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My Harbor Freight 30 ton splitter experience...

Post in 'The Gear' started by Gooserider, Sep 24, 2008.

  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    As I mentioned elsewhere, I just got my 30 ton Harbor Freight (SKU # 91840 ) splitter off the truck today... Very fast order, though it slowed down a bit at the end. I ordered it on Sunday 9/14/08, it supposedly got to my area on Thursday 9/19, according to both HF and Yellow Freight, but I didn't get the call from the local trucking company that does the deliveries until Monday 9/22, and it actually got to me the morning of Tuesday 9/23 about 11:00 AM. Can't complain, that is faster than HF usually gets the smaller packages to me.

    No problems with the truck delivery. The truck had a lift gate, and the guy rolled it right into the garage with his pallet jack. He said they delivered lots of the units, and commented that I was luckier than the previous two customers - my crate was intact, whereas the previous two the crate was so buste up he'd had to take the unit apart in order to get them off his truck in peices. He was quite familiar with the units and gave me some very accurate advice on how to put it together.

    The unit arrived in a wooden crate - the coffin for two size... It was a VERY well built crate, w/ two metal bands, plus sheet metal reinforcing the corners, plenty of strong nails, etc. I was more gentle than I had to be, but it took me a couple of hours to get the crate apart, removing first the top, then each end, and finally the sides. The stuff inside wasn't fastened down, but it also was heavy enough not to really need it. I'm surprised the driver said he'd had smashed crates, it would have taken quite a hit to break up the one I got.

    One thing I found that didn't make a lot of sense, was a big package of desicant - on the outside of the plastic sheet that covered most of the unit... However that may have come from some other shipment, and fallen through the slats into my crate...

    But finally I had the crate knocked down to a plastic covered pile of parts....

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  2. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The only damage I've seen up to this point is possibly a bit of hit or rub on the top of the engine air cleaner and muffler. Some damage to the plastic, but not bad.

    I pulled the plastic off, and found that there was a little bit of bending to the muffler shield, and possibly the spark arrestor was a little bent - notice the gap at the top - nothing bad enough to fuss about though...

    In addition to the two main parts of the splitter, I had a couple of boxes, pulled them out and got a visit from the local neighborhood rodent control officer / supervisor... :coolsmile:

    Opened them up, the smaller one had the trailer hitch, safety chains, a few bolts, a seal kit for the cylinder and the manuals for the engine and splitter - also the sparkplug wrench for the engine, the cotter pins for the axle, and the unused mainshaft key for the engine.

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  3. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    Not bad for coming from over yonder. Is that a chinese attack cat?
  4. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The second box had the two tire and wheel assemblies and the hubcaps in it. This box had a bit of damage, but the contents were fine. The bearings and seal for each wheel were on their axle, protected with a plastic baggy.

    So much for the parts inventory, nothing appears to be missing, so on to the main event...

    There are two big parts to this splitter - the wheel frame that has the tank, engine, hydraulic pump, etc. on it, and the main beam. Assembly basically consists of putting the two wheels on the frame, and marrying the frame to the main beam unit.

    But first, as suggested in one of the other threads I wanted to check the slack in the Lovejoy / spider coupling between the pump and the engine. Sure enough, I felt a lot of slack, but because the pump mount opening is facing down, it is hard to see what is going on.

    However disassembly is indicated... I took the pump off first, and found it was a bit of a battle because of the suction hose to the tank. It is very short and stiff, doesn't want to flex easily. I then had a great idea to solve the problem of not being able to see what is going on with the Lovejoy - the pump bracket is symetrical, so I rotated it 90* - now the open side faces towards the outside of the splitter, and it's easy to see and reach the coupler, including the setscrews needed to make the adjustments.

    Incedentally, while the pump is clearly marked Haldex, it may not be completely a stock unit - the other Haldex pumps I've seen just had a little short stub coming out for the suction hose to slide onto. This pump has a much longer elbow coming out, which makes for a nearly straight shot for the suction line, but also means that if the pump ever needs replacing the suction line will probably need to be changed as well... Also it would appear that there is no way to service the pump without draining the hydraulic tank, as the suction hose will be to short to tie up and keep the fluid in the tank. Not a big deal...

    It was a real pain getting the two coupler halves back together though, as the suction hose just didn't want to let me move the pump around enough to get the parts lined up. I tried taking the hose off, which helped, but then found I didn't have enough separation to get the hose back on. Finally unbolted the pump a second time, rotated it to get enough space to get the hose on, and bolted everything back together.

    My observation was that there seemed to be two problems that were causing the slack - first is the rubber spider seems to be a bit of a loose fit between the coupler halves, secondly the halves aren't put on properly, they aren't close enough together, especially the engine side is too far onto the shaft, so the engine shaft is sticking out and hitting the rubber. A very simple matter to loosten the allen screws on the couplers and adjust the position now that you can see what's happenning.

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  5. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Now that I had the pump stuff fixed, I slid the beam and the platform towards the end of the pallet, twisting the platform so that each axle was hanging off a corner, giving me the room to put the wheels on, after packing the bearings. I didn't have a huge amount of grease handy, and it was kind of old, but I didn't worry as much about the packing as I might in a case where I was planning to tow the unit a lot. current plans are that I'll just be occasionally moving the unit around the yard, so I figure it isn't going to put any strain on the bearings. This is why I'm also not planning to put the trailer hitch coupler on the beam, though I'm going to need to make some sort of coupler to hook up to the lawn tractor.

    I figure that leaving the hitch off will make it that much harder for an ill intentioned person to "borrow" the unit without permission...

    After putting the wheels on, I followed the truckers advice and simply stood the beam upright on the toe-plate (big enough that it was quite stable) and slid the platform over to the beam. It was a bit of a challenge to slide the last of the packing crate pallet and the standard pallet it was sitting on out from under the platform frame, but once I managed that, the flanges on the tank slid right into the flange on the beam and let me put the swivel bolt in place.

    That held the platform in place so that I could get the support leg on, and that finished the assembly...

    Even with the wheels on, I could still see the lovejoy in the rotated pump mount.

    Another thing that bothered me a bit, and needed fixing anyways was the spark arrestor - as installed it angled down and towards the rear of the splitter, where I'd be sitting running the machine. I took it off and found that it was essentially circular, and had a matching set of holes in the muffler cover, so it could be positioned pointing in several positions. I remounted it facing down and front, where it will blow at someone adjusting the engine, a bit, but not terribly so.

    I now had the splitter together, and put in one quart of dino oil (10-40) in the engine, and filled the tank w/ AW32 hydraulic fluid. It took most of a pail to get it up to the full mark on the dipstick, I'd guess about 4 gallons.

    I then pulled the engine several times with it turned off and the hydraulic lever pushed to down, until I started to get movement in the cylinder. This primed the hydraulic pump so that it never gets run dry, and also helps circulate the oil in the new engine. After that I gassed the engine, turned it on and got a first pull start.

    I then cycled the cylinder up and down about 5 or 6 times until it was running smoothly, with none of the jerks or bumps that are typical of a cylinder with air in it. I then shut down and checked the dipstic - well below the empty mark, it took the rest of the pail to get it up to about midway on the stick.

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  6. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Now that I had a splitter, and it was running, I did a bit of splitting, just to see how things worked.

    Overall no problems. I found I had to run it a bit faster than I was expecting, but I suspect that will improve as things loosten up in the engine.

    Cycle time was reasonable, however the wedge doesn't seem to pop the logs apart as fast as the real triangular wedge on my friends machine, I found this one seemed to need for me to go all the way to the bottom to get the splits all the way apart, my friends machine the splits tended to separate by about 1/2 way down...

    The lever is awkward to reach and operate, but I think there are ways to improve this fairly easily

    More details tomorrow after I've run it for a bit more and am more used to it.

    I've got a bit of splitting to do as you can see...


    Gooserider

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  7. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The to be split piles...

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  8. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    More to be split

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  9. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    A few more rounds, plus my rack for cutting down over length stuff.

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  10. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Good report Goose, I see now that the splitter is outside your gonna run it in the vert mode. Keep us posted on any modifications of the control lever. I don't think most people in our disposable society realize that when they buy a splitter...that's it. Splitters last longer than marriages.
  11. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    3 times longer and still going
  12. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    No, it isn't bad for shipping time at all... I was kind of disappointed that it seemed to take forever between when HF tracking said it was in the area on Thurday, and it actually getting here on Tuesday, but that wasn't a huge problem.

    As to the cat, that is Mittens, who owns the next door neighbors. Ancestry unknown / uncertain, but he is a good ole boy, around 16 or 17 as best his people can figure out. Very friendly, comes over to visit quite often.

    Very talented as well, he used to be on "happy pills" to keep him from spraying in the house. We occasionally do "cat sitting" while they are away, which included giving Mittens his pill - the pills which came from a mail-order pharmacy had labels on the bottle cautioning him against driving or operating heavy machinery while on them.... :bug: :lol:

    Gooserider
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I agree, this should be a "lasts forever" kind of tool. I've always been a fan of vertical mode operation, which is probably a good thing as the unit seems much more suitable for vertical than horizontal.

    I haven't tried running in horizontal, but have noticed that the beam seems very wobbly, which probably wouldn't help it any when trailering it either. There is a lot of slop in the fit between the pivot tabs on the beam and the corresponding tabs on the tank, and the holes are much larger than the pivot bolt. I'm tempted to take the bolt out and try to shove some washers in the space to tighten it up a bit. The horizontal lock holes have a similar sort of problem, the beam goes down PAST the lock holes, you have to pick it back up a little bit to get the pins in - less than a half inch, but enough to be a pain. I suspect it might be worth the effort to make a stop of some sort to better stabilize the beam, and also position it so the holes automatically line up.

    There is a nice lift handle on the beam on the engine side, but nothing on the other side, it would have been nice if they'd put a handle on both sides.

    The prop leg on the front of the machine isn't absolutely needed to hold it up in vertical mode, the weight of the beam is plenty, but without the leg it doesn't take much weight on the front edge to tilt it back. With the leg, it's very well supported, I found that if you put the beam pin in the vertical locking holes, and the prop leg down, the wheel opposite the engine side is actually off the ground a fraction of an inch...

    The beam itself is pretty well balanced, not to much of an oomph is needed to swing from horizontal to vertical, and the tongue weight when moving isn't bad.

    It is a PAIN getting the pins in and out, the beam and prop holes need to be jiggled just right to make them line up, and the pins don't have any length to spare, it is very tight quarters to get the beam pins in and out - a real knuckle buster due to the lack of clearance. I may try to make some longer pins with a stop on them so that they can be easier to reach for removal and inserting, and maybe come up with a better setup for the hairpin clips.

    Other annoyances - The hydraulic fluid dipstick can't be reached with the beam in the down position. The fill plug sticks out of the tank at about a 30* angle, so you need a funnel with a flexible nose to get the fluid in, but with the beam up there is nothing to support the funnel - with the beam down you can tie the funnel to the beam with bungies or string to support it, but as mentioned, you can't check whats on the dipstick.

    The breather for the hydraulic tank is a hole in the fill plug, covered by an o-ring. You are supposed to slide the o-ring down over the threads on the plug to expose the hole when splitting, then back up when done to cover it.
    I might try getting some sort of small valve and drilling the top of the breather plug for it instead...

    The control handle sticks out sideways to the right of the cylinder, it's reachable, but you have to reach over / around the pressure and return lines which is kind of awkward. My friend's machine has the valve handle sticking straight out to the left of the cylinder, which seems more comfortable. Because of the hoses and rigid plumbing between the valve and the cylinder, it looks like moving the valve itself would be an awkward task. I may try reversing the handle on the valve (not sure if that would reverse the operating direction though, which would not be good) and / or bend the handle, or do something else to try and reposition the lever to a more comfortable place.

    Overall impression is that it's a great machine in concept and overall design, but that the little details are more problematic. Nothing that can't be either lived with or fixed without to terribly much trouble.

    Gooserider
  14. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I've done some more splitting this evening, and more impressions...

    As a splitting tool it's great... I was splitting a wide range of hardwoods in sizes ranging from about 6" - marginal on whether to split or burn whole, to about 2', mixed varieties from oak and maple to who knows what, I'm pretty sure there was some elm involved. Never had any significant change in engine pitch, or hesitation in the wedge for more than a second or two, and anything that didn't split just sheared right through.

    My comparison is a friend's Yard Machine (MTD) 20 ton unit, which I think he's running a little bigger than stock pump on, and which I've probably cranked through 5 or 6 cords worth of rounds, at least. When I'm comparing, I'll just say "the MTD"

    This unit is definitely stronger as a splitter, but has some annoyances...

    1. It seems much more prone to kicking out the round - I think it's a problem of not enough biting surfaces on the base plate. This HF unit only has a little "V" shape that sticks up about 1/4", and is maybe 1" on each leg. The MTD has two half circle shapes that stick up about 1/2", and are 3-4" in diameter. They are much more agressive about biting into a round, in fact I sometimes have to pull a split off of them.

    This could be fixed fairly easily by welding some additional, more aggressive shapes onto the plate, which even gives an opportunity to make some sort of custom "brand" to impress into the ends of your splits (could this be used to ID a suspected firewood theif?)

    2. The 9hp Subaru / Robin engine is sweet, but there is an annoying aspect to it... It is mounted so that the crankshaft end is facing the user, with the hydraulic pump, etc. facing the rear of the machine. This keeps the plumbing short, but it means the starter, choke, throttle and other engine controls are on the opposite end of the splitter from the user. Worse, the engine is enthusiastically air cooled - the cylinder is well shrouded, with the recoil end of the motor functioning as a blower to force air through the shrouds cooling the engine. The problem is this heated air exits out the back of the engine at the user.... This may have advantages in cold weather, but it probably doesn't increase user comfort when it's hot. Worse though is that it seems to blow any dust and dirt that comes off the logs as they are splitting back in the user's face. It also puts the gas tank towards the center of the machine making it a tiny bit harder to reach when filling up.

    It would presumably not be terribly difficult to turn the motor around, at worst you'd have to drill some new holes in the platform, but doing so would probably require you to replace all three hoses on the machine (suction, high pressure, and return) and hydraulic hoses aren't cheap... There might also be challenging aspects to routing the hoses, I'm not certain.

    3. The valve position is definitely awkward... Not sure what the fix would be, but I think trying different things with the handle is in order.

    4. The hydraulic fluid gets HOT... Hard to tell how hot, I need to find a thermometer, but the hoses and cylinder get uncomfortable to touch, and pretty fast. Not sure if there are any good options for cooling, it does look like the engine may have some electrical power output abilities - there are several undocumented leads coming out of the covers, it might be possible to put some metal heat-sink fins on the tank and add a fan...

    The MTD gets hot also, but it seems to take longer and not get as bad. I may also be more conscious of it on the HF since in it's current configuration I have to reach past the hoses to reach the valve lever, making it harder to avoid contact with them.

    5. Hydraulic fluid leaks - seems like the unit has lots of little ones, some may be more problematic than others. I have a definite leak from the spin-on filter, I tightened it some last night and it was better tonight but still a problem. I've given it another 1/2 turn or so, will see if that stops it. In addition I'm getting a slow drip off the bottom of the valve - I haven't quite figured out where it's coming from, but it looks like it might be the plug on the end opposite the valve piston. I don't know if it will get better or not - if it doesn't, I'll be calling tech support for sure. The cylinder does NOT appear to leak, or at least not significantly... I get a thin film of oil on the piston rod, but it doesn't seem to get any better or worse as I work. There is sort of a socket on the wedge that the piston goes into, and it looks like there is some fluid in that cup, but it doesn't ever seem to run over. There also appears to be a little spray of oil that gets on the return hose, I haven't figured out where that is coming from, it might be drips from the valve, or something else...

    Gooserider
  15. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Maybe there's a little oil spitting from the valve-mine does.
    Setting the beam vertical was something I didn't think of.
    I don't think my unit has a hyd fluid dip stick. Maybe I can buy one to backfit.
    Happy splitting!
  16. d.n.f.

    d.n.f. New Member

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    That was some in depth reporting there. Thanks for that.
  17. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Unless the fitting is already there, it would be difficult to retrofit, would take welding on the tank. However I'd expect that you already have one. With the beam vertical, look on the top of the tank in between the ears where you put the locking pin for horizontal mode - pretty much even with the fill plug on the side of the tank. There's a short pipe fitting there, with hex head plug in it - unscrew that plug, the dipstick is on the end of it.

    Gooserider
  18. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'm pretty sure there's no dipstick. I'll check again, but that might have been a design change.
  19. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    dipstick is handier, but they really are not critical. Just keep well over the suction, and an inch or two down from top.
    Engine oil level is more critical because if too high, it can start gettting whipped up and foamed by moving air around the crankshaft area. A hydr system doesn't have that issue.
    oh, make sure the reutrn line is well covered by fluid level. That can indeed aerate and cause problems if the return is too high due to poor design. Then fluid level could be fussy.

    k
  20. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I recalled rigging something up since my finger wasn't long enough - the filler has a neck on mine.
  21. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well, the manual which is supposedly copyright '04, they all should have the dipstick. There are two openings to the tank that aren't used by hoses... The fill plug which is on the side of the tank, opposite the engine, near the top, about where the horizontal locking pin goes; and the dipstick hole which is in the top of the tank, in between the tabs that hold the horizontal locking pin. The fill hole has a neck on it that sticks out around 2" at about a 30* angle, and I'm guessing is around an inch to an inch and a half diameter. It definitely needs a funnel with a flexible spout, or some sort of hose to fill the tank.

    The stick is on the end of the metal bolt head in the dipstick hole, and appears to be nearly as long as the tank is deep. The "Minimum" line is probably around two or three inches above the bottom of the tank. The "Maximum" line is an inch or two from the top.

    The suction line enters the tank just above the bottom, so I would guess that there is probably still about an inch or two of fluid over it if it was at the minimum line. However the return line goes into the tank only a couple of inches from the top. Unless there's a down-tube inside the tank (possible, you can't really tell from the outside) it would look like the return would be above the fluid level even when the tank was at the maximum level.

    For what it's worth, I have essentially all of a 5 gallon pail of hydraulic fluid in the splitter right now, and the fluid level (cold) shows about 2/3 full. I would expect that the lower tonnage units would show closer to a full tank since it wouldn't take as much fluid to fill the cylinder. I was quite surprised at how much the cylinder and plumbing took - I had initially filled the tank to the full mark, after priming the pump and cycling the system a few times to purge the air out, the tank was below the minimum line...

    Still I supposed I should't complain about the amount of fluid, a great many of the sites on hydraulic system design I've seen say that you should have one gallon in the system for each GPM of pump, or 16 gallons for my splitter...

    ------------

    On other notes...

    I'm still getting a lot of leakage from the valve, and I'm almost certain its coming from the plug on the end of the chamber where the operating piston goes in. I've also noticed that if I put the valve in a slightly off center position, but don't push it all the way into the full up or down position, the engine starts to bog a bit, sounds like the pump is going into high pressure / low volume mode.

    The oil filter is better, I keep cranking it tighter, and the leak there has slowed considerably, but I'm worried about over-tightening it.

    I did some rough measuring to see if it would be possible to spin the engine 180* in order to get the cooling air blowing away from the operator position, and make the throttle reachable w/o having to run around the splitter. Looks like it would be tight but doable - maybe. It would be very tight clearance to the return line tank entrance and filter, possibly an additional elbow or other fittings might be needed. Even if you did clear the filter, it would push the starter back to where it would almost be even with the beam face - potentially a concern if dealing with a big round.... Another issue might be the pump, the suction port inlet pipe has a 90* bend in it, and unless that can be turned, it would be facing the wrong way if you turned the engine around - worst case you might need to cut the bend off. Bottom line, I think it's doable, but would be a little tricky.

    Gooserider
  22. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I saved the pdf of the manual at the time I bought the splitter and compared it with the current one.
    It is indeed different. Page 6 in the new one is at rev 7e, whereas mine has no rev number.
    A search for 'dipstick' in both documents reveals no hits in mine as well.
  23. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well I guess it is a change then, and probably a needed one - with the fill going in the side the way it does, it would be hard to see how much was in the tank from that hole - a fill in the top of the tank would possibly have been better, but they didn't do that for some reason.

    Gooserider
  24. Funk Brother

    Funk Brother Member

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    Goose - I've been reading your posts with great interest. I appreciate your brutal honesty about the pros and cons of the unit. Great pictures.
    I'd like to chime in on one minor point you made early on: the wedge shape. Even though I have a different brand of splitter (Speeco), from the pictures it looks like the wedge shape on mine is very similar to the one on yours - sharp and thin for 3 or 4 inches, then expanding out to a traditional wedge shape after that. I agree that this design seems to slow down the splitting on straight grain pieces, because with a traditional wedge shape, many of those pieces might just "pop" apart after the first 2 or 3 inches of down stroke. At the same time, I think it helps on the real bastard pieces because it cuts through burl and nasty grain which might stall a unit with simple wedge shape. Wish there were a way to have the best of both worlds. I've been mulling in my head an easy method to add on a trianglar piece to each side of the thin section - to make the wedge flare out quicker when I have a bunch of easy rounds. Maybe someday. Don't hold your breath.
    Anyway, thanks for keeping us posted. Look forward to hearing more, like when you get into those big rounds you've got waiting. Some of them look like they could put up a pretty good battle.
  25. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    A good way to do a fill check is to make sure all cylinders are closed all the way then look into fill hole. Oil level should cover return and be 2-3 inches down from the top of tank to allow for expansion due to heat. " i don't need no stinkin dip stick!" LOL

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