Posts Tagged With: woodsman

How to Mitigate the 6 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work

by Todd Walker

How to Mitigate the 5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Photo credit: Casey Deming, GeorgiaBushcraft.com

On the heels of my ax-work classes at the Georgia Bushcraft Spring Gathering, I wanted to cover some of the risks of swinging a tree clever. It’s our job to mitigate some of the risk. Even then, accidents happen.

At the Gathering, my buddy, Karl, shared a recent ax injure he incurred when his ax glanced from the wood he was splitting. He graciously, or not so gracious if you have a weak stomach, allowed me to share his injure here for educational purposes.

********* WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF BLOOD AND A OPENED FOOT **********

The ax glanced and struck Karl on the top of his left foot severing one bone completely and halfway through the second bone.

The two bones circled took the brunt of the blow.

A nasty ax gash.

Shoes, even leather boots, aren’t much of a deterrent to a sharp ax.

Stitched and cleaned up.

The photos above make it crystal clear how dangerous a moving ax can be. However, not all injuries to wood choppers come from the business end of the ax meeting flesh, or from negligence. Trees don’t always cooperate. They’re known to drop dead limbs on unsuspecting victims below. Trees and axes are not to blame. They do what they do without malice or remorse.

Taking an ax to the woods with the intent of chopping is serious business. 99% of my ax work is done alone in the woods. Even though I try to employ best-practices, the risk of becoming a victim is always in the forefront of my mind. I’m no expert and my ax-related advice should not be trusted but verified through experience.

5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work

Vernon Law is credited with saying, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”

We can never eliminate all the dangers of swinging an ax. We can only lessen the gravity of missing the mark through commonsense risk management. The good news is… true repentance will change your actions, and, hopefully, save you from the pain of these painful mistakes.

1.) Arrogance

“Only the penitent man shall pass.” ~ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The toughest woodsman is no match for tonnes of wood crashing to the forest floor. Even a wrist-size limb falling from 50 feet above can crush a shoulder or skull. While toughness is a fine virtue, be humble. The moment an axman approaches his work with superiority and a been-there-done-that attitude is the moment he gets blindsided.

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confident ax skills inspire. Arrogance will get you hurt or killed. This holds true more so for seasoned axmen than beginners, and, in my experience, men over women.

2.) Entanglements and Hang Ups

Any obstruction in the ax swing arc must be cleared before work begins. Check overhead for nearby limbs and vines which may snag and deflect an ax in mid swing. I’m obsessive about removing the smallest twig when standing on top of logs to buck. I figure if I’m swinging inside my frontal zone (described below) inches from my feet, I can’t afford a stroke to veer.

How to Mitigate the 5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A screen shot from a recent video of an overhead limb which snagged my ax.

Fell enough trees and you’ll have one hang up mid-fall. My first strategy, if the tree butt didn’t release from the hinge, is to try to free it from the stump. Some times the impact on the ground will jar the hang up loose. If not, I’ve had some success moving the butt of the tree backward using a long lever pole. Place the lever under the butt end and lift repeatedly to slide the tree butt backwards until it releases.

A safer and less strenuous way is to use a come-along attached to an anchor behind the tree stump. Without a modern come-along, a powerful winch can be made from two logs and a rope/cable. Ratchet the tree butt until it releases. You may be tempted to cut the offending tree which caused the hang up. This is a high-risk endeavor. Be sure to have all your medical/life insurance up to date. You and/or your surviving family will likely need it.

One hazard I hope to never encounter again was the yellow jacket sting between my eyes on my downward stroke in the video below. You’re only defense is to run like you stole something!

3.) No Exit Strategy

When felling trees with an ax or saw, preparing two or three escape routes is wise. When the tree begins its decent, get out of Dodge on a pre-determined path. The safest exit is at 30 degree angles from the back notch of the tree. Put your back against the tree and extend your arms like you’re about to give your mama a hug. Your arms are pointing to your best escape paths. Next safest is in a line opposite of the direction of fall. If this path is chosen, or the only option, put great distance between you and the stump to prevent a kickback from nailing your body to the ground.

Escaping perpendicular to the line of fall increases the risk of being struck by falling limbs from adjacent trees. I’ve witnessed trees “jump” and roll several feet to the side of the stump hinge by contacting adjacent tree limbs during the fall. Another overlooked danger is a dead spot halfway up the tree which breaks and falls back toward the woodsman as the bottom half falls in the direction of its lay. Be vigilant, drop your ax, and sprint for your life.

How to Mitigate the 5 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fortunately this log snapped halfway up and fell sideways from where I was standing.

4.) Violating the Frontal Zone

There are two basic ax swings: lateral and vertical. Certain guidelines should be followed for each swing. Take a look at the diagram below to better understand your frontal zone.

Adapted from The Ax Book

In The Ax Book, which I recommend you devour until the pages are dog-eared, Dudley Cook describes the frontal zone as two parallel lines running along side the outside edges of your feet when chopping. All lateral swings should be outside the parallel lines, always. The inertia of an ax in full, extended-arm swing only stops when acted upon by an external force. The ax head has a stopping point, and that point could be your body if you disregard the frontal zone guidelines.

There are two relatively “safe” strokes one can make within the frontal zone: a.) backed up, and b.) bucking. The backed up stroke is what beginning choppers are most familiar – splitting wood on a chopping block. The solid chopping block offers a backstop for the moving ax. Of course, as in Karl’s case above, there remains inherit dangers. Watch our video below to gain some safety tips for splitting firewood, the most common ax-work of campers and homesteaders.

Bucking is simply separating a log into lengths. The diameter of the log to be bucked determines my technique. Larger diameter logs (12+ inch range) allow me to stand on top to cut two V notches. Swings are always below my feet. If I miss my intended target below my feet, my body is out of harms way.

I stand on the ground to buck smaller diameter logs. The log itself is my back up. Accuracy is essential at the top of the bucked notch when your feet are on the ground. Even though the log is between you and your legs, miss the top of the notch and you now have a non-backed up swing in the frontal zone… and a very bad ending.

Another video of ours demonstrates the importance of accuracy on the top of notch cuts when bucking on the ground…

A third stroke in the frontal zone, which I’ll mention, but do not recommend, is the most dangerous and best performed with a saw. Situations arise where a high limb needs to be removed. My risk management strategy is to choke up on my ax handle with one hand and strike the limb at a 45 degree angle without completely severing the limb. A few lighter followup blows usually separates the limb. My forward hand gives me more breaking power as the ax follows through.

5.) Washed in the Blood

“All bleeding eventually stops. The challenge is stopping blood loss before the supply runs out.”

~ Mark DeJong, Off Grid Medic

Injuries related to axes and trees can be deadly. A first aid kit should be in close proximity to your work area. One item which you should consider carrying on your person is a tourniquet. If a catastrophic ax wound occurs where sever bleeding will result in death, this is your only option to see your family again. Practice applying this device on your own body before you actually need it.

A personalized first aid kit will treat the most common injuries such as scrapes, bumps, blisters, and bruises. I carry large sterile bandages, gauze rolls, and Band-Aids. My tourniquet fits in my cargo pocket of my kilt or pants. A few other items I include in my ziplock first aid bag are:

  • Acetaminophen for pain
  • Wound dressing
  • Tweezers and needle – mostly for tick removal, ugh
  • Aspirin, proven to assist in heart attack treatment
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for stinging/biting insects – plantain isn’t always available in the woods and I don’t react well to stings
  • This ziplock first aid kit rides in my haversack along with other kit items for core temperature control and comfort – more info on these items can be found here

6.) Losing Your Head

A sharp hunk of steel flying freely through space is a scary sight… if you happen to spot it. It’s like shooting an arrow straight overhead and wondering where it will stick. Ax heads give an ample warning to observant axmen. A slight gap appears where the ax eye was seated on the handle. Continuing work with this slight slippage is full of hazards. Stop, re-seat the head, and pound a metal step wedge into the top of the handle. My working axes aren’t pretty, but they are tightly fit cutting tools.

How to Mitigate the 6 Deadly Sins of Ax-Work - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Step wedges added in the field on my favorite double bit. Looks gnarly but hold this working ax head on securely.

Don’t lose your head! Take great care to keep your ax sharp and securely attached to the handle.

If you’re even slightly tempted by any of these deadly sins, put your ax down before you meet your Maker.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Top 7 Survival Sherpa Articles of 2016

by Todd Walker

The Top 7 Survival Sherpa Articles of 2016 ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This question haunts my mind with each passing year…

Is it possible, at my age, to write my first book?

This week marks 5 years since starting this little blog. Writing for me has been a series of absurd events. C-minuses in all my college english classes, all of which I was super proud to earn, is a poor indicator for a future book-writer. Still, I write words and sentences but couldn’t diagram one if a gun were held to my head.

My English professors would be shocked, almost as much as I am, to find 550 articles penned here. There’s gotta be a book floating in this ocean of words somewhere! Mustering the grit to organize them will be my challenge.

Until then, I’ve listed our 7 best articles from 2016. I’m always interested in which articles add value on your journey of self-reliance (as well as the ones I should have canned).

Our Top 7 Articles of 2016

A) The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance

Dial back to the golden age of camping and woodcraft and you’ll find that the knives of Nessmuk, Kephart, Seton, and Miller played an essential role in all their tramping and wilderness adventures. This simple machine (wedge) was a value-adding tool for, not only survival, but for camp comforts and wilderness living skills.

B) Off-Grid Winch: Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope

In an emergency vehicle kit, weight and space are not an issue – unless you scoot around in a Smart Car. For this winch, all you need are two logs and some rope.

C) How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

In this article, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

D) How to Estimate Distance in the Woods with Right Triangles

What if you needed to ford a river, build a fence, or erect a foot bridge over a creek in the woods? I’ve never seen any of my woodsmen friends pull out a 100 foot measuring tape from their pack. But you can get an accurate estimation of width without a measuring device. We use this method with our 8th grade math students as a hands-on learning opportunity.

E) How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log (Rope Vise Plans Included)

One tool my semi-permanent base camp shelter was missing is a dedicated carving bench. Add this to my Paring Ladder, and a future pole lathe, and my non-electric shop in the woods will be fully functional.

F) A Beginner’s Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft

Bushcraft encompasses a deep and wide field of knowledge. For the beginner, information overload has the real possibility of stopping you before you can even start this new hobby. To avoid bloated bushcraft, build a firm foundation by developing these two core skills outlined in this article.

G) Backcountry Belt Kit: Essential Tools to Carry Around Your Waist

There are many scenarios where you may be separated from your backpack and gear. Tipping a canoe or tumbling down a ravine come to mind. These types of accidents can quickly relieve you of the gear which makes for a comfortable wilderness outing. Having essential gear in your pockets and attached to your belt could turn your luck around, and, not being overly dramatic here, could literally save your life.

The Top 7 Survival Sherpa Articles of 2016 ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The best snow globe ever!

Thanks for taking the time to read the stuff! Dirt Road Girl and I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and healthy and productive new year!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Saving Judgement: Three Guys Go to the Woods

 

On the heels of our Bloated Bushcraft article, some of you may find this useful. While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jeff face to face, I hold him in high esteem for his woodsy knowledge, love of family, and zest for life. Hope you enjoy his thoughts on saving judgement…

Saving Judgement- Three Guys Go into the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

by Jeff Heigl

Three guys go out in the woods. The first one sets up a canvas tarp that he bought online, rigging it with paracord. He unfolds his wool blankets, takes his Swedish ax, and gathers firewood, He unpacks his gear and places a stainless pot of water on the fire he made with flint and steel to boil water and makes tea.

The second opens up a tarp made from a bed sheet and erects it with line made from natural plants. He takes a ‘hawk he forged and likewise gathers wood and builds a fire using a bow drill. He heats rocks and drops them into a birch container made waterproof with a mixture of pine sap and charcoal. When the water boils he dips in with a hand carved wooden cup and makes a tea from chaga and wintergreen.

The third guy rigs a plastic tarp from Walmart. He uses baling twine for stringing it. He lays out a sheet of plastic and places his sleeping bag on it. He takes his Estwing ax, and, like the others, he gathers firewood. He lays the fire but doesn’t light it. His stainless frying pan and Sierra cup are placed at the ready. Taking up his rifle, he goes hunting.

Which one got it right?

To my way of thinking all three. They came into the woods confident in their equipment and skilled at what they wanted to be skilled at. Each was where he wanted to be, doing as he chose. In the eyes of ‘plastic tarp guy’, the first two had limited themselves by lighting a fire. They had chosen to stay in camp while he was free to hunt and explore. Homemade tarp guy was confident to the extreme. He knew how to make do with what he could make or procure with his own hands. Canvas tarp man knew that his equipment was up to the task, and even though he purchased it, he had what he needed to do what he wanted.

That’s how it is here as well. Doing it all isn’t feasible for 99.9% of us. Bills to pay, college, jobs. Face it, a lot of us live in urban areas that frown on fires, much less forges. Those of us that do live in rural areas or even close to true wilderness are too busy going out to enjoy our ‘backyards’ to knap flint for each arrow just so we can hunt. We still have bills to pay, homes to maintain, families to raise. So we take our experiences in small doses when we can get away. Lol! Seems like there’s never enough time!

To those that are truly in the .01%, I say Great! To be able to afford that lifestyle as a hunter/gatherer must be wonderful. But again, for most of us… not feasible.

So, at the end of this little ramble/rant, let’s not be too hasty to judge one another’s skills. Some follow Nessmuk, some follow the Native American route, and others grab a few cans of beans, some flour, and whatever firearm they need and light out into the wilderness.

Just a few thoughts from an old man sitting on a stump in the woods waiting for shootin’ light.


Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Bushcraft, Camping, equipment, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

Camp Craft Challenge: The One Billet Boil Up

by Todd Walker

Camping is a time to renew friendships and experience the fellowship of kindred spirits. There is no other place quite like the glowing sticks of a campfire to rejuvenate my soul.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fun times at Georgia Bushcraft campouts are often around a fire. Fire challenges, to be more specific. Most competitions consist of bringing a container of water to a rolling boil. There are other ways to gauge the woodsman’s or woods-woman’s firecraft skills, but none are more important (or fun), in my mind, than boiling water in the woods. With hot water, a camper can disinfect creek water and cook squirrel stew while sipping hot coffee, tea, and cocoa.

To prepare for these fire challenges, I’m known for collecting a trash bag full of “smalls” (pencil lead and pencil size twigs). Gathering enough twigs to boil water in under three minutes can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on how sidetracked I become in the woods. Squirrel! 

Collecting resources on woods treks is wise. However, you won’t find me walking through the woodland with a 55 gallon bag of sticks unless I know there’s an upcoming water-boil competition. With that being said, I’d like to introduce, and challenge, our readers to a time-honored way to boil water which incorporates ax, knife, and fire skills…

One Billet Boil Up

One-stick-fires are not new to me. However, I discovered the interesting history behind this challenge on Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. Chris is always willing to share his wealth of woodsy knowledge at our campouts and his website. Find more on the history of this challenge here and here.

Challenge Guidelines

Here’s what you’ll need. Keep in mind that these are challenge guidelines not competition rules. You’re only competition is you for the sake of testing your skills.

  • One dry wood billet (species of your choice) around 6 inches in diameter and about one foot long – I used a standing dead red cedar billet for my challenge
  • Sharp ax or hatchet
  • Sharp knife
  • Bush pot or tin can large enough to hold one quart of water (32 ounces)
  • Kitchen matches (strike anywhere type)
  • Timer and camera (optional) if you’d like to share with us

I filmed the challenge on our channel if you’d like watch. The previously mentioned Master Woodsman links have useful video examples. Those guys and gals are fast!

Disclaimer: I’m well aware of the competitive spirit among my camping buddies. Should you take the challenge, know that you are using sharp cutting tools which do not discriminate about what they cut… fingers, shins, and hands included. If you are new to ax and knife work, spend time learning to properly handle these cutting tools. You are responsible for keeping appendages if you take this challenge, not us. No prizes are involved, so keep it safe.

Challenge Strategies

With my normal twig fire for water-boiling, surface area is guaranteed. Not so with a solid log. You must create surface area from the log as quickly and safely as possible. Split off a few one inch shingles from the round with your ax. Cut one of the shingles into smaller pieces. Immediately create shavings or fuzz sticks with your knife or ax from one of the smaller pieces. Light these shavings/fuzz sticks with a match as soon as possible. If you’re match goes out without achieving ignition, you’re allowed another match.

Split down more wood to begin building a log cabin fire lay around the fire. Use the smallest split wood to lay over the fire inside the base of the fire lay. The object is to build a couple of layers of burning kindling inside the log cabin.

Place the water container on top of flames supported by two of the cross pieces of the log cabin. Blow the base of the fire as needed to fan the flames.

Build the log cabin up to the top of the container with more split wood. Use what’s left of the original billet to split off four shingles. Lay the shingles against the fire lay in teepee fashion to trap and funnel the heat around the water container.

Just as a blacksmith billows air into his forge to increase the temperature, lay on the ground near the base of your fire and blow. This should only be done if your container is positioned on a steady log cabin structure. You wouldn’t want hot water falling and hitting any part of your body… another inherent risk.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My tin can is somewhere in there.

Once you’re satisfied the fire lay is sustainable, stand back and get your timer ready. Stop your timer once you have a rolling boil in your pot. Side bubbles around the edges of the container does not count as boiling. The entire surface of the water should be dancing and rolling with bubbles.

If you take the challenge, be sure to let us know your results. On social media, use the hashtag #OneBillitBoilUp so we can find you. Remember, the only prize you’ll receive is enhanced camp craft skills. Have fun and be safe!

Additional Resources

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

~ Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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