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Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook

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Tools (continued)

Tools for Grubbing (continued)

Stump Grinders. If you have lots of stumps to remove, consider buying or renting a gasoline-powered stump grinder. These portable grinders are powered by a chain saw motor and have carbide teeth that can be resharpened or replaced. They grind through a stump in much less time and with a whole lot less frustration than would be needed to dig it out.

Photo of a Stump grinder
Stump grinder

Tools for Digging and Tamping

Shovels. Shovels are available in various blade shapes and handle lengths. A No. 2 shovel is standard. A smaller No. 1 shovel can be used. Fire shovels are good for scraping soil well off the trail.

Image of Square and Round point shovels.

When shifting or scooping materials, bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back. Use your thigh as a fulcrum to push the shovel against. This makes the handle an efficient lever and saves your energy and your back. A shovel used with a pick or bar is most effective; picks or bars make prying with the shovel unnecessary.

Digging and Tamping Bars. A digging and tamping bar is about the same length as a rockbar, but much lighter. It is designed with a chisel tip for loosening dirt or rocks and a flattened end for tamping. These bars are not prying tools.

Image of a Digging and Tamping bar

Tools for Brushing

Lopping Shears and Pruning Shears. Lopping and pruning shears are similar in design and use, although lopping shears have longer handles to improve reach and may have gear drives to increase leverage for thicker stems. Cutting edges vary, but generally one blade binds and cuts a stem against an anvil or beveled hook. We recommend the hook and blade shear for overhead cuts because the curved blades transfer the weight of the shears to the limb. The compound style cuts saplings better than hand saws or axes.

Image of Lopping shears

Bank Blades and Brush Hooks. Bank blades and brush hooks are designed specifically for cutting through thickets of heavy brush or saplings. Use them for clearing work that is too heavy for a scythe and not suited for an ax.

Image of a Bank blade and Brush hook.

Swedish Brush (Sandvik) Axes. These clearing tools work well in brushy thickets or when clearing in rocky or confined areas.

Image of a Swedish brush ax.

Weed Cutters (Grass Whips). Weed cutters are used for cutting light growth like grasses and annual plants that grow along trails. They are lightweight and durable and usually swung like a golf club.

Power Weed Cutters. Several manufacturers make "weed whackers," motorized weed cutters that use plastic line to cut weeds. Some have blades that substitute for the line. These can be a good option for mowing grass and weeds on trails. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe use and operation. Eye protection is especially important.

Tools for Pounding and Hammering

Sledge Hammers. Sledge hammers have heads forged from heat-treated high carbon steel; they weigh from 3.6 to 9 kg (8 to 20 lb).

Image of Driving sledges.

Driving sledges are used to set heavy timbers and drive heavy spikes or hardened nails. Stone sledges are used to break boulders or concrete. Because of differences in tempering, these tools are not interchangeable.

Image of a Stone sledge

Hand-Drilling Hammers. Hand-drilling hammers are used to drill steel into rock or to drive wedges and feathers into cracks or drilled holes. There are two types of hand-drilling hammers--single jacks and double jacks. For more information on hand drilling, read Hand Drilling and Breaking Rock (1984).

Image of a Single jack
Image of a Double jack

Tools for Lifting and Hauling

Rockbars. Use a rockbar (also called pry bar) for prying large, heavy objects. These bars are heavy duty. They have a chisel tip on one end and a rounded handle on the other.

Place the tip of the chisel under an object to be moved. Wedge a log or rock between the bar and the ground to act as a fulcrum. Press the handle down with your body weight over your palms. Never straddle the bar when prying. When the object raises as much as the bite will allow, block it and use a larger fulcrum or shorter bite on the same fulcrum to raise it further. You will gain proficiency with practice.

Image of using a bar as a fulcrum.

Block and Tackles. A block and tackle is a set of pulley blocks and ropes used for hoisting or hauling. They come in different styles, sizes, and capacities.

Ratchet Winches. Ratchet winches (also called come-alongs) are useful for pulling stumps and for moving large rocks and logs. These winches offer mechanical advantage--the Grip Hoist is a specialized winching system that provides a mechanical advantage of 30:1 or more. You really need to know what you are doing with these tools to use them safely and effectively.

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Updated: 4/14/2014
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