Monday, December 5, 2016

Home-Made Bark Spud

Click images to enlarge.

I realize that most folks have never heard of a bark spud, but there really is such a thing. It’s an old-fashioned hand tool for removing bark from logs. We never had a spud at our family sawmill. We had a four block manual Corley swinging a 52”, 40-tooth saw that handled the bark easier than we could. The only time that we normally fooled with debarking a log was when we sawed someone else’s logs that had been drug through the mud with a dozer. (Chestnut oak and tulip poplar were probably the worst about collecting mud, due to the texture of their bark.) At such times, we’d attack the log with axes, spud bars, peavey hooks, grubbing hoes and anything else that we thought would work to remove the bark. Leaving the mud in place would cause the saw to dull quickly, necessitating refiling and resetting it. For that reason, large sawmill operations have automatic debarkers, through which they pass every log they saw.

A lot of old-timers used to chop the bark off in a circle around a tree they were planning to fall with their crosscut saws. They believed that bark was more dulling to a saw than wood. Some folks even did likewise before bucking a log (cutting it to length). At one time, vast expanses of forestland were felled strictly FOR the bark, to be leached for the tannin used in tanning leather. Often, the wood was wasted, though sometimes it was sawn into lumber. I’m sure a lot of the tanbark workers used some form of bark spud, most probably made by the local blacksmith.

All of the bark spuds that I’ve seen pictures of have short handles on them, since they were generally used with the log lying on either trestles or support logs. Most were in the 20-30 inch range. After Dad passed away, and I was often forced to run the mill by myself, I looked for ways to speed up my work. One thing that I decided to try was a bark spud. Our skidway was made of 16”-wide cross-ties several feet in the air so, unlike the old-timers, I worked standing at the same level as the log.  So, I wanted a spud with a long handle that wouldn’t cause me to work in a stoop.

At that time, there was an elderly gentleman in the neighborhood who turned my ideas into reality, so I consulted him. We came up with the object that you see in the photos. It’s made from an auto leaf spring, a piece of electrical conduit and a replacement handle for a shovel. I believe the taper for the shovel socket was cut off the handle, or at least most of it. The handle went into the conduit socket snugly, yet reasonably easy, and was fastened in place with a rivet through the socket of the tool. Sometimes, I think the angle should have been ground on the other side; however, the old gentleman ground it before asking me and it seems to work fine, so I’ve never changed it. The spud isn’t very clean or sharp at this time, since it was last used for a few weeks to scrape the asphalt from the tail-gait of the dump truck that I used to drive. I got it out to clean and resharpen, so I decided to take a photo of it and do this article while I was at it.

I’ve included a link to a place that sells a traditional spud, but in looking for it, I also learned that Peavey now makes a long-handled one like mine. © 2016


Harry Flashman said...

I sure never heard of one, that's a fact.

Gorges Smythe said...

WHAT? All that bark surrounding you and you've never even HEARD of one? Well, you have now, Harry. lol

Grey Mobius said...

I wonder if that was part of the reason for having a mill pond right next to the saw mill: Washing off and loosening the bark plus the advantage on not dragging the logs back through the mud

Gorges Smythe said...

I'm sure that was it, in part, GM.