Why use a Pocket Underbucker

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Why use a Pocket Underbucker

Postby Jim_Thode » November 22nd, 2015, 2:10 pm

Why use a Pocket Underbucker

If tools could talk, well sometimes they can. The handle on this Puget Sound pattern falling axe is well past its serviceable life but it tells a story of use and abuse from nearly a century ago. The head is 12” long and could well be put into useful service but maybe it is more interesting as a peace of history with the original handle.

The handle shows several notches worn in the handle by the back of a crosscut saw from holding the saw up when underbucking. Assuming that each notch could be used several times it is clear that the handle assisted in the underbucking hundreds of logs in the hay day of logging in the Pacific Northwest. The deepest of the notches are approaching 1/3 of the thickness of the handle and this limits the strength of the handle. Some may say that the notches provide a better grip but in this case the notches are getting to the point of causing blisters and splinters rather then just providing a little better grip. Also the notches down further on the handle would hinder the sliding of the far hand on the handle. Normal chopping technique requires that the near hand on the end of the handle be fixed and the far hand to slide along the length of the handle during the stroke.

Anyway maybe the owner of this axe would have been better off if he had used a pocket underbucker or a stand alone underbucking tool to save wear and tear on his axe handle. Most likely it comes down to; you use what you have to get the job done.

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Jim
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Re: Why use a Pocket Underbucker

Postby PATCsawyer » November 22nd, 2015, 3:59 pm

I think the pocket under bucker is a neat idea, but in truth, I use the same axe/saw combination when afield and that handle is well scarred from under bucking. Those grooves DO provide for a better grip. The trick (in my humble opinion) is to file your under bucking axe narrow so it is more likely to sink deep, stick, and hold, as opposed to being maximized for throwing chips. It will still chop and limb just fine.
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Re: Why use a Pocket Underbucker

Postby Jim_Thode » November 23rd, 2015, 3:16 pm

PATCsawyer,

I think the usefulness of underbucking directly on a wood axe handle comes down to scale or size of saws used and logs being bucked. For shorter lighter saws and smaller logs I can see where using a wood handle would be quite serviceable. When underbucking larger logs with heavy longer saws the use of any kind of axe handle, with or without a pocket underbucker becomes marginal. Vintage pocket underbuckers are very rare but here in the PNW vintage stand alone underbuckers are quite common. In fact for larger logs history seems to show that a stand alone underbucker was a required tool and not something just nice to have.

I measured/calculated the approximate load on an underbucker when using a 7' heavy bucking saw on a 4' or 5' diameter log and come up with a over 50 lbs. That is 26 lbs just to balance the saw in the kurf and the remainder to provide some upward force on the teeth. That 50+ lbs on a wooden axe handle would quickly wear deep notches and over stress the wood handle at the axe eye.

With a 4' one man saw underbucking a 2' log I measured about 6 lbs to balance out the weight of the saw and about 15 lbs to provide some upward force on the teeth. That's about a 20 lb load on an axe handle and should not over stress the handle or wear excessive notches.

So the bottom line for me is for stuff like this you need a real underbucker:
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For smaller stuff a axe handle is fine on wood with or without a pocket underbucker or on a vinyl or steel handle a pocket underbucker is required.
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Re: Why use a Pocket Underbucker

Postby PATCsawyer » November 23rd, 2015, 7:22 pm

You guys have a whole different world of timber in the PNW. I'm just commenting on my personal experience with eastern wood. It's rare that I cut a tree over 30" DBH, and for those smaller trees, the axe handle is all I need. Someday I'd like to join a western crew on a log out to see the differences in technique.
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