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  • Selecting an Axe by Size

    Posted on April 12th, 2019 admin No comments

    Select an Axe by Size

    It is important to have a tool that’s not to big or too small for the intended user. An axe that has too heavy or too light a head, with a handle that is too long or too short, is an axe that poses a potential danger to the user and to bystanders.

    Weight of the Axe Head

    A light hatchet head might be one to two lbs (0.5 to 1 kg). A typical forest axe is 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lbs (1 kg to 1.5 kg). A splitting axe is in the same range. A splitting maul might be 4-1/2 to 8 lbs (2 kg to 3.5 kg). An axe that is too light or too heavy will be more work to use, the first because it is uncomfortably heavy and the second because more swing effort will be required to drive the light head.

    A stronger person may be more comfortable with a heavier axe head.

    A variety of sizes of axe (note that the three to the right have identically designed heads)

    Length of the Axe Handle

    Axes come in a range of lengths for each type.

    • A hatchet may range from 8″ (200 mm) to 14″ (400 mm),
    • A forest axe might range from 28″ to 36″ (700 mm to 900 mm)
    • A camp axe will be 20″ to 24″ (500 to 600 mm).
    A variety of head weights and handle lengths

    Generally the shorter handles also have lighter heads. Because an axe is a lever, the force of the head is magnified by the handle. A handle that is too long takes excessive effort to wield and will be dangerous in the hands of a small or unskilled user with insufficient strength (who will choke up on the handle, compounding the danger), while a handle that is too short cannot apply sufficient force and may strike at an awkward angle.  Generally speaking, a taller user might be more comfortable with a longer handle. A smaller user or a youth will find both a lighter head and a shorter handle to be convenient.

    There may also be carrying considerations – backpacking or canoeing may dictate a shorter, lighter axe, for example.

    For efficiency and safety, choose the right axe

    For most efficient cutting and greatest safety, choose an axe that is right for the job, with a head weight and handle length that suits the strength, frame, and skill of the user.

  • How Much Does a Good Axe Cost?

    Posted on April 12th, 2019 admin No comments

    What is the cost of a good axe?

    There are several factors that determine the cost of an axe, but the price is not always related directly to the value. Of six apparently identical axes in a rack, one may well be worth more than the others. Here are the factors to consider:

    Axe head considerations

    A well-forged head will not split or crack, but cheaper axes may not be well-forged. A head that is annealed and hard enough to maintain a good edge may also chip if mistreated.

    Most axes in hardware and camping stores are general-purpose splitting axes, with a wide bevel at the bit, and a convex shape towards the eye.

    “If you just casually camp and want to split wood at campsites where chunks are likely to be gritty – stay with a cheap axe: it will be more durable and the less acute bevel will split knotty stuff better.” – James Aston, http://www.oldjimbo.com/survival/iltis.html

    Axe handle material also affects the cost.

    • Wood is the traditional material and remains the most economical, though cheaper axes use poor wood of low strength and questionable grain hidden by paint. While some feel it is the most ecologically friendly (because of the cost and environmental impact of other materials), it does require regular maintenance and care.
    • Fiberglass – stronger and lighter by comparison to wood, but more costly. Because it is relatively impervious to moisture and abuse by porcupines, and because it damps striking vibrations, it is an increasingly popular choice in standard axes and especially on splitting mauls.
    • Steel – Unibody axes, with head and handle forged as a single unit, are high-end models. The striking force transmitted down the handle is damped with a rubber grip. One popular brand that uses steel handles is Estwing. Cheaper versions may have a tubular steel handle brazed into the eye of a standard head.
    • Composite – New plastic/fibreglass composite materials are finding their way into handles for axes and hatchets.The handle is molded around the head, eliminating the eye. Fiskars and Gerber are well-known brands using this design. Other composites include a fiberglass core, a polypropylene sleeve, and an elastomer grip.

    Watch for sales

    Of course, you’ll want to watch your local stores for specials. Sometimes top quality tools are available at discount prices. You might luck out for a good discount at a “scratch and save” event. Manufacturer’s specials also come up from time to time.

    Get the best axe you can afford

    When choosing an axe based on cost, you’ll still want to look for a tool that will be suited for its intended use and user. Your goal is to select the best axe you can get for the price you pay.

  • Select an Axe for a Purpose

    Posted on April 11th, 2019 admin No comments


    Over the centuries, axes have been developed for a wide range of uses, from war to woodwork. While the war-axe has fallen out of use, those used in forestry and camping have continued to evolve, especially in regard to handle materials.

    It is the purpose of this article to assist the user in selecting an Axe by type and purpose.

    Utility Axes

    • Hatchet – a small light utility axe, designed to be portable (worn on a belt or carried in a pack). It will trim branches, split kindling, drive tent pegs, section meat. It usually has a light head with a narrow bit (blade) and a handle with a swell knob to prevent the axe from slipping out of the hand. Easy to use and control with one hand.
    • Limbing Axe or Small Forest Axe – similar to the felling axe (below) but with a lighter, slightly thicker head and a shorter handle, used for limbing (cutting branches off) fallen trees.

    A small forest axe is an excellent utility camp axe and is the type usually sold in sporting goods and hardware stores in a variety of head weights and handle lengths. A 20″ (500 mm) handle and a 1.5 lb (0.7 kg) head is a good choice, long enough for effective two-hand chopping, light enough to choke for one-handed use, and short enough for convenience and portability.

    Felling Axes

    A double-bit axe. The near edge is for felling, the far edge for limbing.
    • Felling Axe or Forest Axe – A felling axe is a professional axe for taking down trees.  This axe will have a longer handle and a slim blade with concave sides so that it cuts deeply and takes out large chips.  It is not intended as a general purpose or camp axe.  It will also have a shaped handle opposite the head.  A small forest axe is used for limbing, as described above.
    • Double-Bit Axe – This is the axe people associate with Paul Bunyan. According to The Axe Book from Swedish axe maker Gransfors Bruks, “Typically one blade was sharpened to a finely-honed, narrow ‘felling edge’, while the second blade was ground slightly blunter.” The blunter blade was used for limbing on the ground, where the sharper blade would be liable to damage.

    Splitting Axes and Splitting Mauls

    A heavy splitting maul — one of the few axes designed to strike with the poll
    • Splitting Axe – Designed for splitting chunks of wood (rounds) into stovewood or firewood, the splitting axe has a concave, thin bit and a thicker eye. This design allows the axe to penetrate deeply then force the wood to split at the thicker part. Various headweights and handle lengths are available.
    • Splitting Maul – This is designed for splitting heavy rounds. The head is heavier and thicker than that of a splitting axe, and the rounded poll is hardened for driving splitting wedges. Generally comes with a straight handle to permit use of both blade and poll.
    • Mechanized Splitting Axe – This design has a couple of cams or rotating levers inset into the head, designed to lever the wood apart. The head is made of cast iron rather than forged steel and is particularly thick to support the pins holding the cams in place.
    A mechanical splitting axe

    A Safety Note: The average axe is not meant to be used to strike with the poll or butt.

    When selecting any axe for a particular purpose, price is an important consideration. Cheaper axes often have handles made from low-grade wood with poor grain (hidden with paint), poorly shaped heads (often too thick for good cutting) and badly forged (again, covered with paint). 

    Choose an axe designed for its intended use, but don’t cut too many corners on cost.  A good axe will hold its edge, cut well, and last for years.

    Further Reading

  • About Axes

    Posted on April 11th, 2019 admin No comments

    In 2005, I began a series about axes on an online writing site, Suite101. I’ve used a variety of axes since adolescence, did a stint of logging with my father and uncles, took some survival courses that involved axe work, and was later involved as an instructor with Scouts Canada, all of which I felt gave me enough knowledge to be a reputable source.

    The series included the following topics:

    The series was popular and drew many comments, which unfortunately I was not able to recover when Suite101 was taken offline. However, I did manage to salvage the original articles, which I hope to re-post in the next few months.

  • Are Expired Foods Dangerous?

    Posted on April 9th, 2019 admin No comments

    What foods are dangerous/toxic after their expiry date?

    We’ve had a hard time convincing our wasteful kids that a “best before” date is a guideline, not a “throw away before” date. Is it really all that dangerous to consume “expired” foods?

    Foods that are fresh, that have been handled frequently, and that are unprocessed are a bad bet. Meat, leafy vegetables and their juices, soft cheeses come readily to mind. They might not even make it to the “expiry” date. On the other hand, you know that things like apples and citrus will last a fair while on the counter, even longer in the fridge.

    Processing and Preservation

    Processed foods, frozen foods, treated foods, dried food, preserved foods — these will last considerably longer if properly stored in undamaged containers/packaging. Mankind has been storing food in various ways throughout our history — drying, salting, freezing, submerging — and mostly it works. The food lasts, and it doesn’t (usually) make us sick.

    Things like beef jerky and freeze-dried food in their original sealed pouches, dry macaroni, unopened crackers, dry cereal and the like can conceivably last months or even years past their recommended date. They don’t have enough moisture for harmful bacteria or molds to grow.

    Even mold on bread or hard cheese does not require discarding the food. Cut away the moldy parts, with a good margin for safety, and the rest is okay.

    Canned food, and sealed foods like jam or pickles, work by keeping nasty microbes out. Canned food is usually dated for two years, but provided the cans are not dented, leaking, rusty, or bulging, they should be good for two or three more years.

    You might have to put up with a stale taste or freezer burn, but those things are not necessarily dangerous.

    A case study: Freeze-dried food

    Tucked up in a cupboard in our cabin, which is unheated in the winter and can get pretty hot if unattended in summer, we had some freeze dried meals that we’d forgotten about. We took them down and found they were five years past their “best by” date, which was 1 year after purchase. So they had sat for six years through numerous freeze/thaw cycles.

    We cooked them according to package directions and they were fine. Well, as fine as dehydrated meals ever are.

    I reported this the the manufacturer, who said they were required by law to put that one-year expiry date. They had been in business for over 10 years and their first products were still okay and as far as they were concerned the things should be good for a century.

    But that’s a special case — a food specifically designed and packaged for longevity, with an artificially low expiry date.

    Food Roulette

    Conventional wisdom is “If in doubt, throw it out.” Millions of dollars of perfectly good food hits the landfills using that principle.

    Generally speaking, if it looks okay, and smells okay, and its package was intact, and it’s not too far past the expiry date, it’s probably okay. That’s a lot of ifs. Here’s one more: If you’re a competent adult, you can make a choice to play food roulette. Chances are pretty high that you’ll survive.

  • Segway Tours

    Posted on April 8th, 2019 admin No comments

    Segway Guided Tours

    Personal Transporter Intuitive, Easy to Use.


    About the Segway personal transport

    The Segway Personal Transporter (Segway PT, originally called Segway Human Transporter or Segway HT) is a self-balancing two-wheeled electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen. It was first introduced in 2001 and is produced by Segway Inc. of New Hampshire, USA. Although initial sales did not meet expectations, later models found gradual acceptance with police forces, warehouse personnel, and – increasingly – urban tours. My wife and I took one such tour in Yuma, Arizona in 2009

    Tom & Dawn on Yuma Segway tour

    Riding the Segway PT

    Riding a Segway PT, we found, is as intuitive as walking. Users lean forward to go forward, with the forward speed proportional to the amount of lean (up to a limit built into the device). Stand upright to stop or remain in place. Lean back to go backward, again with proportional (and limited) speed. Although the original HT/PT used a twist handlebar to turn, our models turned with a “Lean Steer” handlebar, leaning it left or right to go in the appropriate direction .

    “I was a bit afraid of it, at first,” said my wife Dawn, who was 62 at the time we took the Segway tour in Yuma. “But Kate, the tour guide, was very patient, and it only took a few minutes before I felt confident. It’s really easy to use.”

    “Our oldest rider was 85,” says Kate Cook of SegwaYuma Tours. “He had no trouble at all.”

    Cook and her husband Steve, a retired airline pilot, started their Segway Guided Tour company in 2007. “We were looking for a good business, and recognized a need for this kind of thing in the Yuma area,” Steve explained. The Yuma tour will take a maximum of six visitors. “We offer up to a half hour of training, then a 90-minute tour through historic downtown Yuma, over the Ocean to Ocean Bridge, through Yuma Crossing, along the Colorado River to Pivot Point.”

    Segway Guided Tours

    “Transporters are becoming popular because they allow tourists to cover much more territory than a walking tour while still offering an up-close-and-personal experience, a quality often missing from bus tours and similar excursions….This often results in a tour that is much more fun and lively than a traditional mass-market tour,” claims the Segway Guided Tours Directory.

    We rode around a good-sized chunk of Yuma on our tour

    According to that Directory, the number of Segway Guided Tour companies had grown by 1000% since 2004 to the time of our tour. It now lists 651 tours in 436 cities in 56 countries. Of 319 currently (at time of writing) listed independent tour operators in the United States, sixty-one (61) are in Florida, with California a close second at 48 (48). At the time we did our Yuma tour, those figures were 200 worldwide, 18 in Florica, and 21 in California, which shows how much the activity has grown in the past decade

    In addition to U.S. locations, the directory features tours worldwide in areas as diverse as Lithuania, Turkey, Italy and the United Kingdom; the number of international Segway guided tour operations doubled between 2006 and 2008.

    Environmentally friendly

    Here’s a little green propaganda from the Segway folks.

    Zero emissions are only part of the benefit of using a Segway PT. You’re doing more than just shifting your consumption from petroleum to electric. Everything about the PT was designed to use that electricity as efficiently as possible. When you dig a little deeper, and compare the source fuel (petroleum vs. the fuel mix used to produce electricity), plus the cost of distributing or transporting the power, the Segway PT is eleven times more efficient than the average American car, and over three times more efficient than even the highest-mileage scooters.

    The Segway PT has many benefits for you and the environment: less gas to buy, easier to park, and less wear on your car. It can also help reduce the impact of global warming by reducing our greenhouse gas output and consumption of imported fossil fuels.

    Changes to Segway Tours

    The Cooks retired and sold their business some time ago, and we lost touch. However, there is still a Segway tour in Yuma and I’m sure it’s well worth a visit. Some tours may now use the newer Segway Minipro or its lighter Ninebot cousin.

    If you have a chance to take a Segway tour, we certainly recommend that you give it a try.

    A version of this article was originally posted on Suite101.com

  • The Garbage Truck Philosophy

    Posted on April 6th, 2019 admin No comments
    I didn’t write this. Originally posted to Suite101.com by
    Thomas Alan Gray
    Aug 26, 2009

    The Garbage Truck Philosophy

    One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

    My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!

    The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked,’Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!’

    This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’

    He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.

    Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

    The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.

    Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so –

    • Love the people who treat you right.
    • Pray for the ones who don’t.

    Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

    Have a blessed, garbage-free day!

    * * * * *

    More articles on simple living (These links are dead but will be restored soon)

    The Joy of Cottage Life

    Teardrop Travel Trailers Pros & Cons

    Natural Tinder for Starting Campfires

  • Birth Certificates – What, Why, How

    Posted on April 6th, 2019 admin No comments

    The What, Why, How of Birth Certificates


    A birth certificate is an official government document that records the details of a person’s birth. Minimum information will be the name, date and place of birth, and parents of the individual.

    Why issue birth certificates?

    From at least the time of ancient Egypt, the state has wanted to keep track of its citizens through birth and census records, largely for tax purposes. In modern times, birth records help determine future needs for education, health, and other social programs.


    Why get a birth certificate?

    A birth certificate constitutes proof of identity; the mere possession of the birth certificate is a first step towards obtaining other documents such as a passport or drivers license.

    Whether you want a birth certificate for obtaining other documents such as a passport or for documenting a family history, you need to apply to the government in the place of birth. Most governments maintain a specific office for dealing with the “vital statistics” of birth, marriage, and death, though some jurisdictions may privatize the local permit offices.


    How to get a birth certificate?

    Regardless of the specific mechanism or bureaucracy, the process generally involves

    • filling in a form specifying certain details of the birth (which might include date and place of birth, names of parents),
    • swearing or testifying to the accuracy of the information and the right of the applicant to obtain the information, and
    • paying a fee for the service.

    This process may be done online for some states or provinces; in others it might be necessary to physically visit the appropriate government office.  Some places may have the records digitized and be able to provide a print copy immediately; other locales may require a wait of up to several days or weeks.

    While parents were probably issued an original  certificate at the time of birth of the child, any certificate obtained by the methods above will be a duplicate or extract, an official copy that has the legal force of the original.


    Can I get Uncle Joe’s birth certificate?

    If you are doing genealogy or family history, there may be limits as to what (or whose) birth certificate you can obtain.  It is probable that in most countries, historical records of over a certain age — 30 years, for example — are coPnsidered public documents, because the individuals involved are deceased  (there is still some debate as to what “rights” a deceased person may have).  In other cases, you might need to prove a relationship to the person whose records you are seeking in order to obtain the information.


    Birth certificates are useful to have, whether for proving identity, obtaining other documents, or pursuing family history.

  • Bad Credit RV Loans

    Posted on April 5th, 2019 admin No comments

    RV Loan May be Accessible Despite Past Bad Credit


    Bad credit history? Discharged bankruptcy? Don’t give up your dream of owning an RV and enjoying the freedom of low-cost vacation.


    About Past Bad Credit RV Loans

    Get a loan for a Green RV

    A credit company may describe an RV loan for someone with a bad credit history as a “superior loan” that will “save you hundreds of dollars in interest.” Take that with caution.

    A bank may also advance a loan for an RV, but banks tend to consider RV loans as “bad debt”. The Bank of Nova Scotia, in their advice on credit management ( http://www.scotiabank.com/cda/content/0,,CID11560_LIDen,00.html#smart) suggest that “Borrowing money to purchase a luxury item that has no future financial value” is an example of a bad debt. Why? Because where a car is considered almost a necessity for getting to work, an RV is considered a luxury item. An RV is a depreciating asset. Like a new car, an RV loses value the minute it leaves the dealer lot, and continues to lose value with every year and every mile. But unlike the car, an RV tends to sit in the yard much of the time, which in the bank’s view provides little future benefit­.

    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/27/c3/14/27c314f8efc62c3b0b12364fe763a234.jpgSo if the banks, which are supposed to be cautious lenders, consider an RV loan to be a bad debt, even for someone with good credit history, why would other lenders be willing to give money to somebody with bad credit?


    Look for a Special Purpose Loan.

    One possibility is a loan for a specified object, which may be easier to get.  This will usually be a fixed rate loan offered by lenders for a particular purpose or purchase.   Such loans might include

    • motorcycle loans
    • boat loans
    • RV loans
    • lease buyouts

    Special purpose loans might sometimes be easier to obtain than non-specific loans.


    Why a Bad Credit RV Loan May Still be a Good Risk

    There are some reasons why bad credit RV loans are made available.

    1. Low delinquency – RV loans tend to have a low delinquency rate, according to the American Banker’s Association (as reported at rvbroker.com). This means that RV loans can be a relatively good credit risk when compared to other types of loans.

    2. Brokered Risk – The risk of a bad credit RV loan can be spread around. A loan can be brokered among several lenders, so that in the event of a default, no single lender takes the full hit. This reduced risk may make the loan more acceptable to the broker who offers the loan.

    3. High Interest – Loans to those with past bad credit may come at a higher interest rate. The profit from RVers with a good payment history can offset the loss from a few loans that go bad.

    4. Secured Loan – An RV is collateral that can be resold, if only for part of its value, so that a defaulted loan is not a total loss.

    5. Volume – An online lender with a large client base will be able to balance out a few bad credit loans against a solid base of good credit loans, thus reducing the risk exposure.

    6. Debt Consolidation – The RV loan can be made part of a total debt plan. If the credit company knows their client is working to manage things well, it’s easier to give them the loan.

    If the dream of family camping in the comfort and safety of an RV still shines, past bankruptcy or past bad credit doesn’t have to make the dream die. Shop carefully for the best rates, and work with the lender to carefully manage the debt.

    This article originally appeared on Suite101.com.

  • Amount of Sugar in Coke

    Posted on November 25th, 2018 admin No comments

    Earlier today, someone shared this on my Facebook timeline:



    Well,we all know that Coca Cola and other sodas are sugary drinks.  Note that the amount of sugar in the baggie looks pretty much equal to or greater than the volume of the coke can.  Looking at that, I wondered if that much sugar could even be dissolved in a Coke can full of water.

    A quick google showed that, according to an article by CBC,    Coke contains 39 grams of sugar in a 355 mL can.

    My wife has a nice digital kitchen scale (not legal for trade, but accurate enough for this), so let’s check that out and see what 39 g of sugar looks like.   I grabbed the sugar bowl, a teasp0on, and a snack baggie and headed to the kitchen to do some science.    I turned on the scale, set it to grams, put on the baggie, set Tare (removing the mass of the baggie from the measurement) and started spooning sugar into the baggie.   One…  Two… Three…  Four… Five…  Oops, a bit too much.  Take out 1/2  spoonful.   There:  39 grams of sugar.   Just under five teaspoons.


    Up against the Coke can, it looked like this:


    Four and a half teaspoons is a pretty hefty amount of sugar, but my baggie doesn’t look nearly as fat as the one in the meme, does it?  It’s about a third to a half of what is shown there.

    Facebook memes are often deliberately distorted in order to manipulate you.   Another excellent example of why I never believe at first glance anything I see on Facebook.

    Never share before you:

    • Examine.
    • Question.
    • Doubt.
    • Disbelieve.
    • Check.
    • Think.


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