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A few thoughts on axes.  

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Cutright
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01/12/2019 4:36 pm  

Between the EDC car kit I posted about the other week and the survival training trip I went on last weekend, axes have been on my mind. You'll not likely pack one for an over night trip nor for some theoretical assaulter load out. As a matter of fact, unless you're heading out to chop something down or demo something, you'll probably not pack one at all. But if you do, there are more excellent choices out there now than ever.

I went out on a three day trip about 10 years ago and it was single digits with a good bit of wind. We cut down a sizeable cottonwood just to not freeze...it was cold enough to be 24" from the fire at the shins so they were sizzling and your face, another 18" back, was freezing. To the point, I had packed a Fiskars X28. This was the non-splitting model, sans fat cheeks to split wood. At the time those were about $30, now closer to $50. I mention it because compared to my Gransfor Bruks Swedish forest axe, it cuts at about 90-95% the efficiency. It's a good axe, especially for the money. Considering that it comes so sharp from the manufacturer and the axe mask acts as a handle, it's a good recommendation for a real user. There was some fuss about if you used it as a hammer and missed, hitting the handle just beneath the head/poll, it would break nearly every time. I would suspect that's even more true of the Gerber version (owned by Fiskars) with the green handles that are made in China. Aside from this though, they're solid. I was reminded of this and just got back inside from throwing that X28 in the car. I needed an axe the other day and that Spax would have taken days to do what I needed.

If you like to spend money or just want a fine axe, Gransfor Bruks is a hard brand to beat. They acquired Wetterlings, and they too make a fine axe, although I did get a dud from them once and at the time they had no English speaking customer support to sort it out. Hults Bruks, Hultafors, Husqvarna, Wetterlings...they're all fine axes. I found the instructors Husqvarna (made by Hults Bruks, if I'm not mistaken) comparable to mine. He modified his heavily, akin to an AK-47 carried for two decades by the same owner. He had decals and decoration, hand wraps and a leather bump pad. But it was very similar in heft and swing. I would add that I paid around $100 for my axe, but they're now considerably more and I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Husqvarna, the cheapest and comparable version of what I have, especially after getting to use one for a bit.

A quick note about the Swedish axes. Most, if not all, are a combination of drop forged and hand forged. American standards dictate that an axe be edge quenched and with an edge hardness of 42-55 HRC (Hardness Rockwell - C Scale, a method of determining hardness). This tends to be on the soft side of things, 42. 55 HRC is just about more European kitchen knives and the hardest of machetes. I haven't tested the Swedish axes for hardness as I don't have access to a hardness tester any longer, however I suspect they are closer to 53-57. I chopped  through a total of 8 red oak logs and the axe was still shaving sharp. I actually demonstrated it as the property owner had joined us just momentarily before working and he made mention he needs one. Harder axes may not fair so well against the hardwoods, as they're really ideal for pine and softer woods of the north. I've not had any problems with mine and Missouri is home to Osage Orange (hedge), black locust, oak and hickory.

With that higher hardness and edge retention comes the hell you'll play fixing your edge if you're not experienced. If you miss a lot, go into the ground often, chop through on concrete, etc, you'll wreck your edge in no time and it'll be no fun without some elbow grease or a grinder.

Im certainly not knocking Estwing hatchets and axes, they're near indestructible, but that's part of the problem. They tend to be very soft, requiring resharpening after only a fair bit of use. Collins is now made in Mexico based on what I've seen and I'm not sure of their quality. Council and Vaughan are the only two I know of besides Estwing, Council being my preference due to the styles available. I do own an older 3.5# double bit cruiser bit Collins axe that really chops. It's also dangerous as hell and I've cut my off hand with it due to it's size, shape and sharpness.

Anyhoo, if you're looking to get one and have the opportunity to view it before purchasing, take a look at how it's hung. Make sure the when looking from the top down, the edge runs in-line with the handle. Also, look at the other end and check out the grain of the wood. You want the grain to run from front to back. Up to a 45 degree is alright, but not preferable. AN IMPORTANT NOTE: many axes do not come sharp. Its safer to ship that way, saves money in production and allows you to determine the shape of the edge. It's typical and unless you're spending a fair amount, it will probably be dull.

With all that being said, does anyone use an axe regularly? Do you have a preference? Style, weight, manufacturer?


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Matt
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01/12/2019 7:11 pm  

I know you asked me about that recently. I have a Wetterlings Small Forest Axe that is great for packing out if I know there will be lots of wood processing involved.  I also recently got to handle a few Hults Bruk models that seemed comparable as well.

I feel like axe skills are somewhat lacking these days. If you follow any of the hardcore bushcrafters, they get buy just fine with a reliable axe and a small knife for detail work.

"Man is still the first weapon of war" - Field Marshal Montgomery


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Diceman624
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02/12/2019 9:46 am  

I'm in the market for a good hatchet for camping/bushcrafting, but I hadn't considered the practicality of a small axe.  Here, again, I think it comes to the end users desired intent.  Short of building prepared fighting positions or an extensive lean-to, I don't know if I have a requirement for felling trees.  However, that could just be my own ignorance talking.  That said, I'm open to suggestions, as long as I can find an applicable leather sheath for the axe head.

Internet reputations may be one thing, but cold hard data is another.


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Matt
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02/12/2019 12:05 pm  

@diceman624

Most quality axes come with a leather sheath. I really like my small forest axe ;just checked, mine is actually the #118 Outdoors Axe, but it’s basically the same thing as Grandfors small forest axe), which sits between a hatchet and full size axe. It’s 19.25” long total.

it’s great for processing wood for fire, chopping/limbing small trees, and just general camp use.

I think something like the Hults Bruk Almike would be great.

The Almike

This post was modified 2 weeks ago by Matt

"Man is still the first weapon of war" - Field Marshal Montgomery


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Sunshine Shooter
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02/12/2019 12:31 pm  

I have an axe an a small hatchet that I use to cut up limbs from the tree in my back yard.  I'm pretty sure the both came from Harbor Freight.

"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement"

progunmillennial.wordpress.com


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Cutright
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02/12/2019 9:33 pm  

@sunshine-shooter

Rock em' till they fall apart. Some things are decent, some are not. Like the 2 pound double bit hammer I got from there...when the head flew off when forging and put a huge dent in the tool chest, I learned that important lesson. The hammer head was quality, the way they put the handle on was not.

Anyhoo, point being, check the head occasionally. Especially if it's a fiberglass handle that's epoxied in.


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Cutright
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02/12/2019 9:48 pm  
Posted by: @diceman624

I'm in the market for a good hatchet for camping/bushcrafting, but I hadn't considered the practicality of a small axe.  Here, again, I think it comes to the end users desired intent.  Short of building prepared fighting positions or an extensive lean-to, I don't know if I have a requirement for felling trees.  However, that could just be my own ignorance talking.  That said, I'm open to suggestions, as long as I can find an applicable leather sheath for the axe head.

Truthfully, many dont need a small axe. I really like the Cold Steel Spetnaz shovel for the float trips we do as it chops the soft woods on the water line easily plus I always need a shovel when we camp on the beach.

A 1.5 lb. hatchet is plenty handy to have but it's a big weight in the pack of not used a fair amount. I'd much rather have a large knife if I need a hatchet.

Much of my experience has been in state parks and forests and they do not allow taking down trees and such so none of that comes with me then.

In reality, unless your recreation is camping where you can and need to chop down woods, or youre training to learn/gain competence you will probably not take one with you unless you're doing maintenance.

Just a note to add onto what Matt said about the shorter axes around 20" on up to around 29", they're dangerous. They will swing right into your shin with no problem. Longer axes go into the ground before striking you, but shorter axes just follow through. I've only messed up once and a glancing blow off a black locust put a cut through my jeans and hit an eyelet on my boot, almost cutting through a lace...it would have been a bloody damn mess if it wasnt for the boot. So take the 20 minutes to read an axe manual or how-to as it's really worth it, if you're not already familiar. Just a friendly suggestion.


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Diceman624
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02/12/2019 10:00 pm  

I'm no stranger to an axe, since my father taught me his techniques for splitting firewood growing up in Colorado.  Granted, it's been almost 20 years since I last used one, but I tend to be excessively cautious with dangerous things I haven't used in a while.

I appreciate the advice, though.  All told, I think I'd still prefer a hatchet, maybe backed up with a camp saw.

Internet reputations may be one thing, but cold hard data is another.


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Matt
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03/12/2019 7:03 am  
Posted by: @cutright
Posted by: @diceman624

I'm in the market for a good hatchet for camping/bushcrafting, but I hadn't considered the practicality of a small axe.  Here, again, I think it comes to the end users desired intent.  Short of building prepared fighting positions or an extensive lean-to, I don't know if I have a requirement for felling trees.  However, that could just be my own ignorance talking.  That said, I'm open to suggestions, as long as I can find an applicable leather sheath for the axe head.

Truthfully, many dont need a small axe. I really like the Cold Steel Spetnaz shovel for the float trips we do as it chops the soft woods on the water line easily plus I always need a shovel when we camp on the beach.

A 1.5 lb. hatchet is plenty handy to have but it's a big weight in the pack of not used a fair amount. I'd much rather have a large knife if I need a hatchet.

Much of my experience has been in state parks and forests and they do not allow taking down trees and such so none of that comes with me then.

In reality, unless your recreation is camping where you can and need to chop down woods, or youre training to learn/gain competence you will probably not take one with you unless you're doing maintenance.

Just a note to add onto what Matt said about the shorter axes around 20" on up to around 29", they're dangerous. They will swing right into your shin with no problem. Longer axes go into the ground before striking you, but shorter axes just follow through. I've only messed up once and a glancing blow off a black locust put a cut through my jeans and hit an eyelet on my boot, almost cutting through a lace...it would have been a bloody damn mess if it wasnt for the boot. So take the 20 minutes to read an axe manual or how-to as it's really worth it, if you're not already familiar. Just a friendly suggestion.

I learned the short axe problem the hard way. The trick is to get down on your knees.

"Man is still the first weapon of war" - Field Marshal Montgomery


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Sunshine Shooter
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03/12/2019 5:10 pm  
Posted by: @matt

The trick is to get down on your knees.

I'D RATHER DIE ON MY NUBS THAN LIVE ON MY KNEES!!!

Anyone have a tourniquet, by chance?

"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement"

progunmillennial.wordpress.com


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Cutright
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03/12/2019 5:30 pm  
Posted by: @sunshine-shooter
Posted by: @matt

The trick is to get down on your knees.

I'D RATHER DIE ON MY NUBS THAN LIVE ON MY KNEES!!!

Anyone have a tourniquet, by chance?

Yeah! Stick to the man. You'll show 'em.

Ol' Stubs McSunshine Shooter's at it again. Grab the camera!


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