First Start With Sharp Tools – Your Axe

It cannot be stated strongly enough how important it is for your cutting tools to be sharp.  Sharp tools are far safer than dull ones and will do more work with less effort.  You need to learn how to sharpen every cutting tool you own or use.

Sharpening An Axe

Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  The tool of choice for an Axe is “The Puck” which is a round sharpening stone with a course and medium side.  It works fairly well but does not produce a fine edge because it does not have a fine grit.

If an axe or hatchet is really bad you will need a file or grinder to re-profile the cutting edge.  A file might be the safest for someone new to sharpening, as it is much harder to mess up the edge by hand.

Be careful using any power grinder when sharpening that you do not heat up the metal and draw out the heat treat.  One tip is to hold it barehanded as you can feel it if the heat starts to build up.  Some kind of belt sander/grinder is what you want if you want a shiny finish.  You can sand by hand, but that takes a fair bit of time.

Page 27 of “An Axe to Grind” have more information about sharpening and page 29 has an Axe-Bit Gauge you can print.

Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

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Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
  1. Cream shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla.
  2. Stir in peanut butter.
  3. Sift dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoons on untreated cookie sheet.
  5. Press with back of a floured fork to make crisscross.
  6. Bake in 350 oven about 10 minutes.
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Axe Skills – Make A Wooden Mallet From A Log

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, like the best spindle sander, 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.

The Axe

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.

Chopping Block

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.

Time To Learn Some Axe Skills

I have to admit to having an affinity for axes for as long as I can remember.  I’m not as hardcore as the folks over at the Axe Junkies Facebook Group, but I do have around 10 of them.  This year I’m determined to spend more quality time with them.  You will only develop axe skills by using it and I will be finding some tasks, projects or chores that I can do with an axe.

So You Want To be a lumberjack

I have always enjoyed splitting straight grained wood with an axe or maul and when I cut down smaller trees I’ve found a good sharp axe removes small limbs better than a chainsaw.  But for felling trees, I’m more of a chainsaw kind of guy.  I do have a couple of the large double bit axes.  An interesting side note is that each side of the head was often sharpened differently for different uses.  I will give felling a tree with an axe a go this spring, you never know I might like it and it will at the very least be good exercise.

Carpenters Axe

The view many people have of an axe user is a lumberjack with a huge double bit axe.  However what many people do not realize is that an axe is not just the tool of a woodsman or lumberjack, is used to be part of the standard toolkit of the carpenter.  Pictured above is the Hults Bruk Carpenter Axe that I acquired this year and I will be starting with it this year.  I need to clear out space in my basement first so I have a place to work.  The edge on this axe is amazing, almost a mirror finish and very sharp.  I’ll be looking for some project that can be made with just an axe to build my skills.

Interesting Videos

A good primer on different types of Axes by Dave Canterbury

Wrangler Star reviews a decent cheep axe

Adding a Gauge to an Underground Water Tank

Some of my friends and relatives are on wells that have sulfur in them.  Using this water in your house eats away at copper and electronics, so it is common to get water hauled in and store it in a tank underground.  However how to tell how much water is left in the tank requires some kind of gauge or dropping down some kind of measuring stick, or you risk running out of water.

Retrofitting a tank that did not have a gauge when the tank was buried can be a challenge.  These tanks generally have a fill pipe with a cap and a vent pipe that has an elbow pointing down.  I got something labeled a rain tank gauge from Amazon and with some additional plumbing pieces added it the vent gauge.  This is a very simple mechanical gauge that has a string with a float that hangs below it.  As the float goes up and down the string winds the hand on the gauge.  The empty and full marks are just pointer hands that you set when you figure out the levels for your particular tank.

In this particular application, the gauge is next to the sidewalk to the door the is used every day so it is easy to monitor.

Poison Ivy – Strategies to Avoid Suffering from the Rash

For anyone that has broken out in the itchy rash that is the result of coming in contact with Poison Ivy you know it is something to be avoided.  Personally, I generally do not suffer from incidental contact, but my wife is really affected from any small contact.  After one occasion where it kept coming back even when she had not come in contact with the plant caused me to do some research.  Below are my findings as I understand things, your mileage may very.

Poison Ivy – What Causes the Irritation?

For most people it is the oil on the leaves or vine that causes the problem.  When it gets on your skin you will break out with a rash that is very itchy.  It is important to note that it is this oil that can be spread to other parts of your body.  Only when that oil is still on your skin will scratching cause it to spread.  The blisters that form and the fluid in them will not cause a reaction someplace else.

How to Avoid A Reaction to Poison Ivy

If you come in contact with poison ivy it is important to get that oil off of your skin as soon as possible.  However this oil is very hard to get off, it tenaciously sticks to your skin and clothing.  You know you sometimes you get grease on your hands and it takes several washings to get it off, poison ivy oil is the same way.

A commercial product specifically designed to do this is Tecnu but a dishwashing liquid that is good at cutting grease and oil will work as well.  Another option that works differently is Hydrogen PerOxide which chemically oxidizes the poison ivy oil, changing it so that it no longer causes the irritation.

Keep in mind that the oil can also be on your clothing and gear and will remain able to cause a breakout for months, depending on how sensitive you are to it.  I know of a case where someone was getting a breakout even when they had not been outside.  It turns out there was a jacket they put on after getting the poison ivy oil on their skin.  The oil transferred from skin to jacket and then the next time the jacket was worn (more than a month later) resulted in another breakout from the oil on the jacket.

It has been reported that you do not want to wash your skin with hot water.  This tends to open up your pores and the oil gets deeper into your skin and even harder to get off.  Further, this can spread the oil making it worse.  I know of someone that got in poison ivy and took a very hot shower and spread it over a good portion of his body.  Wash your exposed skin well before getting in the shower.

Wash Your Clothes Well

You need to do a good job of washing your clothes.  I generally will run them through a couple of cycles in the washing machine and I am generous with the amount of soap.  Bleach will also help, which is why I dress in old clothes when I work in areas where there is poison ivy.  Further if you have walked through some low growing poison ivy you will have the oil on your shoes and laces.

Pet Fur

Your pets can pick up the oil and transfer it to you.  Keep that in mind if you keep getting breakouts and cannot figure out where it is coming from.

  • It is the oil that causes the reaction if it is spreading you are getting more oil from somewhere.
  • Get the oil off of your skin ASAP using a soap that is good at cutting through oils.  Tecnu if you have it or something like Dawn dishwashing liquid.  If it gets the oil and grease off after working on your car it will probably get the poison ivy oil off.
  • Don’t forget to clean clothes and any gear you had when you encountered the poision ivy.

Bullhead Fishing

Personally, I’m not into fishing, but I know many of you are.  If you are a fisherman there is a new site on Bullhead Fishing you might want to check out.

As a non-fisherman, I’ve always heard the stories about catfish not being good eating, and then I’ve heard others say they are great.  I guess it is like many fish, how they taste can be affected by the water they live in, which of course makes sense.