On a good day, completing all six of the disciplines on the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series should take less than two and a half minutes. For every 55-second cut in the springboard or every 20-second cut in the standing block, hundreds of blocks and thousands of hours of preparation have been logged before the contestant steps onto the stage. On the day of a competition, even more time and preparation is put into loading up the competitor tent so each contestant can complete his six disciplines quickly and smoothly. Anyone who has arrived early to a STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series event has likely seen the swarm of competitors carrying boxes, crates and bags into the tent, only to disappear behind the stage before returning to draw wood and mark logs for the contest. What each competitor carries in those boxes and bags are the tools to keep the day running smoothly and may include a bit of mystery and magic.
One of the easiest pieces of lumberjack equipment to identify is the axe box. These are usually constructed of aluminum, fiberglass, or sometimes wood and are designed to safely carry axes to the contest. With three chops in white pine completed in the Series, a contestant will bring several different sized and ground axes to complete the chops, plus at least one other less sharp axe for peeling bark off in the springboard or driving dogs in for the underhand. Some competitors bring as many as a dozen or more axes, which means more axe boxes.
Axe boxes do more than carry axes though, they represent a bit of a lumberjack purse and place to safely carry everything else required for the day. This includes small things, like logging crayons and a dressmaker's tape to mark out chopping scarves, or chalk to keep a good grip on axe handles. Chainmail booties and shin guards also fall into the axe box so they are handy when it’s time to prepare for the chopping events or pretend to be a knight in shining armor.
Bigger non-axe things seem to find their way into axe boxes too. On a competition day, lumberjacks become a bit like Cinderella, changing shoes back and forth throughout the contest depending on events. Flat-soled, indoor soccer type shoes are the preferred footwear for events like the springboard and the underhand chop, where gummy soles grip the log or springboard well. In events like the single buck or the standing block chop, corks or deck shoes are used. These shoes start out as soccer cleats before meeting with a grinder and belt sander to smooth off the cleats. Then, competitors drill holes through the soles to install small spikes called “corks” to grip the wooden deck. These corks are the same things loggers wear on the soles of their boots when working in the woods to provide traction in unstable footing. They also carry reminders to keep competitors grounded during the competition. Bumper stickers, personal messages, pictures of family and random stickers can be seen in and on all the axe boxes.
Getting all of those bits of equipment leaves the prepared lumberjack with one more bag or toolbox to catch everything else. This bag or box often contains lubricating oil to spray on everything from axes to the single buck saw to prevent rust, or to spray on the single buck saw during the event to keep the saw lubricated and make sure the gullets do not become packed full of noodles. A wooden wedge, usually carefully hewn from a broken axe handle, also sits in this bag for use during the single buck event and inserted to the top of the kerf by the person oiling and wedging during the cut. This wedge keeps the top of the cookie from pinching the top of the saw and acting like disc brakes during the cut. A favorite single buck saw handle and wrench to install the handle usually lives near the wedge as well so a contestant can come to his table and find all he needs has been left together. For competitors who choose to use foot blocks during the single buck event, a pair of competitor cut two-by-fours with hardware to secure them to the deck on set measurements live near the single buck handle along with a drill or hammer to secure them. These pieces of wood are bolted to the deck giving the competitor something to push his feet against when sawing like a sprinter in the blocks during the 100m dash.
Beyond that, what occupies the boxes and bags in the tent varies between competitors. Some are known to carry spare hot saw parts; most carry at least an extra spark plug with fuel and bar oil plus a back up starter cord. Spare slab nails, lubricating spray, and water bottles seem to sit on every table. A foam roller and an extra quart of chocolate milk reside in the stashes of other competitors plus whatever food and hydration is required to make it through the day. A trustworthy friend to caddie for competitors on race day, and a knowledgeable wife or girlfriend or other buddy who is down for road trips also ease the tension of the day or provide a well-timed cheer. Although the individual racing may take only minutes, the set up, time between heats, and teardown consume the majority of the day for competitors. The right gear and a good support crew help keep things running smooth.