"For a skill so paramount to the future, and with precious few experts (and fewer still teachers), this is not an opportunity to be unconcerned with. Amidst the twilight, the time to learn this skill, and others more broadly, is already nearly past. Intensive training is a remedy for laxity, and a god send at that." --Eric C.
For the past couple of years we have been privileged to associate (albeit via phone and letters only) with an Australian outback-born Lawrence Dowsett, whose father handed him a sharp ax -- not to play 'cowboys and Indians' with, but to help take care of the family's firewood needs -- when he was 5 years old!
Now a horse-riding ranch hand in Wyoming, he is an accomplished farrier, saddle maker and, well... I'd best quote his (evidently appreciative) wife: "Peter, there is NOTHING Lawrence can't do!"
Lawrence initially contacted us with interest in scythes, although most of our conversations since then have revolved around axes, and it is obvious that he is one of the contemporary 'gems' on the subject. Looking now back over the 40 years of my own ax-using journey, I'm quite certain that had I had the opportunity to attend Lawrence's course at the beginning, much fumbling and stumbling would have been spared...
Last year Lawrence began to teach the rangers working in parks (where chainsaws are officially a taboo) how to use and maintain crosscut saws and axes, a skill they sorely lacked. I am glad to hear that this service is also available to the general public.
We recently heard, from Lawrence himself, that he will be teaching axemanship classes at the Ninemile Ranger Station in Montana. The first one will be held from April 29th to May 3rd, the second will on May 6th to the 10th. If there is enough interest, more classes may be scheduled later.
In Lawrence's own words:
"First all participants will be given a good quality vintage double bit axe of near new condition as well as a new double sided carborundum sharpening stone and files. Handles of good quality will also be provided. At the end of the class (which is one week) l also give a gift to each student for their participation, a good quality arkansas stone. Also students may bring a couple of their own axes to work on if they wish to do so, and l will have them in the field every day to teach chopping, techniques and related matters. The axes, handles, stones and files are the student's property at the end of the class."
Links for more information:
Anyone interested in attending these classes can contact Ninemile Ranger Station, 406-626-5201