Company History

Prentice™ Loader Championship - 1972

Prentice Loader Championship logo

In 1972, the first Prentice™ Log Loader Championship was introduced at the East Coast Sawmill & Logging Expo in Richmond, Virginia. A contest in which loggers pick up and move blocks from one checkerboard to another, the Prentice Loader Championship is a popular attraction at trade shows. Loggers line up for a chance to demonstrate their skill with the latest model Prentice loader and win cash awards, trophies and bragging rights.

Proceeds from the Championship benefit Log A Load for Kids. Since 1972 well over 10,000 contestants have participated, generating over $100,000 for this worthy cause. The Mission of the Log A Load For Kids program is to raise funds to improve children’s health through treatment, education and research at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Log a Load for Kids logo

Watch Contest Videos on YouTube of Prentice Loader Championship contestants.


Prentice - Founded in 1945

Prentice logo

In 1945 Leo Heikkinen opened a small machine shop southwest of Prentice, Wisconsin, to repair and fabricate farm, construction and logging equipment. Seeing the difficulty loggers had loading logs with mechanical truck-mounted winches, he put his ingenuity to work to improve the method. By 1956 he had developed the first hydraulic log loader and named his invention after the little village where it got its start. Heikkinen’s philosophy to “build it better than it needs to be” became the foundation for a complete line of forestry equipment built today with the same commitment to innovation, quality, durability and reliability.

The Heikkinen Machinery Company was incorporated as Prentice Hydraulics Inc. in 1959. As the company grew, the line expanded to include truck and trailer-mounted loaders and larger models to handle tree-length wood and large west coast timber. Demand spread beyond the Lake States region throughout the United States and Canada. Sales soared and by the late 1960s, over 1,500 Prentice machines were produced annually.

In 1967, Heikkinen sold Prentice Hydraulics to Omark Industries of Portland, Oregon. An additional factory was built in Zebulon, North Carolina in 1969. Omark was purchased by Blount Inc. in 1985. The Forestry Division of Blount was sold to Caterpillar Inc. in 2007.

Today, the Prentice brand is stronger than ever, with market-leading quality and durability. In 2006, the Prentice brand name was given to Hydro-Ax wheel feller-bunchers and Fabtek harvesting equipment, making the Prentice timber harvesting equipment line one of the most complete in the industry. In 2007, the Forestry Division of Blount (including the Prentice and CTR brands) was sold to Caterpillar Inc.

Additional historical information: http://www.prentice.k12.wi.us/prenticeloaders/


National Hydro-Ax - Founded in 1973

National Hydro-Ax logo

The Hydro-Ax product line concept began in 1965 when a young entrepreneur from Owatonna, Minnesota, saw the need to mechanize the process of clearing right-of-ways for power lines. His single-model brush mower attachment attained instant success and it became apparent quickly that he needed a tractor specially designed to control ground speed and provide full power to the attachment. In 1970, Pettibone Corporation provided that tractor, and the first four-wheel-drive hydrostatic unit was built.

As demand for the unit increased, the decision was made to engineer and manufacture the attachment and tractor together, so in 1973 National Hydro-Ax Inc. was founded to do just that. First year sales were over $700,000 with one model – the 520 Brush Cutter.

With the National Hydro-Ax team having roots in the woods, they saw an opportunity for a hydrostatic drive machine for the forestry industry. Felling shears and saw heads were developed for the tractors, and soon sales into the forestry segment dwarfed that of land clearing.

As rapid growth continued, it became difficult to fund development for new product, so in 1980 National Hydro-Ax was sold to Omark Industries of Portland, Oregon. Omark was purchased by Blount Inc. in 1985, and the Forestry Division of Blount was sold to Caterpillar Inc. in 2007.

Hydro-Ax machines were re-branded as Prentice in 2006 and are built with the same commitment to innovation, quality, durability and reliability.


CTR - Founded in 1979

CTR logo

The mechanization of the timber harvesting process gave birth to many support equipment manufacturers, one of which was CTR Manufacturing in Union Grove, North Carolina. Its founders realized the need to safely delimb timber and buck logs, while providing loggers a way to be more productive and profitable. Mechanical delimbers and ground saw slashers quickly became accepted as a safe alternative to manual chain saw methods.

Looking for companies with high-quality, innovative products to complete its line of timber harvesting equipment led Blount Inc. to acquire CTR in 1994. In 2002, Blount moved CTR manufacturing to its Prentice, Wisconsin, factory, where the commitment to innovation, quality, durability and reliability is paramount. CTR products are the most robust in the industry.

In 2007, the Forestry Division of Blount (including the Prentice and CTR brands) was sold to Caterpillar Inc.


Fabtek - Founded in 1986

Fabtek logo

Fabtek began as a diversified heavy steel fabricator in Menominee, Michigan. By 1986 Fabtek was developing and manufacturing harvester and processor shear and saw heads for forestry purpose-built carriers. Fabtek’s design philosophy of simple, strong and serviceable gave loggers in the Lakes States an economical option to expensive, complex European processing heads.

A complete range of sizes and styles of processing heads was developed throughout the 1990s. Fabtek also became well known for excavator conversion packages which included the innovative clamshell design for easy servicing access.

In 1994, Fabtek introduced a line of forwarders. Track and wheel harvesters were also developed to complete Fabtek’s full line of cut-to-length equipment.

With the full product offering, sales expanded throughout the U.S. and Canada. This made Fabtek an attractive option for Blount, looking to offer a full range of U.S. manufactured cut-to-length forestry equipment to its customers. Fabtek was purchased in 2000.

Fabtek machines were re-branded as Prentice in 2006. All products are manufactured in the Prentice, Wisconsin, and Owatonna, Minnesota, factories with the same commitment to innovation, quality, durability and reliability. In 2007, the Forestry Division of Blount (including the Prentice and CTR brands) was sold to Caterpillar Inc.