Moving Logs With the Galley Slaver

Learn how to simplify the project of moving logs using this reader’s “Galley Slaver” technique. It works like a charm!

| January/February 1985

  • 091-086-01
    Burnell Lippy discovered a better way to move heavy logs.

  • 091-086-01

Last June, after spending several months of my spare time cutting and limbing balsam and fir trees with a 42-inch bow saw and a double-bladed axe, I was able to sit atop my hillside property and — with no small feeling of satisfaction — view the 100 logs that I'd need to build my home. A full third of those timbers rested within a mere 100 feet of my home-site. My satisfaction began to turn to apprehension, though, as I forced myself to face the fact that an equal portion of the logs was stacked some 200 feet away, at the bottom of a 20-degree slope, while the rest of my home-to-be (stacked far enough away to resemble a pile of jackstraws from where I sat) was a full 100 yards beyond the bottom of that hill.

In the past I had often hand-carried or dragged small logs, tipi poles and the like from one site to another. But these timbers were each about 22 feet long and averaged 10 inches in diameter. So I made arrangements with a local logger to bring his horse and skid to move the logs to the site, offering to trade him two hours of my labor for every hour he and his horse spent getting the felled trees moved.

Though that gentleman was agreeable to my proposed swap, it would be — he said — a week or so before he'd have time to do the job. So I decided to use that delay in an attempt to move at least some of the logs to the site myself (and maybe, while doing so, regain a little of the sense of accomplishment I'd felt after felling and branching the trees by hand).

In order to tackle that imposing task, I borrowed an idea from a friend, Jon Denner, who — while building a 25-by-25-foot log cabin in Vermont — had moved all of the logs without a horse, skidder or tractor. Jon managed to do it with "a little help from his friends," and from a crude levering device that he used to "row" the logs out of the woods.

Following the hints the Vermonter had passed along, I duplicated his tool from a 5-foot length of 3-inch-diameter birch and eight feet of 5/8-inch hemp rope. First, using my axe, I sharpened the thicker end of the stick and then tied the rope to the birch pole at a point approximately 15 inches above the top of that axe-formed taper.

I must admit that the appearance of this simple tool wasn't exactly confidence-inspiring. Still, I went ahead and used a clove hitch to tie the free end of the hemp about 1 foot in from the end of the log closest to my home-site. I then stabbed the pointed end of the stick into the ground and pulled back on the top. Much to my surprise, this technique allowed me to propel that log over a distance of 50 feet in a relatively short time without damaging my back, arms, legs or morale. Inspired by that success, I decided to improve on the technique by setting up a runway of 4-foot-long log-end skids — held in place by driven pegs — before getting back to work.

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