Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Heavy Metal

Most people in the Green woodworking scene will be familiar with the work of Peter Follansbee. If you're not aware of Peter's work then stop reading this immediately and head over to Peter's blog, you  won't regret it (but you might not come back here for a while).

Peter Follansbee's Side Axe

Peter's side-axe is legendary. It's an important tool for his prep work and unfortunately 'they don't make 'em like they used to.' Peter regularly gets questions about his axe and he has produced this video to show some of the possible alternatives.

One day whilst trawling a popular online auction site I came across a vintage side-axe that looked like it might be perfect for this kind of work. It was going at a reasonable price, so I took a chance and bought it. When it arrived I quickly realised that I had made an error. The shape of the axe was perfect. The edge geometry was exactly what I was looking for. The problem was that it was huge. I had neglected to look at the weight of the axe on it's description. The heaviest axe that I use regularly is the Gransfors Swedish Carving axe which weighs 1kg. Peter's is a bit heavier at about 1.6, but this one  weighs in at a whopping 2.3kg. This axe is HEAVY!

However all is not lost.
A few years ago I suffered from a bout of tennis elbow. Throwing an axe around all day can be quite a hard physical work out and I assumed that because I don't do this full time I had pushed myself too hard. That year whilst at Spoonfest I attended a talk by Terence McSweeney, green woodworker and professional Osteopath. One of the questions that was put to him was how to avoid tennis elbow (it seems that this was more common than I thought even among full time woodworkers). Terence's answer was that the problem was probably that their axes were too heavy (cue gasps from several affronted axe wielding spoon carvers). He explained that our bodies are not designed to work at full capacity for extended periods of time and therefore if we are using our heaviest axes all day, then our arms are under a lot of strain. What Terence suggested was that we build up our strength by sing a heavier axe for a short period and then when we return to or regular axe we are not working at full capacity.

So this has become my workout axe.

Ironically this axe used to belong to Terence McSweeney. If he was using it for similar purposes, then the axe that he has now worked up to must be a beast.

Note how the back of the axe is slightly convex so that the edges don't bite into the wood