Well, I’m not sure this is quite a meditation on splitting wood but I kinda dig the title so there you have it. A meditation.
I’ve done several rounds of wood splitting in the last few months in preparation for the splitting marathon I anticipate we will have to swing our way through at the Death Race. Death Racers have historically endured long rounds of wood splitting and I don’t imagine that will change. I have a suspicion that we are actually free labor for the town of Pittsfield and contribute heavily to their seasonal stock of firewood. Ha!
So I headed out yesterday morning to work on my axe swing at a nearby park with lots of trails and a good amount of seclusion (from park rangers – they tend to get a bit antsy about folks traipsing over their trails with axes slung across their rucks). I’d been there about a month ago and had scouted a treasure of downed trees that had been chopped into smaller logs by a chainsaw. Hundreds and hundreds of logs waiting for me to split them! I imagined myself going into the early evening reducing log after log into firewood…the consistent thud of my axe hitting the wood echoing in the canyons around me. That was not the case as it turned out.
I arrived at the location escorted by my friend’s dog, Knives (an awesome name for a cool dog), to discover that all the logs had been removed and all that was left were two giant uprooted trunks that must have been too heavy to haul away. What’s a guy to do in such circumstances? Improvise. I decided to chop away the top half of one of the trunks. I’ve never attempted to chop down a trunk so I improvised a technique and got to work. This sucker was a beast!!! Two hours later I finally chopped through it. The part of the trunk I worked on wasn’t particularly thick but it was challenging. Maybe my technique was poor, maybe I wasn’t letting my ax do more of the work, maybe I chose poorly (quoting the knight from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – yeah, I just referenced an “Indiana Jones” movie…what’s the problem?!) and had a particularly dense log. Whatever. I got through it despite painful blisters on my hands. I wore gloves (basic synthetic leather/nylon work gloves) but this was a good lesson to learn. I need to use work gloves that have a softer lining in the palm area to help prevent blistering. I also plan on having an extra pair of gloves in a dry bag in my pack specifically for wood splitting. I don’t want to work with wet gloves. It will make the blistering on my hands worse. I also plan on applying moleskin to the problem areas on my hand prior to any wood splitting session. A few minutes doing this will hopefully save me some pain later.
I used a True Temper splitter/maul I got at Home Depot. A true splitter is lightweight (a big consideration if I have to carry it for the entire Death Race – every ounce and pound in my pack starts to add up real fast) but doesn’t have the weight behind the force of the swing. A maul is heavier but is designed to allow the ax to do more of the work because of the extra weight, momentum and design of the head. Anyways, I used my True Temper and it was adequate but the extra 2-3 lbs on it really start to take their toll even after just a few hours…especially in my grip. A lot of racers rave about the Fiskars x27 – the Cadillac of axes and one sexy piece of equipment! They run about $50 so I’m going to invest in one and give it a go. It is light weighing in at 6.28 lbs and apparently splits wood like a dream. Fiskars…here I come!
Regardless of what ax I end up using I still need to have good technique, strength and stamina. Just because you have an Indy car (my second “Indy” reference in this post but this one not related to the movie…hmmm) doesn’t mean you can drive it in a race. Yeah, that sounded like some bullshit I pulled out of my ass just now but you get the gist of my thought.
Knives had a great time, by the way! A dog in the woods is a dog that is happy.
Til next time!
Ruck On. Stay Muddy.