Build Three Homemade Timber Tools

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Diagram: Log tong.

Learn how to make these homemade timber tools for harvesting lumber on your homestead. (See the timber tool photos and diagrams in the image gallery.)

Harvesting wood is hard work . . . especially for the
occasional cutter who–like many of us–can’t
justify the purchase of costly laborsaving equipment when
sawing only enough wood to keep the stove or fireplace
stocked. Yet properly designed hand tools, made from scrap
in your own modest workshop, can ease the burden of manual
labor while still doing a great job of keeping expenses in

The three homemade timber tools you see on these two pages were
adapted from Scandinavian designs and are well suited to
the type of secondary-growth cutting faced by most weekend
lumberjacks. Each tool cost less than $5.00 to build, and
only one–the pry bar peavey–required welding of
any kind. Read on and find out how you can spend a couple
of leisure hours to save a lot of time on the woodpile.


Like the ice seller’s tool, this device uses mechanical
advantage to keep a grip on the work . . . but its design
goes the old block tongs one better because it’s meant to
be used with a single hand. Since the handle pivots on one
gaff and is connected through links to the other, the
pressure of the “bite” is proportional to the weight of the

To fashion a tong, first clamp two 11-1/2 inch sections of
3/16 inch by 1 inch flat stock together and drill a 5/16 inch hole
through each end of the matched set. Then join the pieces
with two short bolts, and–using our illustration as a
guide–bend the straps into the configuration shown.
(Yes, you’re going to need a torch, a vise, locking pliers,
and a hammer to get the job done, but once you’ve heated
the metal to a dull red, it’ll bend very easily and will
probably even have to be reflattened along the curves with
the hammer.)

Note that the completed tool has one long gaff with a
slight bend at its mounted end. Form this 1-1/2 inch -long
offset into both metal pieces; then, once everything has
air-cooled, remove the end bolts and use a hacksaw to cut
points on the tips and to trim the upper gaff to its 8 inch
finished length. Bevel the face of each point with a
grinder, then go on to round the nose and tail of each

The handle should be formed, under heat, in the same manner
as the tongs were, then 3-1/2 inches of its forward end must be
flattened under blows from the hammer. Again, round the
nose of the completed part and smooth out the edges of its
opposite tip. Finally, cut the two scissor links from 1/8 inch by 11 inch stock, finish their ends, and drill 5/16 inch holes
through both pieces at points 1-3/8 inches apart.

The remaining pivot holes should be drilled as follows: The
handle gets two, 1-3/4 inches apart . . . the top gaff, a pair
1-5/8 inches from each other . . . and the bottom gaff, another
two 1-11/16 inch apart, all measured from the center of the
openings. Once all the holes are bored, you can paint and
assemble the tool by tightening the nuts down to the shanks
and cutting off the threads that protrude. The handle and
top gaff fasten to one side of the bottom gaff, and the
links bolt to each side of those parts at their two forward


This tool is essentially a felling lever with a few added
kinks. It has a spurred swing arm like that of a peavey,
and the shoe has a beveled tip and a sharpened side edge.
It’s great for freeing chain saw bars bound in timber,
turning midsize logs, minor debarking, and–with the
sharpened flank–trimming twigs and small branches
prior to bucking.

Knock this one out by heating and then bending a 25 degree
angle into the 1 inch by 26 inch tubular steel handle about 7-1/2 inches
from one end. Then drill two 5/16 inch holes, 2-1/2 inches apart,
through the tube’s opposite end so they’re perpendicular to
the bend and the upper one is 3-1/4 inches from the closest tip.

Next, cut a 25 degree bevel in one end of a 3/4 inch by 7/8 inch by 8 inch
section of solid power takeoff shaft stock. Trim the 1/4 inch by 3 inch by 4-1/2 inch metal plate so one end tapers to a 1-3/8 inch width
(the angled sides should be about 1-1/2 inches long), then weld
this newly made shoe to the diagonally cut end of the bar
stock so the tapered end comes flush with the rear of the

To make the swing arm, clamp and endbolt the two 10-1/2 inch
sections of 3/16 inch by 1 inch flat stock together, and, with the
help of the torch, bend them as one so there’s a 45 degree
crook in the center. Once they’ve cooled, cut the bolt
holes from one end and smooth the tips with the grinder.

The swing arm spur can be fashioned with a hacksaw and the
grinding stone from a piece of 1/4 inch stock, as can the
1-1/4 inch-sided, 21/2 inch base triangular spur guard. Similarly,
the two shoulders that support the spur itself can be made
from 3/8 inch-thick material. Temporarily bolt the swing arm
sections, bends up, into the uppermost hole in the handle.
Then weld a spur shoulder to the inside forward edge of
each swing arm, and the spur itself to the two shoulders so
the point meets the straight portion of the handle at
approximately 45 degrees . . . making certain the arms are
parallel with one another as you do so. The guard can then
be welded just below the spur and in line with it.

Remove the swing arm assembly and tap the shoe and its post
into the straight end of the handle. Cross-drill the solid
piece at the handle holes, then lock it in place with the
two 5/16 inch bolts, seeing to it that the swing arm assembly
is refastened and allowed to move freely. (To prevent it
from flopping when not in use, simply pinch the bars a bit
closer together at the spur end so they’ll bind on the
handle when the arm is pushed all the way back.)

With that done, you can sharpen the working edges. The
front of the shoe should be heated to an orange-red and
hammered against metal until the upper face is beveled to
about 25 degrees and the edges splay outward. Then the left
side (if you’re right-handed) can be ground to a 30 degree
bevel, trued on a coarse stone, and honed on its top and
bottom surfaces. The spur should be angled to 30 degrees on
each side and the tip filed to a sharp point. Finally, if
you wish, you can wrap friction tape around the hand grip,
cap the end with a furniture tip, and paint the rest of the


Though some may not consider it a tool, this piece of
headgear offers protection against falling limbs and
branches, flying debris, and the potentially damaging
staccato noise of a chain saw engine hard at work.

The basic helmet is nothing more than a motorcycle “brain
bucket” that we picked up at a flea market for $3.00. The
only prerequisites for a good find are that it be in one
piece, fit comfortably, and have a functional chin strap
and snap studs at the front.

Essentially, you’ll just be adding a screened visor and
some sections of cloth. Locate a piece of 18- to 20-gauge
sheet metal that measures at least 8 inches by 15 inches, then use
aviation snips to cut it into strips of the sizes called
for in our illustration. Next, cut some sturdy wire cloth
(metal door screening will do) to 6 inch by 13-1/2 inch dimensions,
and lay it on the visor frame pieces so you can mark the
bends in the bottom and side sections.

Crease the frame parts by hammering them over a hard lip
(such as a metal plate or a workbench), then slip the
screen under the folds and tap them down. Use a flat-nosed
punch to dimple the folds every inch or so from the back
side. Lay the header in place, then drill 1/4 inch holes at the
frame’s four corners to hold the fastening bolts. (The
completed perimeter should measure 6-1/4 inches by 14-1/2 inches.) To
secure the top part of the screen and the cloth visor
skirt, fold an inch or so of the fabric over and capture it
and the wire cloth between the metal header liner and the
header, locking the two strips together with the shorter
blind rivets.

Complete the visor by bending two 1 inch tabs into the ends of
the visor clamp bar, then forming that strip to match the
contour of the front of the helmet. Attach three of the
snap fastener caps to the bar–in line with their
mates already on the helmet–with the No. 6 screws.
Next, put the No. 12 screws in place at the frame’s lower
corners and bend the frame into an arc so you’ll be able to
use the 1/4 inch bolts to fasten the clamp bar through the
upper corners. Snap the visor onto the helmet, then pop the
remaining two caps into the free corners of the skirt, and
screw the studs into the sides of the shell to hold the
caps. Finish up by riveting the nape skirt to the rear edge
of the helmet and painting the visor and fiberglass shell
the colors of your choice.