What Hand Tool Is Used to Roll Logs?

Cant hooks and peaveys, often spoken of interchangeably are used for rolling logs. A cant hook, also called a cant dog is a tool used by loggers, to handle cants or logs. (What is a cant, you may ask? Simply put, a cant is a partially sawn log.) Originally used by loggers cant hooks and peaveys are used by the many who handle full and partially cut logs:

  • Arborists
  • land owners
  • tree care professionals
  • sawmill operators

Cant Hooks and Peaveys:  Similarities and Differences

Cant Hook – By Bailey’s, Inc. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15013062

Both have long wooden handles for leverage, and a metal end and a movable hook (called a dog). The difference is that the cant hook has a blunt end either with small teeth for gripping logs, or curved hooks or a hook to increase the gripping action. The peavey usually has a pointed end, used to pry apart logs, and pry logs out of frozen ground. Also, the pointed end is very useful for pushing into the ground. This aids in keeping the tool standing it can be easily found. And more importantly, it is useful for anchoring into the ground, against a log. Thereby preventing it from rolling back into you or away from you. The peavey is also helpful in pivoting logs, as you can set the peavey into the ground against the end of one log, while your partner pivots the log around with his peavey.

Peavey

History seems to show that peaveys were used mostly for river drives, while cant hooks were mostly in sawmills.

How is a Cant Hook or Peavey Used?

Anyone, whether a professional logger or a homeowner who chops his own firewood has to handle huge and heavy logs. The logs can be pried with a pole or pushed around, even by hand. Prying and pushing can set a heavy log rolling and possibly injure you or your co-workers. But, handling a heavy log with a cant hook can keep control of the log from the beginning to the end of moving it. It assures that it will move where you want it to, and that the log will stay in place.

Cant Hook Technique

At the end of a long handle, there is a small hook or claw that grips one side of the log. Opposite that is a hinged hook that grips the log, adjusting to whatever size log you are working with. After you have set the hook near one end of the log, you use leverage, by walking the handle over to the opposite side from where you started. The action of pushing and pulling the handle, turns the log. While the cant hook is in place you have almost complete control over the log. This is very important in a busy and rapidly moving logging or lumber yard.

It is your preference whether you want to use a peavey with the spike. Or use a cant hook with the claw or toothed hook. Each one is used the same way as described above: grip, use leverage and roll the log with push or pull on the peavey handle. The advantage with the peavey is that the spike can be used to pry logs from each other. Or pry them out of ice and mud.

Peavey with a Log Stand Attachment

If you invest in an attachable log stand, it is a small price to pay to protect chains on a chainsaw. Hitting the ground will dull chains in very little time. Use the peavey to grip the log, and then turn it over until the log rests on the stand. This will hold the log steady during cutting. The stand holds most of the log off the ground. Starting at the furthest end from the stand, where the log is first found to be off the ground, make your cut. Then as you move closer to the stand, continue making cuts at intervals. If you do this, you will not have to reset the log on the stand after every cut.

Cant Hooks: Sizes and Lengths

In general, the handle length is going to correspond to the size of the hook. A small hook for smaller log, is going to have a shorter handle.  When the logs are larger, the handles need to be longer to provide the leverage.
For example, one seller provides the following:
Hook accommodating an 8” – 32” diameter log has a handle length of 48” or less
Hook accommodating a 10” – 36” diameter log has a handle length of 60”
Hook accommodating a 15” – 45” diameter log has a handle length of 78”

Cant Hook Handle Repair

Sometimes due to overuse or misuse, the wood handle will break on a cant hook. If it breaks flush with the metal collar holding the hook in place, then you have two options for how to remove it. You can drill and chip at it, and pick the pieces out with needle nose pliers. Or you can burn it out. You can purchase a replacement handle from forestry or horticultural tool suppliers. Or you can make one.

  • Choose wood from a heavy, dense small tree. (The best kind of wood is Hickory, but any hardwood will do the job.)
  • Strip the bark.
  • Turn or hand strip the wood evenly around the entire log, check sizing utilizing the cant hook band, as you go.
  • You are done when the band can be placed in the proper position on the handle.
  • If there is a metal end cup or band, shave the end of the pole under the hook to fit, tap into place and your cant hook is repaired.

History of Cant Hooks and Peaveys

There is scant information on the history of a cant hook. It appears as though the cant hook has existed for as long as humans have handled and transported logs. And that’s a long time. However, the peavey has a known history. Its inventor, Joseph Peavey was a blacksmith in Maine, working in Upper Stillwater next to the Penobscot River. The Penobscot was used for transporting logs to sawmills and shipyards along the banks of the river. The loggers worked hard to keep the logs moving and to prevent dreaded log jams. River drivers took their lives in their hands riding the logs. Joseph Peavey would observe their work from the bridge.

One day, he was inspired to create an improvement that to this day, is named after him. The logger’s cant hooks featured a hook that swiveled around the end of the pole, called a “swing dingle”. The change Peavey made was to stabilize the hook (dog) and make it open and close only, not swivel. And Peavey’s smithy shop was no longer able to provide the demand for the new, improved tool.


Peavey Manufacturing is Born

Peavey’s production was moved upstream to a new facility and the business was taken over by Joseph’s sons. Joseph’s grandsons opened a tool manufacturing shop, where peaveys and other log and wood tools were manufactured. The tool manufacturing shop continued under the name Bangor Edge Tool Co, through two fires. The business continues to exist under the name of its founder, which currently operates as Peavey Manufacturing Company.

If you are thinking about doing hand tool work directly from logs, the cant hook or the peavey would be a very welcome piece of equipment to add to your tool chest. It will save the potential back and joint injuring process of moving logs and holding them for cutting.

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