I’m wanting to build axe skills and the only way to do that is to chop wood. So for my first project I’m going to make a wooden mallet from a maple branch.
Why A Wooden Mallet
Many of the tools for woodworking, particularly when working with green wood, need to be struck with something. But that something needs to not damage the tool. That is why traditionally carvers and joiners had a wooden mallet. Of course the wood mallet gets torn up over time, but a wood worker should be able to make a new one fairly easily. It is considered on of the consumable things in woodworking. In this day and age many have went to a hard rubber or dense plastic to strike their steel tools. Plus it is a very simple starter project.
Really a hatchet, I have a Husqvarna hatchet and I have yet to do anything with it. This is work using the tool one handed so the short handle of a hatchet is much easier to swing.
Selecting A Log
Denser hardwoods are the better choice and green wood is easier work. Of course that means they can develop cracks when drying, but since your are pulling something out of the firewood pile it is no great loss. I have some silver maple that someone gave me and I’m going give that a try first. I grabbed a piece off the wood pile that is about 16″ long and 6″ in diameter.
You will need something for your work piece to rest on. Also you want something that when your tool hits it, the tool will not be damaged. I my case I have a piece of tree trunk that is a nice height so I when I’m working I’m not bent over. Ideally the surface is level, my needs a bit of work. The next time I cut down a tree I will save a piece for chopping work.
Axe Skills You Learn
The only way to get good with a chopping tool is to use it. There is no shortcut, you have to spend the time using the tool. Over time you will be able to reliably hit where you want to. This is a axe skill that serve you well over time. In sports there are exercises done to improve your strength and that help your performance, spending time chopping will build your strength and endurance.
You will also learn about wood grain. You will be surprised at how different wood acts depending of if you are going across or with the grain. You will learn how much easier splitting with the grain is than cutting across the grain. Since you are working with a chunk of firewood, if you mess it up you just made kindling.