An experiment I've been wanting to try making a handle wrap for axe handle protection using casein glue made from cheese and a strip of muslin. A little homestead alchemy.
Apparently I can't keep up with myself. Here is a backlog of recent videos on everything from rawhide to roads.
The difference between the different sections of the leek bed are even more obvious now, confirming more what I observed this summer, which is that the soil with charcoal (biochar) has what is generally referred to as heart. That is to say it has staying power and isn't easily used up without regular additions of fertilizer. I've been very negligent with this leek bed and it really shows on the control end with no charcoal, but not much on the 10% char end. The 5% section is better than half way between the two others, but there is an obvious difference except that within one foot of the 10% section, the plants are nearly indistinguishable from most of the rest of the 10% section. The very end of the 10% section drops off in size, but that may be due to the shape, of the bed, which is pointed on the end. Also, many gardeners will have observed that plants tend to do less well on the ends of beds. If you took the difference between the control end and the 10% end as at least 600% difference, that could be interpreted as the 10% char end making 600% better use added amendments. That is a sloppy interpretation and doesn't take into account all possible factors, but it's still impressive and probably on the low side if anything. The leek seed from this project will be ready in the fall for planting about this time next year.
ROAD SERIES PRIMER
This one is a quick primer for what will be a series on the design of graveled roads based on what I learned and have observed building mine, as well as paying attention to other unpaved roads and what happens to them in various circumstances. It will have to potential to save a lot of people, time, money, unpleasant driving conditions, all while saving resources ultimately and keeping sediment out of stream beds. In the meantime, you can download the handbook for forest and ranch roads for free here. It is a dry read, but very worth putting to use if unpaved roads are a regular part of your life. http://www.pacificwatershed.com/sites/default/files/roadsenglishbookapril2015b_0.pdf
RAWHIDE HANDLE BRACE FINAL
This is the final part of the rawhide axe handle brace. As usual for me, this series wasn't just about making this one tweak, but about rawhide and sinew and hide glue and context and related stuff.
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.
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.
It took my many years to finally arrive at a very simple but effective system for oiling axe handles. I'm pleased to say that Author Dudley Cook came to the same conclusion and recommends pretty much the same as I do in The Axe Book. This is the first of a series I hope to continue of super accessible bullet point videos called 2:00 Minute Technique. The idea is to deliver very useful information in two minutes or less. Of course being rather thorough most of the time, most subjects will be covered in more depth as well, but these will be quick start guides with enough information to get to work. I'm also linking the long version of oiling tool handles where I talk about drying v.s. non drying oils and geeky stuff like that.
This system penetrates the handle deeply. How deeply I don't know as I haven't sliced open a handle to find out yet, but it has to be pretty deep considering all the oil some handles are capable of sopping up. It probably builds up especially a lot in the outer rind of the handle wood. I think of it as replacing water that was once in the living tree. As long as you use a good drying oil, like linseed, it will cure to a tough plastic like substance, the same stuff oil paints are made of. I use raw oil because it has a slower curing time allowing for deeper penetration before the oil on the surface seals off the pores. The other reason I use raw is because the product known as boiled linseed oil is not boiled linseed oil at all, but rather a compound containing solvents and toxic metals to the end of decreasing curing time. I've actually gone now to using food grade flax oil only (same as linseed oil, but food grade is usually called flax oil). The last can of "pure raw linseed oil" I got smells of solvents, so I just found the cheapest flax oil I could on amazon and ordered that.
There is concern among some that raw linseed will never cure enough and will remain sticky. I've been using it on my handles for a long time and it cures out plenty well. Whether it will cure as hard and tough by comparison to boiled I'm not sure, but it's definitely more than adequate. I can assure you of that.
I see "oil finish" recommended a lot, like Watco or Danish Oil Finish. As far as I know, they are all cut with solvents and dry quickly. If part of the liquid that soaks into your handle is solvent, then when that solvent evaporates it would seem that using these preparations would leave less total oil in your handle with each coat, penetrating or not. Personally I avoid working with solvents because they give me heartburn every damn time. Using food grade oil is great for me since I'm applying it over and over again all day, I can keep it in the house near the woodstove for faster curing and don't have to put on gloves or even wash my hands if I don't want to. I usually just wipe off the excess oil and get on with my business.
Once the handle is thoroughly penetrated the oil will not soak in anymore. If you get tired of putting oil on, or don't want to use so much oil, I think you could stop for a while and let the oil cure a bit before continuing. Eventually, you can start to build up coats as a surface finish one thin layer at a time. Just apply the layers very thinnly and allow to cure to the touch before adding another. Building up a surface finish is not a necessary step, but it looks nice and insures the handle is completely sealed. I tend to just add a thin coat once or twice a year when I have an oily rag. Polish comes with use. There is probably a way to fake it by buffing etc. I wouldn't know. I'd feel like a dumbass sitting around trying to make my tools look like I use them when I could just be using a tool instead.
This system takes a lot of oil and a lot of time and may be overkill for some of your handles, but give it a try on something and I think you'll like it. The knife handle below is deeply saturated and turned out awesome. Repeated oilings took that porous, soft birch handle and made it into something altogether different.
And here is the long version.
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.
Of Sharp Tools and Dummy Rules, A Safety Framework and 1/2 Hour Video Just Talking About an Axe Handle
Here is something I recorded regarding safety when using sharp tools. I hope it conveys my basic approach and philosophy regarding the subject. I'm much more about a general approach and philosophy adopted as a framework in which to approach work than I am about sets of rules. Most rules that are stated as absolutes need all kinds of qualification that they don't always get. Not only is that ineffective when engaging in real world work, it can be dangerous. What I like to call dummy or boy scout rules are generally stated in absolutes like never and always. That discourages intelligent engagement with the work at hand and defers your safety to an authoritative statement or entity. The idea seems to be that if you just do this one thing, you will be safe. If you're doing real work in the real world, you'll find that most of those rules will be broken, and some frequently, in order to carry out work at all or to do work more practically or more efficiently. It would be more constructive to state these as guidelines and be realistic about the risks involved and strategies one can employ to ameliorate risk when doing things that are dangerous, or when using sharp tools in the grey area that exist between the very safest ways to do things and the most effective. The usual black and white approach can lead, I believe, to unsafe work approaches when trying to bend your self and your work to static and overstated rules which experienced craftsmen and workers may not actually follow. In the future I'll get more specific on knife and axe safety, but this is actually some of the more important part to me.
Also, I forgot to post this video on the husqvarna axe handle. It covers various points regarding the handle and planned modifications and as a matter of course addresses some stuff about axe handles in general.
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!).
I was just starting to stack my wood and in about 24 hours I went from wondering if I should do the cordwood challenge again, to planning the next one and starting to prime potential recruits! Now I'm all excited about fixing up some axes and getting back to chopping... Pretty challenging, but so rewarding! Just think about if for now :)
This is the start of restoring a vintage hatchet. Actually I'm going to modify the head quite a bit, so what I'm really doing is trying to improve it and make it functional. In this video I make the handle blank which is now seasoned and ready to make into a handle. Other steps will be to modify and refine the head, shape the handle, put the handle on, oil it and make a sheath. I'm not sure when I'll get all that done, but this was the first step....
I usually finish videos late at night and then try to throw a blog post together to go with them so it will come out on the same morning. I'm often struggling to stay awake by then though and have made some pretty lame typos recently. This time I figured I'd just be behind a day and do this while I'm not falling asleep. I scored this Black Locust from a tree that was cut down on a construction site and managed to score some logs for wood working projects, mostly tool handles. Black Locust is one of my favorite woods and makes great handles. I could do a blog post just on the virtues of Black Locust. I took the opportunity to film the job and talk about typical approaches and problems related to splitting billets out. I would have liked to do the more in depth lecture style version of this video, but I'm pretty busy with time sensitive spring chores right now to take that on. I'll get to it some time, and I'm pretty damn excited about it actually, but for now, most of what anyone needs to know about the subject can be gleaned out of this version. Also, this is in a practical setting, so it's real life which is useful. There are some bullet points below:
A few Bullet Points
*Before Splitting, assess the log looking for knots and observe the bark pattern to determine how straight the grain is.
*Splitability of wood varies by species and specimen. Some split easy, some don't. Some tend to stay on track and some tend to run askew.
*Wood generally splits easiest along radial lines from the center out to the edges, but there are exceptions.
*Wood can also split pretty easily by splitting along the growth rings.
*Runout is when the split travels off to one side rather than following the grain lines. Runout is more common when a small piece is split off of a larger piece, so it is the safer bet to split things into halves.
*Runout can also be prevented by chasing the split along as it progresses rather than just splitting if from one end with a fat wedge.
*Knots are a major hinderance when splitting with the growth rings, but can be split in half when splitting along the radial lines.
*Wooden wedges are fine if you don't have steel, but make them flat in both dimensions, from side to side and tip to butt. Also, chamfer the butt ends and they will last a lot longer.
This is the video version of what I learned chopping a cord of wood over 3 months. It was really fun and I learned a lot, much more than I could articulate or fit into this video. I plan to do a long blog post covering the project and my thoughts in more detail. Hopefully soon, though there are crazy amounts of time sensitive seasonal work to do on the homestead...
A short overview of two hatchets I bought to check out. I don't like either one. The council tool hatchet has potential, but it is far from useable out of the box. Given that it needs a lot of work just to function properly, I think a better option is to acquire a quality vintage head to put a new handle on. I doubt I'll acquire any more hatchets to review, because I'm pretty sure the head that I want is not going to come with the handle that I want, so they will all need modification anyway. I'll concentrate my hatchet related stuff on making and putting on handles and modifications, and maybe some stuff on using them.. Hatchets are an essential tool to me and I'm somewhat disturbed that I can't find anything to recommend that is really first rate out of the box. I know it's been a total axe-and-hatchet-fest lately, but I'll get onto some other stuff soon. Just thinking about and using axes a lot, so it's what I've been up to lately. I just hit 2/3rds of a cord on my cordwood project. I'm now back on schedule to finish my cord by or before June 1st!
This video is about straightening the green baywood axe handle that I made a couple of months ago, which warped during seasoning. The first steaming failed, so I pulled out all the stops this time around soaking, steaming and stretching out the wood fibers to even out tensions in the wood. I've been using the axe quite a bit and it has stayed put even though it is flexed a lot during use. Long term results may not be as good, but for now, so far, so good, so I'll call that a tentative success!
Okay, this is a simple technique for wood up to around 2 inches in diameter. It is very effective and reasonably efficient, especially when you consider maintenance and cost of a chainsaw. Cutting up small wood with a chainsaw can be dicey too, especially if it's crooked. It can fly all over and cause the saw to snag and kick back. This technique is probably faster than using most, if not all, hand held manual saws and it is certainly a lot funner.