Sharpening The Axe | Bern Moses


Granted, I wasn't allowed to do much other than clear brush and top a few fallen trees after hewing the upper limbs. I also carried water to the loggers, as well as to the horses that were used to twitch the logs to the skid-ways, provided to assist in the loading of trucks. But it was fun, I was treated with respect and most importantly, I got to be with my Dad, whom I adored.

He was a non-demonstrative man, and I cannot recall ever being complimented, encouraged or confirmed by him. Nor was he ever able to hug me, pat my back or tousle my hair in an approving way. He never seemed satisfied with any of my efforts, and I loved him. I was confident that he loved me too. That's just the way it was in those days.


Early one morning, I had the bright idea of grinding my Dad's ax, as I'd seen him do so many times, preparing for the day's work ahead. Although he would touch up the edge throughout the day with a hand honing stone, he almost always ground the ax, in the morning. He used a large grindstone that stood in our yard, by the woodpile. It was about two inches wide and eighteen inches in diameter, mounted in a wooden framework that included a foot pedal, attached to a fulcrum that spun the wheel as it was pumped. A strategically placed seat allowed someone to sit as they ground their blades, and there was a small can of water that could be tipped frequently to wet the spinning stone.

I took my position, pushed the round stone to get it started and began pumping the pedal to keep it going. Grasping the ax head in just the same way I'd seen my Dad do it so many times, I placed the edge on the stone and proceeded confidently.

When I checked the ax's edge, it felt sharp. The edge was buffed and shiny and looked good. And, the sound of the steel against the Carborundum was familiar. Everything was going well. My Dad would be pleased.

t wasn't long though before he came from the house, hurried to where I was, and with some degree of impatience asked me to stop. "I appreciate what you're trying to do," he said, "but, you're doing it wrong and doing more harm than good."

That stung. Once again, in spite of my intentions, I had fallen short.

He went on to explain, "You're doing everything right, except that you're spinning the stone in the wrong direction. When it's going away from you like that, it's turning the edge, and it won't hold up for any time at all, even though it looks and feels sharp. It may seem wrong, but you've got to have the wheel spinning in your direction, so the edge of the ax is being confronted by the stone's abrasive service. That way, providing you hold the blade at a forty-five degree angle, you'll have a sturdy, durable edge that will get the job done."

I remembered and with practice became acceptably proficient at grinding ax heads, scythes, cutlery and the different saws we used in the woods and on the farm.

It wasn't until years later that I became aware of the high percentage of people who were failing to fulfill the quotas assigned to them, missing or abandoning their goals, and relinquishing their dreams. Too many people weren't getting it, in spite of great product and sales training, along with all the motivational speakers, books and tapes that were available to support them.

Then, in 1957, after two fruitless and frustrating years in selling, I realized that the grindstone was being spun in the wrong direction.

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