Chopping wood is a favorite pastime of many when front-country camping. It’s incredibly fun to swing an axe, and you can even play games to see who has the best aim. On most camping trips, I end up with useless bags of kindling because I spend most of the day chopping wood into smaller and smaller pieces.
As fun as an axe can be, it can also be very dangerous. One missed swing could mean a lifelong scar or even a lost toe. So, what can we do to keep safe while chopping?
1 – Wide stance
The most important thing you can do when chopping (aside from not letting go of the axe) is standing with your feet wide apart, and placing the block of wood between them. The reasoning behind this is that even if you miss, or the axe ricochets off to one side, your legs and feet will be far enough apart that the axe won’t hit them.
2 – Holding the Axe
Hold the axe towards the base (a few inches up) with your hands close together. Many people try and holding the axe like a hockey stick with one hand hiked up and the other at the base, but this can be very dangerous. If you hold the axe with your hands apart, your swing will naturally veer to one side. Even with your legs split apart, this increases the chance of cutting yourself.
3 – Look where you swing
When chopping, be sure to look at the spot that you plan on making contact with. This sounds incredibly basic, but I’ve seen people look at the axe, the forest, the ground, and even other people. Looks where you swing, and you’re far more likely to hit it!
4 – Raise the axe over your head
When preparing for your swing, raise the axe right over your head, and not over your shoulder. If the axe is over your shoulder, your swing will come down on an angle and may miss its target
5 - Bend the knees
Midway through your swing, bend your knees and squat down. This has two purposes. First, the swing will be stronger because it will include your own body weight in addition to the force of the swing. Second, with your hands (and the base of the axe) lower to the ground, a missed swing is more likely to hit the ground, instead of your legs or feet.
6 – Stand far away
For those watching the spectacle, be sure to stand a good distance away, and off to the side of the swing. Axes are often made in two parts, and if the sharp metal part comes off, it is likely to fly forwards or backwards. By standing off to the side, you’re safe in case this happens.