Woodhick Skills Demonstration

The crosscut saw

Axe throwing

Woodhick Skills Demonstrations by Bill Simcox & Family

A ‘woodhick’ is a colloquial term in Pennsylvania, indicative of someone who worked in the lumber industry during the late 19th and early 20th century. The terms ‘lumberjack’, ‘woodcutter’, or the modern equivalent, ‘logger,’ can all be used somewhat interchangeably. Woodhick skills refers to the expertise these laborers had in using axes, saws, spuds, peaveys and a variety of other hand tools in the everyday applications of their work. As the labor practices of the lumber industry changed in the second half of the 20th century, the desire to showcase and preserve these traditional skills resulted in the creation of competitive timbersports. Today, timbersports is an international athletic discipline open to both men and women, sponsored by major equipment manufacturers and featuring many exciting events such as hot saw, single buck, springboard chop, axe throw, standing block chop, stock saw and underhand chop.

William “Bill” Simcox and his family live in Farrandsville, PA. They have presented woodhick skills demonstrations at Bark Peelers’ Festival since 2008. Bill was inspired to enter the world of competitive timbersports after seeing his predecessor, Jim VanScoy, give a demonstration at the PA Lumber Museum in the 1970s. Bill started out as a self-taught lumberjack, gradually learning more by making connections with other lumberjack competitors in the region. With nearly 40 years’ experience in timbersports, Bill has become one of the premier lumberjacks in the state, and has served as the President of the Pennsylvania Professional Lumberjack Organization (www.pplo.org). Bill currently competes in 15 to 20 professional lumberjack events each year, where his favorite event is the standing block. He has traveled as far as Illinois and Niagara Falls to compete. He and his associates also present demonstrations at many other public events and festivals, including the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Bill loves the history and comradery of the Bark Peelers’ Festival, and looks forward to his role in it every year. He is also a proud proponent of timbersports, and works with many of the collegiate woodsmen teams in the state to grow the sport and pass on the knowledge and skills he has acquired to the next generation of modern woodhicks.

Bill’s wife (Pauline) and daughter (Elizabeth) have been helping him at Bark Peelers’ Festival as long as he has been a presenter here. Elizabeth always tagged along to timbersports competitions with her father as she was growing up, and started competing with him in “Jack and Jill” (a male and female competitor team) cross cut saw contests when she was a teenager. She started competing as an individual professional in the 1990s, and one of her favorite events is log rolling.

Tom Oliver is a Recreation Forester with the PA DCNR Tioga State Forest district staff. He is a close friend of the Simcox family, and has helped them with woodhick skills demonstrations at Bark Peelers’ Festival since 2013. He started in the practice of timbersports with the Penn State Mont Alto woodsman team when he was studying forestry there in 2005. In 2011, he was one of fifty Americans selected to compete in the Stihl® Timbersports Championship Series. Tom is also organizing a lumberjack competition and demonstration to be presented at this years’ Tioga County Fair. More information about this event can be found at www.tiogacountyfair.com .