With California in a record setting drought, potentially for one of the worst fire seasons ever, I thought it would be appropriate to show you how to make my favorite Firefighting tool. We call it the "Rhino" its basically a shovel with its blade cut off, spine cut, turned over 180 degrees and re-welded to form a curved hoe.
Properly sharpened the "Rhino" can clear land quickly and even cut large weeds and brush and is favored among many wildland firefighters. In the second photo you can see a firefighter using a Mcloed. It is similar but the hoe edge is straight, and it has tines on the back side.
thanks to rachel for use of her workshop and for taking photos.
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Step 1: Get Yourself a Shovel.
Find a retired shovel. (The type of shovel pictured has a more pronounced bent neck. This is the shovel profile you are looking for) After so many sharpenings you eventually wear through the meat on the cutting edge. A nice sharp shovel is my second tool of choice after the Rhino. And filing them sharp after every use will eventually wear them out. Turning an out of service shovel into a Rhino is the perfect way to give it a second life.
Step 2: Mark Your Cut Line
Take a tape measure and on the front and back of the shovel, mark some dashes with your soapstone. Make your marking approximately 6 inches from the step of the shovel.
Now take your soapstone and connect the dashes on the front and back of the shovel. This is where you will take your angle grinder with cutoff wheel and cut across the shovel. Once again i usually make my marks at 6 inches.
Step 4: Clamp That Shovel Down and Cut It in Half.
Clamp that shovel down at a good work angle and level.
Now go and get your gear on. Protect your eyes, your and ears, and skin and cut that shovel in half along the soapstone line.
Step 5: Finished With Cut 1
You are now finished with your 1st cut. Lets now prepare for our 2nd cut.
Step 6: Make Your Markings for the 2nd Cut
On the back of the shovel you will find what i call the spine. Make two markings, a vertical marking along the length of the spine, and a horizontal marking just short of where the steel is folded over. make sure to leave enough meat to weld onto. Make the same soapstone markings on both the front and back of the shovel.
Step 7: Making the 2nd Cut
Clamp your shovel down at a comfortable height and make your 2nd cut. Dont forget to wear your PPE's! (personal protective equipment)
Step 8: Have a Look at the Big Picture.
Essentially you are turning the shovel blade 180 degrees and welding it back together at the neck. Hold the cut off shovel blade against the neck and get an idea if you need to trim off more steel from the shovel to get the angle you want. I prefer a 90 degree overall bend.
Step 9: Setting Up for the Weld
Clamp your piece and check to see how much meat you have to grind off the cutoff shovel blade in order to achieve your desired rake. As you can see, I am going to have to remove about 7 degrees.
Step 10: Grind Some Meat Off Neck to Make a Right Angle
I ground off some more steel off of the shovels neck. there was plenty
of meat to do that. You want to match up the necks in order to get the appropriate angle.
Step 11: Perfect Fit
After taking some meat off with the grinder, the angles on the neck lined up perfectly to give me my preferred "Rhino" rake angle.
Step 12: Weld It!
Now get your gear on (and get a helper if you need someone to hold the piece while you put a tack in) and weld that shovel blade back onto the neck.
Step 13: Clean It Up
Ive got to admit that I am a terrible welder and my welds are as ugly as I am. So im grinding this weld because its ugly ....and Im gonna justify this by saying its a good way to check to see if there were any holes in it and I needed to fill them in.
Step 14: Sharpen With a Bastard Mill File.
One last step! I dont have any pictures of this one, but you should always sharpen your tools cutting edge with a bastard mill file. I put on a single edge of about 30 degrees on the curved side.
but heres a guide on sharpening firefighting tools.
And since i didnt have any photos of how to sharpen the finished tool. how bout some random firefighting snapshots taken while on the last campaign fire.
Step 15: How Its Used
The Rhino is a scraping tool. It is used to cut fireline. It is primarily used to scrape grasses and small brush down to dirt. however its aggressive curve can be used to chop small diameter brush at its base. A fire crew will have cutting and scraping tools. Usually they will work in advance of the fire to cut a path through the forest down to bare mineral soil. the width of the path usually depends on the vegetation.
here is a link to constructing fireline.