While it may not look like much, the “peavey” revolutionized river driving. The spike at the end steadied the log, unlike earlier tools, which would swing erratically and often pitch men into the perilous river.


Joseph Peavey of Stillwater, Maine, invented the peavey in 1858. Usually used on river drives, the peavey was a multi-purpose tool that could also help load and unload logs at the skidways. The example pictured is from the New Brunswick Museum and dates to the early 1900s.


A peavey was crafted using a wood handle ranging from 30 to 50 inches (0.76 to 1.27 metres) long. A metal spike protruding from the end. This spike was rammed into a log, then a hook (located at the end of an arm attached to a pivot a short distance up the handle) would grab the log at a second location.


The lumberjacks who worked in the Outaouais and Ottawa region often had a rotation of seven (7) must-have tools. These included a bevy of poles, hooks and saws. Thank you to the Outaouais’ Forest History team for this excellent overview:

  1. The hand-hook: A steel hook with a three-foot long (one metre) handle used to handle the unbarked logs.
  2. The pike-pole: A ten to fourteen-foot long pole (three to four metres) to the end of which is fastened one or two steel hooks. It is used to prod and steer wood in water, squared timbers, saw-logs or four-foot long (1,25 metre) pulp wood bolts. (image)
  3. The cant-hook or cant-dog and the peavey: These two hand levers have a stout steel sharp-toothed curved hook that bites into the side of the log, making the rolling of logs easier. The cant-hook differs from the peavey in that it has a blunt toe with corrugations that bite into the log whereas the peavey has a spiked toe. The handle lengths also differ, the cant-hook’s handle is four and a half feet long; the peavey’s five and a half feet. The cant-hook is mostly used on skidways; the peavey on log-drives. The peavey was invented in 1858 by Joseph Peavey, an American blacksmith from Stillwater, Maine1.
  4. The loading hooks: Short curved steel hooks with steel ringed handles used in the loading and handling of logs.
  5. The cross-cut saw also called whipsaw or two-handed saw: This long saw has a wide blade, generally thicker in the centre, with handles at both ends. It is used for cutting down trees and for cross-cutting tree trunks2.
  6. The adze: This axe-like tool has an arched blade which is at right angles and perpendicular to the handle. It is used to cut away the rounded and barked surface of logs, the result being a well-dressed, smooth and plane wood surface. The adze is also used to make notches and to lop off tree branches.
  7. The charge of dynamite sticks: This tool was the foolhardy log-driver’s worst nightmare! The use of dynamite charges to break log-jams began with the advent of the pulp and paper industry, whose demand for pulp wood bolts knew no limits. Since the pulp-wood was destined to be turned into ground wood pulp in the mechanical pulp mills or into wood chips used in the sulphite pulp manufacturing process, it was of little consequence to blow up pulp-wood log-jams. But the same did not apply for saw-logs. They had to be floated down to the mills in perfect condition. The dynamite charge is made up of five or six paraffin-coated sticks or cartridges of dynamite tied to the end of an eight-foot alder pole. The detonator or percussion cap is pushed into one of the dynamite cartridges and the joint is waterproofed with soap. The cap is then connected to a coil fuse. It’s the fuse length that determines the amount of time that’s left to run to safety! One foot of fuse lasts one minute3. If the fuse is too short or if our dare-devil friend is unlucky and slips on a loose log, he might just capsize into Eternity!

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