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I need Chopping Lessons

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by cattledog, May 31, 2012.

  1. cattledog


    Oct 7, 2011
    Today I happened to be chopping some downed gum tree pieces. A confusing bendy wood much like the seas. I thought it would be a piece of cake but it was tough stuff.

    What I am trying to do is become more efficient with my chopping. I am wasting energy by slashing into the cut without any gain and want to learn the best way. Thus the post.
    Sure I can use a saw but I like the exercise and yes I break a sweat and have callouses.

    How do you start to chop a log in two using your confidence axe.
    Thanks for any help
  2. foxx


    Sep 5, 2010
    Straight grained wood, once dried, seems to want to split. Even a dull cheap axe will do it.
    OTOH, I've had some hard, twisted wood that could not be split, at least by me. I got the wood for free, and after trying to split it, I think I know why I got it for free.
    If the tree grew in a twist, the best thing to do is to use a saw. I could be wrong, but I don't think you'll have much success in trying to split it. Something about the changing direction of the grain seems to make it resist pulling apart. If you had a log splitter that could rotate with the twist in the wood, maybe then you could get them to split, IDK.
  3. M3mphis


    Jan 13, 2011

    are you opening up your cut nice and wide (approx the same width as the diameter of the log you're bucking)? I've seen better videos, but here's the one I am coming up with at the moment:


    See how he places cuts close enough to eject chips and continues to widen the cut before going for depth.
  4. cckw


    May 24, 2008
    The guy in the video has some bad body mechanics or something, makes me squirm to watch him. I am sensitive to that stuff due to my physical ailments. I probably looked exactly like that 10 years ago. Should be a getting a lot of low abs going and very little low back. I would guess he has a lot of low back going here. (lumbar disc damage over time) Also, the camera isn't high enough to show, but the motions make me think his shoulders are going way up, as if to shrug, that's bad form for anything other then shrugging. I'm not saying he is not getting it chopped, just a mention for your own consideration of what is best for your body so you can be chopping wood at age 70. Somewhere I read a good piece about what proper body mechanics should feel like when using an axe. That is worth looking up.
  5. cattledog


    Oct 7, 2011
    Thanks M3
    This puts it in perspective it is hard work.
    I need to open it up in the beginning a lot more.
    I tried the old college racing team technique and after one swing said no way.
    Practice practice practice

    keep the tips coming
  6. M3mphis


    Jan 13, 2011
    You make good points. I should have been a little more discerning. I was only trying to reference the way he opens up the cut. It looks like he is kind of lazily using his back and shoulders to bring the axe back into position in a sweeping motion rather than lifting it. Lifting the axe is more tiring for you arms but easier on your back and can improve accuracy in my experience.
  7. M3mphis


    Jan 13, 2011
    For the racer, the glutes and abs are key to the power in the swing. It is truly a full body movement. I don't think the average Joe has any idea how much cardio is involved in continuous chopping.
  8. bearhunter


    Sep 12, 2009
    if i can, i stand on it (tree) and chop between the legs. for instance, if one has fell across the road or trail...
  9. cattledog


    Oct 7, 2011
    You guys are good i have a hard time swinging with authority like that .
    I would just stand behind and chop.
  10. M3mphis


    Jan 13, 2011
    I usually get a little scared when I stand on the log, but you can really get some oomph behind it. Bear has trained with racers, so he's crazy like them.
  11. Operator1975


    Sep 24, 2010
    Take this for what u will - I take my axe head and get a visual of its length in the log - and make a few chops there - that gets me a middle point say roughly 6 to 8 inches wide. Then depending on log size, you will have to probably triple that. I do that by then just extending each side by whatever I feel is needed. That way I have the proper opening to always be able to remove chips and not get pinched, which is easy to do and a waste if energy. Also when I chop , when I am getting after it, I like to stagger my chops so I am always removing nice big chips. I do 6 hit points, 3 on each side. This keeps chips flying and the cut even going down thru. (smaller log only need 4 points). On the points I will usually start far away for 1,2 then middle 3,4 then closest to me for 5,6. These points being opposite of each other 1 opposite 2, etc. This makes it even so sometimes u can eject a big "plate" of wood out. I find this keeps the cut wide and even down thru.

    Hope this wasn't confusing, hope it helped.
  12. G-pig


    Jul 5, 2011
    Biggest thing is accuracy. Not much strength is involved, only endurance (for example, my favorite axe only weighs 2 1/4 pound). You have to be able to "draw a line" so to speak, severing all the fibers on each side of the chip. The wood will clear itself, you are just cutting the fibers and popping the chips. I try to imagine a line that looks like \_/ through the log. Anything that isn't along the angled parts is a bad swing. Cut the wood as green as you can get it too, I'd rather cut green Maple than really dry pine. The old racing technique is probably not suited to the axes we use here. Those are very heavy and the handles are much shorter.
  13. cattledog


    Oct 7, 2011
    Yes it does help I need to develop a system like that until it becomes routine.:thumbup:
  14. cattledog


    Oct 7, 2011
    G thanks for the graphic and tips
  15. cattledog


    Oct 7, 2011
    You Guys are the Best
    Thanks for everything
    Happy Chopping
  16. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Your initial cuts need to be much closer together than the final width of your cut. As you cut deeper you widen your cut. Most axe wielders have a strong side and a weak side - that's to say - one of those angles that G-pig showed us \_/ is easier to cut than the other. For me, a right hander, the cut from the left across my body is easier. In this cut my right arm is pulling the axe across my body's center of gravity. For the cut from the right I'm pushing the axe from outside my center of gravity. The former is strong, the latter is weak. This is the basic premise of the Wing Chun style of martial arts. So when it's time to widen my cut I typically favor widening it on the left side.

    Chip removal is more a function of the shape of the axe rather than the skill of the axe wielder. A flat-cheeked axe digs in deep but doesn't clear the chips. A convex-cheeked axe pops out the chips. Swing your axe into a hardwood chopping block or stump. Does it stick easily? If so it's probably not convex enough. If it's near impossible to stick then it's too convex.
  17. scruffuk


    Jan 14, 2010
    Some great info in this thread. Perhaps it could be stickied for a while?

    Just to add to the importance of bit shape, a straight(ish) edge is also important as it allows the axe to sever a uniform section of wood fibers with each cut. This idea is discussed in greater detail than I could explain in D.Cook's 'The Ax Book', Chapter 6: The Efficent Axe.

    I'm still studying through the above book, and there is lots of food for thought in there. If you don't have it, or do but have not read it in a while, it may be worth reading over the above chapter, at least, for a refresh.

    Safe cutting bro.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2012
  18. Operator1975


    Sep 24, 2010
    Great points and advice on here. I can remember my younger days trying to power my way thru a log with force. Looking back now, I can see where all I did was waste a lot of energy. It is one of the things I love about axes - people assume that u just grab the axe and swing away - which obviously is not the case. Physics plays a major role in how successful you will be. I have also found log position plays a big part for me - the height the log is off the ground. If it is say a couple feet up, I can't be as efficient with that compared to a log either on the ground or just a few inches off. I also used to struggle when felling with my face cut and back cut. I started out with a chainsaw when I was young - always used to cut close the ground. So when I started using an axe I would do the same thing - well I can't do that - being 6'3" my cuts would end up angled and the stump looked like a crazy beaver was there - had to learn that it was ok and had to be where my axe felling cuts where up off the ground quite a bit for maximum efficiency.

    You can't just pick up the axe and be like of the Stihl Timbersports guys - no one can do that - just need to use the axe and over time it will all come together for you. Just need more axe time, you"ll me muchore efficient before you know it.
  19. Log cutter

    Log cutter

    Feb 19, 2012
    From what I have been taught so far CD- Dont swing the axe from over one shoulder-when you bring the axe up your arms should make a triangle that the end point of which (is the axe itself) is in direct line with your nose. as you straighten up with the axe over the top of your head slide the upper hand down above the lower hand as you begin the descent downward. Open the scarf up nice and wide-if you are standing on the log slightly angle your feet outwards-(I suggest steel socks also). Practice, practice practice mate, thats what it is. Ill see if I can dig up a pic or two to assist what Im saying here.
  20. Log cutter

    Log cutter

    Feb 19, 2012
    These aint real flash, but you'll sorta get an idea from what I was talkin about with regards to arm/hands position etc.

    Happy chopping!!
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2012

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