The first thing that greets you when you walk into Oregon Axe is the sharp smell of freshly cut lumber and the startling thud of their customers hucking axes at slabs of wood painted like dart boards.
When Oregon Axe first opened earlier this year, part of the difficulty in getting customers was their ability to find it — Oregon Axe is tucked away in an old lumber mill-turned-business complex on the outskirts of Springfield’s bustling Main Street.
According to ‘Axepert’ C.J. Rayson, the owner Timothy Stemmerman traveled to Canada and when he came back, wanted to build an ‘axe lounge’ in Springfield, one of only two in Oregon.
“He comes over here and says, ‘we’re going to build an axe lounge, and we’re going to throw axes and stuff,’ and I said, ‘well that’s cool,’” Rayson said. “So then we started building this, and over time when I took over the manager position, I became an axepert.”
Rayson works the counter and phones when not instructing new customers, but bouncer-turned-axepert Cody also competes in the Highland Games throwing axes.
“You kind of have a niche for it,” Rayson said. “Anyone can become an axepert, as soon as you start doing trick shots or throwing with either hand or if you just walk up and toss it at the board and hit it, you’re an axepert by then.”
According to Rayson, the trick in throwing a good axe is not how hard you throw it, but it’s about where you stand and how you throw it.
Good axe throwing begins with a strong stance and holding an axe over your head, because holding it over a shoulder can cause the blade to wobble and miss the board, according to Rayson.
“Everybody’s different so everybody will have a different spot where they stand,” Rayson said. “But once you’ve got your spot, you don’t have to change it and you stick it every time.”
The Springfield location competes in the World Axe Throwing League, where competitors from around the world come to Chicago to challenge each other, and they’re the only ones to compete in that competition.
All customers have to sign waivers before they can throw, but according to Rayson, they have yet to see an accident. From there, axeperts will go over safety instructions and an axe throwing tutorial. You can throw for fun during your slotted time, or play a variety of games based on points and teams.
Throwing axes might seem intimidating when holding a hefty blade in your hand and being told to hold it over your head to throw it, but with the right grip — dominant hand on top with both thumbs pointing towards the blade — there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the sound of the blade sticking into solid wood, and if you’re lucky, you might just hit the bullseye.