My chainsaw still terrifies me. A bank holiday weekend is the traditional time for self-harm by inexperienced users of power tools.

Because the weather was so nice I decided to spend the afternoon in the garden, chopping up a large pile of logs that have been in a waiting-to-be-chopped-up pile in the out of sight corner behind the shed for the last eight years. I have been planning to chop the logs to burn them in the wood burner to cut down on heating bills during the winter.

Despite worldwide peaks in energy costs we have not used the wood burner for five years. This is not because I was too scared to chop up the logs with the deathsaw. It was because the wood burner is a bit smoky, sometimes.

I prepared everything. Thick leather gloves (but not so thick that the vicious teeth on the chain would hesitate for a nanosecond)… Heavy boots (but not so heavy that a chainsaw could not slice through them like a hot knife through lard)… Safety glasses (but not safe enough to keep out red hot shards of disintegrating chain flying up from sudden impact with a hidden nail)… Perspex visor and forehead protector (but not protective enough to stop the kicked-back blade from ripping through my skull and exposing my grey, glistening brain matter in a moment)…

I couldn’t find my ear defenders. It turned out that my son was using them when practising his drums.

The chainsaw wouldn’t start.

I hunted out the manual. It was on the bookshelf. There are fifteen pages of safety instructions and one page of starting instructions.

I started the chainsaw.

The logs were a bit unwieldy. What I really needed was a faithful and trusting assistant who could hold one end while I worked at the other.

The children all declined. Mrs R. said she was busy. They have all seen me use power tools before.

It is a good job I am not planning another career as a magician.

I began to saw the logs, using my foot or thigh to steady the bigger ones. Fortunately I am left handed and right footed.

Some of the logs were so rotten that they fell apart as I lifted them. The others were so rotten that the chainsaw buzzed through them as if they were large chocolate sponge rolls with a light and creamy non-dairy filling.

None of the logs would have burnt very well, even on a large and uncontrollable bonfire. They were better suited to growing mushrooms and housing small invertebrates.

I switched off the chainsaw. The blood transfusion service stood down.

Using the wheelbarrow I meticulously moved the entire large pile of rotting wood to the far corner of the garden behind the shrubbery. It will be a precious fungal resource and wildlife habitat for many years to come. Sometimes it is important to put the global food chain before domestic economies.

4 Responses to “Chopper”

  1. 1 jaytay

    “the chainsaw buzzed through them as if they were large chocolate sponge rolls with a light and creamy non-dairy filling.”

    I can imagine a series of TV adverts featuring you manly chopping down mini roll trees while dressed as a lumberjack and then manly hauling them back to Mrs R and manly saying some manly catchphrase. Just need to to think of a catchprase and you’ll have your future career as TV advert lumberjack sorted!

  2. 2 David Allen

    As a Scout Leader of 20 years’ experience I can assure you that rotten wood, once dried out, burns magnificently. It catches a bit easier too.

    For the full Ray Mears effect, I can recommend lighting it either with cotton wool balls soaked in liquified vaseline, a 9v battery attached to fine wire wool or, for the pyrotechnic, a ground compound of sugar and potassium permangenate.

    I get nervous with a 3.6v screwdriver so congrats on wielding the chainsaw…

  3. 3 Sue Mitchell

    I don’t think you will be qualifying for the ‘I’m a lumberjack’ cool t-shirt anytime soon!

    Neither do I think that we will be seeing you taking up a job with the Oregon ‘Axemen’ in the near future.

    I hope you didn’t manage to cut the washing line during this ‘Powertool fest’!

  4. 4 alexoutside

    Jaytay – umm… catchphrase… how about “keep your sticky fingers away from my chopper”?

    David – the Scout’s curriculum has moved on a bit since I learnt how to start a fire with a magnifying glass and some fluff from my navel (the fluff I mean, not the magnifying glass).

    Sue – lumberjacks have their own shirts. I’m quite sure about this. They don’t need cool t-shirts.

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