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BTB 32: ‘Super’ 726E

Tigercat brings back the 726E feller buncher with a high horsepower twist.
One of Howard Means’ new 726E bunchers felling 35 m (120 ft) pine in tough terrain in Chickasaw State Park.

One of Howard Means’ new 726E bunchers felling 35 m (120 ft) pine in tough terrain in Chickasaw State Park.

Jim Ard, owner of Jim Ard Timber Inc, a Mississippi logger and B&G Equipment customer, strolled into the B&G Magnolia branch one day with a brilliant idea. Ard, who primarily contracts to Weyerhaeuser, generally works in mature pine and the terrain typically tends to be broken up by some steep ground that constrains the deck areas and taxes the feller buncher. “We’ve got these ridges,” says Jim. “Very rarely do we have the room to put two loaders on the same deck. We usually can’t even get the loaders close enough together to be fed by a single skidder. It’s almost like two little jobs in one.”

The day Jim popped into the Magnolia store, president W.J. Bates as well as branch manager Red Williamson happened to be there. Jim came right out with it, asking the two men to figure out a way to sell him a 300 hp 726E feller buncher. “For us the 724E doesn’t quite do the job,” Jim explains.

4 men stand all wearing safety vests and hats in front of a Tigercat feller buncher.

(L-R) Johnny Boyd, Tigercat district manager for Alabama and Mississippi, Red Williamson, B&G Magnolia branch manager, Jim Ard and 726E operator David Craven.

The 220 hp 724E is very capable in almost any wheel feller buncher clear fell application yet its size and wheelbase still lends itself to thinning jobs when required, especially when equipped with the 5500 saw which combines big timber control with small stem bunching ability. The versatility and performance of the 724E had completely displaced sales of the 726E over the last few years, and Tigercat had quietly discontinued production of the model, as a feller buncher, that is.

Tigercat has been busy selling a 300 hp mulcher version called the M726E which always has had an optional multi-function hydraulic system and quick-attach boom adapter so that the machine could be changed to a feller buncher in a pinch if a land clearing contractor wanted to fell merchantable timber.

A Tigercat 726E feller buncher with two large trees in it's grapple, midway through falling.

The first 300 hp 726E was purchased by Jim Ard after he requested it from dealer B&G Equipment.

That said, granting Jim’s request wasn’t as simple as slapping a sawhead on the mulcher carrier. There was some work involved to optimize the hydraulics for a feller buncher application. The mulcher version has a very large attachment pump and a different drive circuit so Tigercat agreed to do the required back-end work and put the machine into production if B&G would make a larger commitment to three machines. Feeling confident about the idea, they agreed and now, a few short months later, Tigercat has shipped ten machines and demand for the industry’s newest, largest and most powerful feller buncher is expanding into other regions with big timber and tough terrain.

Jim equipped his machine with aggressive cleat 66×43-25 tires providing an optimal combination of traction, low ground pressure and side stability. “We run the 43 tires all year round so that the machine can work side slopes but also covers my flotation in the winter.”

Jim is overjoyed with the performance of his new machine. “The extra horsepower is most noticeable when backing uphill loaded — which in turn helps the skidders.” The 726E has an additional 127 mm (5 in) of wheelbase and is 230 mm (9 in) longer overall which augments stability and traction on slopes when the 5702 saw is clutching a big tree. Operator David Craven routinely cuts 25 loads daily.

Saw dust flies creating a misty haze through the trees as a Tigercat 726E Feller Buncher saws through the base of a tree.

Howard and operator Eddie Nunnley like the stability and fuel efficiency of the new 300 hp machine.

Howard Means, owner of R.H. Logging, purchased the second and third of the initial three machine run from B&G Iuka. Working summers in Chickasaw State Park in southern Tennessee, Howard’s machines are felling a steady diet of 60 year old pine growing in very fertile soil. The 35 m (120 ft) tall trees average 510-585 mm (20-23 in) diameter at the stump, weighing 1,8-2,7 tonne (4,000-6,000 lb). In addition, the hilly Tennessee country can bring slopes up to 30%. “We like the extra weight in the back end,” says Howard. The state forest also has quite a bit of oversize, top heavy hardwood. In fact, the famous Tennessee whisky, Jack Daniels, is aged in white oak barrels made from timber that comes out of the region.

Operator, Eddie Nunnley is also impressed with the machine, adding, “That’s probably the best cutter ever made and easy to work on.” Aside from the incredible performance in this most challenging application that the majority of the world’s harvesting professionals would say hands-down is a job for a track buncher, Howard is seeing other significant advantages. “I’ve run a bunch of 726 cutters and I’ve owned a lot of Tigercats over the years. The new machine with the low 1,900 rpm engine speed really has an effect on fuel consumption,” he says. “You take 400 rpm off and I think this is really going to affect engine life as well. It still pulls down but not nearly as much as the old machine. My fuel consumption has dropped from 34 L/h (9 gph) to 28 L/h (7.5 gph).”

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