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Keeping it in the family: Bud Newton, owner of Three Star Logging in Northern California (second from left) is pictured with grandson and rigging slinger Kyle Newton (third from left) and choker setters Shelby Dalbec (far left) and Zachery Potts (far right)
Small Outfit –Big Production
Three Star Logging, Crescent City, Calif.
By Mary Bullwinkel
Three Star Logging is a small logging outfit based in the northern California town of Crescent City, just 20 miles south of the California/Oregon border. Owners Bud and Joyce Newton and business partner Mike Dixon employ 18 people, several of whom have worked for the logging company for 15 years.
“It’s just a way of life…with me anyway,” Bud Newton says. He has worked in the woods since he was a teenager and now, at the age of 80, he can’t imagine doing anything else. He began his career in Washington State as a teenager, then worked in Oregon, and finally settled in the far reaches of northern California.
Three Star Logging utilizes a 322 Caterpillar with a 3500 Denharco delimber/stroker at logging operations in northern California.
Maintenance Costs Versus Payments
Three Star Logging’s success is based on what Newton calls his theory of using older but well-maintained equipment. “My theory is no payments,” Newton says, “high maintenance costs, but no payments. When the job stops and the taxes stop, the big expenses stop, and there are no payments.”
Newton logs using Skagit GT3 swing, short span yarders and motorized Eagle carriages. His crews have been using these yarders for about 25 years.
“The motorized carriages make these yarders productive again,” Newton says. He indicated he could get about 80 percent of the production of a new yarder by using motorized carriages with the older yarders. “You use a standing guyline with these little carriages, and you’ve got an endless drop line.” He described his maintenance costs on the carriages as “very reasonable.”
Operators Make the Difference
But it is his employees and their ability to operate the equipment that makes a big difference. “My crew, my wife, and [partner] Mike Dixon are my biggest assets,” Newton says. His experienced operators can get about the same production using an older piece of equipment as a mediocre operator can get using a brand new piece. “It’s just your choice of help.”
He notes that it is getting more difficult to find experienced help, and an aging workforce in the logging industry is also causing concern.
“Few young people are getting into the industry,” he says, noting the average age of his crew is more than 50 years old. Another difficulty is finding log trucks to transport the logs from the woods. The logging season in California is short, and the availability of log trucks is sometimes a problem. Local independent truckers haul the logs from Three Star Logging sites in northern California to a mill in southern Oregon. A trip from one site is more than 100 miles, one way.
Three Star Logging utilizes a 692 John Deere with a 624 Waratah processing head to work with the Skagit GT3 yarder. The combination works well in tight places and eliminates the need for additional equipment.
The Right Equipment & Sharing Equipment
Three Star Logging also uses 3400 Link-Belt shovel log loaders, a 220 Kobelco shovel log loader, a 322 Caterpillar with a 3500 Denharco delimber/stroker, and a 692 John Deere with a 624 Waratah processing head.
Newton says an advantage of using the dangle head processor is that it works efficiently in a very tight area and eliminates the need for an additional piece of equipment (a second shovel log loader). Another advantage is getting more leverage with the logs. “You have twice the leverage and twice the power,” he says.
Another contributing factor to his successful career is a cooperative relationship with other local logging contractors. “I’ve worked with almost every one of them and was able to borrow anything from any one of them,” Newton says. “And I would loan them anything,” noting that this past logging season Three Star Logging and Boak Logging, a local Humboldt County-based contract logging company, shared use of each other’s equipment on separate logging jobs.
One of the difficulties faced during the logging season is a shortage of trucks to haul logs out of the woods. While local independent truckers are used to haul the logs from Three Star Logging job sites, another issue is the distance the logs are transported. Most of the logs were being shipped to South Coast Lumber Company in Brookings, Ore., a two to four hour round-trip, depending on which logging site the logs were coming from.
Three Star Logging owner Bud Newton and business partner Mike Dixon have worked in the timber industry together for more than 30 years. Newton describes Dixon as one of his greatest “assets.”
Injury Behind the Company
Three Star Logging was established in 1983, several years after Newton was injured in a timber falling accident. He was working in the woods near the small community of Klamath, Calif., in Del Norte County, when a big redwood log rolled over him. “I would have been content to fall timber until I retired,” Newton says. But his injury put him on crutches, and when he was unable to do the physical work, he started his own logging company.
Business partner Mike Dixon has worked with Three Star Logging for the last 15 years and worked with Newton in the logging industry for double that number of years before that. Both worked for Miller Rellim Redwood Company in Del Norte County (Newton as a timber faller before he got hurt and Dixon as a hook tender, who eventually went on to become Logging Superintendent). When that company closed, Dixon came to work with Newton at Three Star Logging.
During the course of his career, Newton has seen many changes in the industry, the biggest being improvements in safety. He also mentioned that advances in technology are extremely important. “Technology has taken a lot of the hard labor out of [logging],” Newton says, adding that it also allows for maximized yield with operators making the best use of their time.
What does the future hold for Newton and Three Star Logging? Well, for the last four or five years, Newton has been saying this would be his last year, but so far, he continues to head out to the woods five and six days a week during logging season to check on the operations. “I’m not going to go quiet,” he says, “I just don’t know what else I would do.”