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Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook

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Tools (continued)

Wheelbarrows. Wheelbarrows with pneumatic tires are best as these tires can be inflated or deflated to roll easily on different surfaces.

Motorized Carriers. If your budget and regulations allow, consider a motorized carrier. These come in various configurations and typically feature a dump body. A trailer pulled behind an all-terrain vehicle is another possibility. MTDC has construction plans for a gravel trailer.

Photo of a motorized carrier.
A motorized carrier.

Photo of an ATV trailer.
ATV trailer (plans available from MTDC).

Packstock Bags and Panniers. Fabric bags or hard-sided panniers with drop bottoms work well for carrying trail construction materials on packstock. MTDC has a design available for fabric bags. Off-the-shelf fruit picking bags also work well as a low-cost alternative for occasional or light duty use. Commercial aluminum drop panniers are a more expensive option.

[photo] Packstock bag being mounted on a mule
Packstock bag.

Canvas Bags. Heavy-duty canvas bags sold to carry coal are great for dirt, small rocks, and mulch.

Photo of a Canvas bag.
Canvas coal bag.

Cant Hooks and Peavys. Cant hooks and peavys afford leverage for moving or rotating logs. To roll a heavy log, use a series of short bites with the hook and maintain your progress by quickly resetting it. Catch the log with the hook hanging on top of the log. Rotate the log using the leverage of the handle, working the tool like a ratchet. Moving large logs may require several hooks working together. Avoid taking large bites; a heavy log will roll back and pin the handle before the hook can be reset.

Image of a Cant hook and peavy.

Log Carriers. Log carriers enable teams of workers to move logs. The tool hooks the log, allowing persons on either side of the handle to drag it. Several carriers could allow four or more persons to carry a large log.

Image of a Timber carrier.

Tools for Peeling and Shaping

Bark Spuds (Peeling Spuds). Use a bark spud to peel green logs. Position the log about hip high. Hold the tool firmly with both hands and push the dished blade lengthwise along the log under the bark. Always pry away from your body. Three sharpened edges make this tool unusually hazardous to use and transport.

Image of a Bark spud

Drawknives. A drawknife works best to peel dry logs. Position the log about waist high, and grasp both handles so the beveled edge of the blade faces the log. Begin each stroke with arms extended and pull the tool toward you while keeping even pressure on the blade. Keep fingers clear of blade corners.

Image of a Drawknife

Carpenter's Adzes (Cutting Adzes). This tool trims and shapes logs into hewed timbers or flattened logs. To use a cutting adze, stand astride or on top of the log to be hewed. Grip the handle with both hands and swing it with short strokes in a pendulum motion along the log. Use your thigh as a stop for your arm and to control the depth of the cut. When standing on a log and swinging, stand on the heel of your forward foot, toe pointed up.

Image of a Carpenter's adze

A square-tapered eye and handle end allows the head to tighten when swung, but also allows its removal for carrying and sharpening. Some adzes may have a small set screw to further secure handles to heads. An adze needs to be razor sharp to work. Never use this tool for grubbing.

Tools for Sharpening

About Sharpening--Inspect all tools before use. Sharpening makes tools last longer. A small scratch that is ignored could lead to a serious crack or nick in the blade.

Image of the blade of a cutting edge tool.

Use a file or grindstone to remove metal from the edge. If there are no visible nicks, a touchup with a whetstone will restore a keen cutting edge. In these instances, you need only restore the edge bevel. Whetting the edge removes very small bits of metal from the blade and causes the remaining metal to burr slightly on the cutting edge. This burr is called a feather, or wire edge. Remove this weak strip by honing the edge on the other side. The correctly honed edge is sharp, does not have a wire edge, and does not reflect light or show a sharpening line. Wear gloves when sharpening cutting edges.

Restoring the blade bevel requires coarser grinding tools to reshape worn cutting blades. Reshape blades with hand files, sandstone wheels, or electric grinders. Remove visible nicks by grinding the metal back on the blade. Remember that the correct blade bevel must be maintained. If the shape can't be maintained, have a blacksmith recondition the tool head or discard it.

Image comparing blade bevels

If a cutting edge is nicked from a rock, it often is work hardened. A file will skip over these spots and create an uneven edge. Use a whetstone to reduce the work-hardened area, then resume filing. Alternate the two until the file cuts smoothly over the entire length of the edge.

Files. Files come in single or double, curved, or rasp cuts. Single-cut files have one series of parallel teeth angled 60° to 80° from the edge; they are used for finishing work. Double cut files have two series of parallel teeth set at a 45° angle to each other; they are used for restoring shape. Curved files are used for shaping soft metals. Rasp cut files are used for wood.

Image of a file.

Files are measured from the point to the heel, excluding the tange (the tip used to attach a handle). Length determines the coarseness of files. There are generally three degrees of file coarseness: bastard, second cut, and smooth. The bastard will be the coarsest file available for different cuts of files of the same length. A 254-mm (10-inch) mill bastard file is good for all-around tool sharpening.

Before filing, fit the file with a handle and knuckle guard. Always wear gloves on both hands to prevent cuts from the sharpened edge. Secure the tool so both hands are free for filing. Use the largest file you can, depending on the size, nature, and workable stroke length of the job. Remember that files are designed to cut in one direction only. Apply even pressure on the push stroke, then lift the file up and off the tool while returning for another pass.

Store or transport files so they are not thrown together. Protect them from other tools. An old piece of fire hose sewn shut on one end makes a great file holder for several files, a guard, and handle. A hand-tool sharpening gauge that gives you all the correct angles can be ordered from the General Services Administration (GSA).

Picture people carrying a log.

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Updated: 4/14/2014
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