Strong, yet sensitive. These are the hands of a master potter, capable of moving several pounds of clay on a spinning wheel while delicately shaping the heavy blob into a thing of beauty. These are the hands of Jim Wallace, who almost lost one of the tools of his trade (his thumb) to an axe, chopping wood for the fireplace a year and a half ago. The scar remains, an indentation – a reminder to wear his work gloves.
The story in Jim’s own written word
A year and a half ago I went out at dusk to split a few logs for the fireplace. Maybe 4 to 5 minutes needed so I didn’t bother to put my gloves on. I use a Fiskars brand of axe that has convex-ground faces on the blade. The design works a little different than a conventional axe and greatly increases the splitting power while reducing the overall weight of the axe-head. Like any axe though it won’t split through a knot.
Often the axe will bounce off the end of the log as if it hit rubber when there is a knot in line with the intended direction of the split.
When the knot is several inches further down the log then the dynamic changes and the blade will begin to split the log but then jamb and the wood will tightly grip the axe. This happened and I steadied the wood with my left hand while levering the axe with my right. The pressure of the wood squeezing the axe blade essentially spit the blade up and out, perhaps half a foot above the log. My left hand was still steadying the wood when the blade dropped, the lower corner hitting between the joint of the last phalange and the nail bed. The indentation created must have gone to the bone.
The nail itself wasn’t cut. In time the space between the joint and the nail bed came up level after a couple of weeks of healing. Today there is very little scar. But the nail-bed was inversely effected which is still a mystery to me. The impact and shaping of the axe was downward but the resultant reshaped of the nail growing out is a raised ridge.