The Axe CordWood Challenge for 2017 Ended in the first week of june. It was a considerable success. Altogether we had 13 people finish 1/4 cord or more. 8 of us finished 1 cord or more and one person cut over 2 cords. The total quantity of wood was probably around 12 cords, which is a closely stacked block of wood 8 feet wide, 4 feet high and 48 feet long, or 1,536 cubic feet! The web page is here, with participant links and photos. ACWC 2018 is on the way...
One of the most common questions, if not the most common question on my axe related content is some combination of what do you do with the chips, aren't they wasteful compared to a saw and wouldn't it be better to just use a saw. The video below is about that and what we can do with the chips which are quite useful for anyone with a garden or who burns wood. Below that are some further thoughts not really covered in this video.
What I covered in that video was, in short, yes there are a lot of wood chips produced when processing wood with an axe. This tree was probably 9 inches in diameter and I estimated about two good firewood logs worth of chips were produced. It takes under 5 minutes to pick up 80% or more, in this case 3.5 minutes. I talked about what you can use them for, like biochar, mushroom growing and fuel, and how whether it is viewed as wasteful or not is a matter of context. What I didn't really talk about is why some of us use axes and not saws for hand processing firewood.
I didn't talk about that, because I more or less just forgot to! I think that in my head it would be self evident that not I, nor anyone else, is using an axe because it is the quickest and most efficient method of firewood production. I like saws. I like my chainsaw. I'll be using my chainsaw a lot for processing wood this year, not because I need the wood, but because I need to deal with a lot of sick trees that will soon be a fire hazard and which represent a short term opportunity to gather some resources that will soon be unavailable.
But, when I set out to do the cordwood challenge myself the previous season, challenging myself to cut a cord of wood in 3 months, I was slightly wary. Before committing I think I went and cut up a small tree or two just to be sure I should be announcing to the entire internet that I was going to go for it. Aside from potential personal limitations though, I knew I could do it, because people used to do it. Dudley cook said in The Axe Book, that a good axeman could put up 2 cords a day! I knew the cord he was talking about had to be in at least 24 inch lengths, and not the 16 inch stove lengths I was cutting. More probably it was cut into between 32 and 48 inch lengths for industrial use, transportation in bulk and most probably very wide fireplaces. Charcoal makers would cut wood even longer to make large stacks of wood. Still, do the math. I'm cutting about 3 times as much to get my 16 inch logs as a guy cutting 32 inchers, but even the slowish guy could probably put that up in just 3 days of average work!
Well, that is interesting to think about, but it doesn't prove anything to me for real or gain me a lot of real insight. To gain knowledge it is required of us to take information and do more than absorb it, more than mull over it and make assumptions and inferences. For me that process looks more like taking in information, contemplating it, putting it into practice, maybe getting more information, more experience, more contemplation etc. At some point, something resembling truths begin to gel out of that process. In short, I knew that to gain real insight into the problem of axe work and what it's potentials and limitations really were, I had to put it into practice for reals. Not only that, but I actually had to improve my own skills to a certain level before I could really understand what that potential was and where an axe may be more or less useful than a saw. Give an unskilled person an axe and a hand saw and tell them to limb this same tree and they are likely to conclude that the saw is easier and faster. But no matter how good they get with that saw, I'll have the same tree limbed up more quickly, with much less physical effort and many of by knots will be trimmed more closely than theirs.
I'll also have way more fun doing it! Axe work is engaging, exciting, focusing, cultivates coordination and provides a diverse form of exercise. Sawing by comparison is dull and tedious work and the best you can do is trade off one side for the other. I like sawing up to a point. It is good honest contemplative work. It is also skilled work and a good hand with a saw will out saw a newb every time. But it is only so skilled and lacks the special combination of things that makes axe work really engaging and fun. Saws have their place as do axes. But the place an axe has in any one particular persons hands is informed by that persons skill level and understanding of it's efficient use, and that requisite skill is only gained by extended use, and not by dabbling at the thing.
All of which is to point out that, while my use of an axe on that fir tree in these last couple of videos did result in two fewer logs worth of large firewood, rather than smaller chips, such is simply part of the cost of admission into that understanding of what is and is not possible with an axe and what place it does or doesn't have in our tree work. It's a rather small price it is to pay when they are easy to pick up and decidedly very useful as fuel or for other purposes.
I released a video a couple days ago on processing my last tree for the cordwood challenge. This was a tree I chose as not particular easy to split for a splitting video I'm still waiting to record. The question of how you split wood with an axe if it's cut with an axe instead of a saw vies with "what do you do with the chips" as the most common question regarding processing wood with an axe. The footage I shot for the front of that video seemed like a good stand alone video, so I edited it and posted it with some commentary.
Be aware that there is a lot going on when I'm processing this tree that is invisible to the uninitiated. If I were watching someone else do it, I could spot some of that "invisible" technique and safety stuff, but not all of it as it is very subtle and personal. The lopping operation is especially dangerous, but I'm using several things to stay as safe as possible. The most important might be the direction of cut, which means in what direction the force is pointed, the obvious reference point being the cutting edge. A close second is probably body positioning to decrease the likelihood of a stray edge contacting my body. Moderation of the force used is also extremely important. Axe work requires constant adaptation and a certain level of humility where you have to say to yourself "I can hit this really hard, but I'm not going to!" Finally, you really have to be able to hit what you're aiming at. Anyway, it's mostly a lot of chopping, but some people really seem to like that. There are some really good pointers though too. You can count on some very detailed tutorials in the future.
Three people have finished the cordwood challenge cutting a cord or more! Those people rock. Also a shout out to people that have started or are planning to do it, all of whom are listed below. Anyone who is doing the challenge should leave a comment on the official web page so that we all know who everyone is, and so that I can keep track of people.
*Tim Springston, Oxbow Farms https://youtu.be/YbeCFT_SIh4?list=PLGQ0YYG8MKkXMuOmeHl_9Bloy5nLnR41d
*Todd Walker, Survival Sherpa https://youtu.be/dRJvHtcS55U?list=PLpxU0SQfqX02pmlspLody0oV8EJKSD2oBhttps://survivalsherpa.wordpress.com/
*Timothy Sutton, Flatland Woodsman https://youtu.be/8zlF4ZLu7v8?list=PLQunotaCvTeKSXcWdUVCU53QWLwxMc8-G
IN PROGRESS OR PLANNING TO DO:
*Patrick Hale https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYpFteNH2MOaFzQK7JPau_Q
Here is my homestead year in retrospect, or half of it. Part two should follow any day. A lot happened in 2016 I guess. It was a pretty good year, much better than other recent years in many ways.
A video I shot this morning talking about what to expect when doing the cordwood challenge. Further thoughts below.
When I did my axe cordwood challenge last year, it wasn’t quite what I expected in every way. Here are some thoughts on that. Doing the axe cordwood challenge will affect how the process itself is experienced. First off, a lot of the experience of anything we do is made up of things like expectation, attitude, pre-conception, social prejudice and just in general what we bring with us that colors our experience. As a person progresses and improves their skills with an axe, some of those things will change quite a bit. I tend to think that in most cases, views of the work itself, it’s worth and enjoyability and how much it is percieved as "work" in the negative modern sense, will improve. On the other hand, maybe that will not be the case if someone has a very romantic and inaccurate view of what it entails to start with. Who knows. That is part of this experiment.
Much has to do with efficiency and ability. It is usually a lot more fun and motivating to do something that you are good at and using an axe can be very frustrating if things are not going too well. Picking up an axe with little or no experience can feel awkward and ineffectual. In order to be efficient at the work, we have to be able to hit where we are aiming, understand how the axe cuts or doesn’t, have at least a rudimentary understanding of effective strategy, and be able to deliver energy where we want it with a relatively low amount of energy expended; or put otherwise, as little as possible of energy expended is wasted unnecessarily along the way. It may look easy, but it’s easier said than done and simply takes time with axe in hand to start building physical memory. Thus, of course, the cordwood challenge in the first place.
The amount of energy expended will go down as coordination is built and excess movement and tension start to fall away. At least that is how it should happen eventually. It is possible to waste a lot of energy with excess movement and tension, but the ability to relax into the work will only come with familiarity and comfort with the tool. I’ll try to offer some tips, but the best recommendation I can probably make is to watch people who are good at chopping and learn that visually. Watch them a lot and you’ll start to imitate them without even thinking about it. Look at my recommended axe video play list. Especially watch competition choppers and the video The Axeman. Jon Ugalde’s video of 79 year old Basque Axeman Enrique Bildarraz is a great example of high efficiency. Skills or not, a nearly 80 year old man doesn’t have energy to waste. Energy efficiency is not synonymous with time or force.
In any case, it takes a lot of time to chop wood with an axe relative to using a chain saw. That is a given. Although both speed and force could help you finish work more quickly, It is very important not to force either one too fast. The forcing of either or both is a great danger, making accidents both more likely and worse when they do happen. Not only that, but forcing either too much is likely to decrease your efficiency, because errors will be magnified and increased. Be patient and concentrate on technique, aim and strategy. The power and speed will happen naturally to a point if they are in your nature. If they are not, that’s okay too. You will just proceed somewhat slower. You don’t actually need a lot of either. We’ll talk more about the generation of power later. Beginning choppers should err toward gentle chopping and concentrate on accuracy and system. Make no mistake. Power and speed are a waste of energy without accuracy and system.
Expect to have near accidents as you learn your way around the process and build your catalogue of what can happen. We go through a higher risk phase when first learning to do something dangerous. With time (except for the common “cocky phase” somewhere in the middle), dangerous pursuits should become safer as we learn what can go wrong and to foresee potential accidents happening. We all have a little safety officer in our heads watching out for us throughout every day doing even commonplace things. Some accidents will be foreseen as a matter of common sense and everyday physics that we are already dealing with regularly our whole lives. Some accidents are not as easy to see coming. Hopefully we can shorten that high risk period with some demonstration and discussion, but much has to be learned by experience and real life experience.
I think for men especially, it’s important that we have some kind of at least symbolic destructive activity. Fighting, hunting and violence in general are in our DNA. That may be inconvenient at times, but it’s there whether anyone likes it or not. I find dismembering trees with an axe rather therapeutic and relaxing while being a good outlet for my destructive nature. The work requires an odd combination of aggression against a living or once living organism, relaxation/effort, and focus while letting go of the chattery overthinking mind. If you do it a lot, and begin to relax into the work, it will eventually pull you into a good place to be, quite, focused, present, engaged, relaxed and active all at the same time. I don’t know anything quite like it.
Warning, some graphic images of axe injuries in this post may be hard to unsee.
Welcome to the cordwood challenge! The concept of this project is to offer a format in which participants can explore using axes in a way that puts us in a great position to improve our practical axe skills. If we love the axe, we must love what it has the potential to do, and if we strive to realize some of that potential between ourselves, an axe and pile of wood, is that not the ultimate homage to the axe?
There are more details below, but briefly the challenge is as follows. Cut 1/4, 1/2, or a full cord, or more using axes only, without cutting yourself or being smashed or crushed by trees and limbs. Then send a picture or video of you with your firewood and any experiences or insight you’d like to share. I’m making a leather merit badge and axe strops as incentives, but clearly the real reward is less tangible.
If you plan to take on the cordwood challenge, please read this entire post and watch the video, just to make sure all bases are covered.
First the disclaimer. I’m providing this challenge as a framework in which axe users can explore improving their axe skills and learn practical application by doing, while having an opportunity to be recognized for your achievement. What you do with any information I offer, or any information that you gather anywhere else, is your responsibility. I claim no special knowledge of axes and their use, and don’t claim the information that I offer is accurate or guaranteed to keep you safe in your endeavors. I accept no responsibility for what you do with any information offered related to this challenge, or on using axes safely and effectively. If you wind up with an injury doing whatever it is that you choose to do, there will be no one to blame but yourself. Projecting that responsibility on someone else not only shows a weakness and immaturity of character, but betrays an inherently unsafe attitude toward work and safety. Using an axe, and felling and working with trees, is inherently unsafe work. Do not doubt that truth for a minute, and consider this challenge very carefully, and whether it is worth the risk involved to gain these skills.
As I'm preparing this, youtuber Weiderfan, just posted a video about cutting his leg badly with a hatchet.
For your consideration.
Axe wound photos courtesy of http://www.boernebushmasters.org/wilderness-wounds-axe-wounds/
This challenge should not be taken lightly. Regardless of anything else, it is a considerable time investment in an activity that is somewhat physically demanding (though not as much as you might think) and intrinsically dangerous. I’ll tell you why I do it, but your motives are your own. Some people will think you’re cool, but If you think the people around you will be amazed, most of them won't if they even understand what you are doing at all. So, get ready for quizzical expressions, deer-in-the-headlights looks, head shaking and the need to communicate exactly what it is you are actually doing in graphic detail. It might be just as well to finish the job after which you can brandish your axe, point at your ricks of drying firewood, and grunt "me make wood!" That should pretty well do it :)
While there are many possible ways to approach learning to be better axeists, chopping firewood is an activity that keeps it real. Firewood is a necessity for many of us and puts us in direct relation to our own needs. What is the difference between making a pile of chips just for practice and making chips that result in a stack of firewood that keeps us warm through the winter? I don’t know exactly, but there sure is a difference.
Real work = Real Results: Aside from having practical value firewood processing has some advantages when it comes to learning your way around an axe. It is real world work. You will find yourself in all sorts of positions and situations that occur in the field only. Chopping overhead or chopping the underside of a raised log are challenging and force us out of our comfort zone if we are not used to using an axe in the forest a lot.
More is Better: There is also the sheer quantity of the work. You can cut down a tree, limb it and maybe buck it into something you can handle for sawing, but how many trees will you cut down and limb in one year, and how much cutting time is that really going to give you? The answer is not much. It was without any doubt, the bucking which most accelerated my skills with an axe last season and forced my attention to accuracy. Not only does bucking require a lot of chopping, but it is a specific skill all it’s own which requires practice and familiarity to become comfortable with. Without bucking, you can only get so much practice and only of a certain kind.
Repetition: And then there is the repetition and timing. It is very different to go out into the woods at spaced intervals through the year and do just a little chopping, v.s. doing a lot of chopping in a shorter space of time. If we cut a full cord in a few months, we will reap a reward in skill level from executing that work in closely spaced sessions.
Exercise: I can hardly imagine that the exercise afforded by such clean and engaging physical labor is not a positive thing in the vast majority of cases. Viewing the effort required as a valuable product of the process rather than a negative factor is not only reasonable in most cases, but I think more accurate.
Who should accept or consider the cordwood challenge? First some generalities:
Physical Effort: If you can work efficiently at a moderate pace, chopping firewood may be less work than you might think. It is just mildly aerobic and doesn’t really requiring a lot strength. It’s much more about technique and accuracy than force. I thought I’d be ripped after cutting a cord last spring, but I didn’t notice any particular gains in muscle mass, though I think you could certainly see some if you did enough work in a short enough period of time. What I did gain though is the ability to process wood with much less effort because I’m more likely to hit where I’m aiming and my strategy has improved considerably.
Access: Then there is access to wood. I’m in a good position to process firewood, having acres of overgrown woods in need of management. For others, the trees may not be there, or there may not be many trees you want to cut down. Or, maybe you have access to wood, but in an inconvenient location. Or maybe you have only dead dried up tangly wood that is a nightmare to process.
Conservation: One important thing that might get in the way of taking the challenge is knowledge about trees and forestry. A certain level of understanding of forest ecology and succession is required to enable us to make intelligent forestry decisions in order to fulfill conservation goals. If you walk into the woods and can’t tell the difference between one species and another, or generally don’t understand what is going on out there, you probably have no business taking an axe to live trees. You could stick to dead and dying or diseased trees, or seek guidance, but I hope that no one will just randomly go out and start chopping on whatever tree is handy. I don’t choose trees just because they will make good firewood. In some contexts I think that is okay, but most forests have trees that are sick, crowded or can be cut to achieve certain management and conservation goals. The forest is generally somewhat resilient, but the trees we cut do have a significant effect, sometimes good, sometimes not so much and sometimes simply depending on what our goals are.
Danger Danger: There is much to consider when taking on this challenge. It is not to be taken lightly. The danger alone should be carefully considered. Perfectly capable axemen can end up with serious injuries. The perspective that the whole idea is just dumb for that reason alone has some merit. But, there are always different ways to look at anything. If you want to be good at using an axe, then this is a great way to get there. It may be the best way, aside from operating in a similar context with a skilled teacher. And doing dangerous things is not without it’s rewards. Danger should sharpen our focus and foster a clarity and contrast that cruising through safe tasks all day dulls. There is, or should be, an immediacy and presence of mind that comes with activities, requiring focused engagement to safeguard our well being. I think for men especially swinging a dangerous tool/weapon around to dismantle trees satisfies something that we are supposed to experience. Someone did a study on the effects of various activities on testosterone levels, and cutting wood with an axe raised testosterone levels the most out of all activities! Hitting trees with sticks would surely not yield the same result.
for simplicity’s sake, I’m dividing us into categories in reference to who should take the challenge
Beginners: I’m inclined to discourage beginners from taking on this project, even at the lowest level of 1/4 cord. I don’t think it’s impossible depending on the person, but learning to use an axe takes time. It is always dangerous, but in the beginning it is extra dangerous. Having a goal or deadline isn’t probably the best attitude to take when learning a new dangerous skill. If you start testing the waters this year and end up with a stack of wood, you’re in, but don’t commit to something that you don’t understand enough to know what you are getting into.
Mid level, some experience: I think this is the group that can benefit the most immediately and jump right into the project. I consider myself in this category, though higher up in it than I was last spring after cutting only a cord of wood. Anyone that writes or makes video content about axes and using axes I would especially like to encourage, to do the cordwood challenge. It will build your credibility and legitimacy in both your eyes and others and can only benefit your audience and content quality.
Veteran choppers: I’d also like to see some veteran choppers get involved. If you cut your firewood with an axe already, that’s fine, do the challenge anyway and show the rest of us how it’s done.
A note to women. Women can definitely use axes effectively. You don’t have to be a lumberjack dude to use an axe. A large stronger man of the same skill level is going to outchop you, but your typically lighter structure and stature does not preclude your participation or ability to chop effectively. Not only are accuracy, efficiency and technique much more important than strength and aggression, I can attest personally that the instinct to try to force an axe through a log by strength is very ineffective and often the very thing that will wreck my accuracy and good form. I still battle with that problem frequently. This is a total boys club for sure, but we’d love to have you on board, possibly more than you’d like actually ;) I’ll try to make you feel as comfortable as possible here and delete or check any disrespectful comments.
Kids and Young Adults: If you are under 18 I need to talk to your parents if you’re going to submit to the challenge. 18 is the legal age of adulthood in my country and I don’t want anyone’s parents thinking I’m responsible for encouraging their offspring to undertake a dangerous activity. Before you leave comments, submit pictures, etc., have them contact me through the contact tab on this website.
No Pressure: In conclusion, consider taking on such a challenge thoughtfully. I don’t want to discourage people in general, obviously I think it’s overall a good idea for a certain type of person at a certain level of skill, and believe there are many potential rewards. For people at any level that are on the fence, planning to spend a year warming up and getting gear together in a feeling out process is probably a great way to go. After all, you may not know if you like the work or not. Fixing up an old axe or tuning up a new one, learning to sharpen, and w chopping are a lot to take on for a first season. If you end up with a quarter cord or more this year, you are welcome to submit your entry. I just don’t want anyone making commitments they can’t keep. You can simply let me know that you are thinking about doing the challenge, or just tell me when you are part way through, or even when you’re finished. I’m good with whatever as long as you aren’t getting yourself into something that you will regret, or that will put you under an unsafe degree pressure. Whatever the case, you can leave comments to that effect on this page.
Saws: I’m making one single exception for saws, which is making the back cut when needed for safety reasons. You can’t really wedge a back cut made with an axe, so making a back cut with a saw opens new possibilities for wedging trees in the direction you want them to go, which may be needed for safety or to prevent hang ups or damage to other trees. Most of the time you won’t need to and you’ll get little enough experience making felling cuts as it is, so don’t use this out if you don’t need it. I have never used it. On the other hand, certainly DO use it if it seems necessary for your safety or might prevent the damage or death of important adjoining trees! Otherwise, NO SAWS, that’s the whole point.
Mauls and Splitting: You may use splitting mauls for splitting the wood, but I would very strongly encourage you to use whatever axe you fell and buck with as much as possible. You might be surprised what you can pull off with good aim, technique and strategy. I do all of my splitting with whatever axe I’m using for the other processes involved. If I can’t split it but it fits in the stove, I leave it as an “overnighter” log, which I actually have a shortage of this year. If it needs to be split and the axe is not enough, I chop out a couple of rough wooden wedges on the spot and use those. Tim of Oxbow Farms was skeptical that he could split the wood with an axe, but encouraged him to keep at it and after trying the golf swing method for a while, he’s a convert. You can do whatever you want, but you will learn a lot if you really stick with your axe and concentrate on your aim and technique.
Achievement levels: The levels are 1/4 cord, 1/2 cord, or 1 full cord, or more. 1/4 cord gets recognition and your picture or video featured in a video and web page. 1/2 cord and up gets a merit badge that I make from leather which I tan here on the homestead. It’s sort of like the boyscout merit badge for accomplishing something, but way cooler! I’m still working out the details on that, but the prototype looks pretty cool. 1 cord gets the badge plus a pocket axe strop. You can watch the making of the strops in my video series following that entire process. They are made entirely from scratch from materials gathered here. Clearly for anyone surpassing a cord that is a reward in itself,
Deadline is June 1st 2017: If you live in the southern hemisphere, contact me and will figure something out. I honestly haven't given much thought to how to deal with that problem. Suggestions welcomed.
Send me pictures of you with your finished stacks of wood or post a video and write as much as you want about the experience or not. I’d love to hear about your experience and I’m sure others considering the challenge in the future would as well. Be sure to include the axe or axes you used. If you make a video and don’t have a way to post it, we can work out a way to get the footage to me so I can edit it into another video or post it on my channel.
Tim @ oxbow farms youtube channel has already finished a full cord and is thinking about doing a second cord because he’s having so much fun and learning so much. Watch his cordwood challenge playlist.
hub I have an official page that is the Hub for the project. Please leave all relevant declarations related to the cordwood challenge there rather than on any of my youtube videos.
Resources: I can only offer so much support on technical advice like felling and gear, due to limitations of time and energy as well as qualification in many cases. Please avail yourself of whatever information is out there on axes, chopping, felling trees, forestry, etc., but be critical. A list of resources appears below. Even though I feel I’m not the best person to do it, I’ll be making some videos on axe use and safety in support of the project. Hopefully some of those will be out sooner than later. I can’t completely endorse anything as entirely accurate, “correct” and relevant, these seem to be some good sources of information. I would recommend consuming all of them.
Mors Kochanski, Bushcraft Excellent book all around and great axe use and safety stuff. A must read.
Dudley Cook, The Axe Book And outstanding work focused on using axes for firewood processing. Another must read.
Peter McClaren’s Axe Manual Read free online. Somehow I just discovered this book, so I haven’t even read it yet, but it looks potentially amazing.
Bernard S. Mason Woodsmanship A great old book with considerable detailed axe information. Download it here for free
Woodcraft and Camping, E. H. Kreps Download free:
An Axe to Grind Government manual on axe use, maintenance and safety download free
Best Axe Use and Safety Videos Playlist Some great stuff in here all around and a few exemplary examples of axemanship!
Cordwood Challenge Playlist. Any supportive videos I make on axe use and safety will go in here.
Websites, Forums Etc: There are no forums of discussion type groups I know of that are solely or primarily focused on working axes. If you know of one, please let me know.
AxeConnected The Vido's axe website. Infrequently updated, but deep insightful content from long time axe users.
Facebook's Axe Junkies Over 20,000 members strong. Axe Junkiest seems to be the hub of internet axe culture Lots of advice available on restoring, handles, sharpening and such, and there are a lot of knowledgeable members that will sometimes comment on practical questions.
Reddit's AxeCraft Not a lot on practical application, but again some experienced knowledgeable members. I've had some good conversations there.
Have fun and try to stay safe!
Even though I haven't really officially kicked off the cordwood challenge (working on it now) Tim Springston (on youtube as oxbow farm) has already finished a cord of wood! Way to go Tim! He says it was so much fun and he has learned so much that he's thinking of chopping another cord this year. Tim has been making some videos talking about the project. I'm embedding his cordwood challenge playlist here. Congratulations for finishing the challenge in style, being the first ever to finish it, and finishing it safely. When I get the strops and cordwood challenge merit badges together they're in the mail to Tims neck of the woods.
I have a great video coming out on tanning the deer skin for the axe strops I'm making for the cordwood challenge. But the file is huge and my internet was acting up so I made this short video out of something I had sitting around from another project so I could keep my every Saturday posting schedule.
In the video clip, I'm just messing about and demonstrating on this log. I wasn't actually processing this fallen Black Oak tree, it was just a good size and condition for the project which will be a more in depth video and blog post on common mistakes in bucking, as well as the psychology that leads us into those mistakes and keeps us there. Bucking well is a hard won skill and can be very clumsy, especially under varied field conditions when working at ground level. There are several important take home messages in this video that can help people get passed common pitfalls.
If you see something like the video I'm adding below by Ben at Ben's backwoods on throwing big chips, it looks exceptional in the backdrop of the average axe bucking video (excluding competition choppers), but it shouldn't seem so exceptional. This is the kind of accuracy, strategy and adherence to a proven system that can make chopping, fun and much more efficient than most people imagine it could be. I'm also linkng a Basque axe race that viewer Jon Ugalde posted in the comments on todays video that is truly epic! Those are beech logs they're cutting. Seriously awesome.
This is the beginning of a look at the Husqvarna 26” Multipurpose Forest Axe. After seeing my unflattering review of their hatchet you might expect me to be frothing at the mouth about this one, but I actually think it has potential or I wouldn't have bought it. The video is a short intro with a lot of chopping. I kept falling asleep while trying to edit it because the repetitive chopping is somehow very soothing. This is a class of axe that is light enough to pack, but as the name implies is good for a lot of different stuff. I like this class of axe for running around the woods here or doing a little limbing. The Gransfors Bruks Forest Axe is the most famous example, which I own. Having put that axe through a lot of firewood last year just to see what can really reasonably be done with it, I can say that these light short axes can do some real work! They are probably not the best at anything. It’s compromises all around. I would not really recommend this as a firewood axe to most people. it is too light and it would be better if it were longer.. However, if someone interested in a packable axe and improving their skill at using one, I think it would be an excellent exercise to get one of these and cut a quantity of firewood with it. It is also probably an easy axe to learn to chop on. Although a somewhat longer handle could be safer, the shorter handle should be more accurate.
I’ve had the gransfors for a very long time and thanks to the outstanding quality of the handle wood and my hard won skill at not breaking axe handles all the time, it has survived the years and seen a lot of use. I like the design, but it’s a tad short at 25 inches, which is my short limit for a truly effective and comfortable axe at my height (5’ 10”). The workmanship on the head is terrible though. The bit is extremely crooked. So if the Husqvarna works out, which I think it will, the Gransfors will go on the auction block. I’m not interested in these things hanging about gathering dust.
Coming up in this project, we’ll talk about the axe, buying it and what I do and don’t like and then start modifying it. Some stuff I know what I want and other stuff will be experimental. during and after, we’ll test it at various uses to see how it performs.
This is part 1 of my project to build up Pocket axe strops from scratch as incentive/rewards for the Axe Cordwood Challenge. I may also sell some on the website depending on numerous factors. For those who don't know, a strop is a device for polishing or refining a sharpened edge. it is the last step in many sharpening sequences and can also be used to touch up edges, especially if polishing compound is used. It usually involves leather, which my design of course does, but the act of stropping can also be done on wood or even cloth. In this project, I'm building strops from the ground up, which involves, tanning, glue making and working up some wood from it's raw log-like state. There should be no materials used in these strops that were not processed by me here on the homestead, down to the lime and fat used in preparing the leather. The project will span an undetermined number of videos, as well as a short version of making an easy high quality hide glue from scraps that most hunters or butchers of animals typically throw away. Almost anyone who is not me should learn a lot from this series and I hope to learn some stuff too! ;) Feel free to vote on names for the pocket strop or think of new ones... Stropet, Pocket Strop-It, Pixie Paddle (the woods are a dangerous place full of mischievious pixies!).