By Peter McLaren
To Scout Masters I would say: "Encourage boys in the use of their
scout axe. But first train them how to use it and where to use it. Instill in
their minds that there are certain precautions to be observed, as there are in
the use of a pen knife, or any other edge tool.
What would be more appropriate
in scouting than a series of lessons on the care and use of the scout axe? What
more fascinating than a series of contests to promote interest and efficiency?
What is more stimulating than chopping rivalry in a patrol?
Chopping is an
all-year-'round sport. In unseasonable weather, instructions may be given in
meeting rooms, and demonstrations made on actual logs.
Certain standards of
knowledge and skill should be set up, so that each boy will have some definite
objective, some point of efficiency to which he can work by each time
attempting to improve his own knowledge and skill.
Contests may then take the
form of inter-patrol competitions, spreading later to troop competitions.
There are various lines along which the contest theme could be developed:
written competition could be held, after due study, on Playing Safe, as outlined
in Chapter 4. Such a test would emphasize the
necessity for care in using an axe, and would be an excellent groundwork for a
course of instruction.
A second contest could be a test in efficiency in removing the axe handle without destroying it; refitting handle to the eye;
hanging the axe correctly; wedging it tightly; sharpening blade with a file and
honing with a stone, as outlined in Chapter 2.
Proper hang for Plumb
Official Scout Axe. Always check up this hang each time the axe is refitted.
And a third-spotting on a map (or describing locations of) five specimens of
standing timber which should be removed to improve the appearance of a woods, or
to benefit growing trees. See Chapter 1.
Then the actual use of the tool could
be introduced, along the following lines:
Cutting off twigs and saplings as a
demonstration of axe skill. Points to be considered: Number of strokes;
cleanness of cut, and the point at which severed.
Demonstrating ability to cut
off a hanging branch close to limb or trunk of tree, so that bark will grow over
and heal the cut.
Scaling bark from an appropriate log. Points to be scored
would be: The time consumed; the correctness of method used, and condition of
bark after removal.
Many other forms of competition will suggest themselves to
the Scout Master. And all of them serve the twofold
purpose of increasing the boy's store of useful facts, and of giving him mastery
over the axe.
The scout axe is just a miniature of the man's chopping axe.
Many of the points discussed in this book apply as well to the scout axe as to
the man's axe, especially the safety precautions.
Refitting the Scout Axe.
This is illustrated and described with a large axe on pages 28, 29 and 30 and
may be adapted to the scout axe.
The "Hang." To hang a scout axe
properly, make a mark in the center of your handle eight inches from the eye.
From this mark, the distance to the heel of the axe blade should be eight inches
also. See Figure 55.
Sharpening and Honing. This is discussed in complete detail
in Chapter 2. The only variation from these instructions, when filing a scout
axe, is to file the flat of the blade back only about two inches instead of
three, and to roll the bevel only one-fourth of an inch, instead of a half-inch.
Scouts! Keep your axe sharp. It is the dull edge that glances off the wood and
becomes dangerous. A sharp axe bites in where you aim it.
Always keep your axe in its
sheath when not in use. This is not only a safety measure, but it also protects
the edge from being nicked, and prevents rusting. Do not put the blade near a
fire or you will destroy its temper.
The proper position for carrying the axe on
the belt is over the left hip, and not at the side. See Figure 56.
position for carrying Scout Axe on belt.
Do not crowd
your work. Stand clear, with a free striking distance for the axe as shown in Figure 57.
Keep clear of your work to
permit a free, easy swing of the axe.
Have a clear circle
around the spot you are chopping equal to the distance of the axe held at full
arm's length. See that it is free of vines, sticks, etc., which might deflect
your axe. Stay at a safe distance from other boys, so that flying chips, or a
misdirected blow will do no damage.
Do not use your axe for driving an iron
wedge. You are likely to chip or mash the head.
When chopping a limb from a
tree, or a branch from a limb, always cut from the underside as shown in Figure
1 on page 8. It is easier on the axe because you are cutting with the grain, and
it leaves a smooth joint over which the bark will grow. Never cut into the
Always cut sticks, etc., at
an angle, when cutting across the grain. Never drive your axe straight in. It
makes for harder chopping and dulls the edge. By chopping at an angle, you
follow the grain and cut faster, with less effort. See Figure 58.
Chop at an angle.
Never drive the axe in straight.
sticks across the grain, support the sticks on solid wood, and strike at an
angle as described above. At the same time that the axe bites into the wood,
tilt the axe head sharply so that it pins down the loose piece and prevents it
from flying. See Figure 58.
When chopping boxes for firewood, lay the board flat
upon some solid wood support, hold it by the side and strike your blows as shown
in Figure 59, chopping with the grain, of course.
The safe method of cutting box wood for building a fire.
No danger to the hands.
When chopping stakes, lay the
stake on a solid object in the same way, and strike it as shown in Figure 60.
A safe way to cut stakes.
The end of the board, where the axe strikes,
is supported by solid wood.
Or beginners may find it easier to
use the method illustrated in Figure 61. Here the stake is placed on the far
side of a log, and a misdirected or glancing blow will fall harmlessly upon the
This meth od for beginners,
eliminates all risk from glancing blows.
Keep your axe head tight always. The Plumb Official Axe can be retightened
by turning the patented Screw Wedge, as shown in Figure 62.
of the Official Plumb Scout Axe ca n be kept tight just by turning the patented
When chopping live
shoots to clear away underbrush, bend the shoot over. This gives a resiliency
to the wood and enables the axe blade to cut it off more easily.
your axe to another, grasp it firmly by the head with the edge towards you, and
insist that the boy receiving it grasp it by the head. Do not hold out the
handle to him, as in a careless moment he may grasp it loosely in his hand, and
the weight of the head will carry the tool down sharply towards his legs.
Stripping Bark. First, cut through the bark in a
straight line from one end of the log to the other. Then start at one end and
work the blade underneath the bark. Use the handle as a lever to lift the blade
and loosen the bark. Progress down the log in this manner. Return to the top and
begin again, inserting the axe deeper. Do not attempt to loosen too great an
area at one time, or the bark will crack, but continue your progress from end to
end of log until you have gone all the way around it.