Meet the Five Scariest Tree-Killing Machines (Video)

Harvester working in a forest

Josef Mohyla / Getty Images

In many places throughout the world, deforestation continues to be a problem--which is what makes seeing the latest in tree-killing machinery all the more troubling. Gone, it seems, are the days of hard-earned lumber, where felling a tree took sweat and grit. Now, thanks to advances in technology, large swaths of forest can be harvested in a fraction of the time by a single lumberjack, all from a comfortable seated position. In fact, there are a number of scary-looking machines on the market today, all designed to make short work of forests.


Originally developed to tackle the forests of Sweden and Finland, harvesters were first introduced in the early 1980s. The machine was designed to work in difficult terrain on clear-cutting or thinning operations. At the end of the harvester's long boom is the felling head, which the operator uses to grasp a tree while a large rotating blade slices through its base. Once the tree has toppled, delimbing knives in the felling head strip the tree of stems and branches. Finally, a chainsaw cuts the tree by the desired length for other machinery to collect later.


Usually working in conjunction with harvesters, forwarders are designed to gather and transport felled lumber from the forest site. With a boom, the operator can collect lumber of various sizes, lifting the wood clear from the ground into its carrying bed. Some larger-scale forwarders can hand load weights nearing four tons and carry them to other facilities to be further processed. The massive size of forwarders are often responsible for much of the terrain damaged caused during lumber operations. For trees that are too large to be collected by the forwarders, skidders are used to simply drag the fallen tree from the forest site.

Firewood Processors 

For lumber that is destined for firewood, splitting logs with an axe or maul is a thing of the past. Machines with several different designs are available to process firewood quickly, easily, without breaking a sweat. In fact, such machines, seen here on the site of lumber storage facility, mean that trees can be cut-down, transported, and split into firewood all without ever coming into contact with a human being. Like a forklift, this machine can grab specific trees, carry them to a loading truck, and split them directly into the next transport vehicle.

Whole Tree Chippers

Unlike their smaller chipping counterparts, which are usually limited to smaller trees and branches, whole tree chippers have no problem turning large trees quickly into mulch. Typically designed process trees with a diameter of two to six feet, the whole tree chipper's clawed boom lifts the heavy trees into its mulching blades. Even larger versions exists, called Tub Grinders, which can handle trees of over eight feet in diameter. Such machines can only be transported by semi-trailer trucks.

Walking Harvesters  

The latest in tree felling technology are machines designed to handle the most difficult terrain, otherwise spared from clear-cutting techniques. Unlike traditional harvesters, walking harvesters can venture over uneven ground, operate on slopes, and move in any direction. With walking harvesters, virtually no obstacle in the forest will prevent lumber operations from removing trees.