Unexpected Lessons from the Mall

I hit the mall about once or twice yearly, for whatever terrible reason.  Today, we ended up at a mall and had to stay there for a couple of hours.  As painful as that can be, we made the best of it and saw a few things of note.

First up, axes!  There’s an LL Bean store at the local mall and, being from Maine originally, I had to stop in and check out their overpriced awesomeness.  I milled around for a bit and found myself in front of the rack with hatchets and camp axes.  I saw Gransfors Bruks, Wetterlings, and I was more than a little surprised to see Council Tool represented on the rack.  Council Tool, as far as I know, is the last manufacturer of American made axes.  They are based out of North Carolina.

It’s a decent hatchet with the LL Bean logo embossed on it.  Three or four years ago, Councils were selling between $40 and $60 bucks.  Apparently, they caught on to the fact that axes have a cult following and there are those out there that believe that the more you pay for an axe, the better it is.  Viva la capitalism.

After that, we headed for the doll shop.



So, I wasn’t aware of this, but there’s a very popular doll line that has stores dedicated to it.  If you can believe it, this store has a hair salon for dolls.  And people bring their dolls in to have their hair done.  And it’s not considered theft, because it’s consensual.


I decided to use the bathroom while I was there.  It was the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever been in.  Apparently because no men have ever entered.


My thoughts went to the next economic crisis.  I know, I know, doomsday crier. Ruining everything that’s fun!  But how do you compete for a job to feed your family when you’ve got “doll hair stylist” on your resume?  I felt bad for those people.  Maybe we’re all in the same boat with a hole in it, but I can’t help but think that those with a more practical skill set are going to be much better off in the next economic crash.

Lessons were to be had, as well.  Eldest boy was miserable in the doll store.

“I’ll never forgive any of you for bringing me to this horrible store,” he said.


This was the prominently displayed face.  None of the people that worked there seemed surprised by it.

I explained to him that one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in life is to show interest in things that the people that I love are interested in, even if I think those things are not worth spending time on.  I’ve watched men bring women to boat and sporting shows and refuse to go to quilting shows to reciprocate.  Often times, relationships like that end in divorce.  I made him stay as long as his sister wanted to and even pointed out when I thought a display was neat.

I won’t be spending any more time at the mall this year, if I can help it, but it sure was a lesson-filled day.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.



Properly Defining the Anatomy of an Axe

All Terms Roughly Borrowed  from The Ax Book, by D. Cook

Axes.  If you’re going to use one, you should know what you’re talking about.  For me, it all started with a hatchet I got at Big Lots and has slowly exploded from there.   What I didn’t know is that there are words to properly define different parts of the axe.  You probably know them all.  I didn’t, so I’m sharing what I learned in The Ax Book.

Axe Head.  If you have trouble remembering this one, you should not be at this blog.


The “Bit“, otherwise defined as the cutting edge.
 Upper Corner or “Toe” of the Bit.


Lower Corner, or “Heel” of the Bit.


The Eye.


The Poll (or back of the axe), according to D. Cook, “a solid mass of metal that aids balance and control of the axe.  He also adds, “The poll should not be used as a hammer.”:

Axes are very simple tools, but you must always remember that they changed the world and society.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

Crafting a Leather Sheath for an Axe

A sheath is important for an axe. If you get your axe sharp, you can slice yourself open just like you can with a knife. I’m really cautious with my two camp axes. They’re so sharp that I’ve sliced open my knuckles with just a graze. My larger axes aren’t quite as sharp and that’s okay – I use them more for splitting.

I became interested in leather working a few years ago. My nephew, L.J., was reading  My Side of the Mountain and we were discussing the part of the book where the main character, Sam, made buckskin clothing. Very cool. I picked up some scrap leather at the hobby shop and got it into my head that I was going to make L.J. a sheath for an axe and another for a saw I was going to give him. It was easy. I had waxed string that I picked up at a yard sale for a buck. I made my holes and went to work. I didn’t know how to sew, but I just did what made sense and it worked. Since then I’ve made a few game bags, bandoleers, axe sheaths, and shoes (miserable failure). Leatherworking is fun, fairly affordable and somewhat easy. My stuff doesn’t look that great. It’s pretty primitive in form. I could probably make it look better if I didn’t use the faux sinew, but it is easy to work with and durable.  I think most people that make their own sheaths would suggest rivets over waxed string.  I’d agree with that.

Anyway, here is the process of making the sheath for my 3 1/4 lb. Snow and Nealley head.

First, the tools.  Left to right is a hole punch, scissors that I don’t really care about, but are sharp enough to cut leather, and the role of waxed string.
I don’t like leatherworking needles.  I use a darning needle.  It is sturdy with a big eye.
Then, choose your piece of leather.  Pink leather never looks good on an axe head.  Unless you’re a chick.
Next, trace your outline.  Make is slightly bigger than the head itself.  When you sew the two pieces together, the head will need room to slide into the sheath.  Giving it an extra inch for sewing helps with this.  Ask me how I know.
Cut the leather.
Match it up to the other side and repeat.
Punch holes in three sides of the leather.  If you punch holes on the fourth side, you’re a moron.  Try to space the holes evenly.  They sell a doohickey that’ll do it for you, but I’m too cheap to spend the seven bucks on it.
After you punch all holes in one piece, hold the other piece up next to it.  I mark the sides with a pen before punching the next batch of holes, so I know the two pieces will line up.
Commence sewing.  I don’t really know how to explain this part.  Okay, I’ll try.  The rabbit (needle) goes down through hole one and back up through hole two.  The rabbit then goes back down hole one and again out through hole two.  The rabbit then moves onto hole three.  Repeat.
And to think they don’t teach Home Ec. anymore!  Shame!  I honestly think I may have been one of the last kids in America to have Home Ec. class.  I looked hawt in a pink apron.
Try it out.  See how it fits.  If it doesn’t fit, don’t blame me.  I get enough blame.
Next, cut yourself a piece for the strap.  I’m using a snap on this one, but you don’t have to.  If you make the strap with a tiny bit of slack, you can just slide it up over the head.
I like to mark where the the strap is going to be sewn in, so it’ll be even on both sides.
Sew it.
Next comes the snap.  I bought a kit at Hobby Lobby that incldes what I’ll call a hammer and an anvil.  It basically allows you to put two pieces together and squish.
Give it a smack and you’ve got a snap!
Do the same for the receiving end of the snap inside the sheath pocket.
End result:
Add a little mink oil to keep the water off and presto, you have a sheath.

Any questions?

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…….out.

Free Education

Is anything really free?

I decided to jump on the free education bandwagon.  I put out an ad on a local forum and asked for something free – wood.  I asked that if anyone had downed trees on their property that they wanted rid of to please call me.  I got a few responses.  One from a lady less than two miles from our place.  She’s on 32 acres and had some fire mitigation done a few years back and they left all of the wood.  This load was all aspen, but she has spruce, fir and pine as well.  She’s got a lot of dead standing on her lot, so we might just have to become friends.  I clear the dead stuff, her land gets safer for the insurance company.  Win/win.


I brought the wood home and sawed it up.  Then I told the children that they were going to help me split and pile.  When the boys found out they were going to get to use axes, you would have thought Christmas was this week.

Child #2 (oldest boy) is a natural at all things physical.  I gave him my Snow & Nealley 2 1/4 lb. on a 28″ haft.  It seems to work perfectly for him.  He’s got good form and loves splitting aspen because it’s light, dry and easy.



He split a lot for a little guy.  His brother, who is a year younger, was hard at it as well.  Books are his thing, but he wanted to be like his big brother and split.  He struggled to swing the axe and I spent a lot of time with him working on his form.  He’s still a little young, though his brother was splitting at his age.  Kids are different, that’s all.


He got discouraged at one point and started to cry.  He said he’ll never be a good wood splitter.  I assured him that he had plenty of time in life to practice.  Then I offered to show him how to split kindling and explained that it was the most important part of starting a fire.  He relented and used the old Lakeside double bit to make some small splits.

We’ve had more fires this year than in all the other ten years we’ve been here combined.  So far we’ve saved $100 on our heat bill, and an as-yet undetermined amount on our electric bill.  In the process, the kids have learned how to split and pile wood.  I’d say that’s better than a free education.

Mike,Oscar, Hotel……out.