Columnist uses ax for more than just splitting wood

Little did I know when I received my first woodburning kit as a child just how much of a part wood would play in my later life. I was no stranger to woodworking; my dad made golf clubs out of hedge wood, and my maternal grandfather was a master of the lathe. Even my uncle let me run his wood splitter when my mom wasn’t looking.

I suppose it was only natural for my family to want to encourage my interest in woodworking without involving power tools.

That a hot iron, often equipped with sharp tips, was almost equally as dangerous probably never crossed their minds. It only took a few blisters to teach young me to respect the iron, and for the next few years, I turned out masterpiece after masterpiece (ok, honestly pretty crude renderings of animal life).

I enjoyed wood shop in school and did pretty well. Somewhere I still have the clipboard I made in middle school. I am also in possession of all of my original fingers. I have a rudimentary knowledge of different types of wood, and when to use what type for the project at hand.

Moving out to the farm taught me a whole new set of wood skills and identification. Woodburning as a craft involves making pretty designs and trying NOT to set the whole piece on fire. Woodburning as a heat source involves knowing which pieces will take fire quickly, which pieces will burn longest, and which ones to use when. Pretty designs don’t usually figure into the heat source unless it is to notice how pretty the fire is as it dances over those hedge embers that will keep you nice and toasty tonight.

Darling Hubs also has learned that there are certain ways to cut certain trees so as to avoid leaving me widowed. I’m still working with him on the optimal split size and length so as to be able to feed the furnace without giving myself a hernia and/or leaving him a widower. He’s had a fair bit more experience than I have with manually splitting logs, using either an ax or a sledgehammer and maul. The fact that he is still in possession of both of his original feet testifies to his skill in this department.

Until this weekend, I was content to leave the whole ax thing to him, given my natural tendency to have accidents, and the less sharp objects involved, the better. Still, we decided to join some friends and go ax-throwing. Yes, you read that right. Not only was I going to HOLD an ax, I was going to attempt to throw it and get it to stick in a bullseye on a wooden wall. What could possibly go wrong?

Some of you might have seen the video currently circulating online about the lady that throws the ax and has it bounce back off the floor straight at her. Indeed, I was apprehensive that I’d do just that, only forget to duck as it flew back towards my head. Still, the nice man who showed us to our designated cages did such a good job of explaining technique that my fears began to dissipate. Sure enough, my very own offspring tried it out first, and emerged with all of their extremities intact, and even stuck the ax head in the target several times. It wasn’t even a big ax, it was a relatively small hatchet. How hard could it be?

Remember the lady that had one bounce back? Yeah. That happened. Not at my head, but you’d be surprised how fast an ax can travel along at about ankle height, and how hard it is to not reach out and stop it with your foot. Since I am rather attached to my feet and prefer to keep them that way, I’m grateful for good jump reflexes.

After quite a few more failed attempts (none quite that alarming), I finally managed to get the thing to rotate, figured out how to stop twisting my wrist, and voila. The ax head bit into the wood wall and stayed there. I’m not going to lie, that was pretty exhilarating. After the rest of our group had a chance to develop their technique, we started having competitions for fun. I’m not shocked that Hubs took to it like a duck to water, and I’m pretty proud that the kids quickly picked up the technique too. I have the feeling we’re going to have to create a safe area so everyone, me included, can keep practicing at home. That “thunk” as the ax hits the target is pretty darn satisfying. Part of me is sorry we didn’t know about this when we had mean roosters, but oh well.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’m going to take that to mean that I’m not old as long as I keep learning new tricks. Good thing some of them are lots of fun. May your new trick be as fun as mine!

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