The first video is a short trailer or propaganda piece to promote the second video. Below are a few non-technical points I wanted to elaborate on.
I just have a few points I want to emphasize or elaborate on. I made this video in response to a lot of questions from people about how to deal with wood that is bucked with an axe, since it can't be set on end, or on a block. Also, because of how I'm operating with one axe, I assumed that it would be a small short axe and that it was intended to retain the edge in chopping condition. That wasn't so much a plan as it was just how it turned out since that's my world right now. It is not the only way to approach it. You could, and most probably do, have a dedicated splitting axe, or maybe a splitting edge on one side of a double bitted axe that can taste a little dirt here and there without much worry, especially if it's ground with a fat bevel that is less likely to suffer severe damage than a thinly ground edge. A longer heavier axe with a fatter grind is great, as is not having to baby it. However, using a small, short axe and keeping it sharp requires one to refine technique and strategy, and I think that is a good thing. I'm also very interested in making whatever tool I have work, and in processing wood with one axe. You'll hardly find anyone out there recommending an axe ground for felling, limbing and bucking as a splitting axe. Probably the opposite in fact.
One of the important points in this video is that it requires some investment to figure out what is possible. Many will discount the possibility of using axes, but not always out of experience, but rather assumption. I've been guilty of this to an extent myself and it's a mistake. I personally think that it's worth some investment to figure out what is possible and where an axe is more advantageous than a maul. I really like splitting with a maul and with some of the stuff I have to split, like dry hardwoods with knots and forks, I'm not likely to ditch my maul altogether. But, I will keep pushing my limits with axes of various kinds to find out what those limits really are.
It is not enough to just just smack a few rounds with an axe to see if anything falls off. It takes some investment in yourself to develop good technique and at least a basic understanding of strategy as presented in these videos. The flick technique, as Buckin' Billy Ray Smith calls it, or the twist as the Vido's call it, is essential to develop for splitting anything difficult with an axe. It is just a way to use the power generated in the swing to good mechanical advantage by prying the wood apart on impact instead of just wedging it apart with the shape of the axe. It can make up for the lower mass of an axe head v.s. a maul in some cases. I believe that Tom Clark, inventor of the buster axe, an axe optimized for this technique, actually hit the wood with the head tilted at a slight angle. I think I twist it on impact, but it's hard to know for sure without a slow mo study. Either way, you'll develop a feel for what works. It is a skill that has to be learned by some time spent as it's rather clumsy at first to get the timing right. If you have a very sharp short handled axe that you are trying to stay out of the way of, which often requires somewhat awkward positioning, and on top of all that are trying to hit the center of a knotty piece of wood within a quarter inch, you can imagine that some time will have to be put in to gain a reasonable level of skill. The catch 22 is that it's only by gaining a certain level of proficiency that we can find out what is really possible and not.
The flick technique can be used as an alternative to generating velocity in splitting at times, but should not be thought of as a permanent stand in for it. The ability to generate a high velocity is a critical tool to have and will only complement that sideways torque when both are needed. I didn't go much into it, but will in the future. From my observation and experience so far, high velocity is primarily created by the axe head scribing an arc around a relatively fixed, or at least more fixed, point, like the wrists, elbows, shoulders, waist, or a complex combination of all of those. it is a complex topic. With the target at a certain height, it becomes less possible to generate velocity, and the higher you go from there, the harder it gets. That is one reason I don't use splitting blocks much. Working close to the ground has the advantage that it is easier to generate velocity, because you have more distance in the swing and can use body mechanics to better advantage.
For me, doing the axe cordwood challenge, in the way I approach it, has been perfect for developing these skills. I stick pretty much with the axe I'm chopping with, which for now is always small and sharp, and I split in the field with no blocks or contrivances of any kind. I can only remember abandoning two, maybe three, pieces of wood that were just really knotty or more likely forked. Even those could likely be split with enough energy, but I know when not to beat my head against a wall for a peanut. I'm glad that I've invested in this skill, because it will ultimately increase my splitting efficiency in all arenas. I now have a pretty good idea of what I can get away with and am further refining and defining when an axe will be more advantageous than a maul in splitting sawn rounds as well. For what it's worth, these videos at least show some possibility that can be put to use or invested in later. It's not for everyone, and not for every situation, and possibly not for every species, but in the right circumstances it is remarkably efficient and satisfying. I can say, that just splitting what I incidentally have to cut here, which is Madrone, Bay, Fir, Tan oak and Black oak, that none of those species are consistently difficult to split when young trees are cut and split green. Older Madrone and Bay can develop some wicked cross grain, but a person is not likely to be cutting those for firewood with an axe, and if they were, large trunks would have to be split, probably with wedges, before bucking, not after.
The axe and the technique of using it with good strategy are just another set of tools in the bag to be applied where they are best suited, or when necessary. But, again, it is a tool that has to be developed and refined to be appreciated and applied to anything but the most easily split woods. I'm glad I've put in some time and forced my progress by using axes that are not ideal for the job and I get to reap the rewards of that from here out.
Did I mention that it's fun? It's really fun :D