Axeman keen for an edge

FRESH from the 'Wimbledon of Woodchops', the Sydney Royal Easter Show, with swag of close seconds, Dorrigo bushman Mitch McKenzie has the title of Australian champion in his sights.

He's already won it three times in his 27 years of chopping and now at 46 he reckons he's ready to give it another go.

Mitch started chopping as a young fellow in the bush.

“I figured I wasn't big enough to be a real threat on the ground so I've made the tree climb my event,” Mitch said.

“To be competitive you have to be able to cut each hole in four hits.”

That's no mean feat of speed and accuracy when you consider it requires the climber to put three planks up each side of the log and lop the top off it in 'two- to two-and-a-half minutes, depending on the wood'.

Which is why, for training, Mitch climbs a steep three-minute hill a few times a week.

But there's more to it than that.

There's the axe - and it needs to be very very sharp.

“It takes hours and hours, ideally sitting comfortably in the sun with the radio. Getting the edge right is like tuning a racing car - it needs to be right on the edge of falling to bits.”

And finally there's the psychology. Mitch practises the perfect chop in his head.

Mitch will be chopping at the Bellingen Show on Saturday, May 23, and plans a crack at the title in Brisbane this August.

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