Value of a Skid-Steer for Sawmilling

A skid-steer at a good price is a smart investment for a bandmill operator. April 10, 2007

What is the minimum lifting capacity you would want in a skid steer for a portable milling operation? We're cutting trailer decking for a paving company and they offered a Case 1830 skid steer in trade (+ $1k on my part). Comes with forks and a 60" bucket. If it can't lift a log and handle the terrain, what good is it? I don't have any specs on it yet, but it was thought to have a 1000lb + lift capacity. Once it dries up a little I'm going to take a look at it.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor N:
I have been using a Case 430 skidloader for my sawing and drying business and I can lift about 600ft of dried red oak without too much trouble, or a red oak log 16ft x 20in. on the small end, about 28in. on the large end. The loader is rated to lift 2000lb but I have added weights on the back.

From contributor H:
Are you kidding?! Take the trade! A skid steer with bucket and forks will be the most usable piece of equipment you could have with a small sawmill. Unless it is in need of thousands of dollars in repairs, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. This setup will increase your production probably two or three times your current output.

I use a Cat 426 backhoe with 9000 lbs of lift in our operation. It is great but not easy to maneuver and not very portable. The skid steer is (wish I had one).

As far as lifting, my friend with a Timberking B-20 uses his to roll logs up a log deck made of logs, remove large heavy flitches, move large piles of stickered lumber, etc., a lot easier than I can with the Cat. Also, he can move it around with a Ford F-250 and trailer while I can't. Check out the prices of used skid steers and you will see that they are expensive little buggers. Unless the trade isn't fair on your side, do it.

From contributor W:

I have a NH485 skidster that I use around the mill, and it works great for me. Has a rated lift of 1400 lbs but will lift more if you're brave. If you plan on using one for logging, as long as its not real rough and swampy, they work good. But they high center real easy.

From contributor D:
I got one a couple of years ago and don't know how I worked without it. It's rated to lift 3100 lbs to full height without counterweights. A smaller machine would have been handy, but I can do so much more. I don't regret spending the extra for a heavyweight one bit. New Holland LX 985. A really well thought out machine.

From contributor T:
Love my 863 Bobcat with tracks. Best buy I ever made. It is rated to P/U 1900 pounds, but will easily P/U much more.

From contributor S:
My buddy has a New Holland LX 685 or 985 (not really sure about the number) that he uses in his tree service. The best part is a grapple. For about a thousand bucks or so, it is the best buy he has ever made. Moving logs on forks can be tricky to downright dangerous! He would never overload the machine (yeah, right), but it can be a little nerve racking to load a high sided truck. I would recommend solid tires or tracks to anyone (way less bounce). A skid steer is not the perfect machine, but they are handy to have around.

From contributor N:
I built my own counterweights. Made a huge difference. Also made some tracks which go on in the snow. I can load B trains with railroad ties. (24 lifts.) Doug fir and dry ponderosa pine. Might have to make a ramp for green pine. Just wish the seat was spring mounted.

From contributor J:
Look at the machine. Start it in the cold morning (before they have warmed it up). If it starts and doesn't leak, the rams work. No smoke? Then buy it. If it doesn't do the job you intend for it to do, sell it. You can get used Bobcat type units easily in the $5000-25000 range. So for $1000, get it! Then sell it and get what you need, or pocket it.

From contributor O:
I use a 763G Bobcat in my company, and it gets the use at the mill. The Case you are considering would be able to do a lot, but probably not big hardwood logs. If you only have a grand in it, make the trade!