The Morgan’s have been farming on Armenia Mountain since 1796. Randy Morgan remembers living off the land. His dad and his uncle worked in the woods. In 1977, Randy and his two brothers, Keith and Wade, started Morgan’s Logging. Today, Randy Morgan still cuts firewood for his whole family.
But in January 2018, Randy Morgan was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He had surgery and then started chemo. As with all hard-working men though, it’s difficult to keep them down.
Randy had built things his whole life. He was determined that cancer wasn’t going to stop him from continuing on that path.
Prior to that January, he had decided he wanted to build a firewood processor. The Morgan’s had been cutting firewood their whole lives. Randy wanted to make the processor for his family – his sons, grandchildren and generations to follow. So, he knew he had to make it a good design, one that would last through generations of Morgan’s, who burn a lot of wood.
“We’ve been in the woods for generations,” said Randy. “Logging is part of the Morgan heritage.”
In between chemo treatments, Randy started doing some serious thinking about the firewood processor. He didn’t have any blueprints; just past experience and knowing what one looked like. He actually built it in his head.
Not knowing the outcome of his cancer, Randy realized he had to get the processor done.
“You never know,” said Randy. “Once you get cancer you don’t know the prognosis.”
Randy started building the processor at the same time he was undergoing cancer treatments.
“Shane helped me,” said Randy, who explained that his son was the fabricator.
“Any time he felt good enough and could get up, he worked on it,” said Shane.
By fall, they had the prototype.
“It was functioning, but we were tweaking some things,” explained Randy. “There’s a great deal of hydraulics involved. The saw cutting has to be precise.”
They had to change the oil flows. It had to do with pressure and gallons per minute. It all involved the complications of trying different motors, chains, hoses and getting just the right combination for everything to work in harmony.
“I had to have special valves made,” said Randy, who had to find different companies located all over the country to find specially made products to fit what he was making.
“Thank goodness for computers,” said Randy.
According to Randy, they had to constantly make changes. Originally the live deck that holds the logs was raised up and down by a hand crank. This past spring they changed it to run by hydraulics. They converted a hay elevator into a wood elevator. When the wood comes off the splitter and falls into the elevator it is transported to the trailer.
“From the time the log goes onto the live deck and into the trailer, it is designed to not be touched by human hands,” said Shane. “Obviously that’s when things are working perfectly.”
“I have seen a lot of things made – large and small, well designed and poorly designed, ending up functioning well, ending up functioning poorly. Randy Morgan’s firewood processor became a heck of a useful time saving piece of engineering,” said John Seeley. “It is a remarkable piece of equipment.”
Randy Morgan did not intend for the Morgan’s to cut firewood as a business, but instead he built it just for his family’s own personal use.
“But if ever it becomes necessary, the processor is mobile,” said Randy. “It can travel places. If money ever becomes an issue and we have to pay the bills, we might process some wood for someone else!”