If you do any work that involves chainsaws, sawmills, and the smell of fresh-cut pine, you have no doubt heard of log dollies. A log dolly is essentially a handheld log arch that (supposedly) makes moving logs a breeze by allowing you to pick it up off the ground and onto a set of wheels. Unfortunately, log dollies are pretty expensive with the cheapest models costing around $500, so are they really worth it? In reality, log dollies have great functionality, but it is restricted to a much more limited set of tasks than manufacturers advertise. For moving logs across the ground, there are better options, but where these devices really shine is as a felling tool. They allow you to easily remove hung up trees safely and quickly. Thus, I only recommend log dollies if you fell trees frequently, only move logs on flat ground, or if you have no other infrastructure with which to move logs. Let me explain in detail my reasoning, and at the end I’ll tell you about my experiences with two different models of log dollies.
The Purpose and Function of a Log Dolly
As mentioned, log dollies are simply remarketed log arches. They work through the ancient art of friction reduction. A pair of tongs suspended in an arch grapple onto the log. With a big lever on one end, the user can push down, thus bringing the log tongs up and lifting the log onto a set of wheels. Once on wheels, the log (or whole tree) can theoretically move around with ease.
For larger logs, log dollies also allow for a sort of cam action that pulls the log slightly as you push down on the lever. Once the log inches forward, you have to reset the hook in order to repeat the process. Such action is not efficient for long-distances, but it can work if you only need to reposition a log slightly.
You can watch a promotional video of a log dolly demonstrating these capabilities below.
Moving Logs Along the Ground
Moving logs along the ground is the main selling point of log dollies, but this process is incredibly limited in function. For this process alone, I would not consider log dollies to be worth the investment, unless you had no other means or restricted use to lawns and flat ground.
- It makes moving logs easier compared to moving by hand tongs, especially on flat ground.
- It is more easily deployable relative to a winch or other machine
- It is only slightly easier to use than just using hand tongs. Moving heavy logs is still incredibly difficult and energy intensive. For smaller logs, I ultimately found it easier to pick up logs using hand tongs, especially on rough and uneven terrain.
- It is incredibly difficult to maneuver. Even when the log is lifted completely off the ground, log tongs have incredibly limited ability to actually turn logs. The wheels also have a habit of getting stuck on rocks and small stems.
- Log dollies do not eliminate the risk of injury to the back and other joints from heavy lifting and strenuous activity. It is questionable whether they even reduce the risk relative to using hand tongs.
Felling Hung-Up Trees
A secondary selling point of a log dolly is the ability to effectively deal with tree hang-ups. Essentially, the tongs pick up on the bottom of the tree, allowing you to pull the tree out of the crown. Most of the time, simply lifting the bottom of the tree is enough to coerce it down. This is where log dollies really shines and are worth their weight in gold. This is by far the best solution for stubborn tree hang ups I have found.
- It is extremely effective. I have yet to encounter a hang-up that the log dolly was unable to remedy.
- It is easily deployed, unlike a winch or other system. The entire process takes about 30 seconds.
- It requires minimal energy. It may take a bit of effort to lift the tree initially, but once the tree is off the ground, you are working with gravity, so it is incredibly easy.
- There is only one clear disadvantage: safety. There is a tendency for the tree to come back toward the operator quickly once it is picked up off the ground. However, if this happens, letting go of the dolly will result in the bottom of the tree falling to the ground and coming to a stop. Thus, I don’t consider it excessively dangerous, but there is an increased risk of backward falls if you aren’t prepared for that force.
A Review of the Different Models of Log Dollies
There are two primary models of log dolly on the market. There are others, but two are by far the most popular (and coincidentally theonly two I have experience with: The Timber Tuff log dolly and the LogRite Junior.
Timber Tuff TMW-16 Log Dolly
The Timber Tuff TMW-16 log dolly is a budget-friendly option, but still carries the heft price tag of around $500. For the price, I was a bit disappointed in the quality. The parts require a decent amount of assembly and are reminiscent of many of the goods found in harbor freight. Additionally, the handle felt a little flimsy. I could imagine the welds breaking on the end of the handle, and sure enough, I found accounts of such in review.
But how does it work out in the woods? I have no idea. When I got it, it was missing an axle, and while Timber Tuff did agree to send me a replacement part, they weren’t overly rushed, and I only received it three weeks later… After I had made the decision to return it.
Im sure it would work just fine, however, if you only want the cheapest option and are willing to deal with a missing part or a necessary repair in the future.
Logrite Junior Arch
The Logrite Junior Arch is much more expensive at $700, but the expense is reflected in the quality. Made in the USA, the structure is obviously sturdy and will last a lifetime of abuse. It comes assembled except for a few pieces, and it even included a nice tube of axel bearing oil for maintenance (there is something to be said about a company that gives you the materials necessary for your product to last a lifetime). Moreover, I ordered it from Sheldon Hill Supply (directed in the previously link) out of New York. I had a few issues with their website initially (I can sympathize), but the customer service was amazing, and it was an extremely pleasant experience.
Should You Buy a Log Dolly?
Whether or not log dollies are worth the investment ultimately comes down to how you intend to use it. There are basically three categories of people who would be well suited for these tools:
- Those who fell trees frequently (and imperfectly)
- Those who use portable sawmills and need to move logs across flat ground
- Those who clean up fallen trees a few times a year on their property and don’t want to invest in heavy equipment.
Otherwise, you are better off finding equipment for your ATV or tractor to move logs across the forest floor, such as a winch. The cheapest and best alternative would likely be a skidding cone, which reduces the friction on the front of a log and allows it to be easily pulled with small machinery.
Whatever path you choose, good luck and stay safe!