Category Archives: Woodchop
In amongst the overpriced rides, overpriced carnival tat, inappropriate piercings and tattoos, and kids called Zaiden, Kaylee, Jaxon and Shannae there remains links to yesteryear and the 100 year history of the agricultural community coming into town! The “Woodchop Arena” is centrally located in all its understated glory to showcase the skills of the men from the bush and beyond. The grandstands are full, more in wonder and intrigue than actual sporting interest, but after all, the Royal Melbourne Show (and all other shows across Australasia) are there for this very reason. The majority of the events continue through tradition alone but are based around the rural skillsets that were prevalent before the times of machination.
I still can’t recall a sport where Dunlop Volleys are still the footwear of choice for the competitors. Especially when they are supposed to be protecting the competitors’ ankles/feet/toes against the dangers of a medically precision sharpened tree felling axe or a motorbike engine powered chainsaw. It is genuinely man versus wood in a wide range of disciplines that are seldom used today. However, every man loves to swing an axe every now and again, and split some firewood or fell a tree. It is good for the soul to get back to the primitive basics. Imagine the inner pleasure when we have to cook dinner on a wood-fired bar-b-que (that you chopped yourself!) …..
In a country where workplace health and safety is so over zealously enforced, it is amazing that some of the events that take place in this sport, are still allowed to continue. The one below is sheer madness. This is tree felling where the competitors use three boards wedged into a small pocket that they have just sliced out to climb one side of the trunk and cut half the tree. They then descend to the ground and use the same three boards to climb the other side to finishing chopping through the tree. They stand on a 6 inch wide plank, 15 feet in the air, chopping the top of a tree off….. with no harness or anything!!!
I’m sure in the past, there have been some horrific injuries sustained in these competitions. Is the rural community exempt from the red-tape we have to endure in civilisation? I have heard of an axe head flying off and hitting a spectator a few years back, which gave rise to the brilliant headline “Little chop of horror!” I guess you get the feeling that someone is going to get hurt – if you’re patient enough!!! I was also told once that the reason why they wear white pants is to show the blood as quickly as possible, because the adrenaline that is pumping through their body as they chop masks the pain……. Not sure if that is the same for cricket……
The competition that I witnessed was the chainsaw race. The concept of this is that you have to saw 3 “wheels” off the end of the log as quickly as possible, but you only have a 100mm (4 inches) space to do this. In all fairness it sounds easy, but it is a true test of operator ability. As well as keeping the cutting motion as smooth as possible, the revs need to kept as high as possible, and you need precision and a soft touch – get the pressure wrong and the chain may well jam in the wood.
Now, these were “stock saw” races where the chainsaws are supplied by the show organisers. There are a variety of other classes available though – this synopsis refers to those Gold Old Boys in the US of A competitions though:
There is no standard class, things vary with the part of the country that you are in, and from show to show. Most commonly, the other classes available are:
STOCK APPEARING – where the chainsaws look stock standard, but are highly modified;
SUPER MODIFIED – where the chainsaw had to start out as a chainsaw but can be modified with expansion chambers etc., altering the appearance of the saw;
All of these can be broken down into displacement classes. This is commonly done on the west coast, where they sometimes run a less than 6in3 (100cc) class and an over 6in3 (100cc) class
OPEN or MOTORCYCLE – go cart, motorcycle or snow mobile engines are used. The only restrictions are that they be one cylinder and started with the pull of a cord.
UNLIMITED – Car engines are used. It takes two people to lift one of them.
A lot depend on where you are. The “unlimiteds” are usually found in the pacific northwest. In New York, you may see a hotsaw class along with a stock class where the contestants bring their own chainsaw. In West Virginia, they prohibit “motorcycle” saws, and run only super modifieds. Across the Mason Dixon line in Pennsylvania, most, but not all, of the contests allow motorcyle saws. It is confusing, and you have to check the rules everywhere you go. I once showed up at at contest entered in the stocksaw class thinking the saw would be provided. It wasn’t.
Your are usually safe if you show up with a big chainsaw which has been visibly modifed. Of course, if the motorcycle guys show up, you will get smoked.
I have also been informed that some competitors will also modify their chainsaws to run on nitromethane to give it that extra bit of oomph – as if you need it! Now I know what you’re thinking – nitromethane, ultra-turbo-boosts, car engine powered chainsaws that take two people to lift them…. Why, why, why??? I suppose for some dumbass rednecks, that was just another normal day in the office – a bit like these ones!!!
In other news, I missed the axe throwing which I was truly gutted about! I’m glad I wasn’t walking past when these guys threw (at 1:05 & 1:47)……
I wished I watched more events than I did. There are a multitude of events that are contested, although by quite a small number of competitors, most of which are descended from a long line of lumberjack families. I’m glad these traditional sports continue and as long as countries like Australia rely heavily on primary industry, they always will. I just hope that they don’t get lost in the commercialisation that seems to be abhorrent in today’s society.
ROYAL MELBOURNE SHOW WOODCHOP – HOT STOCK SAW
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