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The Art Of Axmanship:

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posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:11 AM
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I enjoy chopping wood. Why exactly, I don't know. Probably it is a symbolic sort of
satisfaction, a spiritual rebellion against our mechanical age. It is unlikely that the kids
riding their bikes outside my window as I write this, will ever know how to use an
ax. When my father was a boy, one of his daily chores was to bring in a bundle of
kindling for the kitchen stove and the stove in the parlor. By the time I was in my teens,
when you wanted the house to be a little warmer, you turned up the thermostat. Yet I
learned to use an ax despite the handicaps of modern life. I recognized early that
axmanship was synonymous with, and a part of, woodsmanship. I believe more strongly
than ever that anyone who calls himself an outdoorsman, but doesn't know how to use an
ax, is a sham. For those of you who grew up with a thermostat and an oil furnace instead
of a wood stove, but want to learn how to use an ax, here is how.
CHOOSING AN AX


The first step in learning to use an ax is to choose a proper one. My recommendation for
all-around outdoor use is a single-bitted ax weighing about three pounds, with a thirty inch
handle. Stay away from axes that are much heavier than this because they are meant
for heavy-duty wood chopping and little else. Also stay away from two-bitted axes - ones
with two blades. They are loggers' axes. The three-pound ax I am recommending can be
used not only for chopping wood, but also for driving tent pegs and for dozens of other
chores around camp. If weight is a factor, you can go to a lighter ax, two-and-a-quarter or
two-and-a-half pounds, with a shorter handle of about twenty-four inches. Such an ax is a
better bet than a hatchet. It will do everything that a hatchet will and more, but a person
of smaller, lighter build may find a smaller and lighter ax more manageable and more
comfortable to use...

When buying an ax, don't skimp on quality just to save a couple of dollars. That is poor
economy. When choosing an ax, sight along the blade to make sure that the handle is not
warped or that the blade is not set off too much from the center line of the handle. Make
sure that the head is attached securely to the handle by being firmly wedged.
Look the handle over carefully. Make sure that the grain runs parallel to the sides. Avoid
axes where the grain in the handle twists too much. This could mean serious structural
weakness. The best ax handles are made of hickory. Never buy an ax with a completely
painted handle. Paint can hide flaws and weaknesses in the wood. Remember, an ax will
last a lifetime if you take care of it. Your choice should reflect this...

Every ax should have a leather sheath for the head, not only for safety, but to prevent
nicks on the cutting edge. Most axes, when they are bought, have too thick a blade and
the cutting edge has too quick a taper to cut well. It should be ground down a little. If you
do this on a power grindstone, keep the blade cool by dipping it continuously in a bucket
of water. If you let it overheat, you will draw or ruin the temper. An ax can be sharpened
quickly on an emery wheel, but eventually this ruins the blade. Coarse sharpening can be
done with a fine file. Then switch to a coarse stone and finish sharpening with a medium
stone. The best stone for ax-sharpening is a round one. It has no sharp edges to rub
through a packsack, so you can carry it with you whenever you take the ax. An ax should
never be left lying around. It can cause accidents or accidents can happen to it. Keep it
hung in its sheath or sink the blade into the top of a stump...

The handle of the ax is its weak part. At home it is easy to replace - all you have to do is
buy a new one, drive the stub out of the ax, insert the new handle, and wedge it firmly
onto the ax. But if your ax handle breaks deep in the bush, that is a different matter.
Stones and hardwood pegs may be used to drive the broken stub of the old handle out. If
this doesn't work, you will have to bum the stub out. Bury the, ax head up to the eye in
loose earth. Build a fire around it and keep burning until the stub bums off and becomes
loose enough to be driven out. To improvise a temporary handle, use any hardwood. To
drive the sap out of green wood to toughen it, roast the wood in warm coals. This will
season it somewhat...

CUTTING WITH AN AX
Now, let's fell a tree for firewood. The best wood is a dead, standing tree. It is dry -
seasoned - and will burn well. Dead trees and branches lying on the ground are generally
damp and make smoky fires. First, walk around the tree to determine which way it leans.
That is the direction you want to drop it, because it is easier. If there is a standing tree in
that direction that might hang it up, then plan to drop it slightly to one side. Consider also
the direction of the wind. It is much easier to drop a tree with the wind than into the wind.
Dropping a tree cross wind represents no major problem unless the wind is very strong.
Before starting, make sure that there are no branches, small saplings, or brush within
reach of your ax. They could deflect your ax and cause an accident. The secret in cutting
with an ax lies in the grip. Grasp the helve - the old term for the handle - with both hands
close together near the butt. Touch the blade of the ax to the tree to get the right distance.
As you raise the ax over your right shoulder, slide your right hand up (providing you are
right-handed) about three-quarters of the way towards the head of the ax. As you bring
the ax down, slide your right hand down the handle until it touches your left hand. Strike
so that the blade cuts into the tree at about a forty-five degree angle to the grain. Don't
attempt to put excessive force into the swing. You cannot get any accuracy this way. The
fastest chopping is achieved with many fast and accurate blows, not with brute force.
The first notch is made near the bottom of the tree on the side on which you want the tree
to drop. Make the notch about half way through. Tyros generally start by making their
notches too narrow. Narrow notches make cutting difficult. A good rule of thumb is to
make the notch as wide as the diameter of the tree that you are cutting...

Your next notch should be a few (three or four) inches above the first one and directly
opposite it. When the tree begins to fall, step away to one side of the cut, not behind it.
Should the top branches of the falling tree catch on another tree, the butt may snap and
fly backwards several feet. Many injuries have been caused by backward-flying butts.
The next task is to limb the tree. Stand on the opposite side of the tree from which you
want to remove the limbs. In this way, if the ax glances off the tree it will glance away
from your legs. Work from the butt to the top, chopping at the bottom side of the
branches. Limbing goes fastest this way, and it is easier to make the cuts flush with the
trunk. The next step is to cut off the crown. On small trees, this can be done with one
notch all the way through. Bigger trees may require two notches, opposite one another,
with each going half way...

To cut the trunk into usable lengths, simply chop two notches half way through the trunk
on opposite sides of each other as before. This is easier than using one deep notch from
the top down. You should always stand on the trunk with your feet spread wide and chop
between your feet. To split these pieces, use the butt section as a chopping block. Lean
the chunk to be split against your chopping block and strike a good hard blow on the
upper end where the piece is resting. If the halves are still too large, split these the same
way into quarters. Don't neglect the larger branches for firewood. Cut these into desired
lengths by holding them across the chopping block with one hand and striking them at a
slight angle with the ax. The chop should be delivered at the center of your chopping
block where the branch is firmly supported. To chop up kindling, always lay the piece to
be kindled horizontally across the chopping block, grasp it at the lower end, and strike the
top. Once the ax is embedded in the piece, you can slam it down vertically to complete
the cut. Never hold the piece to be kindled upright with one hand and chop with the other.
That is an easy way to cut your hand...

Now if none of that is reason to give Axmenship a try... let me add another personal story... back in the day... whenever I went out to the yard to split cord-wood... the ladies would gather to watch me work... shirt off body glistening with sweat...Something rather primal about woodcutting and watching a man work... so don't be surprised if you find yourself with an admiring audience too...
edit on 25/8/2011 by Sauron because: title to lower case




posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:20 AM
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reply to post by DaddyBare
 


You have a very informative and useful thread going here. Hope you don't mind my introducing a bit of hilarity? You must remember this famous Monty Python skit...probably written way back in the day of the granola nuts and when we still thought a little something of the "tree."

Can't help the thread on axemanship made me think of this...




posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:26 AM
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reply to post by newcovenant
 


I have a cousin who's married to a real Lumberjack...
they live way up in Crescent City Calif... his job was done in by the spotted owl preservation folks...

but I would sing a few bars of this song to him and watch his face turn the most remarkable shades of red...

Back on topic... Axes... keep yours sharp... esp if you wear ladies underwear
edit on 25-8-2011 by DaddyBare because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:27 AM
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Say hello to my little friend






posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:43 AM
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reply to post by DaddyBare
 


Many thanks for interesting post, Daddy Bare, Just bought an axe ( 3.5 lb head, but it has a polypropylene or some other plastic for the shaft, not in the true spirit of " Axmanship " !!! ) for splitting logs ( And possibly home defence - this is the u.k. we're talking about ! ) for my wood burner, this autumn / winter.
Your info. on sharpening is going to be very useful, I'm finding muscles I did'nt know I had swinging this axe, though I guess I'm trying to split the logs far too soon, the tree was only chainsawed ( No axe then ! ) down six weeks ago. ( About 15" thick trunk.) Regards...



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:47 AM
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reply to post by DaddyBare
 


Especially! And I have you to thank for my lesson on mushrooms (don't take a chance on any of them) so I take what you say very seriously and with the utmost respect.

After you told me not to trust any of them in the wild its just not worth it, a friend tells me a half dozen people died over the years on Martha s Vineyard because they were naturalist and tried eating some of the shrooms. You probably gave me some of the best advice in my life...and who knows you might have saved it. I love mushrooms and might have tried identifying and eating them. Not worth it.

Back to ex's...I mean axe's... though they will cut you down as quick!



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:52 AM
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This might come in handy.

How to use an Axe.



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 10:10 AM
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dont forget basic safety - never have anyone in swing range of you (arm+axe+a bit more distance) just incase it bounces and a good tip to see if you are strong enough to control it is to hold it out from your arm for 5-10 seconds

and the main thing is to have fun and make sure your wood is always good and hard



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 10:14 AM
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DUDE this post should be archived! I was JUST thinking of axes literally, like an hour ago! my roomate does this in winter. I dont know where he got it, home depot maybe and feels like a 7lb. axe, synthetic yellow handle...cuts pretty good. i am thining of getting one of my own, today or something, so too see this post..sometimes we all think alike
archive this post!



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 01:17 PM
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Great post DB.
Few skills are as important as axemanship when it comes to basic survival skills.
An excellent book on the subject is by Mors Kochansky called Bushcraft.
He has chapters not only on axe use but knife use and sharpening as well.
If you don't know how to use or take care of your most important tools your chances of survival are slim indeed.

I have found it more efficient to use a large bowsaw for felling trees and bucking them into smaller pieces.
Limbing and Splitting are always jobs best handled by the axe.

A common problem when splitting wood is getting the axe head stuck in to the top of the piece of you intended to split. Simply flip the axe over and heft the axe with the piece of wood on top and bring the axe head down onto your splitting stump but watchout as when it does finally split one of the halves likes to find your shin.

The biggest thing to avoid it any kind of glancing blows where the head of the axe simply bounces off the wood. More people are injured this way than any other while using an axe.

I gotta agree that splitting wood is something the women in my life have always liked to watch.
You know the old saying - "wood heats you 3 times - when you cut it, when you split it and when you burn it". I say it heats you 4 times. If you can't understand what I mean by that then God bless you and keep your innocence as long as you can.


ETA - when sharpening an axe head be sure to use the same number of strokes on each side regardless of whether you're using a stone or a file. Always visually inspect the blade to made sure that each side has the same angle and degree of finish.
edit on 25-8-2011 by Asktheanimals because: added comments



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 01:24 PM
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reply to post by Asktheanimals
 


When I'm splitting a lot of wood... and if it's slightly green and likes to stick... I also keep a 6 pound sledge at hand...
I use the ax as a wedge and let the sledge do the work.... ya know what they say work smart... not hard



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 01:26 PM
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reply to post by DaddyBare
 


They also say that using your axe as a splitting wedge is not good for it.
But yes, it is the easier way.

The best compromise to keep a wedge or 2 handy as well as a small sledge to drive them.
edit on 25-8-2011 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 04:04 PM
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When I lived in New Zealand we had an open fire, so on the winter months I had to go and chop some wood.

Quite stress relieving, and if you come across a tough piece. I found the best thing to use was brute force until I won Haha.

Then again, I'm no professional.
edit on 25-8-2011 by DAZ21 because: spelling



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 06:15 PM
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Very informative DB.
I'm going to remember this one.



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 07:58 PM
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DB, I so enjoy your posts. Thank you for the great info. I really enjoyed your thread on breaking in a gun barrel. I need to purchase a new ax as my ex got the one my dad gave me. Had that one for many years. Treated it with tender loving care. Felled many a tree with it. Time for a new one. Your post will help me chose a good one.



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 08:35 PM
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reply to post by DaddyBare
 


Thanks man, again,

I was splitting wood yesterday and today until my roommate came out and broke the handle of the maul.

We are thinking about a synthetic handle for the maul, for durability reasons - we miss sometimes still - but are staying with wood for axe handles. Your thoughts?

While we are at it, do you know anything about earth bag building? It seems like the way to go, what do you think?



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 08:41 PM
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reply to post by newcovenant
 


Oh GD it. I was trying to think of what to put on tv. Now it is the Monty Python series. See what ya did?



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:41 PM
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Excellent OP DaddyBare.


Whenever I go to A&P shows (like Town and Country) I always gravitate to the woodchopping competitions. I was fortunate enough to witness the awesome showdown at the Takaka (Golden Bay) Centenary Show many years ago.

Thanks for an excellent post.





I love this stuff!
edit on 25-8-2011 by aorAki because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 11:00 PM
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Good thread topic. I've been thinking about ordering a Viking throwing ax for some time now but never got around to it. It seems like a cheap but rewarding thing to get into. I would actually be proud if I had good skills using an ax, lol.

I've been wanting a hatchet or ax ever since I saw "The Patriot" when I was six years old...
edit on 8/25/2011 by BirdOfillOmen because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 11:09 PM
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Originally posted by DaddyBare
reply to post by newcovenant
 


I have a cousin who's married to a real Lumberjack...
they live way up in Crescent City Calif... his job was done in by the spotted owl preservation folks...


edit on 25-8-2011 by DaddyBare because: (no reason given)


lets make sure the spotted owl has a home, because it's not like an owl can't fly away and find rats 500 feet from where your cousin was logging.

once again an animal takes precedence over a human being, his livelyhood and his family.







 
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