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Mecalac a Multi-Trick Pony

by Nick Drew  |  Fri 22 Nov 2019

Mecalac a Multi-Trick Pony

At the time Graham was running a 3 tonne Kubota KX71-2  mini excavator but the Japanese machine coped admiringly. Graham takes up the story, “I worked the steep ground ripping out the rhododendron with a bucket while Dan ran along the track below with his tractor and forwarder trailer taking it to the fire site. There was a lot of this work at the time due to the disease Phytophthora ramorum which the rhododendron harboured”.

Graham continued, “to cut a long story short, the Hurle’s kept me very busy which meant I could afford a new 5 tonne Kubota KX61-3 Alpha mini excavator and then over the coming years I added some attachments including a rotating log grapple, a flail, a saw blade and a log trailer. I also purchased a Bobcat 864 tracked skid steer loader. With the combination of the two machines, we could eat through the clearance jobs at quite an impressive rate and work had never been busier. The Hurle’s even had me on railway clearance jobs, which were very interesting, they also introduced me to Geraint Richards, the head forester for the Duchy of Cornwall, and work started coming in for them, I’ve never really looked back since”. 

The next thing on Graham’s list was to look to upgrade his Kubota excavator, which had given him 7 years of fault free service and as he put it was as good as the day it arrived! His first faults were to opt for another Kubota, but having researched all the machines on the market Graham came to the conclusion that there was not much out there that would increase his performance to justify forking out a lot of money on a new machine.

However, the French built Mecalac excavators had always interested Graham, ever since he got to drive one at the old SED (Site Equipment Demonstration) in 2005. Then whilst browsing the Mecalac website one day he came across the 6MCR (Mecalac Crawler Rapide) model, a high-powered excavator/tracked loader combination, capable of high speed and with huge lifting capacity and with a specification that was absolutely perfect for every task he does with a machine.

Graham thought that this one machine could replace both the Kubota and the Bobcat so he decided to purchase one. The 6MCR he purchased was a 2014 model and over the next few years Graham struck up a good relationship with Mecalac, the French company appreciated the publicity he and his machine had gained them. Managing Director of Mecalac Alexandre Marchetta told him that he was a great ambassador for Mecalac in the UK and to his surprise offered him an opportunity to sell the products in his area.

Graham said, “This was a very exciting development for me, as I am passionate about these machines and as an end user, I know them inside out. To facilitate this move I started a separate business called Specialist Plant South West and I now get to deal with these machines on a whole new level which is great”.

Graham’s forestry work continues to be very busy with most of it taking place within the Duchy of Cornwall’s woodlands. The Duchy have around 1700 hectares of woodland across the country with 900 of them being down in Cornwall itself.

A lot of these woods by their nature are small and access for larger and more conventional forestry machinery is difficult. Prince Charles is very conscious of the environment and likes the fact that it is a very low impact method of extracting timber, using one machine with attachments and a trailer that can do it all, not only is the machine nimble on its tracks, but it makes very little mess or soil compaction.

Having sold the original 6MCR to one of his customers on the sales side of things, Graham invested in another model for the forestry side of his business, his option this time is the larger 8MCR which tips the scales at 7200kgs without bucket and no additional counterweight.

Graham enthusiastically talked about the machine, “The 8MCR for me is the machine of choice for forestry work. It’s an 8-tonne class machine that packs a serious punch! It can work in very tight spaces, which is perfect for thinning works and with its 10kph tracking speed means that with the log trailer hitched up it is capable of shifting timber very quickly”.

“I originally built the log trailer as a bit of an experiment, thinking it would be good to get small amounts of timber out of awkward areas that other machines could not get to, but it has been so successful that we have ended up doing a lot more timber extraction than ever planned. The huge lifting capacity of the 8MCR makes light work of moving logs, it picks up 24ft lengths of timber with complete ease. Its closed-circuit hydrostatic transmission means that it can run a flail whilst tracking at the same time, which is really good for forest ride vegetation management”.

“The advantages of this machine in the woods are huge. It is an excavator, a loader, a forwarder and hedge trimmer all in one. It can even perform tree surgery with the tree shear attached”.

For most onlookers not in the know, it is the boom and arm that looks a bit strange. This boom is a very clever piece of design work and the ability to be able to tuck it right up beside the cab is excellent for when working in such tight quarters.

Graham’s engineer friend Geoff has made a couple of other modifications to the machine, with one being a thicker gauge steel belly plate, to offer protection against high tree stumps and the other being a new tow hitch for the pulling of his log trailer. Geoff cleverly designed this so that no cutting, welding or drilling was required on the machine. It is simply attached using the lifting eyes and central towing eye on the undercarriage

The 8MCR combined with the log trailer and timber grab transform this machine into an excellent compact forwarder and its manoeuvrability ensures that life is a lot easier for the guys felling the trees as they don't have to worry so much about the position of the logs as the machine can pick up from a 360degree radius meaning it can pick up logs in front of it and load them onto the trailer behind.

As previously on his smaller machine Graham has had a number of modifications done on the machine to meet his needs. This work is all done by local engineer Geoff Burroughs and includes the trailer drawbar which features a MOD style quick release hook which also rotates 360 degrees, hitch and all adapting plates for his attachments with Mecalac Connect ears and roof mounted light bar. Geoff also fabricated the “live heel” beam which the grab is slung from, not so common in the UK but often seen on larger forestry machines in Canada and New Zealand.

We caught up with the machine in one area of Duchy woodland in Lostwithiel. With both businesses booming Graham now employs a regular man on the 8MCR his friend and experienced operator Joe Julian who now undertakes most of the forestry work with this machine. Leaving Graham to concentrate on the sales business while undertaking other work with his recently added Mecalac 7MWR compact wheeled excavator. Joe was keen to demonstrate the machines amazing abilities in confined, challenging and steep terrain, which really has to be seen to be believed.

During the morning Joe set about retrieving lengths of timber that had been felled in the woods showing the ability of the machine to quickly disconnect from the trailer, then climb down the steep slopes to grab the timber and place it within reach from the existing track. Once in place Joe connected up the trailer and proceeded to load up, before heading down to the storage yard area to unload ready for collection by wagons.

In the afternoon Joe was deployed with the flail attachment and demonstrated the speed at which this “pocket rocket” of a machine can operate in addition to displaying its flexibility from the unique geometry it offers, which can be tucked in close to machine one minute, then stretching out to 6750mm from centre of slew ring at maximum reach.

The MCR models feature a closed-circuit hydraulic system for tracking, flow from the dual pump runs to the track motors and return flows back to it, a separate boost gear pump keeps the system topped up with oil, while a certain amount on return is released back to the cooler and reservoir. The pump for the upper-structure is totally separate which means that everything works at full flow even when tracking which is very impressive! Two track speed ranges are offered 5kph or 10kph, auxiliary hydraulic flow is 100 l/min, with a maximum aux hydraulic pressure of 280bar with an impressive lifting force at 3m reach of 3000kgs!

Power for the 8MCR comes from a Stage 3B/Tier 4F emissions compliant 4-cylinder Deutz 2.9 L4 engine which offers a power output rating of 55.4kw (75hp) @2300rpm which is accessed from ground level via a large lift up bonnet hood. Fluid filters are conveniently located in this area and under the offside bonnet which is also home to the main spool block cooling pack.

As you might expect from the French, the cab features all the comforts and operator could ever need and excellent all-around visibility. This example even had a luxury all leather Mecalac seat cover fitted, all very stylish indeed.

Pictured Above: Joe Julian Left and Graham Sandercock Right. 

Summarizing Graham said, “This machine is so handy for our work in the forestry, and with all the attachments we have it can turn its hand to anything, whether that be grabbing, flailing, tree shearing or even digging, ditching or track maintenance with the large skid style buck this machine can do it all, its quicker and more compact than a tractor and can work on much softer ground, it really is a game changer”.

 

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