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Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook

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Tools Cont.

Tools for Peeling and Shaping

Bark Spuds (Peeling Spuds)--Use a bark spud to peel green logs. Have 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 peel away from your body. Its three sharpened edges make this tool unusually hazardous to use and transport.

Drawing 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 your fingers clear of the blade's corners.

Drawing of a drawknife.

Tools for 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.

Use a file or grindstone to remove metal from a dull 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.

Drawing of a close up of a blade bevel. Includes text that reads, Blade bevel, edge of bevel, and blade of cutting tool.

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 toolhead or discard it.

Drawings of blade bevels. Two blades are correct and one is wrong.

A hand-tool sharpening gauge that gives you all the correct angles can be ordered from the General Services Administration (NSC No. 5210-01-324-2776).

If a cutting edge is nicked by a rock, it may be work hardened. A file will skip over these spots and create an uneven edge. Use a whetstone or the edge of a bastard file to reduce the work-hardened area, then resume filing. Alternate using a whetstone and the file 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 degrees from the edge; they are used for finishing work. Double-cut files have two series of parallel teeth set at a 45-degree 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.

Drawing of a file. In the drawing text reads, Knuckle guard (old fire hose), file, and handle.

Files are measured from the point to the heel, excluding the tang (the tip used to attach a handle). File coarseness is termed bastard, second cut, or smooth. The bastard will be the coarsest file available for files of the same length. A 254-millimeter (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. Secure the tool so both hands are free for filing. Use the largest file you can. 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 as well. An old piece of fire hose sewn shut on one end makes a great holder for several files, a guard, and a handle.

Mechanized Trail Building Equipment

Grading Equipment--Several types of graders that can be pulled with ATVs work well for maintaining wider trails used by motorized traffic. MTDC has designed a rock rake to fit on an ATV for trail work.

An experienced operator can use small mechanized equipment to make wonderful singletrack trails. Such equipment also is great for constructing wider trails for motorized traffic and packstock.

A Web site showing a variety of small mechanized equipment and attachments for trail work can be found at:

Photo of an ATV with a rock rake attached to it.
Rock rake designed by MTDC

Mini Excavators--Mini excavators can excavate tread and move material and rocks from place to place. They are even more popular with trail contractors than dozers, because dozers can only push material. Excavators can dig and move material. Mini excavators are available from many manufacturers.

Photo of a worker in a mini excavator.
Mini excavator

Trail Dozers--Trail-sized dozers are becoming more common for cutting singletrack trail. When an experienced operator follows a good design, the trails built by a dozer are impressive.

Photo of a worker in a trail dozer.
Sweco 480

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Updated: 4/14/2014
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