparked his interest, especially after he’d seen a logger down in Eugene who’d installed those drums on a Caterpillar 235 shovel logging with it, “...and I really liked it,” which convinced him to add a “yoder” to his operation as well. “I thought it would be dandy for corners, and we did a lot of cable thinning with it as well.” Williams bought a Christie mechanical carriage at the same time, that gave him a drop line as too, and the system performed very well. “Quick set up and quick moves,” he explained, and they’ve had a yoder since that point in time.

He purchased his first log truck in 1984, and has purchased and sold several in the ensuing years depending on their needs at the time. At one point they had 13 log trucks, although at present they have six used both for his own hauls in addition to contract hauling for others. “We’ve done a lot of hauling for a lot of different people,” Williams smiled.

The ‘89 crunch

Logging in the west took a dramatic turn in 1989 with the release of the Northern Spotted Owl report, which essentially brought logging on public lands to a standstill. “The timber supply had come to a stop,” Williams said. Some two weeks prior to the reports release Williams “...sold a ton of equipment... and I did get enough to pay just about everybody off,” he recalled.

Dramatically pared down, Williams said, “I was still doing shovel logging,” and continued working on private timber sales for the next several years.”‘

In ‘94 he added a Timberjack 2618 feller buncher with an Ultimate 5300 processing head, in response to the smaller wood direction of the industry, and shifting his direction towards thinning operations.

Cut-to-length operations

While Williams continued shovel logging during this time, an opening presented itself in ‘94 when Rayonier needed a thinning operator on their tree farm. Williams purchased a new cut-to-length system buying two Timberjack 1270 harvesters with 762 processing heads, and a Timberjack 1210 forwarder. “I was nervous as hell,” he said smiling at the memory, “but the opportunity was there, and they were keeping me busy.”

Cut-to-length systems were new to this part of the world at the time, which Williams noted explaining, “...it was a real learning curve, and a tough one to straighten out,” but they eventually managed that with a capable crew and perseverance, and Williams operating one of the 1270s. Once they adjusted to the system, the thinning operations continued to improve up to present day.

When Williams updated equipment in 2000, he purchased their first Timbco feller buncher pairing it with a LogMax 750 dangle head processor. The switch from the harvesters to the Timbco was far easier than their start with CTL systems, “... because the Timbco had so much more power,” Williams said. “I’d seen LogMax at the (OLC) log show,” working with Jim Wark at Pape Machinery, “... but Jim (Hay) was instrumental with getting the Log Max head put on it.”

The Timbco/LogMax became the processor for their shovel side, “... and then if we didn’t have a shovel logging job, it could be used in the thinnings,” he said with a smile then added, “It was not orphaned.” The Timbco 445-D remains in operation to this day, although in 2005 they update from the LogMax 750 to a LogMax 7000.

The combination worked well, so much so that he added a Valmet Timbco 445 EXL with LogMax 7000 in 2005, and another in 2009. “We’re running all three of them,” Williams said. “Having all three heads the same is pretty good for having spare parts on hand: it cuts our parts inventory down by a third.”

They also updated the forwarder in 2006 to a 20-ton capacity Valmet 860 with a CRF 10 squirt boom, which has a 27-ft. reach fully extended.

The next generation

Both of William’s step sons joined the company roughly seven years ago, having been raised in and around the business as they were growing up. The older of the brothers, Sean Green logged for a while right after high school graduation in 2002, then, “...went to the motorcycle institute in Phoenix,” Williams explained. “The school itself was 18 months. He graduated first in his class then worked for a high performance custom bike shop in Phoenix,,” for five years, before finally getting tired of the hot weather, “...then came back up here and went to work for me,” some seven years ago. He runs their Valmet 860 forwarder most the time, in addition to operating loader when he loads out the log trucks. Williams said it is both faster and more efficient using a loader for the trucks than using the forwarder.

The younger son, Jamie “Coug” Green started his logging career right out of high school and starting out running the forwarder, before switching over to the Timbco T-445D with the LogMax 7000 processor five years ago. “I like it,” said Coug noting “it’s fun,” but he does miss having the occasional contact with others when he ran the forwarder versus the somewhat solitary environment of running feller bunchers.
The rest of today’s crew is a mix of skilled veterans, all experienced in thinning operations, in addition to the expertise and versatility to log in a wide array of circumstances.

In addition to the four-man logging crew, there are two log truck drivers, and Williams wife of 21 years, Melody, handles the bookkeeping. Typically they work a five day week, with the occasional sixth, “...but not often.” All of the crew has company paid Medical, dental and vision insurance.

Looking ahead

With a dedicated, versatile, knowledgeable crew, and strong mix of equipment, Williams remains optimistic on his company’s future, working for both commercial and private landowners. He still loves the business, which shows through as we drive through the forests they’ve thinned recently as well as stands they’ve worked on in the past, describing what was done and the clear evidence of the quality in the stand that remains.

We asked him where he sees himself in five years, and he answered, “...still sitting on machines, commercially thinning and going hunting during the winter (November, December, January),” Williams emphasized with a broad smile. “I wanted the license plate saying ‘work to hunt’ but it was already taken in Washington. Can u imagine that?” He credits his love of the outdoors and hunting as a gift from his father saying “...a great hunting partner and my friend,” again with a smile.

Business is improving, Williams noted. “Housing has gone up for now, but not enough to get real enthused, at least not yet. The political situation is still uncertain with too many ups and downs.” And with 41 years as a logging contractor he’s earned his and learned through out to be cautious and bold based on what he sees and what his life experiences have taught him. “You’ve got to live learning from your mistakes” and making the most of your opportunities. 

by / Mike Crouse