There’s a lot of excitement when the chips are flying at a woodsmen competition, but a lot has to take place before it gets to that point.
Sawyers at Nova Tree, in Glenholme, have just finished cutting posts for the 34th Annual Rick Russell Woodsmen Competition, which will be held in Bible Hill on Saturday, Feb. 9. Dal AC will host, as teams from post-secondary institutions in central and eastern Canada, as well as the northwestern U.S., gather at the MacMillan Show Centre, on the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition grounds, to chop, saw, climb poles, build fires and throw axes.
“I used to panic this time of year because I was trying to make sure we had the wood ready,” said Scott Read, competition organizer. “We’ve been getting most of it from Nova Tree for about seven years now and Jim (Verboom) knows what we need so there’s a lot less pressure.
“Our equipment is very expensive, with saws costing up to $3,000. They’re hand-filed racing equipment and they need to go through softwood that’s thawed and has no knots. If cutters hit a knot it breaks the tips of the teeth off, and teeth are filed to within a few thousandths of an inch.”
Read understands wood and cutting. He got involved in woodsmen competition while in 4-H and while studying at Dal AC, when it was the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, he was a member of the team there. He became an instructor at the university and coached the team for about 12 years. Although he’s no longer coaching, this is his fifteenth year organizing the competition.
“I start the planning before Christmas,” he said. “We receive the stuff that has to be thawed around mid-January. It’s in a trailer that’s parked in a heated building on campus.”
Different types of wood are used for different challenges. Most of that used for chopping is aspen or popple, pine is the main wood used for sawing, and cedar-that’s been drying indoors for a year- is used for the water boil.
For the quarter split, which is designed to simulate splitting firewood, the wood is cut at a local woodlot.
Stella jones donates climbing poles.
Jim Verboom, who is also an alumnus of the NSAC, said a high percentage of the wood that comes in isn’t good enough for competition.
“About one-third of what comes in makes the grade,” he said. “It all has a use though. Some becomes pieces in our regular lumber pile, some becomes mulch, and the sawdust becomes bedding for horses.”
Read estimates that about $3,600 worth of wood are used for the competition. Once the event is over the material becomes firewood.
The competition is held every year in memory of Rick Russell, a graduate and employee of the college who created the competition and coached the NSAC Woodsmen during his time there.
Schedule of events:
Morning events begin at 9 a.m.
- Super Swede
- Single Buck
- Stock Saw
- Pole Climb
- Pulp Toss
- Axe Throw
- Log Decking
- Quarter Split
- Dry land log burling
Noon – 1 p.m. – Athletes lunch break
- ECHO Challenge
Afternoon events begin at 1:30 p.m.
- Team Crosscut
- Team Swede
- Underhand Chop
- Vertical Chop
- Water boil
8 p.m. – Awards Ceremony – Location to be announced