Thoughts on First Firearms

When I was six-years-old, I arrived at my grandmother’s house to celebrate my birthday.  The usual festivities were had, but on my special day, my Uncle Scotty was in town from Massachusetts.  He brought in a long present, barely wrapped and handed it to me.  I opened the package and was confused by what it contained.  It was a Harrington & Richardson Youth Model .410 shotgun.

first rifle for child

There was a lot of talk along with it.  Guns are a right of passage in my family.  My brother didn’t get his first gun until he was nine.  Then again, he was a small nine year old.  At six, I was already as big as he was.  The talk was whether or not that little shotgun was going to drop me on my rear end when I shot it.

My dad promptly put me on the back of his  pickup along with all of my cousins and drove us all to the camp, located on the back part of the farm.  My uncles followed us down and everyone gathered around as my dad and uncle showed me how to break open the chamber and insert the shell.  I put the shotgun up to my shoulder and wobbled endlessly as my dad cocked the hammer for me.  On his command, I pulled the trigger.

The little shotgun exploded into a sound that this six-year-old didn’t expect.  It reached out and kicked me in the shoulder like an insane mule, setting my body back at least one foot.  All of the fun was over when I began crying because my shoulder hurt.  I didn’t shoot the gun again until I was eleven.

Fast forward a few years.  My dad was a fur trapper.  We were in Portage Lake, Maine at the home of Wayne Flint.  Wayne sold Allagash Fur Call (of which I will write more about later) and other trapping scents.  He showed my dad a rifle made of plastic. My dad looked perplexed as he shouldered the plastic stock.  He talked about how light the rifle was and Wayne showed him how to load it through the buttstock of the rifle. It was a Remington Nylon 77.

Photo: Chuckhawks.com
Photo: Chuckhawks.com

We were in Wayne’s basement, which like most basements in Maine was loaded with firewood.  Wayne handed the rifle to me and told me to shoot it into the wood pile.  I looked up at my dad for approval and he subtly shook his head no.  I handed the rifle back to Wayne, but not before admiring the fact that it was light and I could easily shoulder it.  Dad got it for me that Christmas.  By the following grouse season in the fall, I was deadly accurate with it.

My children are reaching the age where they are ready to learn how to shoot.  It’s hard to justify to most folks in this day and age that I want my children to know about guns and I certainly don’t want them to be scared of them.  Media poisoning has worked at making people scared of these tools.  I want to pass on the heritage of shooting and hunting and at the same time help them to be responsible and careful while using them.  V.E. Lynch, in his book Trails to Successful Trapping (written in the 1930s), said that any boy over the age of seven should have a trap line and a gun.  I can’t hold up to the trapping part (it is illegal in Colorado), but I did get them a gun.

My brother had a Chipmunk .22 when he was young.  I liked shooting it.  The frame was small and it had a peep sight.  Fast forward thirty years and I found the same set up, but now it’s called a Davey Crickett.  Single shot, bolt action with a synthetic stock.  The bolt feels a lot cheaper than I remember on my brother’s gun, but everything nowadays is outsourced.

I decided to pick up a Davey Crickett .22 for my children.  With a single shot bolt action rifle, it’s easy to control when and how they shoot.  If we’re done shooting, the bolt gets removed and goes into my pocket.  Then, they are able to safely carry the rifle back to camp.  My dad did taught me that and I always thought it was a valuable lesson.


I have them use .22 shorts when they are target practicing.  Why?  Lower velocity.  The rounds they are firing are about 700 feet per second (fps), as opposed to a regular .22 round, which is usually somewhere around 1,200 fps.  In addition, shorts aren’t quite as hard to find as regular .22s right now and…..they’re quiet.  The rapport from .22 shorts at the fps that we are using is very quiet.  That allows me to talk to my kids without raising my voice or risking that they might not hear me.

DSCF3658 DSCF3671 DSCF3663

So far, so good.  We’re working on the basics.  Tin cans and wooden posts.  Soon, we will move onto targets.  Then, rabbits.

Stay tuned.  I’m planning a post on shooting basics for kids sometime in the future.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.


Tin Cup Trust

There was a hermit that lived next to where I grew up. ‘Ol Al Page was his name; he lived in an old shack on a friend’s land. No running water, no electricity, and a woodstove for heat. Once a week, he’d swing by my parent’s to charge the battery for his little TV, but once a day, he’d ride his lawnmower down to the potato house across the road from us. From there, he’d walk across the tracks and disappear into the woods with his bucket. A few minutes later, he’d reappear with a full bucket, and head on home. When us kids were old enough to cross the Rt. 11 by ourselves, we ran across the tracks and down the embankment to see what he was after. Down in the woods was a dirt path; at the end of the path was a board on the ground and a blue enamel tin cup hanging from a tree. Under the board was a clear, cold spring.

The water bubbled up on its own, and it was freezing and fresh, much fresher than the bogan (land-locked dead water with no inlet or outlet) thirty feet away. I once asked Al about the tin cup, and why he left it there. He looked through his coke-bottomed glasses, pursed his lips, and hmm’d in his usual way before he answered. “Dint hang it. Sumnelse did b’fer me.” Sure enough, I noticed that when the train would stop there (it was a junction of road and railroad, and within throwing distance of Squa Pan station), sometimes the brakemen would disappear down into the woods for a quick drink. Al always allowed that after you fished the newts out (and with his legal blindness, I’m sure a few became lunch), that it was the best water to be found anywhere. Even when my parents tried to convince him to come fill up in our kitchen sink, he’d still go get a pail from the spring.

I myself have pulled down the tin cup and had a drink. It was faded blue with black speckles. The handle had been flattened and reshaped, giving it the contours of a boxer’s ear. Someone long ago, before ‘Ol Al, and probably before the potato house, had been so impressed with the water source that they had hung a cup there. Not just for themselves, but for any traveler that walked that way.

The woods and hills where I grew up held many mysteries for a young boy. There are long, straight ruts carved into the woods, with full grown trees growing up between them. In our back field where we drove our go-cart, there were cement pilings peeking from the ground from where an old settlement had stood. There were at least three abandoned old cars in the middle of thick pine forests; so thick that you could barely walk through them, let alone drive a 1939 Mercury out there, roll it over,  and leave it. Once, when I was about fifteen, I was walking out there, I was many miles from my home, and had no clue where I was. I wasn’t worried, because I knew at some point, I’d hit a river, road, or hill tall enough to see where I needed to go. In the middle of nowhere, I came across a bizarre site – a patina-ed tin cup hanging from a tree, about 6 feet up. This one looked almost like a measuring cup, all dull metal with water and sap stains coloring it. I started looking around on the ground, and sure enough – at the base of the tree that the cup was on was a rotten old board. And underneath the board was a spring so cold that your teeth ached after the first sip.

This is not a special case. Ask any oldtimer County resident about it, and they can point you towards a spring somewhere that has a tin cup hanging next to it. No one ever knows where the cup came from, and no one will ever take it home. At the edge of a potato field, not too far from a pull-off of the road, or just a little ways from where the old lumber mill used to be; someone made an investment in the future well-being of others, and left a tin cup. I’m pretty sure it was a per-individual basis – to the best of my knowledge, Northern Maine was never visited by Johnny Tincupseed. It is a thought process that those people never thought about. You know you will want a drink, and why not help out someone else too? Hang a cup. Something that will last, and something that the wife won’t ding you about the old ear hole when she notices it missing.

This is a mentality that I miss. We often lament about how life is nowadays, but for those of us from a more rustic area, it is a glaring change. No one hangs a tin cup. No one helps out their neighbor in an indirect way. In the rare occasions that people do help out a stranger, they hang around and hope to be recognized for it. I miss the days of people doing something because the world will be a better place for it being done. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and iPhones and Clash of Clans, so I don’t want to go back, but I’m just saying let’s hang a tin cup. Do something for someone today just because. Leave something nice somewhere to help out someone else. Tuck a dollar into a library book when you return it. Stick a post-it note on a gas pump and say something nice for the next person who fills up. I’m not really sure what an equivalent gesture would be to the tin cup plan. If you think of one, please let me know. I just know that taking that drink connected me to generations of thirsty and respectful men, and I hope that I can do something someday to hang my own tin cup, and inspire anyone who follows after me. I haven’t been home in a few years, but when I do make the trip again, I’m going to take my son back to that same path through the woods, look for the tree, and hope that a tin cup still hangs there. If it doesn’t, I may have one in my pocket to leave.FullSizeRender (1)


How to Make a Book Safe by Using a Router


I have been refining my technique, and I think I have a pretty good way to build a book safe. There are a lot more ways to do it, but this one seems to work well for me.

First things first, go buy a book. I like going to Libraries, they usually have a book sale where you can pick up something thick, old, and cheap (much like me). You can go to yard sales, book stores, all sorts of places. Pick a good book too. If you have a serious library, with Naughty Nanny and the Fanny Folly’s sticking out of a series of treatises regarding Edgar Allen Poe, someone will know what is up. Pick for what you want to put in it, too. If you want to smuggle a Colt 1911, get something large – a Gideon pocket New Testament won’t hide much.


List of Materials:


Modge Podge

Small Foam brush

Wax paper

2 to 4 clamps of some sort


Router with regular drill bit looking type bit


Razor knife/box cutter

Spare time

1 piece of wood, 2”X16ish”

2 pieces 2”X6ish”

1 piece 1”x16”

I piece, 8”wide by 16” long (these wood sizes aren’t accurate, it’s what I had lying around that worked for me

4 2.5 – 3 inch wood screws

Drill bit slightly larger than the screw shank


Table saw


First step, thumb a few pages into the book, probably 20 or so. Slide a wide piece of waxed paper between the first 20 pages and the rest of the book, wrap and fold it back around and tape the wax paper to itself, like you are making an old school book cover. Do kids even still do that? I know it isn’t worth it in college, they’ll come out with the next edition before you can dog ear page one, because accounting principles change oh so much. $400 a pop, I’m in the wrong line of work.


Repeat this step for the last 20 pages of the book. Now the pages and the book cover are wrapped in wax paper.

Step 2: Break out the Modge Podge. I clamp it down, to keep it from flapping open when I move it around. Wipe the foam brush around the edge of the binding, getting a good, thick coat in. I let it set for an hour or so, and coat it three times. After you let it set for a few hours that last time, use the razor knife to help you separate the waxed paper covered bits from the glued bit. Trim any glue that is hanging out or overlapping.


Step 3: Open thine book up to the first glued page. With the pencil, trace out your shape. Use rough shapes, we’ll do details with the router later. Then get your razor out and get busy. Keep tracing and cutting, a few pages at a time. It is easier if you do a big shape, smaller ones take forever. Don’t tear the pages at all, make sure you cut every bit. Try to keep the same line, but even if you don’t, a lot will be fixed in editing (routing) later. You can do partial thickness if you’d like, but I go through the entire glued section. When I know I’m getting close to the bottom, I flip it over and cut up into the already cut-out bit so that I don’t cut into my 20 free pages at the end. I also put the larger wood piece down, after folding back the 20 pages and back cover.



Step 4: Once you’ve cut out as much as you are going to, assemble your wood. It’s a good idea to route (I use the table saw) the wood where it will join, so that it gives you a single layer. Use the thin piece against the fold, the short pieces for the side, and the longer, thicker piece for the outside long edge. Drill holes in the overhang section of the 2 long pieces – slightly larger than the shank of the screw you will drive down through them. Frame the area you will route (I find it easier to work in sections, rather than do the whole book edge at once) with the wood fame. Flip the back and back 20 all the way back, and put the larger piece of wood back there – screw the frame into it.


Step 5: Route! Rout? Using the router, work on your edges. If it is going to be too deep for the router bit, do everything on one side then flip the book over, reapply the frame, and redo. If you are only going partial thickness, take care to stay at the depth you set, or you’ll be full thickness before you know it. The frame keeps the book tight, so the pages don’t separate, as well as giving you a platform to keep the router level with. I made one book for my brother, so he would have a place to store his 1911. The router came in super handy for the hammer area, muzzle area, and sights. Of course, he doesn’t actually store his gun there because he has kids, and all guns need to be stored in a safe, locked area, and separate from any sources of ammo (be told). But in theory, he totally could!


When you are routing, make sure not to move too fast, or the pages will tear. Also, don’t stay too long in one place, or you will start burning the paper. Keep edging into the paper, if you go for too much at once, you will either burn the paper, tear it, or push scraps of paper into the glued section, which will make it bulge and you will have to go get another book. Take your time, pay close attention to detail, and leave room for error.

Step 6: Once your book internals are finished, take apart everything and look it over. I had to re-glue, so I wrapped the 20 and covers in wax paper, used 2 boards and the clamps, and re-applied Modge Podge and let it sit overnight. Once it is done to your liking, lightly brush a little glue onto the free page at the top and bottom of the glued section. Using the razor knife, cut the top page into a nice, neat final draft. This page will cover up the pencil marks, burn marks, and any other little oopsies you may have caused.


Congrats! You are done! Now fill with your favorite flask, cigars, ammo, weed, gun fund, naughty playing cards, or anything else that you need to keep from prying eyes. I may have one at my office with Fireball Mini shots for rough afternoons, who can say!

Blowing the Dust Off an Old Chapter


Howdy.  Welcome back.  If this is your first time stopping by, welcome.  For those of you who don’t know or remember, The Sharpened Axe started as a blog of man skills back in 2010 by Mike Oscar Hotel.  Over the next few years, the blog became different things to different people.  Ultimately, the blog ended in 2013, lost to the oblivion of the internet.

My friend and former guest author, B&A Stowaway kept our facebook presence up by posting things he was doing in his daily life.  After some talking, we’ve decided to give The Sharpened Axe another try.  Expect DIY tutorials, book reviews, cigar reviews, outdoor skills and…..pretty much whatever we feel like writing about.

Pull up a stump and do some reading.

Mike Oscar Hotel