From Logs to Shelves; Part 1

Loading logs into a sled by yourself & hauling them to the sawmill, with a snowmachine.

Hauling Logs to the Sawmill with a Snowmachine

Hello, welcome to Alaskan Blog Cabin. My name is Cody and I live in Remote Alaska.

This piece is the first segment of a multi-part series. It will cover the steps necessary for making custom built cabin shelves.

A few snow covered logs, soon to be shelves

We start out with snow-covered logs along the snowmachine trail by the Tanana River. They get loaded into a freight sled and hauled 7 miles back to the mill on the lake via snowmachine.

Once it warms up enough to run the sawmill, the logs will be milled into boards. Finally the boards will become custom shelves, in remote Alaska.

Part 1:

This first part will cover the logistics of hauling already cut 4′ white spruce logs, ranging from 14″-16″ thick. The logs are hauled from along the shore of the Tanana (Tan-Neh-Naw) River, to the remote lake I live on. It is about a 12 mile round trip.


While there are stands of spruce around the lake, they are either twisted or on private property. 95% of the trees I own are twisted birch so I have to haul logs to make lumber.

WARNING:

Logging can be extremely dangerous. Proceed at your own risk. Always use caution, be careful, use proper lifting techniques, and proper safety gear. AlaskanBlogCabin.com & Cody Ledoux are not responsible for any injuries do to your own actions. Please be safe!

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Gear Used:

  • ’02 Skidoo Skandic 500f Super Wide Track (SWT)
  • 8’6″ Ultra High Molecular Weight P.E. Freight Sled
  • Estwing Camper’s Axe
  • Tarvol Pruning Saw
  • Maasdam Rope Puller, 3/4-Ton
  • BLUE STEEL Rope – 1/2″ x 600 ft.
  • Woodmizer Cant Hook
  • 1″ ratchet Ratchet Straps
  • Insulated Leather Workgloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Winter Survival Gear (first aid kit w/trauma kit, spare clothes, food, knife, waterproof matches, 550 paracord, road flare, ect.) stowed in Rubbermaid ActionPacker on rear of snowmachine
  • Waterproof Matches in Waterproof case in pocket at all times!!!!

MACHINERY:

SKIDOO SkANDIC S.W.T. W/ U.H.M.W. FREIGHT SLED

If you’re going to be hauling logs or building material with a snowmachine, then you better have a reliable machine with a selectable high & low range transmission. After four year of being broke down, I was finally able to get the transmission in my ’02 Skidoo Skandic 500F SWT rebuilt.

Even though I bought a 2016 Skidoo Expedition 550F last year, which has a 10% bigger engine, I have been looking forward to getting my Skandic fixed so I can haul. When it comes to towing there’s no comparison for a low range and a wide (20″) or in this case a superwide (24″) track.

While you can still tow surprisingly large loads with a regular trail machine, it is extremely hard on every part of them, especially the chain-case, clutches, and drive belt.

By using the Skandic as my “tractor” I will prolong the life of my new machine, saving the latter for trapping and commuting.
To put it another way, my new machine, the ’16 Skidoo Expedition, is like a suped-up Toyota Tacoma, while my ’02 Super Wide Track is more like a 3/4 -ton duel-wheeled farm truck.

The Skandic SWT is slower, burns a ton more fuel, weighs over 900 pounds, and is the roughest riding vehicle I have ever drove, but it’ll tow over 1500 pounds without even burning the belt on take-off.


The freight sled I use is a homemade, 8’6″, U.H.M.W. (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) sled, which will be the topic of a future post.

The sled has a custom spring hitch which I highly recommend having if you are towing any kind of heavy loads. The spring loaded hitch will make take-offs easier and also will prevent the sled from jackhammering into the machine when going over bumps or down hills.

When running with an empty sled, you can have your work machine in high range but ALWAYS have it in low when towing. You should keep it under 10mph when hauling on any kind of a rough trail (pretty much every trail in Alaska!)

If possible try to load your sled with it either sitting level or slightly down hill. The hardest part about hauling heavy loads is getting the sled moving so you don’t want to add gravity into the mix by trying to pull up hill when you take off. If you are on a hill, up or down, lock your parking brake while loading to prevent a runaway machine and sled.

To start get your logs as close to the trail as possible. While a work machine will haul an amazing amount on a packed trail, it won’t do so well in fresh snow or trying to dodge trees in the woods with a fully loaded sled. That is why you sometimes have to haul the logs one at a time to the trail and then unload them so you can go back for another until you have enough for a full load. Another option would be to winch the logs to the trail.

Whenever possible pull the sled right up beside the log you are hauling. If you can’t drive up to it then unhook the sled and maneuver it by hand to where the log is. A slippery U.H.M.W. sled with a couple logs in it is still easier to move around by hand than a log sitting on the ground so make it easy on your self and move the sled not the log.


LOADING SMALL LOGS INTO A FREIGHT SLED:


The logs that I will be using were from a large tree that the wind blew across the snowmachine trail a couple years ago. I cut it into 4′ lengths and rolled them off the trail last summer. Then I leaned them all up against a tree right beside the trail so I could easily drive up and tip them into my sled.


A bear decided to be a pain in the rear and tipped them all over. He was either scratching his back or looking for ants (which is also why they love to knock over firewood piles) under them. Regardless of his motives, he made me mad because I had help flipping them up last summer and now I was alone.

Ok so you are at your logs and the sled is in position. Empty out the sled and then lay a few straps across the bottom of the sled to be used to “gut-wrap” the load. Because of the short logs I had room for 2 stacks of logs. You want at least two straps per stack, so here I had 4 straps.

This is the time to finish limbing the log with your axe if you haven’t already. I will note that it is sometimes convenient to leave a thick branch attached to use as a handle. BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL USING AN AXE, ESPECIALLY AROUND SNOW COVERED LOGS, ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GLASSES!


Always watch out for sharp knots on the log as they can tear clothing, poke a hole in your boots, or put a hole in your shins. They can also catch on your pants and trip you which could cause broken ribs or implement if you fall into branches or land on a log, not to mention severe cuts if you fall on your axe.

Another use for the axe is it can be stuck into the end of a log with a hard swing and then be used as a handle, but use caution incase it comes loose. On that note never have any part of your body under a log for any reason. If a log falls on you it can easily snap an arm, leg, hand, ankle, or foot, or could even pin you down which could kill you if you’re alone.


If the log is hoar-frosted to the ground, use your cant hook or log-peavey to break it free. When using either of these the farther up the handle you grip it the more leverage it will give you. Both these tools can be used to roll a log, they can also be used as levers. Don’t destroy your back and arms, always use mechanical advantages whenever you can!


For the first log you can tip the empty sled and tuck a side under the log. Then roll the log into the sled and when the sled tips over the log will be in it.


For short logs like these, which were dead & dry therefore lighter than a green log, I was able to lift them from one end using my legs (never lift with your back.) Once upright you can flip a log end for end.

If you can find a small log or two to place between the log you’re loading and the sled you can roll the next log up these logs right into the sled. You can use a couple boards for this if you had a taller sled, just set one end of the boards or logs on the side of the sled.


If you are going to be logging, especially by yourself, you should really read-up on pulleys, levers, ramps, and rigging so that you can work smarter not harder. It definitely takes a lot longer using mechanical advantages but it can save your body and even allow a Disabled person to be able to do heavy things lightly.

Flip light logs end over end, then you can set that end down and walk the log right to the sled.

If you can get a smaller log, to rest the log you are moving on, than you can find the balance point of your log. Once you find that, no matter how heavy the log is, you should be able to push one end down, which will raise the other end. This will allow you to swing the raised end closer to the sled.


That technique can also be used to rock one end of the log over the side of the sled then roll the log into the sled.


With these 16″ logs I was able to get two logs side by side, front and back, with a third log up on top of the first two. The first three logs were laying right next to each other so I didn’t have to reposition my sled to load them. The last two were 10′ away so I unhooked my sled from my snowmachine and pushed it back to them.


When I lay the straps down for “gut-wrapping” I tuck the ends under the sled on the sides so I don’t trip over them. When you reposition the sled you need to remember those straps are there so you don’t run them over or forget them.


Strapping your load:

Ok so we’ve managed to get the logs all loaded now it’s time to strap down the load.

First we will gut-wrap the logs.
What in the heck is this gut-wrapping I keep talking about?? It is when you wrap a strap completely around your load.

This can be done by laying the load on top of the straps and then either strapping the two hooks together and then tying the extra strap to the front of the sled, or you go under the load and then over the top, hooking the ends to the opposite side of the sled, as seen in the pics.

Gut-Wrap: Hook the straps to opposite sides. When tightened the logs will be held tight together.


The reason for this is it will keep the load from shifting or from sliding out from under the straps. It also straps the entire load together so it moves as one which prevents the lower logs from sliding out from under the top logs, like cards spilling out of a deck.


The front strap I hook back to itself and tie the other end of the strap to the front of the sled. This keeps the load from shifting backwards. When logging I prefer to use a 2″ ratchet strap but I didn’t have one with me so a 1″ will work.

Logging and especially gut wrapping is very hard on straps, especially the cheap 1″ ones. I like using a 2″ strap when ever possible.


Once you’re done gut-wrapping take the remainder of the straps and run them over the top of the logs, evenly spaced. The more straps the easier it will be on all of them.

It may take more time to tie down a load but it’ll save a lot of headache if you loose logs on the trail and then have to try reload when you might not be able to get back beside them.

Proper Strap Tightening

When tightening straps, pull out all of the slack before you start to tighten the ratchet. Once you tighten a few straps you’ll have to go back and retighten the first few as they loosen back up from the sides getting pulled in tighter.

Don’t just crank the ratchet, loosen it up and pull the slack back out and then retighten.

There’s a reason for this, which is that once you’ve gone a 1/4 Mile down the trail it is a good idea to stop and retighten the load once its shifted in the sled. If you had just tightened the ratchet before, there wouldn’t be any room in the ratchet to tighten it again because there’d be to much strap coiled in the ratchet.

Once you’re on your way you can just stop run back and try to crank each strap and hop right back on your machine without having to take off all your heavy riding clothing, so it’s worth resetting the strap before you take off.

TAKE-OFF:


As far as take-off is concerned, make sure your machine is warmed up good. If you need to unhook and drive around a bit to warm it up, then do it because you need full power when you take off.

If you unhooked at any point, back up to the sled and rehook. Make sure you put it back into low range.

To take off it is going to take a jerk from the machine so you’ll have to give it more than the typical amount of gas to engage the clutch. With a very heavy load it will usually lift the skis off the ground for a few moments, while the track spins for solid traction, so make sure that there isn’t any obstacles in front of you. Hold on tight!

On an insanely heavy load it is sometimes necessary to stand beside the machine when you take off so it doesn’t have to try and get 1000+ pounds moving, plus its 900 pounds, and your 200+ pounds. Just stand next to the machine and hold onto the handlebars, leave one foot, from whichever side you’re standing, on the runningboard. Once you’re moving hop on and swing your other leg over the seat.

Give it plenty of gas to get going. Once you are moving you can back off the throttle and just crawl home.

Keep it at 5mph or less on rough trails. You can run 10mph to 15mph (depending on total weight being hauled) on a groomed trail.

Remember to stop after 1/4 mile and check your straps. Make sure you keep looking back to ensure sure your load is still secure.

Slow down and crawl over bumps. With 1000+ pounds of freight, the sled is going to push you. When going down hills and hitting big bumps, give yourself plenty of extra room to slow down and to stop.

Again, it takes a lot longer to stop when there’s a 1000 pounds of solid logs on a slippery sled behind you. It’s easy to forget you’re even towing with how easy logs tow on a sled, that is until you grab some brake!

This is the reason 18 wheelers have brakes on their trailers!!! If you lock up the brakes on an 850 pound machine, the 1000+ pound sled is going to try and jackknife and run right through you. Either that or it’ll just push you into whatever you were trying to avoid hitting.

Ok, someone said it way simpler:

“An object in motion, stays in motion” ~Mr. Newton’s Law (he musta hauled freight with dog sleds or something!)

There will be a more in depth postings, down the road, on the actual hauling with snowmachines, with plenty of pictures. If you have any questions about hauling before then, please just email me.

I’ll see you a little further down the trail.

Cody

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