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Monday, 20 March 2017

Making a Cant Hook

If you’re going to work with logs, you need a cant hook (unless they’re all too huge to move without machinery or all so small you can pick them up with one hand). Crowbars are very useful, tractors are marvellous, but for a person to be able to move logs around while cutting, milling, building, etc., a cant hook is indispensable. I first met my wife and in-laws when I visited a blacksmith to ask him to make me a cant hook, so they have a special place in my life as well.
Cant hooks allow a person to roll a log with modest effort and ample control. Along with a couple of strong crowbars, a log buggy and a few other bits and pieces, you can move logs around surprisingly effectively. Without these tools, logs are heavy, unyielding lumps that risk doing harm to your body if you try to move them at all. Don't think that you can substitute a crow bar for a cant hook: using a crow bar to roll logs is like eating spaghetti with a spoon. 
I’m very happy with the design of cant hooks I use. The hook is permanently attached to the handle and is easily swung onto the log.  Some cant hooks simply have a hook with a ring (at the handle end), and a crowbar or wooden spar must be put through the ring as the lever. This is a terrible idea if you need to roll a log more than once: you need to do a lot of bending over to pick up the hook and ring, your fingers are at risk of crushing and it's slow and awkward (I tried it early on). A hook with a ring can be useful to roll really large logs when pulled with a tractor and chain, but I have rarely needed to do this.
I use leaf spring steel for the hook, point and hinge. Spring steel makes for a much stronger hook than mild steel, thus enabling a lighter tool. It’s also usually free and being recycled. Trailer springs are often the right size of flat bar: about 44mm x 6 or 7mm. If you couldn’t get leaf spring (from the tip, or from a spring works or suspension shop bin), you might be able to flatten large coil spring or find some other high tensile steel. If not, mild steel will do - I'm sure many good cant hooks have been made from mild steel or wrought iron, preferably with steel points welded on.
10mm threaded rod is used to attach the point to the handle, and a 10mm bolt (with 2 nuts to lock together) to attach the hook to the hinge.
I harden and temper the points of the hook and point, so they stay sharp longer and are less likely to be accidentally bent.
The holes in the hook and hinge are drilled (not punched) so that there is a smoother bearing surface for the bolt. Of course you need to carefully normalise the steel before drilling, by heating to red heat and cooling slowly in the ash bucket. 
The threaded rods which hold the point to the handle are welded into punched holes in the point. I use general purpose electrodes to weld them in, and re-heat the steel in the forge immediately afterwards to normalise and avoid brittleness at the weld. 
It’s very worthwhile shaping the back end of the hook and carefully positioning the hook in the hinge, so that the hook can’t swing back and hit the handle. Your fingers will sometimes be there….
The hinge is also set so it stops the hook from hitting the point, and blunting it.

I make handles from spotted gum, which is very tough. I start with a straight-grained piece of 75 x 50 (can I say 3” x 2”?), 1400mm long, which is then sawn into a taper both ways, then planed with an electric plane into a nice round shape: first square, then octagonal, then rounded; then use a hand plane to finish. I put some red paint on the top of the handle to make it less easy to lose in the bush, and rub the handle with linseed oil (raw) to reduce checking and splintering: it mostly reduces the drying and wetting of the surface, and consequent surface splitting.
Here are some photos to give you dimensions (in millimetres) and shape:
The main dimensions and shape - it's not an exact thing. 

A bird's-eye view of a cant hook doing a shoot on a living room floor. 

This shows the hook hinged back as far as it will go. It stops before it hits your fingers.

This is the hook as far forward as it will go - missing the point. 

The bump on the point plate is where a 10mm threaded rod is welded on. The other 2 threaded rods are under the hinge.  Note the double nuts on the hinge bolt, tightened together to allow free movement of the hook. 

The 10mm threaded rods come thru to the back and have nuts and washers. 
Here's a brand new cant hook, painted and ready for a handle

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