Make Your Own Choker Chain
Story and Photos by Brett R. McLeod
TRICKS of the trade
Owning just a single choker chain is a lot
like having one Crescent wrench in your
toolbox. Sure, you can get the job done,
but it would be a lot more efficient (and
enjoyable) if you had a set of different
wrenches that allowed you to pick the
exact size needed for the task at hand.
My collection of choker chains
includes options that range from four to
ten feet in length. All have a slip or choker-hook on one end, with the opposite
end sporting a grab-hook or log-probe.
The hooks all correspond to the size of
the chain, with 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, and
3/8-inch being the most common. Chain
can be purchased in different sizes, but
also in different grades that correspond
to their strength. Grade- 70 chain, also known as transportation chain, is
standard in the forest industry. If you’re skidding relatively small wood with
horses, an ATV, or a small tractor, 1/4-inch or 5/16-inch grade- 43 chain
(high test) may be sufficient.
Smaller chains represent a tradeoff between strength and weight. I
generally select the smallest diameter and shortest chain that will get
the job done safely. In making this selection, I’m able to reduce fatigue by
not carrying unnecessary weight. My favorite chokers all have log-probes
on the end, allowing me to thread the chain under the log easily. This is
particularly handy on snow-covered or soft ground.
While you can buy preassembled choker chains, your options likely will
be limited to standard lengths and grades. By making your own choker
chains, you can select chain sizes, grades, and lengths that match the
equipment you’ll be using and different sizes of wood you’ll be skidding.
You’ll also be able to match the size of each chain with an appropriately
sized slip or choker-hook. The only other component needed is a length
of 1/4-inch steel rod to make the log-probe 1, which remains roughly the
same regardless of the size and grade of chain or hook used.
To make the log-probe, clamp about 10 inches of the rod horizontally
in a bench vice. Next, hold a round 1/2-inch bar vertically next to the vice
jaw and bend the rod around the vertical bar 360 degrees 2. While at the
vice, you may also choose to add a slight bend to your log-probe to make
it easier to fish under the log.
At this point, you’ll be able to thread the chain onto the eye before
clamping the eye shut in the vice 3.
On the opposite end of the chain, attach the slip or choker-hook. Most
choker-hooks have a roll-pin that will have to be driven flush with a
hammer 4. The total cost for making this eight-foot, 5/16-inch choker
chain was $26.00 and about 15 minutes of labor 5.
Brett R. McLeod is an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Paul Smith’s College and the author of The Woodland Homestead: How to Make Your Land More
Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods (Storey Publishing, 2015).