New Waratah head handles trees with kid gloves for quality poles

August 2, 2016

Taking a closer look at the Waratah H290, are (from left): Chris Scheepers of Bosbok Ontginning with Operator Amos Magagula and Bell Equipment Sales Representative, Charles Inggs.

An exciting development for forestry mechanisation in Southern Africa is the introduction by Bell Equipment of the Waratah H290 Harvester Head as a safe, efficient and cost effective solution for the debarking and processing of Eucalyptus trees for the treated pole market.

According to Bell Equipment's General Manager: Forestry, Sugar and Agriculture, Derek Howe, the tried and trusted Waratah H290 is particularly well suited to this application due to the use of special, hydraulically driven rubber feed rollers which minimise mechanical damage to produce poles that consistently exceed SABS standards.

"The H290 is a powerful, high-capacity head which features the highly efficient SuperCut 100 saw unit and can fell and process trees up to 760mm in diameter, and debark and debranch to as thin as 50mm in diameter. This makes the head suitable for all treated poles, from transmission and telephone poles all the way down to fencing poles. We are also confident that the head could be used to remove wattle bark without damaging it," he said.

Delimbing is carried out by four moving delimbing knives and one fixed, adjustable top knife, which creates an effective system that provides 100% coverage. This presents the perfect geometry for excellent delimbing and debarking quality, regardless of the log diameter.


The Waratah H290 has been tried and tested, and is well suited to the debarking and processing of Eucalyptus trees for the treated pole market, producing poles that consistently exceed SABS standards.

Together with innovative tweaking and some Waratah tricks, the sophisticated knife control and dual-speed feed motors of the H290 delivers high production, cost effective debarking. These feed motors generate an impressive feed force of up to 41.6kN with a maximum feed speed of 4.5-6.0 m/s.

Derek believes that the H290 offers a more cost effective alternative to the treated pole sector, and that customers will "definitely enjoy a cost per tonne benefit" over manual delimbing and debarking. Mechanisation also creates a safer environment in the plantation.

Well suited to both tracked and wheeled carriers - either a 22t to 30t excavator or a similar sized, purpose-built harvester - the H290 carries a warranty period of 2 000 hours.

Optional equipment available for the H290 includes a colour marking system, stump treatment and pine rollers.

Research and development
Bell Equipment, Waratah's dealer in the Southern African region, first identified an opportunity to mechanise the debarking element and the accurate processing of Eucalyptus trees into transmission pole logs about two years ago, and embarked upon a detailed product development programme.

The H290 was continuously scrutinised by the company's engineers, technical staff, parts department and marketing team to ensure that the unit would be able to successfully fulfill its role in this niche market. Also of importance was ensuring that Bell would be able to offer a high standard of aftermarket support by trained and dedicated technical, parts and sales personnel.


The H290 is a powerful, high-capacity head which features the highly efficient SuperCut 100 saw unit and can fell and process trees up to 760mm in diameter and debark and debranch to as thin as 50mm in diameter.

"We also had lengthy discussions with Jules Larsen, GM of Waratah Asia Pacific and Africa, and met with the Waratah engineers at the factory in New Zealand, to carefully create an understanding of the standards that needed to be achieved in the extremely quality sensitive pole market in Africa," said Derek.

"Knowing his desire to achieve perfection, we approached Jos Badenhorst, the General Manager of MTO Forestry's Lowveld region, to allow us to conduct trials in their typical Eucalyptus stands being harvested by our long-time mechanised customer, Bosbok Ontginning, owned and managed by the father and son team of Koos and Chris Scheepers.

"We have subsequently completed trials during which we perfected the head capabilities to achieve the high standards demanded in the production of transmission poles and fencing poles," said Derek.

According to Chris Scheepers, for the purposes of the trial the H290 was fitted to a John Deere 759JH in stands of varying sized Eucalyptus trees. "The unit has been working with an experienced operator who soon mastered the necessary technique and consistently achieved a production rate of 15m³ per hour in trees of 0,4m³ on relatively flat areas. Higher productivity was recorded with some labour involvement. The introduction has been like a breath of fresh air,” said Chris.

Commented Derek: "Along with our Bell technicians and Sales Representative, Charles Inggs, we also involved certain contractors, quality inspectors and treating plant management from KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province to add their input. We have since delivered thousands of transmission and fencing poles, which have consistently surpassed the demanding quality standards.

"All the main players in the pole treating sector have endorsed our new head and its capabilities, and a special thanks must go to Matt Pennyfather who allowed deliveries into Lows Creek Treating Plant, as well as Schalk Theron and André Schoeman of Tzaneng Treated Timbers in the Tzaneen area and the valuable input of Pieter Bruwer of Northern Timber Sawmills in Tzaneen, Andrew Pratt of Agatha Sawmills and Gary Hughes of the R & B Timber Company in KwaZulu-Natal," concluded Derek.


The use of special hydraulically driven rubber feed rollers on the Waratah H290 minimises mechanical damage to poles, which is currently experienced in traditional mechanised pulp log debarking.

*First published in SA Forestry magazine, June 2016

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