Favorite hand tool in your quiver?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    beer thief
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    Favorite hand tool in your quiver?

    The popularity and effectiveness of the Pulaski & McLeod are for good reason; they work really well. When I'm doing solo work, I like to bring one in each hand.

    A couple of years ago, however, I read about someone asking for opinions on the Rogue Hoe. http://www.thestgeorgeco.com/catalog...ogue_hoes.html I checked them out and liked the look, so I bought one of the 55A models, with a pointed "pick" at one end. I liked it so much I bought two more as end of season awards for our hardest working local volunteers.

    The tool is quite light, with a hardened steel head that really holds an edge. It cuts through roots and duff like a hot knife though butter and shapes and tamps quite well. The pointed end is excellent for digging around rocks & roots. I've found that if I want to go light with one tool that does a lot well, this is it. Not a replacement for the trusty Pulaski or McLeod, but certainly a good complement.

    So, anyone have a favorite they'd like to share?
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  2. #2
    Elsievo
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    For the terrain in which I work, I have found a 5lb Collins axe to be my weapon of choice for the initial grub work and benching. For those who haven't played with one yet, picture a pulaski where the axe head went on a diet and the hoe is on steroids plus the whole head is about 2 lbs heavier. The trick is a pendulum swing and let the mass of the head do the work. Just keep your feet out of the way. If you do run into something stubborn you can use the philosophy of not forcing it, but using your larger hammer. Keep a file handy for occasional sharpening.

    I've also used a Lamburton rake for finishing work in place of the McLeod from time to time. (Wider than the McLeod and finer teeth.) IMO: for trail work the more squarish heads work better than the wider/thinner ones.

    Marc
    Working the Swedetown trails near Calumet, MI

  3. #3
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    My favorite trail building tool? My bike! Seriously, a bike is one of the most important tools when building a trail. You get the correct sense of flow on a bike.and can tweak the trail on the fly.

    As far as tool box tools, my faves are the clino and the smart tool - a digital level. Hand tools: pulaski!

    I got to use a rogue how recently and liked it a lot. I might have to buy a couple for the company.

    D

  4. #4
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    Besides a leatherman tool.
    A Gerber saw. Light weight and retractable...
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  5. #5
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    Cold Beer

    The #1 tool = cold beer.... enjoyed at the end of the project... while discussing the day's endeavors with your buddies.

    Otherwise, I think it depends on the terrain. In western Colorado (rock, sand and clay), my personal favorite is a traditional heavy pick-mattock. The pick is good for breaking or prying rock; the mattock for cutting bench; laid sideways the head can be used to pull material into a pile or off of the tread; and the handle can even be used alone as a small tamper.

    Runner up: Watching other riders use your new tread while you still have the tools in the field. You might be able to tweak something right then and there, before it becomes something you have to fix at a later time.

    If you would have limited the question to "tool" only, I'd have to say 'knowledge of your local surrondings' would have been the #1 answer.

  6. #6
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    I've been using this Gerber Brush Blade for 2 months now and this thing works great. It hangs off a clip on my tool belt and it's always there when I need it.

    The other tool I've used for years is a stock ditch blade that I can get at any hardware store; but I just sharpen the inside edge. Basically the ditch blade is just like the Gerber Brush Blade, but is is on a 4' long wood handle.
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  7. #7
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    great thread radair! going to have to get one of everything mentioned. My favorite/most efficient tool is the lamberton rake, but the most important tool I carry is a file. I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but I do know that sharp tools make work easier.

  8. #8
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    Favorite new trail maintenance tool

    My favorite new tool works great for performing trail steward type work. Maintaining trail requires a multi-purpose tools that can do a decent job at many different tasks. A single stretch of trail might require digging to clear drainage, deberming to re-establish outslope, scraping to remove ruts, and raking to remove sticks/leaves. The Thau Claw is an adaptation of the standard McLeod fire rake design that allows it to do a better job of digging while still working well at scraping and raking.

    Another plus of the Thau Claw is that it is a bolted design, allowing the blade to be removed and carried separately. This is very convenient if the tool has to be carried a long ways prior to beginning trail work. I created a walking stick foot for the handle using a bolt and a rubber chair foot, so now I use it as a walking staff in between trail maintenance sections. The Thau Claw is available from The Fire Cache in Fort Collins CO (www.firecache.com) and costs $69.00.
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  9. #9
    beer thief
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    Quote Originally Posted by bweide
    .... The Thau Claw ...
    Now that's what I'm talking about! Good looking tool, my order is in.

  10. #10
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by bweide
    My favorite new tool works great for performing trail steward type work. Maintaining trail requires a multi-purpose tools that can do a decent job at many different tasks. A single stretch of trail might require digging to clear drainage, deberming to re-establish outslope, scraping to remove ruts, and raking to remove sticks/leaves. The Thau Claw is an adaptation of the standard McLeod fire rake design that allows it to do a better job of digging while still working well at scraping and raking.

    Another plus of the Thau Claw is that it is a bolted design, allowing the blade to be removed and carried separately. This is very convenient if the tool has to be carried a long ways prior to beginning trail work. I created a walking stick foot for the handle using a bolt and a rubber chair foot, so now I use it as a walking staff in between trail maintenance sections. The Thau Claw is available from The Fire Cache in Fort Collins CO (www.firecache.com) and costs $69.00.
    Not a fan of the nut on the bottom of the tamping surface.

    Anyone using these??

    http://www.traildesign.com/Shulaski%...0(website).pdf

    They used to have a folding mini mac that look very interesting as a single do it all tool if you had to travel light.

  11. #11
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    Several of us from TORC ordered tools from Charlie and Mike after having a chance to use them at the Epic in TN at Tanasi. The McLeod is excellent - they do not have a nut on the bottom just like the Zac Tools that unfortunately are no longer made. The Shulaski with its' 5" blade works well in some situations. Around here we have a lot of rocks and roots and frequently a regular Pulaski will work around them easier. We had several of the folding Mini Macs ordered but he was having problems with the design and apparently he has not been able to resolve that.That would have made a nice ride in maintenance tool. Because these tools are custom designs made in smaller batches the cost is higher than production tools.If you are trying to outfit as many volunteers as you can with your funds in hand that might be a factor.

  12. #12
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    One good ride-in trail maintenance tool is the Glock entrenching tool (yes, the same Glock that makes the pistols). It's lightweight, has a telescoping handle and a saw that stores inside the handle. It fits easily in a Camelback. They are $34.20 at www.cheaperthandirt.com.

    Another good Camelback tool a V&B Manufacturing Mini Planter. It is a miniature pick mattock with a 16" handle and a removable steel head. It works well for breaking up hard soil and digging around rocks. They can be purchased at Lowes for about $20, if memory serves me right.

    I often ride with a Fiskars Woodzig saw, a Glock entrenching tool, and a V&B mini planter in my Camelback. The weight penalty is not too great and you can accomplish a lot with the three tools.
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  13. #13
    Smile and think light!
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    In Illinois the Council Rake rocked. It really cut new trail well, but the BOB, or a canoe for lakeside trails, always comes in handy to carry things out for a big task. The canoe carries a huge chili pot out for the cold long days out on the trail. Props to Marc Miles in SoIll!!

  14. #14
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    Favorite hand tool

    I think it's important to differentiate between folks doing full-time heavy trail work and volunteers wanting to both ride the trails and help out with light maintenance.

    I've been asked this question many times over the years and my answer is always the same; my size 13 boot is the most often used tool I have. I can drag almost as much soil as a McLeod, tamp soft areas, and do another task I call rock mining. I slide my boot back and forth across a section of trail where work crews have mostly finished up, and I can "feel" for small and medium size loose rocks that are just below the surface. By removing these and then filling and packing the holes, you will avoid having a lot of baby-heads popping out onto the trail the first couple months after construction or maintenance projects.

    The most dependable, durable, and effective single tool I know of is the 5lb. pick mattock with a hickory handle, preferably one stamped "made in Poland." The new and cheaper imports are being made in India and have less than half the lifespan. I might see twenty broken Pulaski handles and an equal number of broken sledge hammer handles in a season of trail work, along with numerous broken teeth off the McLeod's, while only losing maybe one pick mattock. In addition, the entire pick mattock costs only $19.95 and consists of two parts that slip together and can be individually replaced. I've used the pick end to break up solid rocks and to pry out larger rocks. The mattock, when well maintained, can cut tree roots, fresh sod, plants, and swipe off low -hanging branches. The grubbing blade is nearly twice the width of the grubbing end of a Pulaski. The heads of Pulaski's will come loose after a single day of heavy use and the handles are weak and prone to failure. They might work fine cutting simple fire lines and cutting light brush, so I can understand why hotshots carry them. There is just no other tool that can do so many heavy chores like a pick mattock.

    A folding 9"-12" tri-cut limbing saw is a great tool for all riders to carry with them on rides where they know brushwork is needed.

    More and more volunteers are heading out on rides with collapsable multi-tools. They are great for an hours worth of light and medium trail work.

    I purchased the wooden dividers and bungees for my B.O.B. trailer so I can easily pack my work boots, pick mattock, folding limb saw, and McLeod all inside (with the handles pointing out the back). I have had success using my MTB shoes, especially the toe cleats, in doing some trail work, but for extended work times, I find it's best to have a pair of sturdy work boots.


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  15. #15
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    Our club has about 25 each Pulaskis and Mcleods mostly fiberglass handles with a few aluminum from Shultz in regular use for about 4 years and we have never broken a handle or bent a tooth on a rake worth worrying about. I guess conditions can vary widely but all we do is the occasional sharpening.
    Are you working a crew of volunteer gorillas?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blurred_Vision
    Our club has about 25 each Pulaskis and Mcleods mostly fiberglass handles with a few aluminum from Shultz in regular use for about 4 years and we have never broken a handle or bent a tooth on a rake worth worrying about. I guess conditions can vary widely but all we do is the occasional sharpening.
    Are you working a crew of volunteer gorillas?
    I agree with you here. I've only had one issue with a pulaski, and it was resolved rather quickly. If I'm swinging a tool all day, and I do, I'd much rather swing something (pulaski) weighing 20% less than something else (pick) any day. If i know I'm going into an area with rock, I'll definitely pack in the pick mattock, though.

    D

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dburatti
    I agree with you here. I've only had one issue with a pulaski, and it was resolved rather quickly. If I'm swinging a tool all day, and I do, I'd much rather swing something (pulaski) weighing 20% less than something else (pick) any day. If i know I'm going into an area with rock, I'll definitely pack in the pick mattock, though.

    D
    I try to teach my crews not to swing tools. Because the crews are about half female, I find that the men overswing the sledge hammers and pick mattocks. You've probably seen what happens when someone takes a big swing with a pulaski and overshoots the tree root they were aiming at. They smash the handle and ruin the tool. I see it most when people take big swings at 3-4" diameter trees. But even more common is when you don't have enough rock bars to go around and people start prying rocks out of the ground with the grubbing end of a pulaski. The heads come loose and the tool is no longer safe to use.

    I feel you can accomplish a lot more by never raising the tool head higher than your shoulder, with the occasional exception. I look at it the opposite of you. I find the pulaski is too light, which forces users to take bigger swings instead of letting the weight of the tool do some of the work. In a typical 10-hour work day, I would guess that we use the pick side of the pick mattock about 20% of the time, the mattock about 40%, and the rest of the time we are using the McLeod, rock bars, and sledge hammers. I rarely have need for the axe blade of a pulaski. Instead I use the mattock for roots and folding limb saws for most everything else.

    We work with the Grand Canyon Trail crews a lot each year and they spend over $5k replacing broken sledge hammers, so they say. Seems a bit high to me. It's always due to overenthousiastic operator error. They have done what many others before them have done. They purchase the bigger 16 pounders to replace the lighter 10 pounder hammers and now they don't have as many getting broken. I have always felt the 12 pound sledge is the most productive.

    I once saw a benefit in the fiberglass handles. You don't have to rub them down with linseed oil to prevent them from drying out and they are much less likely to be lost left lying alongside of a trail. The problem is that the handles will flex a great deal if they are being used to pry anything. Plus they are more costly to purchase and replace.
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  18. #18
    beer thief
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    I can see both sides of the argument. Hand a 5 lb. mattock to a volunteer who occasionally does manual labor and you may not see that volunteer come back again. For someone who earns a living building trail and knows how to use tools properly (and is physically conditioned to do so), the heavier tool can be easier to use. However, you still have to lift it, even when letting the mass of the tool do the work.

    I think a lot of it depends on the project and terrain. Here in the northeast, a sledge hammer is seldom, if ever, used (one exception is the major rock work NEMBA is doing in 'Vietnam'). Pulaskis work excellent for grubbing out saplings and loosening the organic mat. The heavy mattock we have is often the last grubbing tool that gets taken simply because it's a beast just to carry to the work site.

    One last consideration - someone with a size 13 foot is likely to be a hell of a lot bigger than me with my size 7. It follows that different body types will suit specific tools better than others.

    Great input - I started this thread hoping to glean this kind of info and have not been disappointed.

  19. #19
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    radair, I see your point of view. These last few years I've been working with an international conservation corps. Our members are all from different countries. All sizes and shapes. I've had weeks when several females from South Korea and Japan were on the crew. Maybe five feet and a buck ten. They usually get the McLeods. The thought I never completed from my last post was that with mixed drews having to spend a week together working and camping out, it is not uncommon for the males to try to impress the females by displays of extreme physical strength, often resulting in damaged tools. I was in no way being critical of the female workers. Just wanted to make that clear. Actually, we try to hike in with all 11 of us carrying two tools each. One pick mattock for everyone and various other tools in the other hand, plus a backpack with lunch and snacks and up to 8 liters of water/gatorade, plus first aid, rain gear, and of course, TP.

  20. #20
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    Fortunately, as a professional trail builder, I rarely work with volunteers who are only there for a weekend morning. I hire people who have some experience using hand tools and can take direction on properly using p
    ulaskis and McLeods.

    Also, despite there being much rock around here (Austin, TX,) a pulaski is the best tool for trail building here. We have to cope with a multitude of juniper trees, the scourge of central Texas. Frequent stump removal is a must, and a sharp pulaski does the job.

    I do have a use for a pick, a sledge, etc., so I carry them when I need them.

    D


  21. #21
    JmZ
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    Now <b>that</b> looks like a sweet section of trail. One heck of a choke point too.

    Sweet trail, made doubly so because we're supposed to get our firs real snow tonight.

    JmZ
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  22. #22
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    I am from Tennessee, and built on a local trail here for several years.

    We got into a routine of each bencher using a digging tool and a stiff leaf rake. We have a lot of cobble rock and some bigger chucks, embedded in sandy clay. The area is very rooty. We found that if we completely removed the organic mat on the downslope, that we could get a away with a half bench cut. This has held up well in most places over about 3 yrs so far. We would loosen the soil with mattocks mostly, and then use the rake to move the dirt around and "find" our base layer of undistured soil. this works well and then you go back and cut out the extra roots sticking up, and the high spots. The best rake we found was a rake called a Shrub Rake, that I got at Lowes last year. This year, they did not carry them. They have stiff tempered round tines and are super for raking loose dirt. the rake also gets the cut roots separated from the dirt, so that they can be thrown out. I teach our crews to never use any organic material in a fill area. My personal preference is a 5 lb. cutter mattock, and since I hardly ever used the cutter end, I decided to lighten it up and cut off the cutter end with a power hack. it now weighs 4 lbs, and is more aptly called a grubbing hoe. I like a hickory handle. We got to where we almost never used our one McLeod since we could tamp the trail with our feet and it worked just as good. The McLeod just will not dig in our rooty soil, and I found it much less efficient than the leaf raking method for grading the tread.

    I have decided that every location has a particular set of conditions, and you just have to find out the most efficient way to get the job done. For example, we have tried wider width hoes, (than the mattocks) and they will just not cut into our rocky soil. Also, I will say, two counties away they have a completly different situation. Almost all rocks, and no dirt to dig. Then two counties to the south, it is almost all dirt, not a rock to be found.
    Kindacreeky,
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  23. #23
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    I'm right with you on the rogue hoe. That's my go to tool for most occasions. It does the work of both a pulaski and a mcloud. Maybe not as well but to have such versitility in one tool makes it work for me. We don't have any with the point on the other side. We have to get one like that.

  24. #24
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    Another Rogue Hoe

    same hoe as OP. 42" curved handle.
    followed by McCloed,

  25. #25
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    Rogue Hoe too

    ...for most occasions. But I've decided to deal with the many exposed rock points at "my" trail and have come to appreciate what a sledge hammer and rock bar have to offer. The local rock is dolomitic schist which fractures like glass.

    I'm starting a long-term project to remove the knife-like rock edges that line the trails and destroy bike tires.

    Walt

  26. #26
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    Standard spade shovel.....I can to a lot of shaping, ditch digging/clearing, cuts through a lot of small roots...handy and easy to carry. The other tools are great for major projects. I really need to check out one of the Rogue Hoes.
    Get out and Ride!!

  27. #27
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    I come across too many who don't take a small tree or bush out properly and same for people not benching well so if it's a choice I have McLeod and Pulaski instead of one tool. If it's one tool that has been a Shulaski. The classic Pulaski and McLeod combo also lets me best teach our volunteers and lead them by having the best tool for their skill level in their hand.

  28. #28

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    Rogue Hoe too

    The Roage Hoe is a great tool. I got one for Christmas and love it. I also like Fiskar Loppers. They can fit in you Camel Back and cut much larger branches than you would think.

  29. #29
    zrm
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    After all the years of doing trail work, We still rely on the trusty McCleod Pulaski combination for the vast majority of our trail building and maintenance. The other tools that get a fair amount of use are a pick/mattock, smokey Bear spade, rock bar with tamping end, and some kind of come along device to move big rocks. We also make good use of five gallon pickle buckets.or canvas bags for moving dirt.

    I have used a Rogue hoe and it's a nice tool, but for me, it doesn't take the place of the P-M combination.

  30. #30
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    The Zak McLoed is my favorite tool of destruction............
    IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU'RE NOT RIDING (or building)!

  31. #31
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    Zak Shovel

    Best tool for sagebrush removal, prys rocks out without breaking, doesn't need to be swung so not as tiring to use, nice wide foot flanges, better angle on the shovel blade.

    Hasn't broken in 6 years of use and abuse.
    I ride with the best dogs.




  32. #32
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    I have two hand tools I favor more than the others.

    The rouge rhino from national firefighter.



    great for benching and moving dirt, but a lousy lever.

    for moving and placing rocks, wolverine tools makes a series of all steel super tough spades, that make great levers, just don't use around buried power lines.


  33. #33
    JmZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by gnawbonelefty
    I have two hand tools I favor more than the others.

    The rouge rhino from national firefighter.



    great for benching and moving dirt, but a lousy lever.
    +1 Have used that one too. Great dirt mover. Great benching tool. A sharpened one also works great on small roots too. Does not cost an arm and a leg either.

    JmZ
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  34. #34
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    I'm a fan of the Rogue Hoe but on it's own it's lacking. I use a long handled square shovel with the edges sharpened and a Stihl pruning saw along with the rogue hoe. I can build anything in anything with that combination.

    That being said, I do own a few other tools.


  35. #35
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    Favorite hand that makes my tool quiver would be my opposite hand because it feels like someone else is doing it.
    .~...|\
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  36. #36
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    Tim, are the drugs that good?

  37. #37
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    OK, that's funny!

  38. #38
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    my favorite tool is my good ole machette, i got that thing knife sharp, and what ever it can't cut through just make into a jump or a skinny run
    8BALL UP8

  39. #39

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    Glossary for a newb (me) :
    http://www.americantrails.org/resour...fo/tools5.html

    Edit: WooHoo, I'm no longer a junior member!

  40. #40
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    Just had this one made

    I know this is an old thread, but....

    I took an old post hole digger handle and a portion of a round disc harrow and made this:






    Using an angle grinder I cut the disc into a piece of "pie" and then took what I had to a local welder. He had steel tubing to get the handle shaft. It's rounded but so far it cuts roots up to about 2" just fine and removes organic material and hair roots like they were butter. It's hit several rocks as the soil around here is rocky in Central NC. So far it is holding an edge rather well. The small pointed end is for larger roots. I have enough metal pieces and part lying around to make another one and get a hatchet blade welded to the back side for a homemade Pulaski. I can flatten the disc piece with my small coal forge and anvil and curve the blade in the right places.

    Total cost was the $10 I paid the welder. All the other stuff were things I've collected over the years from scrounging and packratting.

  41. #41
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    Rogue hoe here as well. I also like my folding saw in my pack while riding...

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