Let the chips fly: Snoqualmie’s David Moses hones pro edge for Stihl timber showdown | Photo gallery
March 9, 2012 · 11:19 AM
David Moses’ breath comes in hard, fast whooshes as the axe whirls over his head.
Cottonwood chips fly as the 48-year-old Snoqualmie man splits the log he’s perched on, demolishing it in under a minute. Then it’s on to the next, with Moses leaping onto a raised platform to hew another block.
“Hours of preparation for seconds of glory,” he says.
Readying for the Stihl Timbersports Professional Series Western Qualifier, Roses competes March 30 in Corvalis, Ore., with seven other professional lumberjacks from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada.
The Series features the nation’s best timber athletes, challenging them in the ultimate test of strength, endurance, stamina, tool skill and agility, among six different chopping and sawing disciplines.
The top four go on to the championship in June in Tennessee. The top U.S. competitor advances to the world championships in Norway.
Swinging a special razor-edged axe, Moses concentrates on his hits. He’s in condition, so now, it’s all about technique.
Practice makes perfect
Moses is putting in three or four weekly practice sessions at his Indian Hill practice yard, which is filled with evidence of hearty workouts: chopped stumps and logs surround his sets of custom-made stands.
As a pro timber athlete, Moses has an innate knowledge of logs, and how to break them down in record speed. Preparing, he puts on chain-mail shinguards and socks, then trims the bark, gauging the layout of the log.
“You have to get to know the wood,” he said. Age, growth patterns and toughness help Moses figure out how he’ll chop.
Self-employed in construction, Moses schedules work around the timber sports circuit. Prize money pays for equipment and plane tickets to North American and international events.
His wife Annette is also an international timber sports competitor and a U.S. women’s team alumnus.
Moses didn’t come into the sport through his career. He gave up a job in timber at age 19 after one miserably wet and cold experience.
“I’ve always been active in sports—basketball, softball, baseball,” Moses said. As an adult, “I could never find a team that would be serious.”
But his father, David Moses Sr., was a second-generation timber man, and got his son involved in the sport.
“My dad was one of the ones who was good from the get-go,” Moses said.
Watching his dad one day, Moses asked if he would train him.
“I don’t trust anyone else to train me right,” Moses said. “He said, ‘You have to be serious about it. You have to practice, you have to show up.’”
David Sr. ended up working alongside his son. Today, at age 67, he still competes with the younger men.
“It gave him a few more good years of being right up there at the top,” Moses said.
In competition, Moses uses special custom-made saws and axes, plus a 50-pound, 55-horsepower chainsaw powered by half of a snowmobile engine.
To keep his practice yard in wood, he relies on a sponsor, Edmond Co. of Tacoma.
Competition on the circuit can be intense, but Moses senses a real family atmosphere.
In the sport season, “We see each other almost every weekend,” he said. “Guys put you up and take care of you. It’s one of the few sports I know where, if you’re having trouble with your gear, guys will go out of their way to help you, even if you beat them.”
Moses competes in the Stihl Timbersports Series, which tests skill in six events.
In this discipline, the competitor uses a customized chain saw with a modified engine, usually taken from a personal watercraft or snowmobile.
The competitor makes one cut through 19 inches of white pine using a single-person cross-cut saw.
The competitor stands with feet apart on a white pine log, chopping through it with a razor-sharp ‘racing’ ax.
Standing Block Chop
Mimicking the felling of a tree, the competitor races to chop through a foot thick log of white pine.
The competitor uses a Stihl Magnum chainsaw to make two cuts in four inches through a 16-inch horizontal pine log in this timed event.
A discipline based on the need for old-time loggers to establish a cutting platform above the massive root bases of old growth trees, the competitor uses an ax to chop pockets into a nine-foot poplar pole and then place six-inch wide springboard platforms into the pockets.
You can learn more about the series at www.stihltimbersports.com.
Snoqualmie resident and pro timber sports athlete David Moses swiftly cuts into the log at his feet with an underhand chop at his county practice yard.
Moses gets a grip on his racing axe by spreading chalk on the handle.
Protective gear for timber athletes include chainmail socks like this one.
Moses fires up his custom chainsaw for ‘hot saw’ training. The special saw is powered by half of a snowmobile engine, and weighs 50 pounds. Moses must cut three slices within six inches of the log.
David Moses chops atop the springboard, one of six events he’s training for in the Western qualifier for the Stihl Timbersports Series.
Moses, with his custom-made two-man hand saw.