Grasp the axe with the left hand, close to the end of the handle, even closer than is shown in the diagram (Fig. 326); with the right hand grasp the handle close to the head of the axe, then bring the axe up over your shoulder and as you strike the blow, allow the right hand to slide down naturally (Fig. 327), close to the left hand; learn to reverse, that is, learn to grasp the lower end of the handle with the right hand and the left hand near the top, so as to swing the axe from the left shoulder down, as easily as from the right shoulder.
To be a real axeman, a genuine dyed-in-the-wool, blown-in-the-glass type, each time you make a stroke with the axe you must emit the breath from your lungs with a noise like Huh! That, you know, sounds very professional and will duly impress the other boys when they watch you chop, besides which it always seems to really help the force of the blow.
It was from a colored rail splitter from Virginia, who worked for the writer, that the latter learned how to burn out the broken end of the handle from the axe head. Bury the blade of your axe in the moist earth and build a fire over the protruding butt (Fig. 328); the moist earth will prevent the heat from spoiling the temper of your axe blade while the heat from the fire will char and burn the wood so that it can easily be removed.
If you are using a double-bitted axe, that is, one of those very useful but villainous tools with two cutting edges, and the handle breaks off, make a shallow trench in the dirt, put the moist soil over each blade, leaving a hollow in the middle where the axe handle comes and build your fire over this hollow (Fig. 329).
If your axe handle is dry and the head loosens, soak it over night and the wood will swell and tighten the head. Scoutmaster Fitzgerald of New York says, "Quite a number of scouts have trouble with the axe slipping off the helve and the first thing they do is to drive a nail which only tends to split the helve and make matters worse. I have discovered a practical way of fixing this. You will note that a wire passes over the head of the axe in the helve in the side view. Then in the cross-section in the copper wire is twisted and a little staple driven in to hold it in place." This may answer for a belt axe but the hole in the handle will weaken it and would not be advisable for a large axe (Fig. 330).
We have said that the axe is a chest of tools, but it is a dangerous chest of tools. While aboard a train coming from one of the big lumber camps, the writer was astonished to find that although there were but few sick men aboard, there were many, many wounded men in the car and none, that he could find, wounded by falling trees; all were wounded by the axe itself or by fragments of knots and sticks flying from blows of the axe and striking the axeman in the eyes or other tender places.
I have often warned my young friends to use great care with firearms, because firearms are made for the express purpose of killing. A gun, having no brains of its own, will kill its owner, his friends, his brother or sister, mother or father, just as quickly and as surely as it will kill a moose, a bear or a panther. Therefore it is necessary for the gunner to supply the brains for his gun.
The same is true with the axeman. Edged tools are made for the express purpose of cutting, and they will cut flesh and bone as quickly and neatly as they will cut wood, unless the user is skillful in the use of his tool; that is, unless he supplies the brains which the tools themselves lack.
So you see that it is " up to you " boys to supply the brains for your axes, and when you do that, that is, when you acquire the skill in the use, and judgment in the handling, you will avoid painful and may be dangerous or fatal accidents, and at the same time you will experience great joy in the handling of your axe. Not only this but you will acquire muscle and health in this most vigorous and manly exercise.
We are not telling all this to frighten the reader but to instil into his mind a proper respect for edged tools, especially the axe.