In preparation for the semester class I spent yesterday cutting dead wood and making the bases for several shelter frames. I used an axe to fell the tress, all dead, and a saw to cut them to length. Using a saw instead of an axe to section trees I can get more useable wood since there isn’t a pile of wood chips for each cut. Using the axe for this process chews up a length equal to the diameter of the tree, so I opted for the saw. The axe I used was my old Snow and Neally, a 3.5 pound head on a 31 inch handle. I think it was made in the 1960’s, but I can’t tell for sure. I know it was made in the days when there were two different pieces of steel for the bit and the poll, because it takes and holds a very sharp edge. It’s got “Snow and Neally” stamped into the metal, which is usually a good sign with any axe that it was made in the era when axes were made with much greater care than they are today. These days you get a company sticker on the head, not a stamp, and the steel is tempered the same throughout. But these days very few people are using an axe for cutting wood. Most people are using chain saws, and when they do pick up an axe it’s to cut a root in the ground or some other task where a sharp, well-tempered axe wouldn’t be of any benefit.
That old axe is a pleasure to use. It’s also a good reminder to me that it isn’t always about just getting the job done; how you do it is also important. I could have used a chain saw to fell those trees and probably worked a little faster, but by using the axe I was able to walk away with the satisfaction and fatigue of a physical job well done.