The timber industry has been around for millennia, and so it is no surprise is that there are a great many antique and ancient timbering tools that have been forgotten and swept into the dust bin of history. Most of the time, there is good reason for antiquation. Who wants to cut trees with a cross-cut saw when we have chainsaws? There are exceptions, however, and among them is the mighty pulp hook. Pulp hooks were invented back in the days of log drives and paper industry dominance to handle pieces of pulpwood, which were often cut to four foot lengths. They hooked the end of a log and provided a handle to grab onto and lift for the loggers and mill workers. Once the log drives ended and hydraulic equipment became the norm, the days of four foot lengths ended along with the widespread use of the pulp hook. It’s a real shame. Despite being largely irrelevant in the paper industry, pulp hooks are still by far the best, most efficient, and most comfortable way to handle roundwood and large pieces of firewood.
More Efficient and Comfortable Handling
Trees didn’t evolve to be easily handled by humans. their rough, round surfaces and hefty mass present a challenge to the forearms and vertebrae of any Homo sapiens challenger. In most cases, to pick up a big chuck of roundwood, one must either bend down to get their hands under the log or uncomfortably (and inefficiently) squeeze the log from both ends to get adequate grip to lift it up. Done once, its no big deal. But as anyone who cuts and splits there own wood knows, after a cord or two, one can begin to feel the future back surgeries. Yikes.
Pulp hooks provide a much easier workflow. Gently swing the hook into the end log and lift with the log now hanging from your limbs instead of being forcefully pushed together with your hands.
When you are ready to set the log down, the hook effortlessly releases, and you are ready for the next piece! For particularly large pieces, it can be useful to have two hooks to handle each end.
Extend Your Reach
A second benefit of a pulp hook is that it can help you extend your reach. Personally, I like to cut my firewood to 16″ lengths, which I believe to be the best length. However, some people, especially those with outdoor furnaces, like to cut to 24″ lengths. When that is the case, handling individual pieces or reaching to the back of the pile can be challenging. Pulp hooks can give you an entire 8″ of extra reach, making the handling of those pieces so much easier.
Throw Firewood Farther
Finally, pulp hooks can help act as a lever to help you throw pieces of firewood farther or more easily. Simply hook into the back and use the hook to push the wood forward, either into a trailer, a pile, or even a fire. While this definitely is not the intended use of a pulp hook, I have found it to consistently be a nice advantage.
Pulp Hooks Vs. Pickaroons
Another forgotten tool with a similar use is a pickaroon, also called a hookaroon. Instead of being a hook with a perpendicular handle, it is an axe-style handle with a pick head. The main advantage of a pickaroon is reach. With a longer handle, you can get more reach when picking something from a pile or lifting a log up. Admittedly, that is a nice benefit.
Personally, however, I feel the head of a pickaroon is overly aggressive, and it can be more difficult to remove from a log when ready to release. Moreover, a pickaroon is less ergonomic. It cannot be used as an extension of the hand the same way a pulp hook can. This results in a rougher work flow, and it excludes pickaroons from aiding in other activities like chucking firewood.
That said, both are fine tools.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Pulp hooks really are the epitome of “work smarter, not harder.” They take a difficult, strenuous task and make it substantially easier on all parts of the body. If you handle firewood frequently, put on of these on your “must have” list. You owe it to your back.