Wood work on the homestead continues, even though we’re enjoying a brief hiatus in the firewood harvest. I’m monitoring two ricks of half rounds that we cut late in autumn, watching for drying, sorting, moving, and chopping about once a week.
Yesterday, after some clear, windy days, I prepared to cover the ricks with tarps again, as snow and later, rain move into the area. Before covering, I chopped the rounds into smaller pieces, to provide more exposed wood, which will allow faster drying.
In the process, I broke an ax head.
This came as no surprise; in fact, I greeted it with a certain amount of relief.
I broke this particular ax head a while back. I mentioned that I’d broken it in a post from February, 2012 (see Choosing the Right Ax for the Job).
I cracked the eye of the head on one side. It stayed tight and straight, so I decided to continue using it. As a “second best” ax, it became an particularly important tool.
When one carefully husbands one’s resources, a situation that grants permission to be a little less careful feels welcome. With this ax, already broken, and, to most people, useless, I could take liberties as I never would with my regular splitting ax.
I could take it into the forest on wood cutting jobs, and leave it at the site at the end of the day. I’d wrap it in a piece of visquine or stash it in a dry space under cover, but I didn’t need to worry about it being taken or ruined. It saved me carrying a more valued tool to and from the site.
I also found it very helpful in situations where a better ax might get ruined. I could chop in less than ideal situations, I could cut saltwater soaked snags on the beach. In fact, when it broke, I had it on our Power Point, where I chopped without a proper chopping block. I tried not to cut through the wood to the shale scree below, but if I had, it would not have been a problem.
When the ax head gave out, it merely broke on the other side of the eye, leaving the blade safely embedded in a round. This ended the tool’s career to my satisfaction, which is to say, safely.
I knew all along that I could easily have injured myself or others with that ax. I knew that I shouldn’t continue to use it. I always took extra precautions, never using it if anyone else stood anywhere nearby. I accepted the risk of the situation, knowing that it could end badly. Thankfully, it did not.
I’m thoroughly convinced that when I die, my last words will be “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” In this case, my luck held, and I got an extra few years of service from the ax—perhaps more than I would have had from it had it stayed whole in those years. It was a good and faithful servant until yesterday. But, I kept the blade. Who knows? It may continue to serve the homestead in some other capacity, with the right shaping and application.