The axe is an indispensable tool for any camping or outdoor excursion. Familiarization with the various axe styles (splitting axe, hand axe, splitting maul, etc.) and safe handling procedures will ensure that you get the most out of your new tool. First, make sure you have selected the right axe for the job. The hand axe, as the name implies, is designed for single-handed use and is most suitable for cutting small firewood or thinning branches. Hand axes may have either wood or metal hafts (or handles). A good rule of thumb is to rely on a hand axe for anything up to 3″ in diameter. Larger than that, and it’s time to upgrade to a bow saw or two handed instrument.
To bring down live trees, a felling axe is required. Felling axes are manufactured with various head weights and haft lengths – be sure to choose a size that is comfortable enough to wield safely. A medium-size felling axe generally has a 3.5-4.5 pound head and 30-35 inch haft, with larger axes sporting heads up to 6 pounds. In any event, whether you are working with hand axes or felling axes, keep the blade masked when not in use and never leave your axe outside overnight or in wet weather. A quality axe is a very valuable tool which will last a lifetime if properly cared for. Be sure to keep the axe head well oiled to prevent rust, and sharpen the axe with a carborundum stone when necessary.
If you plan to use your axe primarily to split seasoned wood, consider investing in a Scandinavian-style splitting axe. These splitting axes have a wedge-shaped head that are ideal for wood splitting but poorly suited for felling work. A Scandinavian splitting axe often has a shorter handle length than other two handed axes, and is common to have a 3 pound head, though other sizes are available. Larger splitting axes may be referred to as splitting mauls, with heavier heads and straight hafts. Turnaround hooks are frequently shaped on the end of the splitting head to assist with flipping logs over during the splitting process.
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