Thursday, January 5, 2012


We usually buy our axe-heads at garage sales or junk stores and buy or make new handles for them.  Well, I say "we" but it's really always Charles who does this.  I never really paid attention.  While he was away recently, the handle broke on the axe I use for splitting wood.  I had had several things go wrong as soon as Charles left--all things that I didn't know how to do and that would have taken him two minutes to fix but were major problems for me.  When the handle shattered, it was the last straw.  In frustration, I went and bought a new axe.

I've learned lots about axes since I moved here.  The first thing I learned was that the taper on the head is critical.  A fine, sharp taper doesn't chop the wood better; it just causes the axe to sink deeply into the wood and stick there.  A nice, wide, V-shaped taper forces the two halves of a block of wood away from each other as soon as the axe bites into it.

The next thing I learned is that a heavy axe makes the job easier.  To make a light axe hit the wood hard enough to split it, you have to put a lot more force into your swing.  A heavy axe does half the work for you.

I thought I could choose a good spitting maul for myself.  It turned out, however, that the one I bought was too blunt.  When I got home and started chopping, the axe kept bouncing off the wood, which hurt my hands and arms and made the job 'way harder and longer.  I wore myself out for two days before a helpful friend got out his grinder and sharpened it for me.