reply to post by DaddyBare
Excellent post, DaddyBare! I can add but little to it, I think. I'm one of those folks who grew up with wood stoves rather than thermostats. 3 stoves
to be exact, a heating stove in the living room, and a heating stove and a cooking stove in the kitchen at the other end of the shack. This was in the
Appalachians, so you may want to take the difference in environment into account to explain the differences in experience.
I generally used a double-bitted axe out in the woods, and a single bit or "poll axe" at home for splitting and such. With the double bitted axe,
sharpening is cut by half out in the green, and you can generally get it up to spec back home beside the fire in the evenings, rather than taking the
time out in the woods to resharpen it.
Thick edges on poll axes are better for splitting activity. They don't tend to get hung up in the block as often as thin, cutting edges do. If the axe
gets hung any how, a sharp rap or two downward on the very end of the axe handle away from the head with your palm with generally free it up. The poll
(flat side) on a poll axe works wonders for driving wedges, too, so it does double duty in splitting. Getting a wedge hung up can be a problem,
especially in wood with a tight, twisted grain like black gum. You may have to use 3 or 4 more wedges to free the stuck one. In one novel case of a
black gum block, I got 4 wedges stuck in the block, and had to cut them out with a chain saw.
That brings me to another trick learned from my dear old dad. Wedges can be made from chunks of hard wood, rather than buying iron wedges at the
store. There are disadvantages as well as advantages to the use of wooden wedges. A stuck wedge isn't as big an issue (just chop out another), but
they don't last as long under the pounding as an iron one does. One also has better luck by starting the split with his axe for wooden wedges, then
driving the wedge into the pre-split.
I also learned how to split wood with a double bitted axe, but it's not for everyone, and requires practice. CAREFUL practice. The goal is to slightly
"flip" the axe as soon as it makes contact, which will cause the block to fairly jump apart. Flip it too soon, and it skates across the top of the
block, into the next available thing - which may be flesh and blood. Don't flip it soon enough, and it embeds in the block, often getting stuck. Of
the two, getting stuck is preferrable to skating, but neither gets the block split. Timing is everything.
Double bit axes are also usually lighter than single bit axes, meaning you can swing them longer with less fatigue. Not worth a crap for driving
stuff, though. I've got a "battle axe" that I got from Cold Steel a few years ago that is the lightest of all. Real thin blade, and weighs probably 2
1/2 pounds, handle and all, on a 36" handle. Cuts like a dream, not worth a damn for splitting, but you can swing it all day long, without a lunch
I've got a couple of tomahawks that I use for camping chores. One from Cold Steel on a 30" handle, and one a hand-forged one on a standard 21" handle.
They're light and portable, hold a good edge, and that's why I use them for camping. The back sides of the eye are used for tasks like driving tent
pegs and such.
When I was 14, i got into a scrape with the law. Dear old dad let me stew in the detention center for a week or so, reasoning that the experience and
"cooling off time" would do us both a world of good, which it did. When he finally came and got me out, he informed me that as part of my punishment,
I had to clear off 3 fields that were choked with cedar. "Sure" says I, not yet knowing what I was in for. "Where's the chain saw?" Pappy grinned
then, and said "WHAT chain saw? Who said anything about chain saws? You know where the axe is".
Oops. I learned a LOT from that. Can't burn cedar (actually it "juniper") since it gums the chimney up something awful, and doesn't last long any how,
but it makes pretty fair fencing, laid on it's side and entangled together. Even cattle won't cross it, it's such an unpleasant experience.
Heating the house with wood warms you 3 times. Once when you gather it, again when you split and stack it, and at last when you burn it. I can recall
being out and splitting wood in 20 degree below zero weather, with no wind blowing, and having to strip down to my tee shirt, still sweating.
Next week's lesson: how to get that wood out of the forest using horses. Hint: it involves a horse, a harness and singletree, a chain, rope, or grape
vine, a spike (optional but very useful), and a log.
Yup, I've done that, too.
edit on 2011/8/26 by nenothtu because: (no reason given)