Joe Flowers: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of [STIHL®] TIMBERSPORTS®?
Arden Cogar, Jr.: [STIHL®] TIMBERSPORTS® actually began here in the United States in 1985. However, lumberjack sports began in Australia in 1870 and started in the Basque region of Spain, around 1520 or 1525. Part of one of their traditions of becoming a "man" was to do what was called an endurance race, then run a marathon, and then sod an entire hillside before they can actually propose to their then wife. The endurance race consisted of cutting nine 15-inch beech logs followed by a two-foot beech log, running 15 miles and then they'd sod the hillside and propose to their wife. That race eventually evolved into an actual lumberjack sporting event in Europe.
In Australia, it began as a challenge that happened at a bar when two men who were loggers got into an argument. One said, "well I'm the best axe-man" and the other said, "no, I'm the best axe-man." So, they put 20 quid on the table for the winner of the event, which became the first lumberjack sporting event in Alveston, Tasmania.
In the United States it did not come around until probably the 1930s when a touring axe man from Australia, Peter McLaren, was selling plumb axes for the Plumb Axe Co., a U.S. company in W. Va. He started organizing small events amongst the various champions of logging camps. That is how lumberjack sports got its start.
JF: Is that why the axes, like the Tuatahi, come out of New Zealand?
AC: The competition-racing axes have been perfected by the folks in Australia and New Zealand. There is a major axe manufacturer in New Zealand called Tuatahi, which in their native language means "No. 1." They produce, in mass quantities, axes, crosscut saws, and all accompanying accessories that a [STIHL®] TIMBERSPORTS® athlete would need. There are probably about eight or 10 individuals in Australia who actually hand-make their own axes, just like people would hand-make a knife. They will take a piece of tool steel, machine-it in the shape of an axe, drill out the eye, grind it down to the shape of an axe, and then take it to a place to get it heat-treated. After that, they will use grinders, diamond stones and files in order to make it look like a competition-racing axe.
Now, a lot of our viewers do not participate in competitions. I know that these axes are grinded in a certain way that if somebody was interested in bushcraft or just camping, they might actually chip them out because the axes are not designed for that type of wood. What would translate, safety-wise, that you know of from a competition for using an axe?
Well actually, safety for the sport itself is a lot different than the safety for just splitting firewood. One of the events that we do is called the underhand chop
, where we stand on top of the log to chop, and we are required in the [STIHL®] TIMBERSPORTS® Series to wear protective chain metal leggings. It is basically a shark-bite suit that runs from the tip of the toe all the way up the foot and up the front part of the leg. This way, if we actually do have an accident or a glancing blow, we'll just strike our foot or cut our shoe, but the chain metal will actually stop the axe from cutting out foot. With splitting firewood, the fundamental thing that I always tell people is that you need to be a handle-length away from the log that you are splitting, that way there is no way you can strike your foot when you are striking the log. You want to be one handle-length away, your feet should be squared and the head of the axe should be in the center of your feet. You don't want the head to be in-line with your feet, so that way, if you do happen to have a blow the axe will go between your legs instead of into your leg.
That makes sense. Any other tips? Where can we find information about this process or about getting into STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS®?
The best place to go it STIHLTIMBERSPORTS.com
. On STIHLTIMBERSPORTS.com they have tons of links to related sites for lumberjack sporting axes. For anything else, just Google "racing axes" or "timbersports" and you'll come up with tons of links for lumberjack sport-related events.
Watch the full interview here