treemagineers – a collection of recollections and observations 3/3

treemagineers as a brand?!

Once the strategic partnerships had been established with DMM and Teufelberger, a very productive period of PPE and rigging product development and production followed. In parallel, as is probably inevitable, the perception of a treemagineers brand evolve, which seemed to suggest that the products we were involved in were per se high-end. This was never our intention – and so some products were deliberately tailored to counteract this. 

A good example of this is the multiSAVER. In our opinion, the ring-to-ring cambium saver is representative of the elegance of some of the equipment used in tree care, where often simple solutions solve complex problems – so we were keen to pick up on this theme (the original ring-to-ring cambium saver is credited to François Dussenne, Fred Matthias and High Tree Tech). 

The fimblSAVER is another variation in this product family. 

Another measure we took to change the brand perception of Treemagineers was a blog on our website. For many years, I used this blog to write about topics that I found interesting, funny, annoying or simply worthy of discussion. For various reasons, the blog has gone quiet in recent years, but who knows, maybe it will be revived in the future. 

The Pinto Story

Another important product that should be mentioned here is the Pinto pulley. 

The Pinto is basically the pulley we always wanted when we were still climbing with the Petzl P05, which had a becket of sorts, but not really. Together with DMM, we set out to create our vision of a rope-friendly version of the P05 – with a true load-bearing becket to which things could be attached and with an attachment point that was equally suitable for textiles or connectors. 

This proved to be much more complex from a manufacturing perspective than originally anticipated. Despite the resulting delays, we still didn’t have a name for the pulley, so we sought help from our friend Rich Allmond. Upon hearing the features of the pulley, Richard said, “I don’t know about names, but it sounds like a pulley I need to own”.  No, the name does not refer to a small car model that Ford produced from 1971 to 1980. Nor does it refer to a piebald horse. Rather, it is an acronym for “Pulley I Need To Own”.

DMM’s ability to hot forge aluminium is second to none and has a huge impact on how the products we are involved in look and feel. Hot forging is ideally suited to creating rope-friendly surfaces – and on top of that, the products look stunning. Another person who has contributed significantly to the look and feel of the products is Elliot Tanner, a Wales-based designer who started his working life at DMM before setting up his own company. For many years treemagineers have worked with Elliot because of the high quality of the designs he creates. The combination of DMM, treemagineers and Elliot has enabled the development of equipment that we are still proud of and excited about today. 

The CEclimb story

The 17 year-collaboration between Teufelberger and treemagineers revolved around developing textile-based products, such as the rope tool range, a range of climbing harnesses and climbing and rigging ropes. A very important – and sadly underrated – development for us was the CEclimb. This has its roots in the discussions that took place mainly in Germany in the first decade of the millennium regarding the legality of knot-based work positioning systems. At the time, there were voices within the Gartenbau BG (German health and safety body) that claimed that only mechanical work positioning systems were certifiable and therefore legal. We disagreed, believing that the arboricultural industry has historically had a wealth of experience in the use of knots and hitches, therefore saw the need to develop a hitch-based work positioning system. CEclimb was the result of these developments, with specified components and configurations, as well as defined performance criteria and detailed documentation. The aim was to provide people in arboriculture with a benchmark or reference point for working with hitch-based systems, with clear performance criteria. The idea was not to restrict the ways in which hitches were used, but to define a configuration that was demonstrably safe, from which deviations (e.g. using a different hitch) could be justified by means of a risk assessment. In retrospect, all this was probably a few years ahead of its time. Today, more and more people seem to be buying into the philosophy of certified systems, but when we launched CEclimb, the reactions were restrained, if not even slightly sceptical. Be that as it may, the issue of the legality or illegality of friction hitches was then resolved once and for all, so there was definitely something good that resulted out of the whole thing.

To continue the theme of systems with defined components, configurations and performance criteria, we also looked intensively at rigging systems. Whilst the data from that project never really saw the light of day, we definitely learned a lot. Part of this was an epic series of tests at Dunkeld in the Scottish Highlands. These involved looking at the interaction between the slings, the rigging ropes and the rigged mass. It included many, many drops in different configurations. In such tests, some results are predictable, whilst others are surprising – and there is always much to discuss. Even though these tests were done a while ago, they have yet to be fully evaluated – but the good thing about solid data is that you can let it sit for a while and always come back to it later. So unlike CEclimb, this project did not directly lead to fundamentally new products, but it did provide the basis for updates to Teufelberger’s range of rigging ropes and slings. For those involved, the days in the Highlands were definitely an important learning experience, as it offered interesting insights into how far properly configured rigging systems can be loaded before they fail. 

Onwards and upwards

After seventeen years of collaboration, Teufelberger initiated the termination of its collaboration with treemagineers in 2020, a process that was completed early in 2022. Whilst we regret this decision, we also respect it. We have achieved many good things together during this time and we hope that our joint efforts have made a contribution to tree care which has value and meaning. 

This exciting new situation will allow treemagineers to focus entirely on working with DMM. We will continue to expand and advance the hardware-based projects we were already working on, but will also move into new areas.

A (preliminary) conclusion

So where do treemagineers stand today? Almost twenty years after our first chat in our kitchen in Basel? Not everything has gone smoothly, of course, but it has certainly been a very enlightening and rewarding journey. We met and exchanged ideas with a lot of different people: producers, designers, out-of-the-box-thinkers, as well as arborists from many different areas. These are memories none of us would not want to miss. 

And most importantly: treemagineers is still fun, so stay tuned for more!

What advice do we have for a young person reading this article who might have ideas of their own? Many people have good ideas, relatively few of them make it from concept to prototype to production, so bring a big portion of patience to the table and do not rush the process! Be prepared to invest a lot of time and effort if you want the project to reflect well upon you. Take your time to find the right partners, don’t settle for second best and don’t feel obliged to accept the first offer – some people offer you the whole world – to then deliver little. Don’t sell yourself short, your ideas and experience have inherent value, don’t give this away for the value of a t-shirt! The mosaic of climbing arborist culture is rich and many people have contributed to it over the years, let’s continue building on it together.

treemagineers – all for the trees and none for a fall!