Chasing Perfection
Martha King’s precision with an ax catapulted her to timbersports stardom. Now the world-champion lumberjill from Chadds Ford wants to inspire others to greatness.
by Bill Donahue

Listen to Martha King speak—about her sport, about her globetrotting ways, about other aspects of her life that energize her—and the word articulate comes to mind. She’s as precise with her language as she is with her ax, the razor-edged instrument that has helped her amass a ridiculous number of medals, ribbons, trophies, and titles earned through tough-as-nails competitions across the United States and around the world.

King, a 34-year-old arborist for a family-run tree service that straddles the line between Chester and Delaware counties, has spent the past decade honing her skills as an elite athlete in the world of timbersports, sometimes referred to as “the original extreme sport.” Known as a lumberjill—a female lumberjack—King isn’t just good at her craft; she’s a record-smashing champion several times over.
“I was always an athlete,” King says, adding that she excelled in sports such as field hockey and softball prior to timbersports. “[Timbersports] is the perfect blend of athleticism and pioneering nature. The pioneers, meaning the people who paved the way for our country, they were tough people. This sport embodies the spirit of the pioneer. It’s cool to take up that mantle.”
King found her way into the sport by following in the footsteps of her father, Rob, who competed on the woodsmen team at Penn State’s Mont Alto campus in the 1970s. Few women were involved in the sport when she first picked up an ax, though she’s happy to say that dynamic has since changed. She describes the global timbersports community as “like a family”—loving, caring, and respectful.
Timbersports includes numerous disciplines, each mimicking a traditional forestry practice involving either an ax or a saw. King prefers the axing disciplines over the sawing ones, in part because, at a lean and hale 5'8" and 130 pounds, “I’m not built like a sawyer,” she says. Her favorite: the underhand chop, in which an athlete stands on a block of horizontally mounted wood and cuts through the block with an ax, as if sectioning a felled tree.
“I probably like it simply because it was the first discipline I learned, but I also like the poise, timing, and challenge required,” she says. “One of the guys in Australia compared it to ballet, complete with the bloody toes. … I out-cut people, including some men who have been cutting for years, because of my timing and technique. It’s like chasing perfection, and that’s thrilling to me.”
She trains in the shadow of a towering woodpile on her parents’ property in Chadds Ford, which doubles as the headquarters for the family business, Chadds Ford Tree Service. One might describe the training area as “rustic,” little more than a small stage littered with sawdust and wood chips; the space has neither lights nor a roof, meaning King is at the mercy of the weather. She prefers it that way, because the inhospitable days force her to rest—something she has little opportunity to do, given the nature of her day job.
As anyone who does physically demanding work can understand, occasional pains and injuries come with the territory, not that King lets them stand in the way between her and the podium: “I always have to believe I’m the best one out there, that I have the best block, the best ax.”
King’s accomplishments are far too numerous to list. Among her proudest wins: her first Stihl Timbersports Series championship (2018) and the International Women’s Cup in Vienna, Austria (2022).
She savors the thrill of competition, driven by an intense desire to prove herself and do well by others—namely, her family, her country, and her God. Sometimes, though, she has other motivations. She recalls one 2019 competition in Hayward, Wisconsin, shortly after a close friend succumbed to cancer.
“She always wanted to come and watch me compete,” King says of Emily, her late friend. “With her passing, I had that heavy loss and deep grief, but I also knew she could finally see me. I dedicated my performance to her, and it felt so free.”
King wound up winning the title of All-Around Women’s Champion at the event, the 60th annual Lumberjack World Championships.
“There’s something very unique about competing with freedom, because there’s something greater driving you—more of a joy, an expression of compassion,” she adds. “I felt that [Emily] got a really good show that day. I was crying up there while I was accepting the award.”
Doing More
A hectic competition schedule could very well keep King on the road every weekend between May and October, logging thousands of miles in the air and behind the wheel of her truck. Her axes and saws have taken her across the country and around the world, to international events in Australia, France, and Germany, among other far-flung countries.

When not competing or training, she spends her days among the trees: climbing them, tending to them, and sometimes bringing them down for clients of Chadds Ford Tree Service. The family business began shaping her life at an early age, though she didn’t join the company full time until after the pandemic hit.  
“I grew up watching my dad grow the business with my mom; my parents were my heroes,” she says, referring to Rob and Katharine King. “My parents let me know that I’d always have a place here, but they also pushed me to pursue my own passions, not just live out theirs.
“I had a desire to do what my dad did, but I also wanted to broaden my horizons through school and sports,” she continues. “The business was a grounding place for me, something that taught me about humility and service and sacrifice.”
King initially thought she’d devote her life to animals, possibly as a veterinarian. After graduating from Penn State, where she studied animal sciences, forest science, and wildlife and fisheries science, she absconded to Holzheim, Germany, to work on a pig farm and practice her mastery of the German language. Other résumé highlights have included time spent at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, where she worked with pregnant mares and their foals, and the Oxford-based specialty lumberyard Hearne Hardwoods.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2024 and beyond, King has a few goals in mind: more championship wins, more record-breaking performances, more opportunities to give back. She particularly likes the idea of connecting with students, as she did through recent speaking engagements at Saint Andrew School in Drexel Hill and the Renew Student Conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Other people have taken time out of their lives to greatly improve mine,” she says. “It’s not fair that the blessings should stop with me. I want to do something good with my time on this earth. … I’m not entirely sure what that looks like, but it could be something as simple as talking to someone in line at the grocery store about what God has done in my life and encouraging them to do more.
“God has done these things for me,” she continues. “I give my best, and that’s all you can do.”
Taking the Reins
Known for their accomplishments in business, health care, the arts, education, and the law, these remarkable women have claimed leadership roles in their respective spheres of influence.
Stacey Ballard
President of Eadeh Enterprises, a Berwyn-based company devoted to transforming real estate leasing and construction projects across the Main Line and elsewhere.
Snezhana Bogatin  
Owner and founder of Oil Divine, a manufacturer of natural, cruelty-free, organic, and nontoxic skincare products, which recently opened its first retail store in Newtown (with more to come).
Deana Corrigan
Principal/Realtor with COMPASS RE in Doylestown, as well as a Certified Relocation Professional. Leads a female-dominated team devoted to helping clients achieve their real estate goals.
Pamela Gifford
CFO of Holland Floor Covering, a family-run enterprise with locations in Newtown and Wayne. A strong and independent mentor to the third generation of the family to take the business forward.
Dr. Laura Hotchkiss
Head of school for the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, a prestigious all-girls’ Catholic college-preparatory school in Villanova.
Marianne Inforzato
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and partner with Fairman Financial in Chesterbrook, with nearly 25 years of experience as a wealth advisor, estate planner, and tax planner.
Dr. Hanh Bui Keating
Board-certified periodontist with Bryn Mawr Periodontal Associates. Programming chair of the Delaware Valley Academy of Osseointegration. Member of the Union League’s Table 1986 club devoted to local educational initiatives.
Lisa Linn
Versatile and proficient Realtor with RE/MAX TOTAL in Yardley with more than two decades of real estate experience in Bucks County and surrounding areas.
Valerie Manfred
Owner of ACRE Windows & Doors, an Andersen certified installer and dealer serving residential customers throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Dr. LynAnn Mastaj
Founder and leader of Bryn Mawr’s Mastaj Orthodontics. Educator, world traveler, and adventurer who has summited some of the world’s most challenging peaks.
Amber Noble
Ardmore-based Realtor and a managing broker with Keller Williams Main Line. Educator, motivational speaker, author, Harvard-certified negotiator, serial entrepreneur, and advocate for people with disabilities.
Sheryl R. Rentz
Founder of The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz P.C. in Bryn Mawr, who has been helping clients through divorces and other high-stakes family matters for more than 30 years.
Maureen Reynolds
Realtor and luxury home specialist with Serhant. Third generation of her family to excel in the fields of real estate and custom construction in the Philadelphia area.
Jenna Richardson
CEO and clinical director of Lawrenceville, New Jersey-based Princeton Integrative Health, a practice devoted to improving patients’ health improve by getting to the root cause of their disease or dysfunction.
Jena Salzano
Founder of Anej Skin Studio, a Yardley-based enterprise focused on skin care and wellness. Veteran presence with approximately 20 years of experience in aesthetics.
Ashara Shapiro
Artist, poet, and founder of ArtWRKD, an artist consortium and exhibition space in Newtown. Member of the Arts and Cultural Council of Bucks County, which is devoted to strengthening and promoting the local arts community.
Sue Szczepkowski
Head of lower school for Germantown Academy, the Fort Washington school known for cultivating creative learners imbued with character and community-mindedness.
Dr. Miriam Ting
The founder of Think Oral Implants and Periodontics, which has offices in Paoli, Swarthmore, and Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood. Founder and director of the Think Dental Learning Institute, a provider of evidence-based continuing education.
Photo by Alison Dunlap
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, May 2024