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Manually operated sulky

History and development context

Current models of the logging sulkies and logging arches originate from animal
drawn wooden straight axis logging charts and arches which were the basic log
transport tools in forestry operations until the 1930ies when they were gradually
replaced with tractor based systems.
Fig. 1 Historical logging sulky/arch (about 1900)

Two wheeled manual sulkies were developed in the 1970ies for use in the tropics
by forest development projects of mainly Scandinavian countries. In its final
development stage a sulky with double bogie wheels was designed in 1985 in
Finland and applied widely in east African countries and the Philippines under the
Finnida APPRODEV Project. In recent years larger and stronger framed models
were developed for tractor and ATV operations, these will be covered in a
separate fact sheet.
Logging sulkies are probably the most appropriate systems to start stepwise
improved small scale forwarding operations in smallholder (plantation) and
community type (natural forest) operations, particularly where animal extraction

has not been practiced yet or where it has been replaced by large scale heavy
equipment applied by commercial companies .
Design features
In its basic design a logging sulky consists of two wheels with a straight or arched
axis elevated by at least 30 cm above mid wheel level. It serves the dual purposes
of lifting as well as transporting (skidding) logs either in full suspension above
ground ( see supplier mistersawmill) or dragging with one end suspension. The
elevation of the fixation point of the log above the wheel center determines the
forces required for lifting and total diameters for single or bundled logs which
can be attached either with (1) ropes, (2) choker chains, hooked into a slotted
notch bar (iron angle) on top of the axis or (3) hook tongs (not suitable for
bundles).It is recommended that on level ground the load is suspended as much
as possible in order to reduce friction during extraction. On sloping terrain (max
up to 40 % the load should be dragged on the ground to increase breaking power
via friction. This should be considered in the design distance between handle and
axis. An extendable handle bar can also be considered to adjust for different load
Fig. 2: Basic design and horizontal dimensions of bogie type logging sulky
from Kantola and Harstela (1988)

Fig.3: Notch bar for chain attachment with choker coupling

from Seymore, M.(1996)

There are a few manufacturers and international suppliers (see Annex) for logging
sulkies. However, transport costs and import taxes will in most cases make import
to expensive, given the fact, that the relatively simple design of this equipment
allows local production by welding shops, which need at least (gas) welding and
steel water pipe bending equipment.
Fig.4 : Commercially produced hand sulky with chain choker system

Note: protective angles in front of wheels

Weight of the sulky is a decisive factor in terms of ergonomics particularly if work

is foreseen on sloping terrain. In a study by Harstela (1986) during the initial
development work of sulkies, pulling forces for different bogie constructions were
(1) Two wheel axle weight of sulky
25 kg
(2) Two wheel axle weight of sulky
16 kg
(3) Bogie double wheel weight of sulky 35 kg

14,5 kp pulling force

12,6 kp
10,6 kp

Loading capacity is normally around 125 kg for light frame and 200 kg for heavier
frame two wheel sulkies, whereas 250 to 300 kg can be loaded on bogie types. If
higher loading capacity is required, the sulky will have to be equipped with hand
winches ( see mistersawmill in suppliers list) and adapted to 3 to 4 person teams.
Most studies on hand sulkies indicate that weight (25 vs. 50 kg) will affect
productivity (1.6 vs. 1.0 m3/hr ) by as much as 30% on gentle slopes (Ole-Meiludie
a. Omes 1979). Thus, weight limitations are the essential consideration in any
sulky design.
Fig 5: FTP double wheel bogie sulkie
from: Seymore, M.(1996) and Kantola M. and Harstela,P.(1988)

Fig 6 Working with the logging sulky

Further sulky apllications

During felling operations vey often hang ups (trees entangled in canopy) are
encountered which are potential death traps for forest workers. Sulkies can
provide safe and efficient solutions for such risky situations. After removal
(preferably by axe)of the hinge (holding wood between felling sink and back cut)
either sulkies with choker chains (see Fig. 6) or special sulky type felling aids
(see Grube -Muenchehof Model in the suppliers list) can be used to release and
finally bring down the separated stem along paths, which have to be carefully
cleared in advance.

Fig 6: Logging sulky applied as log lifter and felling aids

Sulkies for bamboo extraction

Extraction of bamboo from secondary unmanaged forests in Northern Lao PDR
required the design of a special type sulky to enable downhill forwarding of
economically viable loads. The sulky had to fulfill 3 key requirements
(1) Allow bundling and holding of bamboo culms in loads of up to 250 kg in
various suspension positions due to extendable (by 1 m) handle bar
(2) Allow high maneuverability of the sulky loaded with culms of up to 15 m in
length in between trees and remaining bamboo clumps on overgrown
extraction routes
(3) Provide a breaking mechanism to allow emergency stops in extraction on
steep slopes
These criteria were addressed with the following design elements as shown in Fig
7 .The sulky was manufactured from a small two wheel (50 cm diameter) axis with
a 2.5 m handlebar In its initial stage the bar was constructed with an inserted
handle which allowed testing various bar lengths. A clam type holding bank was
elevated about 30 cm above the axis and connected with a 10 cm diameter ball
bearing or 2 steel plates with a small center axis which allows a free turning of the
wheels of more than 90 o below the bamboo loads The clams have attachment
hooks and guide plates on each side of the top section for attachment of 5 cm
wide ratchet straps to be bundle the bamboo culms and which can be readjusted
during extraction in case the culms are sliding apart. The inside of the clams is

covered with consecutive 3x3 cm sharpened teeth to increase friction with th

slippery bamboo culms The clams and the support are made from 6-8 x 60 mm
steel strips.
A spade like break is attached at the first upward bend of the handle bar which
allows safe emergency stops by simply dropping and pressing the handlebar to
the ground on steep and slippery terrain.
Fig 7: Bamboo sulky

Please note the clamping device and the extendable handle bar with an inside pipe of about 100 cm and
the spade like emergency break

Sulkies in manual steep slope extraction

On steeper slopes (above 30o) the use of hand sulkies reaches its s agronomical
limits. In such situations the use of pulleys ( for details see hand tool fact sheet) as
shown in Fig 8 is recommended. This will allow either the(1) safer downhill
extraction with a counterweight or easier uphill movement by using the downhill
force of the empty sulky and downhill pulling force of the operators. It is
advisable that such systems will also apply the safety spade break system as
illustrated in the bamboo sulky.

Fig 8 Steep slope situations with up or downhill extraction

Draught animal sulky


Draught animals such as oxen, buffaloes, horses and donkeys can all be used in
combination with the sulky to transport heavy loads. Putting loads on wheels
reduces the skidding resistance and allow animal to pull heavier loads. For safety
reasons uphill pulling of sulkies with draught animals on steep slopes either
directly or via pulleys is quite dangerous and is not recommended. In such cases
dragging logs on the ground is the preferred method

Fig 9 Sulky in combination with draught animals

from Seymore 1996

Productivity and efficiency in sulky extraction of timber

Several studies were carried out between 1970m and 1995 in respect to hand
sulky extraction of timber particularly by Finland and Norway supported projects.
The results of some of these studies are summarized in Table 1
Table 1 Productivity for two man sulky teams under different site conditions
from Seymore 1996

These figures and some further studies Skaar 1975, Ole-Meiludie 1984, Saarilahti
1992) indicate skidding outputs in relation to extraction distances (moderate
slopes ) for 2 man sulky skidding teams on prepared trails with average loads of
100 to 200 kgs.
Skidding distance (m)
Skidding output (m3/ day)
Labour productivity (m3/pers/day )




Productivity and efficiency in sulky extraction of bamboo

Only very few productivity figures on extraction of bamboo either from
plantations or natural stands are available (China , Philippines, Ecuador) and even
if published are incomplete without figures on distances slope, volume/piece
ratios etc).Thus the figures cannot be transferred to other sites. None of these
studies ever applied sulkies for the extraction of bamboo to roadside, the
following results by Salakka (2014) are the first ever published in this context.
The bamboo sulky was developed to carry loads over 200 kilograms. In its original
design its weight was over 85 kg;. it is currently rebuilt in a lighter version.
According to the operators opinion, load size of 120 kilogram were ergonomically
suitable, when two operators were pulling the sulky, the forwarding distance in

the trial cycles was 350 meters and topography was moderately sloped (20% of
extraction route ) and flat ( max 15%) with soft ground on paddy terraces Table 2
gives the time breakdown of activities in bamboo extraction. In comparison to
timber extraction the loading time is with 20 to 30 % relatively high, which is due
to the small size material. Due to top loading of the clam bank pre-bundling of
bamboo culms, which would reduce cycle time, is so far technically not possible.

Table 2: Time distribution for sulky extraction of bamboo over 350 m

Time distribution, sulky, 350 meters
Over 5 cm whole tree

Opening the belts

Below 5 cm whole tree

Trip with the load

Over 5 cm delimbed

Tie-up the load

Below 5 cm delimbed

Trip without the load

10% 20% 30% 40% 50%

Table 3: Productivity for 2 man teams in relation to bamboo culm characteristics

over 350 m extraction distance

Below 5 cm de-limbed
Over 5 cm de-limbed

Productivity, t/h

Average load, kg

Average cycle time, min


Below 5 cm whole tree

Over 5 cm whole tree




Given the extraction distance and the extremely low range of volume (weight)/
piece ratio of 8-20 kg/piece, productivity figures are surprisingly high in
comparison to timber (50 to 200 kg/piece). In terms of labour productivity
extraction would be in a range of 0.8 to 2.0 t/pers/day. Under the given site
conditions the use of the sulky would increase labour productivity in bamboo
extraction by at least 3 to 5 times as compared to carrying by hand..
Sulkies offer the ideal solution for a first step improvement of labour efficiency
from purely manual extraction both in flat terrain, downhill and possibly even
uphill situations. The average load can be improved from 30 to 50 kg per person
to 150 -200 kg on flat terrain and 250 to 280 kg in downhill extraction. This can
improve extraction efficiency by a factor of 2 to 5 and result subsequently in
considerable labour cost saving. Sulkies can be built in most rural environments
with locally available (often scrap) materials. Due to the low construction costs
(200 to 300$US) machine cost for the systems are negligible and can be recovered
over very short periods. The system offers further upgrading into more solid and
heavier logging arches to be drawn by animals, 4 wheel tractors, hand tractors or
all terrain vehicles as shown in the respective fact sheets.
Abeli. W.S. (1992). Optimal road spacing for manual skidding sulkies J. Trop. For Sc.6(1):8-15
FAO. (1989). Design manual on basic wood harvesting technology FAO Training Series 18. p 1117
Fosser E. (1974) The sulky a working aid in conifer plantations. NORAD TAN/70/005 Oslo


Fosser E (1976) Terminal report on skidding sulkies NORAD report Oslo

Fosser (1976) Manual for logging sulkies , a working aid in softwood plantations NORAD Oslo
Harstela, P. and Harstela, A. (1986) A pre-study of skidding sulkies. Finnish For.Res. Inst.
Suonenjoki Research Station
Kantola M. and Harstela,P.(1988) Handbook on Appropriate Technology for Forestry
Operations in Developing Countries. Forestry Training Program. Publication 19. Chapter 6.4
Sulky skidding. p.94-97
Mboya G.P.E. (1985). Factors influencing production rates in sulky skidding. Special project
report Faculty of Forestry. Sokoine. University of Agriculture. Morogoro. Tanzania
Ole-Meiludie, R.E.L. and Omes, H. (1979). The use of sulkies in thinning softwood plantation.
University of Dar es Salaam. Divison of Forestry. Morogoro. Record No 9. 13 p.
Saarilahti, M. (1992). Skidding by sulky. A literature study Silva Fennica 26:85-96
Salakka J.( 2014) Identifying Appropriate Small Scale Harvesting Technologies for Commercial
Scale Bamboo Fuel Chip Production in Lao PDR. Bachelor thesis Karelia University 64 pages
Seymore, M.(1996) The Sulky. APPRODEV Reference manual Part 3.FTP International training
materials. Helsinki. Finland 35 p.
Skaar, R. (1973) Skidding of sawlogs from conifer thinning with a locally made skidding cart. A
pilot study. Makerere University . Dept. of Forestry. Kampala. Report 01-73, 18 p.
Skaar R.(1981). The use of hand sulkies in logging. Proceedings of the XVII IUFRO Congress
Division 3 Kyoto. Japan.

Skogsarbeten Swedish forestry techniques with possible applications in the third world (p97-98)


1. Suppliers : (Germany)
see Fig 4

15 Canada (USA)


2. Machine Cost Calculation




Purchase price : $ _________________

Total price of transportation to site: $ _________________
Total: $ _________________




Salvage Value (__% of P)


Estimated Life:


Scheduled operating time:


Utilization: ___


Productive time ____ hrs/yr


Average value of yearly investment

AVI = [((P-S)(N+1))/2N]+S


____ years
___ hrs/yr


I. Fixed Cost:
Depreciation= (P-S)/N


Interest (__ %), Insurance (__ %), Taxes (__ %)

Total __ % x ($__/yr)


(1) Fixed cost per year


(2) Fixed cost per H (1H)


II. Operating Cost: (based on productive time)

Maintenance and repair (__% x ((P-S)/(N x H))


Fuel (____ L x $____/L)


Oil & lubricants


Tires (1.15 x (tire cost)/tire life in hrs.)



(3) Operating Cost per H


III. Machine Cost per H (without labor) (2+3)


IV. Labor Cost ($___/hr U)


V. Machine Cost per productive hr. with labor (III + IV)