Few activities for tree care professionals can be more taxing on mind, body and spirit than moving wood around on the ground. The fairly recent addition to the industry of small motorized equipment with grapples and other log-moving devices has eased the physical nature of these activities, but for locations where equipment can’t get in, or for those whose budget doesn’t allow for the capital investments, there are a number of tools of yesterday that are just as valuable and relevant today in the 21st century. Not only do these tools allow for and ease the movement of large woody debris, but they also assist in preventing operators from “digging for clams” with their chain saw, a sure method of dulling the sharpest of chains. Thus, these tools of the forefathers of the industry not only make tree care professionals safer by allowing for the movement of wood without taking an exorbitant toll on their backs, but also make them more efficient in both wood movement and reduced downtime for chain sharpening.

Photos by Michael Tain.
(L to R) The different business ends of a peavey, cant hook, felling leverand log tongs


In 1857, Joseph Peavey designed, developed and manufactured the first peavey, a tool whose value has not lessened in the 152 years since, and which still proudly bears his name. The tool has varied little since that day, although the inventor’s grandson James did change the design slightly in 1873 to incorporate a solid socket and pick, thereby eliminating any shoulder where the pick and socket meet. The traditional peavey has a hardwood handle, a pick or sharp point on the business end, along with a free-swinging hook to capture and secure the log, though more modern versions are available with metal handles that increase strength and durability. The peavey affords its user a long lever arm, basically whatever the length of the handle is, to maneuver or roll logs with less effort while securing the log with its free-swinging hook. A peavey is of particular value when turning large logs over to complete a chain saw cut, but can even be used to maneuver a log around by “chocking” one end of the log and using the peavey to turn the other.

Cant Hook

A cant, a fairly obscure and archaic term in this day and age, is a log with one or more squared sides; and was/is quite common in the building and construction of log or timber frame structures. The cant hook, which is quite often confused with or misidentified as a peavey, was used to move these squared logs around on work sites. Unlike a peavey, which as mentioned previously has a pick or sharp point at the business end, the cant hook has a flattened or blunt tip. These tips vary in shape and design in modern cant hooks, but their blunt, nonpenetrating nature does not. The cant hook still has a free-swinging hook, which allows for secure capture of the log, but can be particularly useful in not only the movement of large woody debris, but also does so without penetrating the bark and decreasing timber value. Additionally, this tool can be more useful than a peavey in elevating the log off the ground so the chain saw cut can be completed from the top without any fear of cutting into the dirt or turf.

A peavey in place on a logready for the user to employleverage to roll the log.Theuser should always pull/pushaway from the hook. A smaller cant hook in placeon a log ready for the userto employ leverage to rollthe log and leave it slightlyelevated to cut.
The spatula-on-steroids endof a felling lever in the chainsaw kerf. A pair of log tongs in place on a log to allow for easy movement with one hand.These tongs are of the smaller variety that can be carried on a chain sawoperator’s felling belt.

Felling Lever

Felling levers, as with peaveys and cant hooks, are available in a variety of lengths and sizes, yet differ in their shape at the business end. A felling lever is designed to fit within the kerf of a chain saw cut, and therefore has an appropriately flattened end, almost like a spatula on steroids. They may be used in a variety of applications, including providing needed lift in getting a stubborn tree or piece to start on its felling path to the ground or simply in levering apart a severed log on the ground when the cuts haven’t matched up quite perfectly. Additionally, some felling levers are equipped with a small swinging hook that can be folded back and secured out of the way when using the lever feature, but once deployed can be quite useful in rolling a log or piece of wood into the desired position. The felling lever is one of the only tools discussed here that comes in small enough versions to be carried on the harness or in the bucket when aloft, and can be quite useful when “piecing” down trees or spars.

Log Tongs

Log tongs also come in a variety of configurations, shapes, sizes and handle types, but all have the common and constant feature of two free-swinging or moveable hooks opposite one another. This allows a user, or two users with some varieties of log tongs, to literally extend their reach, grab a log securely, and move, drag or carry it wherever they wish and their strength allows. The smaller versions even fit on a pouch that can be worn on a regular or felling belt, allowing users to quickly access them and move logs or bundles of brush easily and safely. The log tongs reach extension helps crew members keep the stress and strain off their backs, always an excellent idea when moving woody debris.

These basic tools, though often overlooked and left languishing in the back of the truck or even at the shop, can, when used properly, make any job involving woody debris safer and more efficient. Their ability to grasp logs securely and turn or roll them in the desired direction can also make them quite useful even in hazard/danger tree situations where one tree is lodged in another, and movement is required without a desire to get too close. Additionally, there is a certain amount of personal satisfaction in using a tool from the days of blacksmiths, crosscuts and double-bit axes in the era of cell phones, laptops and Google Earth, and realizing that a peavey really needs no improvement.

Michael (House) Tain is a contract climber, splicer, educator and writer associated with North American Training Solutions/Arbor Canada Training and Education, currently located in Lancaster, Ky.