axemenship

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Seahunter, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    I have been using hatchets since I was a kid and feel pretty comfortable with the, but don't have a lot of experience with an ax. Feel free to add any resources.

    I saw this video of Paul Kirtly today and thought I would share it since it has a lot of good info in it. It is essentially a more detailed version of this short old Ray Mears video.

    Ray Mears' 5 min ax video


    TC outdoors filming Paul Kirtly


    Here is one from Mors


    "An ax to grind" A USFS guy show how to hang a handle, sharpen, and use an ax
    http://www.bchmt.org/documents/education/AnAxetoGrind.pdf

    Woodsmenship a vintage ax use book:
    http://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/woodsman-ship.pdf
     
  2. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    An important rule in chopping and bucking is "breaking the plane". Bend at the knee when making vertical swings to avoid injury to your feet and legs.

    Also wear eye protection when splitting kindling with a hatchet:cool:. My great grandfather was blind in one eye from taking a shard of fatwood to the eye as he was splitting it with a hatchet.

    This ought to be an excellent thread, as true axemen add to it. I'm just an occasional user, and have made enough mistakes to realise there is a proper form to swinging an axe. It's not about power, but precision.







     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
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  3. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    This could be a good thread, if the right info is in it.
    Simply put, axemanship involves two things. Being able to make an efficient, safe chopping plan, and being able to carry through with it.

    Knowing what your axe can do, what the wood will do, where you should stand, and sequence of cuts is pretty much the plan.

    Swinging the axe, hitting where you aim, safety, and the finer points of technique and axe maintenance are how you carry it through.

    Neither makes a competent axe man on it's own, time in the woods is the key.

    This video has a few minutes about axe use, right at the beginning.

     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
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  4. Bax 40

    Bax 40 Supporter Supporter

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    Listen to what the Muleman77 says he prolly uses cutting tools such as axes and saw more in a year than many of us will ever.

    I used a axe and a brush hook a lot as a youth but am about 60 years away from that time and mainly haft them and drool on em now.

    The one piece of advise I will give is keep your axe sharp and don't try to power stroke everything , my dad had a sawmill and used a crosscut and axe all the time and always said accuracy was more important than brute force.

    Larry
     
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  5. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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  6. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    I look forward to seeing what you have to say on this subject. It is something that I know you have a great deal of experience in so I am interested in what you have to say.

    I also realize that practice will be important. I may have to set something up in the back yard to get some initial practice and work on accuracy.

    @americanstrat98 I will check out the videos you posted. Thanks!
     
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  7. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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  8. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Yeah that's a great thread and the "Axmen" is a great video. Thanks for posting it. I usually search to make sure I'm not duplicating something that was recently posted, but life got in the way. I am still interested in what @Muleman77 has to say on the subject. Maybe he could post it in NWprimate's thread.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
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  9. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    The last thread mostly had videos of you tubers attempting to use axes. I'd much rather see hostorical and educational films on the subject. So long as the moderators allow our only edged tool stickies to be photo shoots, we are doomed to repeat these threads. Something I really don't mind. Maybe we could get it right for a change?

    Thanks for posting the Axman video, I couldn't find it earlier. It is a great instructional video.


    Australian Axe work.

    The first few minutes of this video shows them making a notch. Priceless


     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  10. Edwin Moss

    Edwin Moss Tracker

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    Thank you to @MJGEGB for linking the Axman video. Such a good bit of instruction. I originally saw it via Skillcult's cult's recommendation.

    I can appreciate people sharing their knowledge via Youtube, as well as other online sources, but I must agree that I'd also rather see historical and educational films on this and most other subjects. The few youtubers who actually have years, decades even, of professional experience under their belt is few and far between.
     
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  11. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    Goofy video but a good technique for splitting. Perfect saw cut wood on a perfect stump just isn't realistic.



    And a really detailed video on splitting. Splitting on the ground is so much more efficient. I also find that my lightweight camp axes work best with this method.



    Another good video, bucking without sucking.



    I honestly believe that if you use a tool enough you end up figuring out the best ways in which to use it. I found these videos show the ways I ended up settling on myself. I don't use an axe near as much, but I only use an axe for all of my firewood processed for my firepit. You progress over time. I ended up learning to chop and split on the ground. I don't even bother with stumps anymore. It's great for bushcraft since finding a perfect stump isn't realistic. Perfect saw cuts every time aren't either. And chicken sticks are a pain and IMO dangerous as well.
     
  12. Edwin Moss

    Edwin Moss Tracker

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    Always great seeing Skillcult videos. The splitting on the ground is something I first saw Buckin' Billy Ray Smith show on his videos. I definitely think that there are tools for certain tasks. Eventually you'll have to use a specialized tool like a splitting maul when you're dealing with super dense wood in gigantic rounds but when you see people like Mr. Edholm and Buckin' Billy Ray split on the ground rather than using a chopping stump, you realize that many people are not nearly maximizing the potential of the tools they employ.

    There is also something to be said for thinking a little more directly about a task at hand. Where Skillcult approaches his axemanship in a methodical and technical manner, someone like BBR seems to go to it in a more old school/old timer manner kind of way. A common sense derived from direct observation way, I suppose.



    This video on splitting is something I've watched recently and enjoyed, especially his approach to tackling wood with a crotch:

     
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  13. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    ∆ Buckin' Billy Ray is a good example of how to loose half a foot. It works for him, and I am glad he looks to be in good health. Everyone needs a good example of what not to do with their feet, and this could be just the ticket.

    Skillcut is paying more attention to where his legs and feet are in relation to the swing. That rings well with me.
     
  14. CaptCrunch

    CaptCrunch Scout

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    979354E6-B8B3-47F5-A379-415B1E186A94.jpeg No where near where I want to be,this one is holding the swell in my right hand standing to the side where I can’t hit my feet.Box elder been on the ground about six months and froze a couple weeks ago
     
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  15. Edwin Moss

    Edwin Moss Tracker

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    True, definitely, though BBR is less of an instructor and more of a "Look at what is possible if you consider more obvious but less commonly repeated notions."

    So his video presents the concept of splitting wood as it lies on the ground as opposed to on a chopping block.

    Then we have Skillcult's video, which is an instructional video, explaining the why and how of splitting wood on the ground, including best practices for safety.

    BBR's video is a demonstration of the level of skill and muscle memory one can achieve after 25 years of professional forestry work.

    Skillcult's video is what to practice to be able to split wood like BBR without injuring yourself.
     
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  16. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Oh I'm tracking, and split my wood that way with a double bit when a Maul isn't needed, I'm just not gonna stabilize a piece of wood with my foot, then chop in the direction of my foot. It's a good reason to leave the stumps about waist high. So if you get a stubborn piece you can whack it on the stump and move on. Most of the time I use a golf swing, then choose a verticle chop if a round presents itself. Never breaking the plane while doing so.

    He is efficient, but at the cost of safety.
     
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  17. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    Go watch some h chop, v chop, etc. Not many professionals use axes anymore as chainsaws etc are faster. However for timber sports both form and power are necessary so you can see some good axemenship.
     
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  18. Edwin Moss

    Edwin Moss Tracker

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    No argument there! I'll be the first to caution safe practice of tasks.

    In the case of BBR, he's an exception to the rule in that he alleges to have split this way for an extended period of time without apparent injury.

    Frankly, most people aren't going to be able to split as he does without years of practice.

    To my novice eye, he moves his lower body simultaneously to his swings as he seems to anticipate the necessity to move his lower extremities to safer positions by the end of his split. Granted, his margins of error are razor thin compared to what most would feel comfortable with.

    I also notice that he rarely swings like a "slugger". He swings more like a golfer and tends to have a relaxed series of body movements, resulting in a whipping like motion. Again, I have a novice eye, but due to not swinging full tilt, he seems to have a high level of accuracy for judging the momentum of his double bit and knowing that he won't blast through a piece of wood without being able to move out of the way.

    At any rate, I have not the experience that others do to analyze with a sure understanding. All I know from the various videos I've seen him split like this in is that he appears to be among the few who display the skill and ability to successfully perform a task in such a way that normally would result in injury.

    Agreed! I've watched timber sports competitions held by Stihl and the skill displayed by the competitors is inspiring.
     
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  19. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    @MJGEGB That skillcult video is pretty cool. I went to Humboldt State University and really regret not looking into the HSU timber sports club when I was up there.
     
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  20. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    Guys like him are called accidents waiting to happen. I work in the most dangerous industry there is period. They take what our guys do and add landscapers on the federal tracking. If you subtract out the landscapers it 168 per compared to offshore fishing and logging which are usually around 120. Most of the accidents are either new employees with 0-2 years under their belt or the over confident 40 year old+ who think they are so competent they can ignore safety procedures. The 40+ actually out number the new employees in fatalities from accidents. There are people who flaunted safety their entire career unscathed... we don’t call them skillful we call them lucky.
     
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  21. Edwin Moss

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    I don't condone unsafe practice but at the same time, I recognize that some people who do things in unsafe ways aren't simply lucky. Luck only takes one so far. There is something to be said for skill and experience contributing to consistency. At the same time, only time will tell if BBR is going to get injured and become Stumpy Billy Ray!

    I only know of BBR'so work through his videos and when he shows felling of trees, he normally takes on a more instructive approach and is more technical. He only seems to take what seems to be significant risks when splitting wood on the ground.

    Others may see it otherwise but I've never seen him flaunt reckless and unsafe practice when using dangerous tools. In the particular video I linked, he even cautions people to not even attempt splitting wood on the ground unless they feel comfortable with the prospect.

    His basic message in the video is that one can split wood more efficiently. Skillcult's video takes the message a few stages further and shows how one should achieve such efficiency with safety.
     
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  22. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    Most of his videos are ok. However that man has a golden horseshoe in his butt. Pay close attention in his videos. You'll notice in a few of them he definitely put either an axe or chainsaw into the front of his boot and a chunk of the sole that sticks out past his toe is gone. Also, both he and I know if you have to move your feet when you go to swing an axe you arnt doing it right. I'm not saying he is horrible at his job, or splitting wood. I'm saying he is an accident waiting to happen. I've had the pleasure of meeting some of the best tree guys in the business... I also happen to be able to bust their balls because they got lazy, tired, took short cuts and dropped a tree across a main 14 kV line on the south shore of Massachusetts. They are lucky to be alive, one ended up in the hospital and wont ever be same but he lives. They were damn good at their jobs and also had a golden horseshoe shoved up their rear ends. The one probably should have been been dead.

    I know another guy who was training some new tree cutters, let's just call him Mr. "I'll show you how it's done"... he dropped a tree top across a sub T line.

    I've seen tree guys who do residential work who have never had an accident, my neighbor across the road at my old house hired him. All I ever heard about the guy was how good he and his crew was... in reality he is a walking talking OSHA violation. Practically zero PPE. I had to go in my house and close the curtains because technically speaking I can lose my certification for not turning him in according to the code of ethics. That guy just retired not too many years ago I do believe, he wasn't good he was lucky for an entire career.
     
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  23. Edwin Moss

    Edwin Moss Tracker

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    I certainly believe BBR owes part of his success with splitting wood on the ground in the way he does to luck. I also believe that his success is fortified with skill and experience as well as plenty of practice. I don't believe that skill and luck are mutually exclusive.

    Is he an accident waiting to happen? Definitely. A million successes in a row doesn't mean much if you take off a foot on the million and first swing.

    Is he in the same boat as the mentioned examples of those who were seemingly merely lucky for the entirety of their career? I don't see that but as I've said previously, I only know him through his YouTube videos.

    You won't get argument from me that one ought to do certain things in certain ways. I'm not advocating unsafe practices by any means.

    Even as a novice to axemanship, I recognize the danger in how BBR splits wood.
     
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  24. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    @Vanitas, Amen. Thanks for sharing.

    Since age 5 I have been planting trees, select cutting trees, gathering and splitting firewood, feeding wood stoves, and now feeding a fireplace. I am still not an axe man.

    In fact I worked as an Orthopedic First Assist as my first career. I cant count how many toes, and fingers we had to sew back on from axes, saws, and guns. Several thigh lacerations, arm lacerations, and a couple of foreign body removals. Everyone is an ace until the horseshoe becomes dislodged from their rectum. Working there taught me to be cautious with edged tools.

    @Edwin Moss ,We here at Bushcraft USA tend to err on the side of caution for a good reason. You won't be crafting much in the bush if you can't accomplish tasks in a reasonably safe manner. I'm not a believer in luck, or accidents. Things happen for a reason. You don't chop a toe off because your luck ran out. You chop a toe off because your foot was in the way. ;)

    Let's not scare off our Forestry workers before they even decide to weigh in.
     
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  25. Edwin Moss

    Edwin Moss Tracker

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    I'm in total agreement, sir!

    I've low mileage out in the wild at this point but I've learned early on the importance of best practices in bushcraft.
     
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  26. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    I like my tree guys scared. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps them doing what they need to be doing and not ending up on this calendar:

    [​IMG]


    Sharing this stuff with whatever crews I'm running is my least favorite part of the job, the most effective at reminding them to follow safety procedures though.
     
  27. charlesmc2

    charlesmc2 Scout

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    Some years back I decided that it is the "almost safe" things that get us. Few fatalities from people walking off cliffs. 100% casualty rate and we learn. Now, take crossing streets while texting. Mostly safe, especially if the drivers are watching for you. Good ole Joe does it, so can I. Wham!

    I have my own share of nearly safe habits, I'm sure.
     
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  28. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    Alright, I wasn't going to share this one but you folks twisted my arm. Either this old fellow had a forest of 4 leaf clovers behind his shed or he's the most skilled axeman on video.

    Trigger Warning, this video will make you cringe!!!!!!

    Click the link to watch the full length video as only the trailer is on YouTube.

    This is the trailer below, but really you should click the link /\ and watch the full length video.

     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
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  29. Edwin Moss

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    I've finally been able to watch that video, @MJGEGB, and yowza, that old timer definitely was from a different time. Even so, I doubt folks of his generation would have thought nothing of using an axe, a double bit at that, as he does in the film.

    Still, I enjoyed watching his wood working, however unconventional it seems to me.

    It was sad, in a way, to see the juxtaposition of the footage of mass production factory making of shovels and footage of him working on his shovels.
     
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  30. Kelly W

    Kelly W Love the Axe Supporter

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    Why would that video make one cringe?
     
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  31. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    That's a great example of axemanship. Thanks @MJGEGB, I'd never have found it.

    He's doing a few things that break the safety rules.

    But overall, I just see accuracy, smoothness and conservation of energy.....AXEMANSHIP.

    That's why he doesn't get hurt. He swings just as hard as he needs to, never seems to miss........ and just turns a block of wood into a scoop shovel before your eyes without really even breaking a sweat.

    I bet there's hundreds of folks on this site who work harder and get hurt more carving spoons.
     
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  32. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    I didnt see anything too bad for the time. That video is from the 70's. He stopped making shovels in '82. If you weren't using a chainsaw you didn't really wear PPE back then... hell and when you were running a chainsaw many of them werent wearing PPE, hence the huge incidents of chainsaw incidents.
     
  33. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I was blown away by his ability to carve one handed with a 4lbs double bit. He wasn't winded, or grunting. Just taking his time.
     
  34. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    While I agree I didn't want to show it as axemanship because I don't think any of us on this forum are anywhere near that level with an axe. At least I know that I'm not and a lot of folks seem less comfortable with an axe than I feel I am. If you watch the whole first part carefully you can see occasions where more force or a glanced blow would have likely resulted the axe hitting his foot. In addition there was a swing or two where the heel of the axe lands just under the sole of his shoe. The force, angle, and accuracy of his swings are impressive, but scary to watch as a novice axe user.
     
  35. Edwin Moss

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    The ease with which he used his double bit was impressive for sure and frankly, he looks like a frail old man! And yet look at how he moved the axe with seemingly effortless action. Definitely gained from a life of honest work with his hands. His knowledge of how the wood he worked with would behave was also something I appreciated.
     
  36. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    Yet he makes most of the youtube axe "experts" look pretty silly.

    I find a lot of value in a man who is that handy with his tools. Often they are the ones who get overlooked for the reasons this thread has brought up. Sure, there's things you take and things you don't, but overall to me, his axemanship is to be admired.

    Just different perspectives I guess
     
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  37. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    His stuff is in a museum in NY. He isnt that overlooked locally. For $150 I think you can buy one of the shovels still.
     
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  38. cbrianroll

    cbrianroll Professional Tinkerer Supporter

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    That was a fantastic video! Thanks!
     
  39. Tdr

    Tdr Scout

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    I was told you can tell some of the skill of a carpenter by the sound of his saw.
    I'll bet that applies to axemanship if you knew what to listen for.
    I live in a residential neighborhood and I actually enjoy listening to the different sounds sometimes of people working with tools.
    You can usually tell when there's a good professional tree service around when you hear those chain saws buzzing at the right pitch.
     
  40. highlander

    highlander Supporter Supporter

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    An old guy told me once that I was busting wood the wrong way. He said “You’re using too much energy, you’re wearing yourself out, and you’re gonna mess your shoulders up.”
    I was 12. Of course I thought you needed to do one of those magnificent fan swings from way way behind your shoulder. The kind of swing you see on TV where the guy brings the axe back to his heels nearly.
    The old guy showed me that you really only need to go so far and let the axe do it’s work.
    Sadly, guys like him have gone on.
     
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  41. batmanacw

    batmanacw Guide

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    A huge part of axesmanship is learning to put a proper edge on your axe. Wranglerstar has been using his fancy jig to put blunt V grinds on his axes and now axe Junkies all over the world are copying him.

    There is no substitute for a proper convex on an axe, period. It's no harder than doing it wrong. It just takes a bit of practice on a $2 flea market axe head.

    If you put a garbage edge profile on your axe it doesn't matter how much it cost. A good edge profile will make an ugly axe beautiful. If you won't learn just sell your axe and take up knitting or crossword.
     
  42. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    Don't worry, places of higher learning still teach one how to properly sharpen an axe... and you get graded on it
     
  43. Ptpalpha

    Ptpalpha Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Bumping this back to the top.
     
  44. Scotchmon

    Scotchmon Supporter Supporter

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    All good points and thanks for sharing the video.
     
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  45. ATsawyer

    ATsawyer Supporter Supporter

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    It doesn't take that many swings to get out of breath, and when you're tire, your accuracy suffers. When out with a crew, we each take about 20-25 chops then pass the axe. When it comes back to you, you've rested enough to continue accurately and the axe has stayed in fresh hands.
     
  46. garry3

    garry3 Scout

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    When I first started looking through this thread and was reading how lucky Buckin was this video popped into my mind. Problem would arise when an unskilled axe guy would try to emulate these guys. But if we think they are putting themselves in danger it's just not going to happen. Years of use and the tool is like an extension of their arms. Experience.
     
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  47. garry3

    garry3 Scout

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    Another skilled axe user. She doesn't need the PPE steel toed boots because she will never hit her feet. Her twist technique and aim is is very good. No bits in the ground here.
     
  48. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    It's nice to see someone who's using these tools regularly post something like this. It sets realistic expectations. I'd heard a similar technique where the axman would switch to a light axe for a while so that they could keep working but rest up. Can't remember where I read that but it made sense. After all Paul Bunyan is folklore. Generally I just set the axe down for a bit, and then pick it back up if I get to that point.

    This is sort of like hiking in the mountains for me. It's nice to see that even the most in shape hiker still sucks wind just like I do. Brings a realistic expectation of what I should be able to do. Sucking wind is okay, just slow down and do what you can.
     
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  49. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    Steel toes aren’t necessary when splitting wood, it’s for when you’re bucking with an axe mostly. You’re feet are only inches from being called stubby. However with that said I’ve seen plenty of people try and prop pieces up with their foot and race to see if the axe lands first or if the wood falls
     
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  50. Vanitas

    Vanitas Supporter Supporter

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    You do realize that most of the fatal accidents in industry are people who are experts, in the business for 20 years right. I’m pretty sure I brought this up earlier in the thread but maybe not. Even experts are known to make mistakes. Sometimes it even gets them or others killed. Some of them have the most interesting scars. I’ll choose not to emulate a guy with a chunk of boot missing and stick to proper form myself... I like my toes personally. Maybe I should email him and ask how it happened. Maybe he’ll make a video on it. First I’ll have to remember which of his videos I noticed it in.
     
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