Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Use a billhook? Read this…

A 4cm gash in the back of a chainsaw glove - the result of a mis-aimed blow with a billhook. Wassledine

—————————– A 4cm gash in the back of a chainsaw glove – the result of a mis-aimed blow with a billhook

Here’s a tale that I feel I should share with everyone who uses edged tools. I wish now I had taken more time to talk about it with my work colleagues.

A few years ago, maybe four, whilst working up some cut hazel, I hit the back of my left hand with a billhook. The hook was sharp, the blow clean and hard. I think, being October, early in the season, I wasn’t yet completely in the groove. Perhaps I was a little tired, it being late in the day. After more than twenty years using a billhook on and off, I consider myself pretty skilful; and careful. I’d certainly never done this before but had often thought about it. Now I’d dealt a heavy blow across the back of two knuckles, I remember feeling cold and slightly sick, realising what might have been.

Fortunately, and completely by chance I was wearing a left-hand chainsaw glove. And only because I’d just put my saw down, not having yet taken the glove off. I was in the habit of removing chainsaw gloves when not using the saw; they cost £35 a pair after all. The glove I’d been wearing now had a 3cm gash in its back, deep enough to expose the internal protective fabric.

I’ve kept that glove to remind me and every so often I recount the story to co-workers to explain why I always wear one when I pick up a billhook.

Jane's hand, stitched, splinted and bandaged

Jane’s hand, stitched, splinted and bandaged

Last week I spent a few hours in Bedford A&E with my partner, Jane who had done the very same thing. Again, early in the season, but this time she was reducing lop and top to go on a fire. Jane’s not a new-comer to billhooks. She’s skilled and experienced. Unfortunately, not wearing a chainsaw glove, she severed the tendon that controls her left index finger and chipped a bone in the same finger. She’s likely to be out of action for six weeks.

Although Jane had heard my lucky escape story many times, we failed to follow through on my own advice.

I share this with you now because I feel if you are a swinger of billhooks, you may at some point make the same error and benefit from the protection of a chainsaw glove. However skilled , however experienced, it takes only one slip to inflict what could be a life-changing injury.

Jane has, we hope, been lucky. Her tendon has been stitched together, and with a fair wind and the continued excellent services of various staff at Bedford Hospital, she has a good chance of making a full recovery. Hopefully she’ll be back in the woods after Christmas. She will be wearing a left-hand chainsaw glove though.

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