Three Ways to Make a DIY Skidding Cone


In small-scale logging, logs are often hauled out of the woods with small and under-powered equipment, such as ATVs, snowmobiles, and small tractors. Thus, reducing the friction and resistance of logs moving across the ground is the key to enhancing operational ability. This is where skidding cones come in handy. Skidding cones are cones that cover a log or bunch of logs secured with a choker cable. They create a smooth surface to glide of rocks, stumps, mud, and other obstructions, making the task of skidding wood considerably easier. But being made of plastic, skidding cones tend not to last for a terribly long time, and they can get fairly gouged on rocky terrain. They aren’t the most expensive tool, but they aren’t cheap either, usually costing around $150. Small woodlot owners and hobbyist loggers might find themselves asking: isn’t there another way? Hang tight! In this article we will share three ways you can make a DIY skidding cone from cheap or discarded materials.

Skidding cones help logs glide across the ground.

How to Make a DIY Skidding Cone

Now before we begin, a disclaimer: Anytime you set out to make something yourself, a little bit of work is involved, and the end product may work pretty well, but maybe not as well as the real thing. That’s the case with these methods. They all work, but they have certain setbacks, which we will discuss. Decide for yourself which options work best for you.

Using Plastic Barrels

You know those blue plastic barrels you find littering industrial site across the country? Those things are pretty useful when it comes to making skidding cones. Their high-density polyethylene plastic has the perfect flexibility and durability for being dragged across the ground. Best of all, you can usually get a couple for free–or close to it. Where I am from, they are used as potato barrels, and it seems like every farm, welding shop, and eccentric old man has a few sitting around doing little else but breeding mosquitoes and growing algae. People are eager to have you take them off their hands if you ask around. And, lucky for you, there are a few things you can do with them.

The first way of turning these blue bad boys into skidding cones is by simply punching a hole in the bottom to let the choker through and using the entire barrel as a cone. This is best suited for the smaller 30 gallon variety of barrel. Even then however, this method has a core problem: While better than a bare log, a barrel doesn’t have the right shape to truly minimize resistance. You it can still easily get caught on stumps and rocks, as well as dig into the mud. It is, however, incredibly easy to construct.

Alternatively, you can use the barrel to cut out a sheet of plastic and use that to make a more conventional cone. Any easy way of doing this is to cut a macaroni-shaped semi circle (see below) and bring the ends together, securing them with bolts or rivets. You can adjust the shape to get the right sized cone for your needs. You don’t need to be overly accurate, either; most issues can be taken care of with an overlap. Its better to go too big than too small for that reason.

Template for a DIY skidding cone from a barrel.
A General template for a cut-out barrel cone

Using Old Propane Tanks

Of course, plastic barrels will wear out too, so after a while, you may find yourself needing to make a new cone. That may not be a big deal if you don’t find yourself logging very often, but maybe you are looking for something a bit more durable. If that’s the case a used grill propane tank can work quite well.

I’ll preface this by saying that you need to make sure the tank is COMPLETELY empty before attempting anything. Remove the valve of the tank to ensure the tank is totally de-pressurized, and let it sit to ensure any residue vapor is gone. Once it is safe, converting it into a cone is easy. Using an angle grinder, you can cut the bottom of the tank off. Using a grinder again, cut a smaller hole at the top to fit the choker. Grind off any burs to prevent injuring yourself, and there you have it–a nice, durable steel cone.

However, these cones have a major problem. Conventional propane tanks are only 12.5″ in diameter, so you are limited in the size of logs you can haul. If you have a welder and some scrap metal, you can flare out the tank and fill the gaps to be more accommodating to larger stems. It may be a weekend project at that rate, but it should last for quite a while. Just be cautious of adding too much weight, otherwise you may only add to the burden of pulling.

Propane Tanks

Using a shovel or sled

Still not sold on any of these options? Well there is another option that is easier and cheaper than the other two, just not as durable–using a sled or a scoop-type shovel. Technically speaking, this isn’t really a skidding cone. Most people call it a skidding plate, but the principle is exactly the same.

You cut out the back of a child’s plastic sled or take the end of a scoop shovel and use it as a platform to set the ends of the logs on as they glide across the ground. Attaching it to the ATV or skidder may be a bit more complicated. Unlike the cones, these plates must stay upright, so they will likely need a chain on each side to keep it stable.

The biggest problem with this version of the DIY skidding cone is that it is likely to break, as the type of plastic shovels and sleds are made of simply wasn’t designed for this sort of work. That said,, there is a lot of creativity that can be utilized in making skidding plates. You can make a heavy-duty version by welding two plates together. You can also use the barrels from the first option and instead use them to make a sled with more durability. In fact, some people make sleds out of these barrels… to go sledding! Don’t be afraid to get creative.

You Can Also Just Buy a Skidding Cone.

Of course, DIY isn’t for everyone, so maybe the best option for you is to simply buy a skidding cone. No shame in that! They are readily available from many online retailers, and you can find one here. Sometimes, it is worth it just to save ourselves the headache.

No matter how you choose to get one, whether commercial or DIY, you will find these tools will be a lifesaver for tough pulls, especially uphill. Good luck, and stay safe logging!

Zachary Lowry

A forester from northern Maine, I spent my early career working for large timberland owners, managing forest land and investments in the form of managing timber harvest operations as well as planning and managing precommercial thinning, planting, and herbicide application programs. These days I work on my own land and help timberland owners large and small manage theirs.

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