Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lady Luck and the Missing Blade

Accidents are a strange phenomenon. In the aftermath we try to piece the sequence of events back together. What led to this, what was missed, how did this happen, who was to blame? Why didn't I do this instead? Or that? What if..... if only I had....

We've all had them in varying degrees of severity. From pinched fingers and broken bones to those that leave damage for a lifetime. Some are so bizarre and catastrophic that there had to have been something in the air just before their occurrence, something that you think would be perceived with just a little attention.

And maybe this is true for all the ones that didn't happen, countless moments we don't remember. We hesitated. We stopped. We anticipated and stepped aside. We paid attention. The accident didn't happen.

Yesterday I went out to the wood lot to get another load of firewood, work that has a good deal of accident potential. I took down a fairly large standing dead white oak and dropped it right where I planned, a little victory I don't take for granted. Then went about the business of cutting it up and loading the truck.

The first 20" of the butt end was too big for me to lift. I rolled it back up on the stump for a place to work and with a maul buried the one wedge I'd brought. A good start but not enough for stringy white oak. I'd have to come back with another wedge or the splitting maul.

At the house I unloaded the truck. Son Dylan had just arrived and brought with him a splitting tool he prefers, a Fiskars splitting axe. I tried it out on some red oak rounds and was duly impressed. Light in handle and heavy in head with a sharp blade. The wedge like shape keeps it from sticking like a regular axe and often one good swing was cleaving sections from the round. I put it in the truck with another wedge and headed back to the stump.

I freed the wedge and worked a while with the new tool making nice sized billets for the stove. But then there is an instant that I can't quite recall. I am swinging the tool and then it is in the ground between my feet and my ankle bone smarts. I realize the tool has glanced off and was a mere fraction of an inch from embedding the blade in my ankle. I don't know how I missed my mark on the piece I was splitting, I can't picture it. I do know that in that instant it was only Lady Luck standing between me and my carelessness. I get a chill thinking of the damage I could have inflicted.

When splitting wood the axe or maul is raised high above the head and brought down with force. The hand nearest the head slides down the handle. The key to doing this safely is bringing the wrists down near the ground on the follow through so that in case of a miss the head goes into the ground instead of pivoting back to you. I know this. I have demonstrated it to others. Why did I not do this?

This was an accident that didn't happen. A little swelling, a little black and blue. It will be forgotten. Lucky me.

Be careful out there.

No comments: