Getting Trail Tools

Over the years, the trail tools I normally use have changed.

Although things on trails can be lost or suffer fates unaffected by their quality, I have decided that I cannot afford to use inefficient tools. Several years ago, then Blue-Blazed trails District Manager Lois Mansfield introduced me to some better tools than what I had been using.

Saws

For about fifteen years, I maintained a wilderness trail, so chain saws were not something I had contact with. After some frustrating moments with bow saws, we started using rigid pruning saws, good for logs of 12 inches, sometimes larger. With these saws, it is easier to cut logs close to the ground from underneath than with a bow saw. However the kerf is too thin for a normal wedge to slide in. I do not recall the brand, but the saws we used or equivalent are now made by Fanno Saw Works.

For logs up to 8", I saw why one person kept telling me to get a 13" Corona pruning saw. Other companies make similar saws-I have no knowledge of whether they are inferior or superior to the Corona. Yes, you can find replacement blades, although at some places they cost almost as much a whole saw. Direct from Corona may be one of the cheaper places for replacement blades. When I had them to compare, I may have preferred the rubberized plastic handle over the wood. The current plastic handles are are bent more than the wooden handle I have-the different angles of the handles can be seen in pictures. Several places, sell them although scabbards, which cost about the same as the saw, are harder to find.

I have not used a folding Corona, but saw the results when one did not stay locked in sawing position-the blade cuts flesh also.Iam waiting to test a 14" blade version-it looks just like the 13", just a little longer.

Loppers

I have had a few pairs that have not stood the test of time after working well initially. Currently I have a Corona pair, bought at a local home improvement store. One day they were hopeless with small branches. The problem seemed to be the pivot bolt was loose. Now a T30 screwdriver (a scrench for a Stihl weed eater also works) is in my tool collection. However there may be better loppers available, including some with lightweight handles.

Shears

On a trail I used to maintain, bending over to cut blueberries was a chore even before an orthopedist told me I had “the arthritis you are supposed to have at your age.” Long handled shears to eliminate bending did not work—the long flexing handles were part of the problem. Then Lois Mansfield introduced us to ARS lightweight shears. Not cheap, and one time Consumer Reports rated more conventional shears as best buys, but when carrying tools for miles, I think the ARS shears are worth it. I treated myself to the long-handled K1000 model (now about $90). One time a person who enjoys her food enjoyed using the K1000 shears so much she did not stop for lunch! With time, even after replacing blades, they seemed not as good as I remembered them, perhaps because I had not adjusted the pivot correctly or because I have tried cutting too many twigs bigger than they are suitable for. Not sold many places. The shorter K-800 model is more common.

McLeod

Recently, I decided my life would be simpler if I had my own McLeod. A fellow Flying McLeod suggested URLs to go shopping. Corona brand is cheaper than others, even called “economy model” by Baileys. One reason may be that they come with some assembly required-the blade has to be bolted on; this makes shipping cheaper, and also allows replacement of blade or handle. However if you have to buy a 24-mm socket to tighten the bolt, some of the cost benefit of reduced shipping charges is lost. True Temper makes a similar tool in the USA—costs more. Some people prefer the flatter head of McLeods where the blade is riveted on. At sites I saw, they are considerably more expensive, and the stores did not list advantages of the more expensive brands. Flying McLeods use Corona brand so it is my first McLeod. Standard handle is four feet in length. One person said he found longer handles, which may reduce bending, but four feet is as long as will fit in my trunk—the rest of the car often has passengers.

Rock Bars

I have heard that for some trail projects, it you can move a rock without tools, it is too small so I sometimes see and use rockbars. After experiencing how much they weigh after a few hundred yards, I wondered if technology can help. “Carbon fiber rockbar” and “lightweight rockbar” are Googlenopes (things not found by Google). New search engine cuil also failed to find these them. So we are stuck with steel.

How to Use Tools

For treadwork, being on a trail trip with Don White or Mark Gatewood and Flying McLeods will show you how to make a trail so that it does not erode quickly. At-home sources of information are booklets and a video produced by the Forest Service and distributed by the Federal Highway Administration—see this information on the FHA Website.

Where To Get Them

My local home improvement store and hardware store do not carry many of the tools I now want, so off to the Web. Places selling fire-fighting supplies have tools we use for tread work. Some sites I have used:

Company URL Discussion
A M Leonard http://amleo.com/ I bought a nice pole saw there (used on one PATC project)
Gemplers www.gemplers.com I probably bought K1000 shears and replacement blades there.
Ben Meadows http://www.benmeadows.com/ Recommended by a Flying McLeod. Good selection and prices, but they require you to create an account with their password rules to spend money which I find unnecessary and a hassle so I did not buy from them.
Baileys www.baileysonline.com Also recommended by a Flying McLeod. I ordered a McLeod there but they did not have what I wanted for saws, so off to…
Oesco https://www.oescoinc.com/ They sell scabbards as well as saws. Low prices. But: they had many scabbards which seem the same, which is confusing; first time I used the page it was very slow to load but more recently it was fine.