Video: How to Get Your Trailbuilding Tools Ready for Spring

Mar 14, 2021
by Matt Bolton  

Winter is finally coming to an end and I wanted to take a few minutes to show you how I get my trail building tools ready for spring.

tool maintenance
Winter has not been kind to the tools

Spring time tool maintenance
PPE is essential with this job


Spring time tool maintenance
A good quality cordless grinder will make your life a lot easier

Before I get started I like to gather all the necessary equipment: safety glasses, earplugs, cordless grinder (corded or bench grinders also work) and a work stand.

Spring time tool maintenance
Not necessary but helpful

I like to wash off the tools first. Although this is not a necessary step, it's a good way to remove extra built-up dirt and grime before grinding.

Spring time tool maintenance
Most bikers have a bike stand in their garage

Clamping the tool in a bike stand is a great way to keep it stabilized while grinding as well as adjusting the angles and preferred height on the fly.

Spring time tool maintenance
This McLoud has seen some miles

Look over the tool for the most damaged part of the blade. You'll be grinding all the material back to this point so once it's finished you're left with a consistent cutting edge.

Before you start grinding make sure you're in an open well-ventilated area. The flying sparks can cause a potential fire risk.

Tool maintenance
Be cautious of the direction of the sparks

Do your first couple of passes with the grinding wheel making sure to remove any burs and damaged material. Be cognizant not to grind the tool blade too thin, this will dull quickly and cause premature wear.

Spring time tool maintenance
Preparing for the final touch

After your cutting edge is established and all the damaged material has been removed you can switch to a flap disk. The flap disk is great for smoothing out any inconstancies as well as giving the tool a nice polished look.

Spring time tool maintenance
All finished, it's ready to go get bashed up again this year.

Now that your tool is nice and sharp you can go build some sweet new trail just in time for spring!

Thanks to WeAreOne and DeWalt Canada for making this video possible.

Videography - Pierre-Luc Arseneau - www.plarseneau.com

MENTIONS: @drpepperrider2 @WeAreOne @TransitionBikeCompany

Posted In:
Videos How Tos



82 Comments

  • 47 0
 Don't forget to take care of the wood. I use linseed oil to keep my tool handles conditioned. it will help with longevity and in some instances will help keep the tool head retained to the handle.
  • 15 0
 Great point! Most failures in tools are from the wood getting too dry, haven't used linseed before before but will have to try it out! Cheers.
  • 28 0
 But lofting mattock heads into space is fun!
  • 1 0
 @mattboltz: Thanks for that video here! When leaving tools out here in the amount of rain we get, would rotting handles not be an issue? So far mine are holding up real nice but I wonder if there's a better way to keep them strong!
  • 2 0
 @MrDuck: Most handles are made from a rot resistant wood (like hickory) - keeping the wood slightly wet, especially around the tool head, is better for it then letting it dry out.
  • 1 0
 @mattboltz: Thanks, makes sense!
  • 1 0
 Our tools are pretty much left outside most of the time and its only this year that I've started applying two layers of wood protection for the handles, first the wood preservative and then a layer of coating on top... Will see how this works out!
  • 22 0
 That is if building trails is legal in your country #wherethef*ckismyfreedom
  • 16 0
 Trail building has always been challenging to do legally here too. We're super lucky to have so many generous property owners as well as a great local cycling group that advocates for us.
  • 64 0
 Sharp tools work better regardless of legality.
  • 14 1
 Trail building is like the street skatboarding of MTB, its almost always a in a grey area.
  • 17 0
 @ADHDMI: when I switched from skateboarding to mountain biking I thought "hey at least it's all legal and friendly and I'm doing good stuff", boy I was wrong, it's the same shit
  • 1 2
 @theoskar57: Just simple , move to Canada
  • 2 0
 @Jabali: I moved from Ottawa to Spain, not so simple eh?
  • 11 0
 @theoskar57: I would agree if you live somewhere where mountain biking isn't officially embraced yet is unofficially thriving. I grew up skateboarding in the "skateboarding is not a crime" days of the 80's and 90's and yes it's having the same effect on kids now. Force a kid to think like a criminal just to do the sport and they will end up acting like criminals out of necessity. For skateboarding, it was running from security guards and police and now with biking it's understanding that the best trails are right behind the signs that say "closed, no access, habitat restoration" or whatever the hypocritical reason is and learning to dodge the rangers accordingly.

In SoCal it's always OK to build another 500-home subdivision or expand a toll road but you dare carve out a 12" wide singletrack on top of old ranch land for people to enjoy and you're a criminal. A lot of people are just so fed up they are revolting and with the uptick in number of riders it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
  • 20 0
 This is great! I'm in favor of seeing more trail building and riding technique content, over endless new products.
  • 4 0
 Stoked you like it! More to come for sure
  • 4 0
 Second this. Imagine what mountain biking would look like if we put as much time and energy into the places we all enjoy our sport as the anodized whirligigs that make us 0.08 percent faster down the trail.
  • 12 0
 Fiberglass handles on McLeod, Pulaski, shovel, mattocks, etc... Leave them in the woods all season. Hide them. Pack in files to sharpen as needed. Done.
  • 8 0
 Highly recommend trying a rouge hoe, made from old farm implements, harder and thicker than a traditional McCloud, meaning they rake deeper and cut roots better than a McCloud, they also put a 5 foot handle thats worth a damn on it that works far better for heavy use without blowing your back out... super great tool, youll notice the difference backsloping all day! Plus you'll be recycling
  • 3 0
 IMBA members get 10% off at rogue; just send em an email Smile
  • 7 1
 Remember back in the day when the most reliable trail building tools were the high school shop rats? You'd buy them a single hot n sweaty and they'd dig for you all day.

Kids these days are too spoiled by machine built flow/jump trails, leaving them with no desire for building and testing out super sketchy sniper lines.
  • 1 0
 haha yes! I'm super lucky to have a lot of motived friends I can go trail building with here. The groms are starting to build lines too which is awesome.
  • 3 0
 Our local grows are building quite a bit too. And some of the lines they've cut are f'n bananas.
  • 8 0
 What is a hot n sweaty haha
  • 6 0
 @cassonwd: $5 little Cesar's pizza... You get what you pay for
  • 2 0
 I disagree. I work at a shop that employs a number of high school mtb'ers and by extension know of their friends. Every one of these kids is out building backyard trails, helping at dig days, and shoveling jumps and maintaining trails at local system.

Generalizing and saying "kids these days..." makes you seem like a crotchety old man shaking his fist at the sky.
  • 3 1
 @deonvg: quit ruining my joke

Also what part of the country do you live in?
  • 1 1
 ok boomer
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez: New England
  • 7 0
 How to Get Your Trailbuilding Tools Ready for Spring:
1. Find where you buried them in the woods.
  • 4 0
 Bring two files. A large cross cut for the Pulaski tool and the machete. Round file for the chain saw. Keep tools sharp on the trail.
  • 5 0
 hand file works too but it's hard to beat the speed of the grinder especially if you've got a lot of tools. With the new cordless ones you can just bring it right out to the trail.
  • 3 1
 @mattboltz: I do. It packs beside my cordless leaf blower that plugs into my E bike.
  • 1 0
 Hand filing works great but a word of caution for those that build illegal trails... Don't advertise your presence in the forest. Not worth it.
  • 5 0
 So I’ll need a trail tool first then!
  • 12 0
 trails don't build themselves Wink
  • 7 0
 @mattboltz: most people think they do
  • 2 0
 @mattboltz: I meant I use a rake and spade I don’t just ride and wreck
  • 8 3
 So you left your trail tools in the shed all winter?

#parttimedryguys
  • 8 0
 I pull them off trail in the winter so they don't get buried in snow or stolen.
  • 2 0
 Great video! My riding buddies keep looking at me and saying something about "not the sharpest tool in the shed! Now I have some tips to fix that!!
  • 2 1
 maybe start with the flap disk... Wink
  • 4 0
 *CRD disliked this video*
  • 3 0
 Thanks for this, its my first year trail building with my local MTB association. Have been loving it!
  • 3 0
 Might be time to invest in a *Rogue Hoe, you gotta spend the dough to make the flow!
  • 5 2
 Grinding off the leading edge on any quality tool will remove the temper.
  • 11 0
 Not if it doesn’t get too hot. Definitely need to pay attention and maybe douse in water every pass or two. If the bronze or blue color shows up you’ve lost it for sure.
  • 6 1
 unfortunately yes but it's a necessary trade off or you'll be digging with an extremely dull tool. If you're feeling up to it you can also redo the temper with a blowtorch and the correct steps after.
  • 5 0
 I never really found grinding off the leading edge on digging tools to be very useful, but it is good to touch up the edges to a nice bevel. You don't really need to sharpen them, just reshape the dull edges. I used to use a file or course grinding stone on my working fire shovels and mcleods whenever I put them away. The course stone worked better if the tool was still dirty. It only takes two or three minutes to give the edge a nice chopping bevel, and there's no risk of taking out a temper. The article was a good inspiration to check my tools. I dug out my favorite trail shovel, and mcleod and gave the edges a once-over with a course stone. The snow should be off the trails in a few more days, and they'll need some love. Thanks Matt.
  • 3 0
 @oldschoolsteel: Glad you liked the article! It really depends on what kind of ground you're cutting as well. We've got a ton of roots and old logs here so a sharp tool makes a big difference.
  • 1 0
 How would it do that? If the entire tool is tempered like it should be, then the whole thing should be the same hardness unless you overheat it while grinding.
  • 2 0
 I left my trail tool out side all winter but luckily they guy who made it for me only works in stainless.
  • 3 0
 If I only could buy a reasonabley priced McLeod in Europe.
  • 1 0
 doertetools.de/en/shop Might be worth a look. They're from Germany and their products are not cheap, but they're rock solid. Mine held up a whole winter of building and it still looks sharp.

I do not know if they're shipping to Sweden though.
  • 2 0
 I'm pretty sure if you just make a couple posts in local mtb Fb groups you'll find a guy/gal who can weld it up for you from shop scraps. I found a welder this way. He took a heavy, 6mm thick stainless sheet, cut it to the exact shape I wanted, welded a handle slot onto it, even bent it a bit to make it more durable... All for 10k HUF which is a third of the price of a fiskars pickaxe here.
  • 1 0
 I couldn’t stomach the price either so I made one. Flat steel, short pice of tube, scrap for gussets and a bit of welding. Bought a shovel handle and cut it down. Works great, total cost was a 1/10 of a new Macleod.

Cant wait to get swinging and flare up the ol’ tendinitis!!
  • 2 0
 I like the curved blade of a field hoe better anyhow. At least for cutting back slope. I find the tines of the rake side of the McLeod are too eager to dig in and hang up. The field hoe is not the multi use cutter, rake and tamper that the McLeod is so it depends on how much of each thing you need to do. It will tamp in a pinch but with the short handle your back will feel it. This weekend I was helping on a new trail and we had to reroute from the proposed line. I just cleared the leaves and sticks with a normal leaf rake then cut the tread in with a field hoe. Came back with the leaf rake to get rid of the cut up pieces of roots.
  • 1 0
 I prefer a trenching hoe over a Mcleod, only time I find a Mcleod better is for tamping.
  • 2 0
 Along with cleaning up the heads I like to give the handle a new wrap too.
  • 1 0
 MA IO PRATICAMENTE PORCOGGIUD ANDAVO CON GOIA MIA AL LEROY MERLIN E MARONN SE SPACCAVAM TUTT COS
  • 1 0
 What do people think of hanging bikes by the back wheel? I usually do it by the front
  • 1 0
 That looks like a made up tool. You can’t just go around making up tools out of the blue.
  • 1 0
 You forgot new paint! A nice new coat of bright yellow will help you find your tools when you set them down in the leaves.
  • 1 0
 Video. “How to prepare to make many friends while dealing with covid”
  • 4 0
 We've been super lucky to be able to escape to the woods and trail build during the pandemic. So many awesome new trails!
  • 2 0
 Great tips Matt!
  • 2 0
 McLoud?
  • 2 0
 the tool in this video is a modified McLoud. Great for bench cutting, raking and packing!
  • 11 0
 Sure, when your McLeod goes to 11...
  • 1 0
 spring!?!?! we've been digging all winter!
  • 1 0
 we've been digging at lower elevations too but higher up was snowed out for a while
  • 4 3
 you know your bored when
  • 8 0
 Just trying to share some tips to others looking to get into trail building. Thanks for checking out the article!
  • 3 0
 @mattboltz: lol ive spent the last few days staring at my jumps. good tips too man, i should actually take the time to sharpen my tools. the mcloud in the bike stand made me laugh
  • 2 0
 @13en: it actually works great! Much better then trying to clamp it down on the bench
  • 2 0
 @mattboltz: yeah actually super smart
  • 1 0
 ...you add wire brushing and custom paint (with stenciling) on top of everything else in the video.
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