How Splitting Wood With an Axe is a Lot Like Translating

by Richard Sadowsky (professional translator living on Awaji Island)

  • Thin pieces don't have to be hit hard, just in the right spot.
  • You get thirsty after doing it for a while.
  • Some wood is soft, some is hard.
  • It helps to know which is which.
  • A piece has to be stood up and positioned for each swing.
  • If you've never done it before, you'll swing and miss a lot.
  • Pieces lop off more easily when struck off-center.
  • The axe head needs to be kept sharpened.
  • Pieces will fly in unexpected directions.
  • No matter how hard you strike a piece from the top, it won't split until you turn it upside down and hit it again.
  • To cut away the last hanging threads, you have to turn the piece on its side and strike a few more times.
  • Long logs have to be cut to size with a chainsaw first.
  • You won't know a piece contains knots until after the first swing.
  • You won't know how hard the knots are until after several more swings.
  • It seems you always learn the hard way.
  • With practice you acquire a rhythm.
  • You don't want the cold drink sitting too close by.
  • A strong swing to the wrong spot is oddly similar to a weak swing to the right spot.
  • The axe head will get stuck more easily when you aim for dead center.
  • Do too much at once and your back will get sore.
  • You still have to stack the wood after it's split.

(Originally published in the SWET Newsletter, No. 73, December 1996.)

© Richard Sadowsky