One System, Many Uses
Wisconsin climbing arborist Greg Good should, in this humble climber and rigger’s opinion, never have to pay for his own drinks whenever he is in a spot that tree folk might gather. This statement, which might seem overly generous to many of the underpaid pros within the tree care industry, is based on much more than Mr. Good’s genial good nature and almost always cheerful countenance, for he is the designer and developer of the Good Rigging Control System (GRCS), a lowering and lifting system for arboricultural operations that is without parallel.
A GRCS mounted in a receiver hitch placed on the side of the truck.
PHOTO BY JAMES LUCE.
A variety of features and characteristics of the GRCS help set it apart from other lowering and lifting devices currently available to climbing arborists, but its versatility and ease of use are probably most significant.
There are a number of devices that lower pieces safely and effectively, but they need another system of some sort to carry out lifting operations. There are other devices that lower wood well while being capable of lifting, but require more than one person to operate effectively in their lifting capacity.
The beauty and joy of the GRCS is that it combines both systems and capabilities almost seamlessly, while being easily operated in almost all situations by one slightly competent branch manager. As is the case with many of the tools tree folks use, the applications that the GRCS can be employed in are only limited by the imagination of the crew present on the work site, within safe working and load limits of course. While rigging operations are the obvious primary role of the GRCS, with the appropriate anchors/spar trees the system can function as a small crane, lifting loads out of backyards or over obstacles to the grumbling chipper; assist in the dreaded task of stump pulling; or even help lift that chipper box up onto the truck after plowing season is ended.
A significant stump at the other end of the line from the GRCS.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GREG GOOD.
The Good Rigging Control System does require some investment, just as any new tool might – monetary investments to purchase it, and time and energy to learn about it – but with a little bit of knowledge, training and experience a tree crew can accomplish not only good things, but great things.
Greg Good himself using the winch on the device that bears his name.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GREG GOOD.
As mentioned before, beyond a consideration of safe working loads and capacities, the only true limit on what tree crews can do with the GRCS is their own imagination, but it can certainly be used easily for the activities listed below, along with many more:
Rigging: Typical lifting/lowering in removals and technical rigging activities
Crane for poor folks: With suitable anchors/spar poles can lift loads over obstacles, out of backyards, and even remove a storm-thrown tree from the roof.
Felling: To provide the pulling force required to fell a tree against its lean.
Portable winch: To provide the force needed for stump removal, equipment movement or log skidding.
A heavy-duty ratcheting strap is the standard method to attach the Good Rigging Control System to a tree. This can be done by one fairly determined, coordinated and slightly fit individual, it will require much less concentration and forethought if two people are involved. The device has rubber “feet,” or bumpers, meant to go against the stem of the tree to help prevent as much damage as possible to the trunks of the trees not being removed; and the hinging mounting plate will work on a range of tree diameters. The ratcheting action of the webbing strap is tightened through the use of a large tension/breaker bar. Even with two people, the whole mounting/installation process will go much more smoothly if it is carried out without the lowering bollard or winch already installed on the mounting plate – both of these devices can easily be put on the plate after installation. The bollard and winch are both slid into the mounting plate from underneath, so the plate should be attached to the tree with not only enough clearance for this operation, but also with an eye toward burls, root swellings, etc., that might impede the process. The bar that is used to ratchet the heavy-duty webbing strap tight is one item that often seems to end up in another location, or perhaps even a different dimension, than the one in which the GRCS is currently residing, and typically inattentive branch managers play a role in this odd occurrence. Personal experience has shown that replacements or substitutes, regardless of perceived strength, are much easier bent or distorted than would be expected, so friendly, perhaps almost constant, reminders to keep the bar with the GRCS would be an excellent idea.
Removal and specialized setup
The GRCS can be easily operated by one person in most situations.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL TAIN
Although the GRCS is most often installed and used in the standard setup previously described, it can certainly be set up in a variety of different ways to suit the particular job at hand, or the individual tree company’s work practices.
A truck or trailer hitch mount is available that enables crews to use the device when a tree is not readily apparent in the needed spot, but a truck can be placed there. The installation of receiver hitches at various likely spots on a truck frame can make this mounting option even more versatile and can be quite useful for companies using aerial lift trucks or forestry packages.
Removal, or large load, may require the use of the available visor plate. The plate helps to lock the device into position on the trunk by fitting into the kerf of a horizontal chain saw cut made into the trunk of the tree. This interaction of steel visor plate and wood fiber helps decrease the likelihood of the GRCS slipping upward on the trunk under severe loads. In addition, the chain saw cut is not deep enough to significantly impact the strength of the tree the device is attached to.
Both the Harken winch and the aluminum bollard/drum may be used during lowering operations, but it is recommended that when only lowering operations are going to take place, the aluminum drum is probably the better option, simply because the winch is one of the most expensive components of the system.
The diameter of the bollard, along with its material, helps it to dissipate heat fairly well, helping to prevent the likelihood of rope melting, or fusing, that many tree riggers are all too familiar with. Extreme lowering conditions may require the addition of a cold pack or other cooling method to the interior of the drum – which easily accommodates such measures – and helps prevent it from overheating with adverse effects on the rigging/lowering line. The friction to lower a load safely and securely is created by taking wraps around the drum with the rigging line; the more wraps taken, the greater the amount of friction created. If the winch is being used in lowering operations, the same principle applies; more wraps create more friction, though additional care should be taken by the operator not to involve the self-tailing mechanism with the rigging line.
The Harken two-speed winch is certainly the most distinctive feature of the Good Rigging Control System, making it stand out in any crowd of tree care lowering devices, but beyond being distinctive, the winch component and its inherent ease of use make the GRCS a wonderful tool on pretty much every job site. Although there is ongoing and entertaining debate among technical tree care pros on exactly what the two “speeds” are that a user obtains when using the winch, the reality is that turning the handle one way moves the line/load more quickly but may require more effort, while turning the handle the opposite direction will require less effort but move the line/load more slowly. Both directions create much more force than any buff branch manager could ever dream of generating when attempting to lift or move a load. The self-tailing mechanism, at the end farthest away from the mounting plate, allows a single user to lift or pull loads solo; and a winch driver bit is available for gas-powered drills for those jobs where multiple lifts might tax ground folks’ handle-turning capacity.
The system comes equipped with a variety of existing pigtails and fairleads that help make sure ropes enter and exit the GRCS correctly. These components should always be used in the recommended manner. Not doing so could lead to failure of the rigging line or even the device itself through extreme bend ratios on the line or inappropriate loading on the device.
If the given rigging situation causes the rigging rope to enter the device’s fairlead at a bad angle, a simple redirect can be created simply by using an appropriate block or pulley to send the line into the device correctly. There are directions and instructions for basic use illustrated on the GRCS, but a basic primer would include the following:
Facing device mounted on tree: Rope should enter device’s fairlead cleanly at upper right rear corner of GRCS.
Lowering: Rope should go around drum/winch clockwise, typically exiting on bottom front left corner of GRCS through swiveling pigtail.
Lifting/pulling: Rope should also go around winch clockwise, as many wraps as possible taken, finishing with rope through self-tailing mechanism.
Combination lifting and lowering: After lifting a load, remove handle from winch prior to lowering, and vice versa.
The Good Rigging Control System is an excellent addition to any tree crew’s toolbox, and one that’s versatility can quickly make back the cost of its purchase, particularly if the crew uses their mental toolbox to explore all of the device’s possible applications. Let’s all remember that the next time we see the smiling, bearded face of our fellow arborist Greg Good.
Michael (House) Tain is a contract climber, splicer, educator and writer associated with North American Training Solutions/Arbor Canada Training and Education, currently located in Lancaster, Ky.