By Christine Tumpson | Photographs by Michael Fornataro

Corey Deasy is gentle with his instructions: “Now, use your best grip, that’s it, a little tighter together, that’s it, now squeeze, but not too tightly, just so you can hold it loosely and feel your fingers on the wood.” (Hey! This is a family magazine, and this is a family activity, so this is not what you think.)

The Pittsburgh native continues, “Now watch your stance, make sure you feel grounded. Bring your arms all of the way back for your wind-up, and then release.” With that, he hurls the axe at the wooden target at the end of the lane, sticking it just a little to the left of the bull’s-eye.

Having just come from a yoga practice, I am confident and feeling strong, and only a little bit stinky every time I raise my arms. This is not what I expected when I got the email from a trusted press agent that this was the next big thing. But I love a challenge and, despite being of small stature, have the mindset of a much larger athlete. Throwing axes sounded right up my alley, or lane, as they call it here.

Here is a huge warehouse in Millvale. It’s a little inconspicuous, adding to the intrigue, and once inside, it feels like a clean-swept clubhouse with cement floors and picnic benches. Corey’s business partners — and clearly his friends, too — are Jack Welsh, who looks and sounds like a real lumberjack, and Matt Peyton, whose encouraging words and laugh fill the space. Corey’s sister, who lives in Philadelphia, introduced Corey to the concept during a family celebration, and when he brought it home, the others signed on.

“OK, now, try it again, and this time, take it a little slower, a little more deliberation. You got this.” Taking my stance, noticing the grip, I fling the axe at the target, smacking it on its head as it clatters to the floor. Trying again, and again, I stick it on the fourth try, breaking out into a happy dance, and thoughts of “again, again!” It feels like making the putt in golf after a solid round, meaning it’s just enough to get you hooked.

And I am hooked. I throw and throw and throw, splitting wood and happy dancing up and down the lane. Corey explains that it is a great bonding activity, especially when groups are able to come in and be divided into teams to play a tournament. An event like that works best for 6-24 people, and includes instructions, coaching, seeding, and a tournament. Costs are reasonable, at $35 per person, and food and drinks can be brought in. During regular business hours, there is a $20 drop-in rate, which would make for a cool way to blow off steam during lunch breaks.

LumberjAxes’ concept appeals to Corey and his team because of the way it incorporates skill and fun. An owner in the Escape Rooms group, he understands the value of an out-of-the-box activity as a way to generate relationships and team building, while introducing new personal skills and feelings of accomplishment.

It is the perfect idea for a special outing for my husband and a group of his friends. After throwing my last axe of the afternoon, I book the spot, make plans to bring in food and drinks for the crew of 20, and head back to town, thinking about that first “stick.”

My husband and his friends confirm my experience with a happy party of their own at LumberjAxes. After practicing and being divided into teams, they clank axes as they play, tossing, cheering, and having fun. It turns out to be one of the best times they’ve had together. And they keep talking about it for weeks afterward, reliving the learning curve, the misses, and the hits.

As they say at LumberjAxes, “Oh, it’s on!”

LumberjAxes, 2 Sedgwick St., Millvale. 412.408.2650. axethrowingpgh.com.

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