Treetools Blog RSS

Continuous update of new tree climbing products, equipment and tools

Reverse thinking: top of the tree rigging friction

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Top of the tree friction tools are relatively new to arboriculture.

David Driver of X-Rigging fame introduced the concept, and Kevin Bingham further expanded the idea with the Rig'n Wrench (DMM Pinto Rig attached to a Rope Wrench used for light rigging).

The Safebloc, marketed by SHERRILLtree, is a derivative of the X-Rigging Rings.

Treetools asked Jed Copsey, the lead climber with Oakwood Treecare in Auckland, to put the SHERRILLtree Safebloc through its paces. Below is Jed's summation:

SafeBloc… A new concept to rigging

Since the introduction of pulleys and arborist blocks (also known as impact blocks) to the tree care market, their use is considered standard practice for lowering cut branches and sections of wood out of a tree.

There are numerous styles of blocks and pulleys designed to best suit particular tree rigging jobs. While these devices are terrific for handling large weights and capable of withstanding excessive force, they also have limitations.

The traditional way of adding friction to control the speed of lowered sections of timber is using base-anchored lowering devices such as the Port-a-Wrap, GRCS and other fixed bollards.

While this has become the norm for many arborists, it also means that by using a 'close to a frictionless' pulley at the top we are multiplying the forces on the rigging points. The anchor point, arborist block and sling take all the forces generated by controlling the speed of the falling timber.

Doubling the load at the top

Once the weight of a removed section has passed through the hardware to the lowering device at the base, it has created roughly double its weight on the rigging point. Extra factors such as potential shock loading, and oscillating forces also come into play.

An experienced arborist will (in extreme cases or wherever feasible) attempt to bring more of the rigging line into play, allowing the rope to 'elongate' or stretch, thereby absorbing the forces generated by controlling the speed of the falling weight.

A relatively new alternative to the traditional arborist block or pulley at the top combined with a base anchored lowering device is the introduction of the X-Rigging rings by David Driver.

David is also the innovator behind the SafeBloc, marketed by SHERRILLtree in the USA.

Like the X-Rigging Rings the SafeBloc concept applies friction at the top lowering point to help reduce forces and minimise the impact on the rigging point. The result, in theory, should be a smoother and safer tree dismantle operation.

I'll skip discussing the X-Rigging rings at this point and move straight onto the SafeBloc.

Recently arriving onto the arborist market the SafeBloc is a triple hole 'thimble' that applies friction at the top rigging point. The setting up of the SafeBloc is the same as a traditional pulley or blocks, in the sense that a dead-eye, loopie or whoopie sling connects the SafeBloc to the rigging point.

Immediately after hearing about the SafeBloc, like all arborists I was picking away at it.

How much friction did the device generate? How easy it is to operate? What weight is the device?

Questions like these immediately sprang to my mind.

Lightweight yet strong

On receiving the SafeBloc (courtesy of Treetools New Zealand), I was impressed by the compact dimensions and overall weight.

The SafeBloc is only 40mm thick and weighs in at 1kg (not including the added weight of a sling). The SafeBloc is ideal for hauling up a climbing/rigging line and securing it to the rigging point.

Another visual feature I was impressed with was the smooth, slick finish to the hardware. The product certainly looks like it was built to endure the hard life inflicted by arborists.

Next up was to see how quickly the rigging line can be retrieved once it passed through all three thimble holes. For this, another arborist and I used a 50m length of 14mm rigging line from Donaghy.

The groundsman retrieved the rigging line without too much effort eliminating my doubt retrieval could be accomplished by one person pulling on the rigging line.

However, this gave way to another question; how could much weight and resulting force be safely managed with the SafeBloc without the need for a lowering device secured to the base of the tree?

It's important to note; the SafeBloc IS NOT retrievable (unlike some hardware on the market, natural re-directs and natural crotch rigging). And, the SafeBloc cannot be attached mid-line.

Such factors play a significant role when an arborist decides which rigging hardware to invest in. With the constant innovation in the arborist industry, I believe it will only be a matter of time before the introduction of some form of a retrievable sling (similar to the X-Rigging rings).

The Whoopie sling supplied with the SafeBloc, however, does not allow for the SafeBloc's retrieval from the ground.

Too much friction

The removal of a Lawson’s Cypress with a confined drop-zone was the first job on which I used the SafeBloc. The groundsman and I configured the SafeBloc with the rigging line running through all three holes, but we had little idea of how much weight this would safely handle, so, as a cautionary measure, we also used the base anchored Port-a-Wrap in addition to the SafeBloc to lower each section.

Each piece weighed approximately 150-200kg.

After lowering the first section, we realised that using all three holes and the Port-a-Wrap produced too much friction.

So we decided not to use the port-a-wrap for the next section. This time, the piece was lowered in a much more controlled manner.

Using all three holes of the SafeBloc at the top anchor meant that a respectable amount of weight could be dropped safely using the SafeBloc alone.

The SafeBloc design has one major drawback. Because the smooth side of the SafeBloc sits flush against the trunk at the top rigging point and the way the rope threads through the holes on the SafeBloc, there a high probability of rope-on-rope friction occurring.

There is potential for rope-on-rope contact

In complex rigging situations, the heat from rope-on-rope friction could potentially glaze or melt the rope if overused.

Lowering lines are designed to withstand the heat generated during a typical lowering operation, but users need to be constantly monitoring their gear in situations when rope-on-rope friction can occur.

Arborists should not be complacent with the equipment and should always update and replace gear that is no longer fit for purpose.

The next day was the removal of a Silver Dollar Gum. Due the nature of the work, the SafeBloc was employed as the primary rigging anchor point with a small ISC Arborist Block used as a redirect at the base and to also help distribute the weight of the loads.

I was surprised to find, after several cuts, that dropping quite a considerable amount of weight produced minimal stress at the top anchor. It was also surprising to see that my grounds crew were quite happy to take 200-250kg sections without the use of a base anchored lowering device.

In short, I am extremely impressed with this concept and the craftsmanship that has gone into the production of the SafeBloc.

As the SafeBloc starts to become noticed and purchased within the arboriculture community, I will be interested to see what other arborists have to say.

Thanks again to Treetools New Zealand for giving me the opportunity to test the SafeBloc in a work environment.

Posted by Richard Tregoweth Google+

Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Competition – fun-for-all

Thursday, January 21, 2016

At the end of the day Michael Mortensen, a tree climber from over Bay of Plenty way, swung open the bin door and clambering onto the back of a conveniently parked truck.

A loud whistle caught the attention of the climbers, gathered for the prize giving.

From his elevated position above the crowd Michael delivered an impromptu ‘thank you’ speech directed at competition organisers, Nicky Ward-Allen, Neal Harding and their legion of volunteer helpers.

Michael’s words were heartfelt and reflected the sentiment of the crowd.

Around the same time Whanganui's Clay Winter, at the head of the picnic table, set the steel to his carving knife. With the blade edge honed razor sharp Clay flicked his wrist and sliced off generous portions of ham from the bone.

Michael finished his speech and within seconds the main table was swarming with climbers and supporters, tucking in to homemade food, only available in Taranaki.

This is the essence of the Taranaki Open. If there was ever a tree climbing competition on your ‘bucket list’ the Taranaki Open is surely it.

Now in its sixth year the Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Weekend offers kiwi and visiting tree climbers a unique climbing experience.

Tree climbing movies, fun competition, prizes galore, mountain climbing and food for the gods – and it’s all ‘free’. The Taranaki Open TCC is second to none.

And this year you can expect more of the same from Nicky and Neal.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Saturday arvo (February 6) sets the tone with a discussion about ‘Conservation and the Modern Arborist’. Johno Smith, a previous Taranaki Open TCC winner, has focussed mainstream media on the plight of our Kauri with his recent Waitakere sit-in; it’s probably a good time to renew talks about tree protection and the role arborists’ play in the community.

The Taranaki Tree Climbing Film Festival, on Saturday evening (commencing 6:30pm) in Stratford’s historic King’s Theatre, features the cinematic premier of ‘The New Zealand Tree Project’ film shot in the Pureora Forest, along with a selection of by-invitation-only short films from New Zealand and international filmmakers.

The main event, the Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Competition, is scheduled for Sunday February 7 at King Edward Park in Stratford kicking off with gear check around 8:30am – entrance through the Malone Gate.

King Edward Park is a large recreational facility in central Stratford. The location for the 2016 competition is the same as that of 2012 – the year Johno Smith accrued the most points.

2012 was also the year, visiting tree climber, Lin Wah Ling organized the ‘Speed Climb’.

Ling (as he was affectionately known) chose the tallest, tightest limbed tree in the park, which also happened to house a nest of wasps buzzing next door, adding spice to the climb!

Ling was very proud of his achievement (and Ling, in a cute kind of way, let everyone know). His speed climb was the stuff of legends.

Paying homage to ‘Ling’s Speed Climb’ the same tree will be used for a special Open Speed Climb challenge; no wasps this time (the official Taranaki Open TCC speed climb tree is a little less ‘technical’).

For 2016 Nicky has planned a couple of options for the ‘Work Climb’ to keep things interesting. Speed freaks will enjoy the ‘Poplar’ and the technically inclined should choose the ‘Elm’.

The ‘Aerial Rescue’ is more than a little unusual so pay attention when it comes to the walk through on Sunday morning.

As per 2015 the Vertical Sprint will also feature in the event line-up – any form of ascent is allowed, as long as it's safe and you can get yourself back down again.

Fun for everyone

And… there is plenty to keep non-competitors occupied; this is a family affair after all.

Everyone can have a go at Ling’s Speed Climb, the 15-station Novice Climb or Silky’s Thinnest Biscuit cut (and win a Silky saw).

Sunday culminates with the official prize giving ceremony; perhaps Michael will hail forth again – Clay is bound to be there.

Monday (February 8 is a Public Holiday) is set aside for the Taranaki mountain climb for those up to the challenge.

Teufelberger Treecare, Husqvarna NZ, Brendon Bellamy’s Tricky Tree Specialists, Silky Saws, Clogger Chainsaw Protection, Treetools (and others) help contribute to the prize pool. Treetools underwrites the event to ensure there is enough funding for it to run smoothly.

Regrettably, 2016 will be the last year of the Taranaki Open Tree Climbing Weekend – at least in its ‘annual’ format.

So… if the Taranaki Open TCC is indeed on your bucket list you had better make it to Stratford, Taranaki over Waitangi Weekend, 2016 – this will be your last chance for some time. Make sure you register with Nicky if you intend to climb.

Posted by Richard Tregoweth Google+

Responsive website design for Treetools 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Back in the day, before the advent of the ‘Smartphone’ and tablets, merely having a website was good enough to survive in retail – shopping for tree stuff via a ‘mobile’ device was in the realm of science fiction.

Not so today. According to a 2014 white paper by Cisco UCS forecasting mobile data traffic for the period up to 2019, mobile devices already account for well over half of all Internet traffic.

In some market segments ‘being mobile’ may not present a problem but kiwi tree climbers have proved to be early adopters of mobile technology, and arb companies are not far behind their workers.

Treetools has over 4000 registered website customers. If the Cisco trend prediction is correct that means over 2000 individuals or businesses already want to shop (or at the very least research products) using a mobile device, be it a Smartphone or tablet. Anecdotal evidence gathered by Treetools suggests the analysts at Cisco are right.

‘Responsive’ web design

Mobile customers are an impatient lot (social media demons will identify with this). They demand optimal viewing and interaction. That means mobile customers want a fast, easy-to-read website with simple navigation where the need for resizing, panning, and scrolling is kept to a minimum.

Unfortunately for us, mobile friendly interaction at this operating level cannot be achieved with the existing Treetools website.

Therefore, throughout the month of February the current Treetools website will transition to a new ‘responsive’ design. There should be minimal interruption for customers.

The 2016 site will automatically adapt its layout to reflect your viewing device, providing a different user experience for phones, tablets of various size and desktop monitors.

Images and buttons are larger with scrolling and the user interface more intuitive and easier to use on mobile devices, even the smallest of phones.

Our latest website features loads of new products with large images and detailed information covering specifications, downloads, configuration etc. to ensure the selection of the right product for your specific application.

Mobile for business account holders

Tablets are in everyday use with NZ arb companies and there is already demand from businesses for easier ordering via these devices. The same applies to use of the Smartphone.

Now, registered monthly credit account holders can place orders, via their mobile device, without having to make a Credit Card payment before shipment.

‘Logged in’ trade account holders select products as desired. Prices are displayed excluding GST to simplify price comparison with competitor products.

When it comes to check out ‘logged in’ account holders are presented with an additional option.

Instead of using the green ‘Check Out’ button account holders click the grey ‘Trade Account’ button – the only mandatory is the use of an official order number – the total in the cart is debited to your monthly account rather than demanding Credit Card payment before shipping.

The ‘Trade Account’ button is only visible to ‘logged in’ registered monthly account holders. You can read more about the Treetools Trade Account here.


Posted by Richard Tregoweth Google+

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