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timbertool vs. tree jack

 
paul wheaton
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I bought this thing in 2001. It was one the smartest buys I ever made. I'm not an expert logger and I think being a bit nervous about dropping trees is a healthy thing. And this little contraption eased about 85% of my worry.





source

So the idea is that you shove this thing in the ground, then stick it in the tree. Then you give it a couple of cranks so it is well embedded in the tree and the ground. Then make your cuts. Pull the saw out and put the saw in the safe zone. Then turn the crank. When the tree starts to fall, move to the safe zone.

I left it at the farm on mount spokane.

And now I am thinking that with my new land purchase I will need it again. So I am about to purchase it again, but it is a bit spendy at $400. I think when I bought it in 2001 I balked at the $200 price (I think that's what it was).

Anybody know of a similar product that might not give me sticker shock?

 
paul wheaton
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While trying to find this tool, I came across this video which seems smarter for bigger trees:




 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Paul,

As an arborist and Tree Warden I always have concerns when folks drop a tree if they don't do it on a very regular basis (I'm not saying you don't.) I have used both tree jacks and short piston jacks both for dropping trees, and you are correct, they are nifty way of getting the job done. However, I have seen some catastrophic fails with these methods in the hands of novice tree fellers. I still insist that if someone is going to drop a tree, and does this less than once a week, they should place a "control rope" into the tree using a throw bag. That rope can be tied off and "vectored" in a controlled way or attached to a "rope jack" for a very controlled pull. This does not change the need for proper "hinge" formation and back wedging of the fall cut. Hope that helps.

Regards,

jay
 
Fred Morgan
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most of falling trees is knowing how to make a directional hinge. That, and a couple of wedges, will do almost everything you need in my experience, and boy do I have experience.

Much more important in my opinion than devices like you are showing. The reason is that all trees are top heavy, and a big enough tree will crush those devices, or kick out on you.

Get yourself a book on dropping trees - there really is no shortcut in this. A hung tree is called a widow maker for a reason... be safe, be careful. Logging is one of the most dangerous occupations there is, way above being a policeman, firefighter, etc.

 
R Scott
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a +1 for the rope.

1. I do not want any steel anywhere close to a chainsaw.
2. I do not want to put a trip hazard anywhere near where using a chainsaw.
3. Rope is always useful on the farm. I hate unitaskers.

I would rather invest in this: http://www.capstanropewinch.com/ and plenty of rope. It will allow you to selective cut timber and get it out of places without tearing everything up. It will unstuck your EV cart or anyone's vehicle.



 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Outstanding recommendation R. Scott, we own several of them in our group, and they are a great asset in our rigging box. There are several on the market, but the one you recommended we find to be the best for the price vs. performance thus far. For those folks with limited funds, a Maasdam Rope Puller, some proper pulleys, and a little basic rigging of a "z rig" will pull massive amounts of weight.

http://www.amazon.com/Maasdam-A-O-Long-Puller-4-Ton/dp/B002RL7UGW
 
Michael Forest
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I've been cutting certain trees on a routine basis for 8 years and still consider myself a novice. Like others I assume you understand the basics such as exit strategies, kickback,etc. I agree with R Scott. Definitely listen to your instincts. If you have ANY doubt or undue nervousness about taking a tree down DON'T. That is why I said I only cut certain trees. For the others I call in a local logger who runs his own tree service and only charges $87/ hour, a very good rate, with 30+ years experience. He'll climb the tree if need be. I learn a lot watching and helping. Be safe.
 
paul wheaton
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I've dropped a lot of trees without the timbertool and quite a few with. All I'm saying is that the timbertool was quick and easy and I just felt much safer.

I just didn't saw the hinge through as much as I otherwise would. Then I would pull the saw out and set it in a good spot. Then I would crank until the tree was falling enough.

I would never use it to replace ropes for spooky trees. Just for a regular straight tree. I would simply use this on smaller trees to replace the chainsaw for the last inch or so of regular cutting to get the hinge cut.

I can see the concern about having metal near there. But I never had a problem.
 
Bob Louis
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While I have been dropping trees for over 40 years, I still get into jams. When I have any doubts, I have a great tree guy who works for less than can be believed. He's getting old and I hope he doesn't retire too soon. I just had him drop two 150 foot Doug firs. They were on the same stump and had to be felled individually. The first was dead, 28 inches on the stump, and was leaning the right way, and its limbs were on that side too. The other one was alive, 42"X26" on the stump (34" where it gets round), with all the limbs on the wrong side. He did that one with his plastic falling wedges. Two perfect shots. He asked for $125. I gave him $150.

Then a couple weeks back, I had him dump over 12 long dead Port Orford cedars on a friend's land. All the sapwood was rotten but the hearts were good. Still it was a tricky job with that dry brittle heartwood being iffy for the holding wood when felling them. It took him a few hours. He asked me for $125. I gave him $150. The friend who wanted those dead trees gone and gave them to me, immediately hired the faller to do some other trees on his place. Everyone needs a tree guy like mine.

I now have a nice deck of logs ready for my bandsaw mill.
 
R Scott
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paul wheaton wrote:I've dropped a lot of trees without the timbertool and quite a few with. All I'm saying is that the timbertool was quick and easy and I just felt much safer.

I just didn't saw the hinge through as much as I otherwise would. Then I would pull the saw out and set it in a good spot. Then I would crank until the tree was falling enough.

I would never use it to replace ropes for spooky trees. Just for a regular straight tree. I would simply use this on smaller trees to replace the chainsaw for the last inch or so of regular cutting to get the hinge cut.

I can see the concern about having metal near there. But I never had a problem.



For trees too small to wedge, I can see the value in being much faster than setting up ropes.

You could rig up the same thing with a hi-lift jack and a pipe sized to fit over the post. But I don't think it would be very safe. How about using one of these: http://www.harborfreight.com/10-ton-super-heavy-duty-portable-hydraulic-equipment-kit-44900.html
 
paul wheaton
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a video of this in use

 
Eric Hanson
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I like it!  That is a very simple, effective tool.  Elegant.

Eric
 
paul wheaton
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I like the idea that this tool gets to be popular enough that we might start seeing different variations of it on the market.
 
Eric Hanson
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Really, I can see the appeal and potential interest on a site like this.  The beauty is in its simplicity.  I haven’t seen the cost, but I bet that it is affordable compared to something like a winch.

Eric
 
Kyle Neath
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For me, this kind of device is mildly terrifying. I have seen a few explosive failures of people using tree jacks and this feels like a whole new type of explosive failure. Any kind of jack adds energy to a tree falling where there is already plenty of energy involved (the thicker the hinge, the  more explosive power available for jumping or literally exploding). Unless I’m working with a machine much heavier than the tree I’m falling, I want the least amount of hingewood (and explosive energy) as is absolutely needed.
 
D Nikolls
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Kyle Neath wrote:For me, this kind of device is mildly terrifying. I have seen a few explosive failures of people using tree jacks and this feels like a whole new type of explosive failure. Any kind of jack adds energy to a tree falling where there is already plenty of energy involved (the thicker the hinge, the  more explosive power available for jumping or literally exploding). Unless I’m working with a machine much heavier than the tree I’m falling, I want the least amount of hingewood (and explosive energy) as is absolutely needed.




What sort of errors lead to these failures?



My sketchy trees scare the shit out of me. I will happily knock down a good sized fir or a straight alder.. the cedars are mostly fine despite frequent rot in the heart...

But I have plenty of twisty, steeply leaning alder that really are just waiting to barber-chair your head off, and then there are the monster 2-3+ ft poplars. I have knocked over a handful of those with the 33" bar on the 394xp being a bit shorter than I would like.

They are insanely heavy, hard for a novice to read as they are pretty straight with heavy branches, and very brittle.

I don't cut those any more unless I use the excavator to finish the job. If they could land on something I get a pro *and* use the excavator for insurance.
 
Kyle Neath
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What sort of errors lead to these failures?



A few of the ways I’ve seen tree jacks fail:

- The pressure from the jack breaks the hingewood vertically (ripping the wood apart upwards). Since the jack is on the opposite side you want the tree to fall, the hingewood on that side fails first. As it fails, the pressure from the jack is immediately released and the jack falls out. Then the tree falls exactly opposite to the direction you want.

- The jack itself fails in some manner, sending shrapnel / parts flying.

- The tree jack slips or crushes the wood somehow, suddenly releasing all of its pressure in an instant. This upsets the balance of the tree in an instant, usually causing it to sway back toward the jack, breaking the hingewood, and falling the exact opposite direction you want the tree to fall.

The general idea is that the jack fights against gravity (your best tool in falling trees), and has the potential to fail completely in an instant of released pressure. This isn’t true of machines bigger than the tree (like an excavator), where pressure can be released and the machine remains in the same position. It also isn’t true of ropes, which don’t have complete failures in instantaneous moments of slack. Nor is it true of felling wedges, which remain in place even in moments of tension. My imagination also envisions this tree jack piercing down into a yellow jacket nest right at the critical moment of falling, releasing pressure and a swarm of yellow jackets straight into my face. Likely: no. Nightmares: yes.
 
paul wheaton
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Kyle Neath wrote:For me, this kind of device is mildly terrifying. I have seen a few explosive failures of people using tree jacks and this feels like a whole new type of explosive failure. Any kind of jack adds energy to a tree falling where there is already plenty of energy involved (the thicker the hinge, the  more explosive power available for jumping or literally exploding). Unless I’m working with a machine much heavier than the tree I’m falling, I want the least amount of hingewood (and explosive energy) as is absolutely needed.



What sort of tree jacks are you talking about?   Surely not the tree jack in the video.

 
Kyle Neath
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What sort of tree jacks are you talking about?   Surely not the tree jack in the video.



The ones I have seen most often are the small ones that fit into the tree itself and hi-lift jacks (very similar to your tree jack, and my absolute scariest mechanical tool of all time). My concern is less to do with the specific design, but the general principle of lifting a tree or relying on pressure from a machine of less weight than the tree (this jack fits both these criteria).
 
D Nikolls
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Kyle Neath wrote:

What sort of errors lead to these failures?



A few of the ways I’ve seen tree jacks fail:

- The pressure from the jack breaks the hingewood vertically (ripping the wood apart upwards). Since the jack is on the opposite side you want the tree to fall, the hingewood on that side fails first. As it fails, the pressure from the jack is immediately released and the jack falls out. Then the tree falls exactly opposite to the direction you want.

- The jack itself fails in some manner, sending shrapnel / parts flying.

- The tree jack slips or crushes the wood somehow, suddenly releasing all of its pressure in an instant. This upsets the balance of the tree in an instant, usually causing it to sway back toward the jack, breaking the hingewood, and falling the exact opposite direction you want the tree to fall.

The general idea is that the jack fights against gravity (your best tool in falling trees), and has the potential to fail completely in an instant of released pressure. This isn’t true of machines bigger than the tree (like an excavator), where pressure can be released and the machine remains in the same position. It also isn’t true of ropes, which don’t have complete failures in instantaneous moments of slack. Nor is it true of felling wedges, which remain in place even in moments of tension. My imagination also envisions this tree jack piercing down into a yellow jacket nest right at the critical moment of falling, releasing pressure and a swarm of yellow jackets straight into my face. Likely: no. Nightmares: yes.



Thanks for the detailed response! Sounds like you have seen most of the issues that I was just imagining..

Were these problems occuring with large trees, or all sizes?
 
D Nikolls
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Kyle Neath wrote:

What sort of tree jacks are you talking about?   Surely not the tree jack in the video.



The ones I have seen most often are the small ones that fit into the tree itself and hi-lift jacks (very similar to your tree jack, and my absolute scariest mechanical tool of all time). My concern is less to do with the specific design, but the general principle of lifting a tree or relying on pressure from a machine of less weight than the tree (this jack fits both these criteria).



Yiiikes. I love my hi-lift, but it is an oft-misused tool, and this is misuse to me. A hi-lift demands a lot more respect/caution than many give it.

I do think the jack Paul shows is much better suited to this work than the hi-lift. Certainly the failue modes described are still very possible, but they seem less likely.

It seems to me that generally speaking the more the force is angled, the lower the risk is, as long as purchase at the ground is maintained with a large margin of safety..
 
Travis Johnson
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On about 90% of my trees, I do not use anything, but on some that might be back-leaning, I just use a wedge.

They make some nice aluminum wedges, but I can never find them in the stores, so I just use plastic ones. They are cheap and work really well.

I do not even lug a hammer or axe with me, I just cut a hardwood sapling or limb as a 3 foot club, then drive my wedge home using that, that way I do not have another tool to lug around and use. That is a logging hack right there that will save you a lot of time and expense.

On some trees that like to Barber-Chair, like Ash or Oak, I dispense with trying to make them fall where I want them too. Wherever they lean is where they go because I like to cut the edges of the tree and just leave the hinge wood in the center so that it does not split on me.
 
paul wheaton
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Kyle Neath wrote:

What sort of tree jacks are you talking about?   Surely not the tree jack in the video.



The ones I have seen most often are the small ones that fit into the tree itself and hi-lift jacks (very similar to your tree jack, and my absolute scariest mechanical tool of all time). My concern is less to do with the specific design, but the general principle of lifting a tree or relying on pressure from a machine of less weight than the tree (this jack fits both these criteria).



So one of the things you are saying is that you have zero experience with this jack, but you had a bad experience with a completely different tool.   But the fact that they might we in the same weight class makes you nervous.  

Any chance you have, or can find, a pic of the thing where you have experience with it failing?   I would like to get my head wrapped around your concerns.   Because I think this thing that I am using is utterly magnificent.  I thing it makes dropping trees about ten times safer.   And the idea that anybody would suggest anything to the contrary has me baffled.  

 
Tj Jefferson
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I am not in Travis' league, but I felled about 20 trees this week (making mushrooms baby!).

I can see using a farm jack with an extension if I can't get a throw rope and pull it, but this would just take extra time compared to directional felling or just felling where it wants to go and skidding it from there. If there is a real leaner, it will often be rotten (causing the lean). And a 3 ton jack on soft soil is just kidding with a tree weighing significantly more than that. This would be up against a building or something high value, not ever a consistent maneuver. It would have some other safety measure built in for sure.

I have spent weeks with a family member who is a professional master arborist trying to learn what I can. What I have learned is that I am MUCH more conservative about what I get underneath. There are no second chances. I also invested in cabling and lag bolts that I can attach to a comealong and deal with from a safe distance. Or pull it over with a 200' rope attached to a tractor via throw rope as mentioned. There are many ways to be outside the danger zone when the tree comes down, and most of them are reasonable and reuseable. One rope can fell hundreds of trees if maintained. A comealong (or two with a prusik knot )  can be had for about $30 and reused many times, and used for many other projects.

If the rope fails you are generally far away. Replace the rope and move on. There are no second chances. Fell every tree under tension not under pressure is the safe route.
 
Mike Haasl
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I may be in an interesting position since I've used the timbertool at Wheaton Labs and I've cut a fair number of trees down.  Nothing like Travis but probably north of 500 trees.

My random thoughts:
I would personally think twice about using a hydraulic jack set into a notch in a tree to push it over.  While I can see how it likely would work very well and it's probably used by the pros working on big trees, unless I've been through some training, I wouldn't risk it.  Kind of falls into the camp of being too challenging a tree for me to be messing with.  Much like trees near power lines or other people's houses.

The timbertool is pretty cool.  It's very beefy.  It's also very heavy.  I wouldn't dare use it to push a leaning tree against the lean (or 90 degrees from it).  To operate it you are right next to the tool.  So if you're attempting to push a leaner over the other way, and the hinge breaks, you're in a bad spot to be standing.  But for relatively vertical trees, it ensures the tree isn't going to sit back on your saw.  And if you do the notch and hinge correctly, it will push the tree right where you want.  I can definitely see how it would be a great tool to have when guiding first time wood cutters.  I can also see how if someone learns how to cut trees with one and then they don't have one back home, they won't be fully prepared to cut trees on their own.

I'd personally never get one due to cost and self sufficiency.  I'd like to be able to cut down most trees with my saw, some wedges and a rope.  And if they get hung up, a cant hook.  If I misjudge the lean a bit, that's what the wedges are for.  If I need to fight a lean, that's what the rope is for.  If it's a heavy leaner, that's where the bore cut comes in to avoid barber chairs.
 
Travis Johnson
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One thing to keep in mind about me: I might be in a different league, but I also have different tools. I ALWAYS have a back-up plan.

I do not use my plastic wedge much because if things go bad, I have a skidder. They can drive anywhere and push any tree over, all the while I am protected by a cab. The only reason I use my wedge is, it take more time to walk to the skidder, climb up into it, drive it over to the tree, push it over, then go repark the machine again. Instead I can just lob off a club from hardwood, set my wedge, and then drive it home, tipping the tree over. It also gets my chainsaw free of the tree, and I have driven over far too many chainsaws!

It gets a little dicey when I am logging with my tractor. I have to land trees very carefully because my tractor is not always powerful enough to get a tree down that is lodged. And they must be oriented right to get them out of the woods.

With a skidder, it is far more easy. Either the trees jamming it will get rooted out of the ground, or the tree I am hooked to will break in half. Something will give, and it will not be the skidder.

In case anyone does not know what a skidder is:
179.jpg
[Thumbnail for 179.jpg]
 
Kyle Neath
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But the fact that they might we in the same weight class makes you nervous.



It’s not just the weight class — it’s the forces at work (the statics equation of a tree). I don’t have a problem pushing upwards from a machine heavier than the tree because it can absorb a moment in tension and not fail. Any jack, be it hi-lift, timber tool, or hydraulic will have a sudden and immediate failure in tension. Let’s say a big gust of wind comes along pushing in the direction of the jack. This has the potential to dislodge the jack, causing it to fall down. When the wind subsides, the hinge tension will rock the tree back toward you. But, now the jack is on the ground providing zero force on the tree at all and the tree is free to fail in the wrong direction — now with the added energy (however minuscule in comparson) from the timber tool swaying back at you.

If you review the same scenario with a wedge, rope, or excavator, the situation is different:

- A wedge will stay in place, and when the tree starts bending backwards it will resume it’s compressive force
- A rope will have some slack, and then when the tree starts bending backwards it will regain tension force
- An excavator will stay in place, and when the tree starts bending backwards it will just hit the machine (which remained due to its weight) and regain its compressive force

It’s true I don’t have experience with this specific jack, so I’m not saying it’s definitely bad. These are just the principles I have learned to respect while felling trees. I wouldn’t use this tool for a lot of other reasons (tripping hazard in the midst of an escape route probably being number one, as mentioned earlier). But I think it’s unfair to say I’m just spooked about it because I haven’t used it personally. Trees are made of wood, a variable organic material. The ground is made of rocks, dirt, rotten logs, and yellow jacket nests. Both are unreliable materials under compression and often have sudden failures. My teaching about felling trees is that the hard part is not planning the fall — but managing unknowns. An unknown knot or rotten section in the trunk. The unknown strength of the hingewood. An unknown balance dynamic in the limbs. An unknown gust of wind. An unknown limb giving way half way through the cut. This tool to me adds a whole slew of extra unknowns and a dose of scary force diagrams for me (pushing upwards, pushing laterally at the bottom).
 
paul wheaton
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We can have the tree sway in the wind with or without the timber tool.  

Here is the massive plus in safety I see:

    without the timber tool, the sawyer is very close to the tree and there are a huge amount of forces at work as the tree is close to tipping.

    with the timber tool, the sawyer stops cutting sooner - leaving a thicker hinge.  The sawyer can move the saw to the safety zone.  Turning the crank, the sawyer is a full step further away from the tree.   The amount of air between the sawyer and the tree is about ten times greater.  Since the hinge is thicker, the hinge is more decisive in the direction of the fall.   And the actual push from the timber tool also helps to determine the falling direction.  

Massive improvement in safety.  

Your concern appears to be about how brittle is the steel in the tool, and if the wind pushes the tree in the opposite direction - will the tool crumble or even explode.  But if the soil is soft enough to grow a tree and the tree is tall enough to have left some duff - then I think this is thoroughly mitigated.  

Another concern you have is about the wind blowing the tree the other way - before the sawyer has started to really push the tree over.   So the jack falls down - possibly on the sawyer.  I confess that this is a possibility.  And is also the reason why I prefer to put the jack in place after the backcut even though the manufacturer suggests putting it in place before you begin the backcut.

And a further concern you have is if the timber tool is no longer providing the push force (because it fell out of place) then the tree might fall in that direction.  And that risk is even greater if the timber tool was never there to begin with.   Especially with a smaller hinge.  

I think another thing to work into this equation is that the trees I am working with are not very big, and the people I am working with tend to be unskilled.   This tool gives me a huge feeling of extra safety surrounding one of the most dangerous things that a person can do.

I've used it.   I like it.   I think a pro would not use it because it is heavy.   I think it fits our circumstances extremely well.

 
Ian Flatters
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Location: Norwich
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I find more and more recently we are underataking Tree Surveys here in the UK for such feat task. Health and Safety has gone through the roof.

The combinatation of a Tree Jack with a control rope is pretty standard for us (as always there are health and safety concerns). This is the same in my most recent visit to Switzerland.

We use a drone to study the area for the most optimal path of felling along with the safety issue. The areas we generally work are heritage grounds in the UK, we cannot risk the dangers of a tree falling in the path of a listed building.
 
Travis Johnson
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An interesting thing to note is; small trees are often more of a safety challenge then felling big trees.

A falling small tree will kill a person just as easily as a big one. However, there is limited room. Often times there is not even enough room for my chainsaw bar, AND a wedge in the back cut of a smaller tree, so  A person has to make the hinge wood smaller on a smaller tree as well. This means angling the back cut to steer the tree is often out as an option.

The biggest reason small trees are more dangerous, is plain old complacency. To my shame, most of my felling surprises with trees are smaller ones. I make a quick front cut (not even a notch) then a back cut and wonder why they barber chair on me, or so not fall where I want them too.
 
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