Thursday, October 31, 2013

Swingin the axe a little on a fall afternoon - Failed practice

Well I decided to grab the axe and do a little practice.  "A ONE STICK FIRE WITH AN AXE!"  I eagerly told myself as I walked down the short trail to my usual woods practice spot.  We had a light rain the night before and I thought it was prime conditions for practice. 

There were fall colors finally starting to show up here in OK

An orange fungus I don't recall seeing before this

I was feeling good about things.  Beautiful colors, wonderful "wet forest" smells

found a dead oak I felled earlier in the year, limbed a section and bucked out a log

You can tell it's a little damp in this pic

getting it split down

getting a pile of shavings going...this is where things got ugly, atleast for me they did

I made up a good size pile of curls and shavings and proceeded to light with the ferro rod.  This was not happening after longer than I want to admit.  Well I began searching through and making sure I was using the inner wood material.  Started making a new pile shavings to get the driest wood I could.  Tried the ferro rod again.  This process reapeated itself quite a bit.  I got flame 4 times that I thought for sure I had it.  But the curls and shavings weren't catching quickly enough to sustain itself.  It just wasn't taking off for me even from the curls.  After an hour of pile after pile I threw in the towel on this one.  Partly because I was on a time constraint and partly because the frustration had built to the point it wasn't fun anymore and my hand was literally cramping the worse it has in my life.   And as you can tell I stopped taking pics as there was no way to fully capture the frustration.

Things that hit home.  Well there's a reason I carry a knife AND an axe.  My hand fatigued big time using the axe for so long with the finer work.  My hand never fatigues like that using my knife. Not even close.  One stick fires are much easier with a knife than an axe.  Fire starting is all about the small details and the finer wood prep needed.  This is obviously much better accomplished with a knife.  Sure I had the log bucked and split down in no time, but I'm sure with a knife I could have got some finer curls and shavings and been able to make it happen.  The other thing I realized is just how crucial it is to have a reliable fire starting source, like fatwood or PJ cottonball, etc when wood is damp.  If I could have sustained a flame I think I could have babied it to life but I couldn't sustain that initial flame quite long enough. 

So in short this was some good lessons learned or if nothing else just drove home the point more of why I carry a knife, axe, and fire starters.  I'll give this a try again sometime.  Any excuse to get back out...

Thanks for lookin


  1. Great effort Brandon and I enjoyed your post. Yes, using a Boy's Axe is a lot more effort than with a knife. The trick with finding dry wood in a dead tree is to find ones that are still standing, or lying at an angle against other trees. These will be much drier, because any wood close to the ground will soak up moisture like a sponge. Cheers, Jason

    1. Thanks Jason, Yeah that would have helped a lot. I really underestimated the moisture that downed tree had. I'm sure I can find a dead standing one next time. I'll give this another shot in the not too distant future.

  2. I understand your frustration, but the hardest lessons are the best ones, right?
    I'll never use wood from the ground, only if I have a good fire going, but never befor. The wood just acts as blottingpaper.
    It is easier to get dead wood from a standing tree going, even when wet.

    1. This wood was elevated off the ground a little but obviously not enough. Standing deadwood is the way to go for sure.

  3. You've confirmed why the age-old combo of axe and knife is, well, an age-old combo! :) Good post, bud.