Test: Fencepro Ultra G3
When I was asked to take a look at the Fencepro post driver, I was pointed in the direction of Dave Madsen who has recently purchased an Ultra G3 model through Piako Tractors in Morrinsville.
Dave Madsen Fencing is based in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. Madsen has over 20 years fencing experience so I was grateful he took the time to stop for a chat about his new Ultra G3 that he has been operating for six months now. I found Madsen and his team, Patrick and Mathew hard at work on a property near Thames which is being developed and fenced for horses.
The Fencepro Ultra G3 was purchased to replace a smaller G2 that Madsen and his team have used for the last seven years. While they have had an exceptional run out of this machine, an increasing work load, including six months' work each year on a large property at Orere Point on the Hauraki Gulf on some seriously hard clay, meant the time was right to upgrade to the larger Ultra G3.
With a 4.8m folding mast, there is plenty of height with around four metres from the ground to the bottom of the post cap, something Madsen says is important when driving long posts in, particularly when building cattle yards. A hinge point around halfway up the mast allows the operator to fold it hydraulically from the ground for transport, lowering the overall height to around three metres.
Conveniently located under the control bank is a tap to shut off the hydraulic circuit which folds the mast, great for safety and to stop the mast creeping. While Madsen reckons the telescopic masts found on some other machines would be of benefit in certain situations, he doesn't believe that he could justify the higher price tag of machines with a telescopic mast.
A recent change from older models is to a single large pulley at the top of the mast, rather than two smaller pulleys. This is said to reduce wear and prevent damage to the wire rope. At the bottom of the mast, a 75mm heavy-duty pin mounts it to a sub frame, which with the aid of a hydraulic ram, allows for 350mm of mast shift, handy to line the machine up and drive the post in exactly the right spot.
Two further hydraulic rams hold the mast upright and also allow for an impressive amount of tilt forward-to-back and side-to-side.
As standard, the Ultra G3 comes with a 300kg monkey, although as Madsen was buying the machine to work in some seriously hard ground, he fitted his machine with the optional 350kg block to drive posts in, in the toughest ground conditions. Another positive is the 11mm wire rope which is used, rather than a 9mm rope for safety and a longer lifespan.
The weight is lifted with a hydraulic ram and a triple pulley set up which is nicely shielded with a steel guard for safety. The heavy duty 50mm thick steel post cap features a nylon block to transfer the impact of the falling monkey to the post, a short spike on the bottom of the cap drives into the top of the post and holds it in place.
A bank of valves is mounted at the back of the machine and puts all the controls within easy reach of the operator, clear labels on each lever makes it easy to learn the controls. The lever to control the monkey is slightly longer than the rest and on the end, making it easy to find without looking. A steel rail along the front of the levers is well placed to rest your wrist on when operating the levers.
The optional auger kit that can be used to drill pilot holes was a fairly attractive extra to Madsen. This kit is easily bolted on to the machine in front of the mast and features a hydraulic turning ram to swing the auger around in line with the mast where the post is to be driven. Madsen's machine was equipped with two different-sized augers for posts and strainers.
A hefty hydraulic motor is used to turn the tungsten tip augers into the ground. A long ram is used to lift the auger back out of the ground once the pilot hole has been dug. Conveniently, the holder for the auger features a chain locking point, meaning the auger mount can be used to pull posts out of the ground as well.
A minor problem encountered is that with the auger kit fitted, it can hit the back wheel and mud guard of the tractor when the machine is in the wrong position. On Madsen's machine they have built a steel frame around the tractor mudguard to prevent any damage.
Like all other Fencepro models, the Ultra G3 is available as simple rear-mounted machine or it can be coupled with the Fencepro SM900 side mount unit. This is fairly popular option and in my opinion is worth its weight in gold. It can be coupled to the post driver simply with three pins that gives the flexibility of being a side or rear mounted post driver.
The side mount unit is built out of hefty box section steel and allows 900mm of side shift movement for the post driver, making it easier for the operator to drive the tractor along the fence line without needing to be in precisely the right spot.
Incorporated into the SM 900 unit is a counterweight which balances out the machine's weight and improves stability on hills. There's also a large handy plastic tool box to keep your fencing gear with the machine (where you need it), a tow bar and some steel holders suitable for a spade, and rammer.
Interestingly, one of the first things Madsen did was send the machine down to the local engineers to add extra holders for tools and auger bits, so he can carry everything needed for the job on the machine, something he believes could be standard from the factory.
The Fencepro Ultra G3 is a serious machine for those with a lot of posts to drive and appears to be more than capable of handling whatever is thrown at it. A key point is its well thought out simplicity; it starts from a simple yet heavy duty well-built frame and mast. This can then be customised with a range of options that can be bolted onto the machine to suit the customer's requirements.
Testament to the build quality is the fact that when Madsen came to replace his old Fencepro machine, he was that pleased with how it had gone he never even looked at any other brand. Overall a great machine which is designed for high output users such as fencing contractors and built to withstand stand the harshest conditions.
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