Grapple on a Stick: Small, Safe and Fast

Mayer Tree Service put its Sennebogen unit to work after a micro burst damaged a one-acre pine stand on state property in Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Mayer Tree Service.

He doesn’t recall the year, but after seeing a demonstration in Switzerland, Dan Mayer saw and bought what he believes was the first tool of its type in America. Mayer was visiting Sennebogen headquarters to buy a chipper and was introduced to something new: a material handler with a telescoping boom and stick fitted with a hydraulic grapple saw.

It was love at first sight.

“I saw the efficiency in it right away,” says Mayer, owner of Mayer Tree Service, Inc., a 19-year TCIA member company based in Essex, Massachusetts. He says he saw a live demonstration of the grapple saw, run by a single operator taking down a tree effortlessly. “If you want to keep your people safe, it’s another great tool.”

Sennebogen’s material handlers are cousins to the wide variety of truck-mounted grapple saws becoming popular with tree companies, for both disaster-cleanup efforts (note that there are many at the West Coast wildfire cleanups) and everyday use.

Smaller than a truck, each of the Sennebogen units can get into some areas where trucks can’t. Operated from a cab, it can take down a tree by itself, creating the same benefits of safety, labor and time savings that the larger, truck-mounted knuckle-boom units can.

“A knuckle boom’s going to have more reach than we do, but we can get a lot closer to the tree,” says Greg Roberts, Sennebogen tree care manager. “The setup time’s a lot quicker, which means we can get in and out of the job site faster.

“There’s not a perfect way to take a tree down. There’s not a perfect machine to do the work. But everybody has a place. Our claim to fame is speed. We can take the tree down faster.”

Tree care professionals may debate which is the better tool, but both provide increased safety and efficiencies.

“The goal for all of us is to make the tree industry safer,” Roberts says. “The two biggest issues with tree care companies right now? One is labor, and the other is keeping the labor they have safe. These machines – whether it’s a material handler or knuckle boom – they accomplish that in their own way.”

Both Roberts and Mayer acknowledge that some trees are better removed using other tools, but Roberts says, “This machine will do 80% of the trees you have in the tree business, even in storm cleanup.”

Mayer used to chase storms, but these days does the cleanup only when a Nor’easter or other weather event drives through Massachusetts. He owns six material handlers with mounted grapple saws and finds them to be good – and safe – in that setting.

“We’ve done jobs where we’ve cleaned the whole street, moved the telephone poles and wrapped up the wires, with one crew member in the machine and another one who follows behind, chipping,” Mayer says. “One time we had to stop before we finished the job so the governor could come through and take pictures of the disaster. We had to stop and wait for him to come through with his entourage of photographers.”

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