To Look For In An

by Ken Bernsohn l)Head weight. This varies from a pound and a half on some Hudson Bay or Tomahawk models to over six pounds. Traditional wisdom suggests that the heavier the head, the more effective the axe. There's more weight behind the cutting edge, so gravity can help it on its way. The theory proves oik when felting trees, splitting wood, or chopping lof^s so they'll fit your fireplace. Too light an axe can make you feel ineffective. But that heavy head can also


be a hindrance when you're limbing trees, grubbing out saplings, or just turning dead branches into firewood for a campfire. For these uses a 2i/a pound head works better, letting you control exactly how the head lands while it's on the way down.

The other obvious aspect of weight is that gravity can help your axe down only after you've hoisted it up against gravity. A six pound axe is a cpiick way, at first, to hurt yourself more than you hurt the log. if you're going to be using an axe for a living, or intend to build a log home, you might consider one. If you're using your axe, like most of us, as an adjunct to a chain saw, or for both limbing and felling, you'll find a four pound head is far more comfortable to live with, providing enough wallop to go through a log without harming you and enough control to make limbing easy.

2) Head shape. Double-bitted axes reek with the romance of the North Woods. They're also practical because one edge can be razor-sharp for fine work, while the other can be blunter and stand an occasional nick when used for splitting logs or grubbing. However, you do not want one when starting out with an axe. I live in an area where th" main industry is logging, and almost evt/y home has an axe, yet I've seen only three experts use double-edged blades. The droop-nosed Tomahawk is even less popular because of its excessively curved face and bantam weight.

If you're interested only in felling, a very narrow blade is right. An axe intended for a bit of felling, splitting, limbing, and grubbing will probably be best with an edge about 41/2 inches from top to bottom.

3)Steel. Some axes have steel so soft you'll have to almost continually sharpen them, touching up in the midst of each tree or log. Others are so tough that you need a grindstone to sharpen them, pausing every minute or less to plunge the axe head into cold water to make sure it keeps its temper. The ideal axe head is between these extremes, soft enough to let you manicure it in the field when it gets a little dull, hard enough that this won't be necessary too often. If your choice is between the two extremes, get the soft one and take along a file and stone.

4) Handle length and style. A handle less than two feet long will cramp you, forcing you to prop up whatever you're chopping on a high platform. You'll also find that the short handle means less power behind each swing. A straight handle makes sense only on a double-bitted axe.

These are the only sure things about length and style. When people made their own handles, each man worked out for himself what was best for him, I find an axe with a 2t/2 foot handle is usable, and a model that's a yard long is best. But that's probably influenced by the fact that I'm six feet, five inches tall. I also would prefer to have more of a ball end on the bottom of the handle (the foot) to help stop any tendency to slip or twist. But that's me, not you. To find out what suits you, you've got to take each axe off the rack, hold it across your body for feel, and make a few practice swings. Sure, it's a good way to feel a little foolish, swinging at invisible trees in a crowded store on a Saturday. But it's better to feel a little foolish on a Saturday than feel a lot foolish when you go back to get a different axe a few Saturdays later.


The odds are that when you buy your axe it will need sharpening. Step 1: Immobilize the head by putting it in a padded vise. If you're outdoors or don't run a workshop, you have two options. One is to lean the head against a stump or something else far more solid and stable than your knee. This is the traditional way, with the blade up, which 1 used until Gary Champagne saw me using it. He pointed out that, since you file into the edge of the axe, there was nothing to stop me from running my fingers into the edge. Gary's method is to lay the axe flat on a stump or table with just a quarter-inch of edge showing over the side. Now when you file into the blade, your fingers will hit the side of the stump or table before the steel, thanks to the angle you'll be filing at. Step 2: Use a full-size metal file, preferably with a wooden handle,

Sharpen Felling Axe Blade Angle
When sharpening the axe, use a full-size metal file. Make sure you do not sharpen the edge only, but work bach one inch.

working back from the cutting edge. Make sure you do not just sharpen the edge itself, or you'll end up with a wide V that gets wider with time, making your axe less and less effective. Instead, sharpen a full inch back from the edge so the taper is gradual. Wear gloves. Step 3: Finish off with a whetstone. Trying to do the whole job with a stone will wear your patience thin long before the edge gets that way.


Put your axe in a safe place and walk around the tree, studying it. Are there any large branches that will cause problems? How thick is the tree? If it's more than 1 VS> feet in diameter, chopping with an axe will be a workout. Consider borrowing or renting a chain saw if you have several large trees to be removed. Does the tree lean? Most do. The easiest way to fell a tree is to chop sq it'll follow its natural bent. If the tree shouldn't fall in the direction it's leaning, you'll have to do extra work.

The best way to change the direction of the fall is to tie a weight to a rope and throw it toward the top of the tree, snagging some branches before the rope falls back to earth. Bring the weighted end around the tree, so you're holding both ends with the tree in the middle of the loop. (This will take a few tries; if the tree is firmly rooted and easy to climb, like most apple trees, consider using your feet instead of your pitching arm to get the rope in place.) Now tie one end of the rope around the base of another tree that's roughly in the direction you want your tree to fall.

Haul on the rope, and you'll find it's easy to sway the tree. Have someone else tie your end onto another tree base so the three trees and the rope make a V, with the point being the one you're cutting. If it's hard to sway the tree, or if the tree's rough, have a few friends help. Do not tie the second rope to a truck and use it to pull the treetop! The tree will probably either snap in the middle or pull out by the roots, falling on the truck or on you.

Another, less sure way is recommended only for trees with moderate lean when you want to change the angle of fall less than 45 degrees. Let's assume the tree is leaning south. Chop your first notch, the one that determines the fall.

on the west. Make the second cut, the one that actually topples the tree, from the northeast. The tree will twist as you make this cut and fall more toward the west. How much more will depend, of course, on how much it was leaning in the fir it place. This is faster than the rope trick, but far less precise, as our phone and power companies will attest.

When you go back for your axe, pick it up so your hand is on the handle right against the base of the head. Now you can control it, which you can't if you carry it over your shoulder or swing it by your side. This way there can't be a problem if your dog rushes up or if you trip.

Remember: an axe is more dangerous than a gun. You can unload a gun, but an axe, even one with a leather sheath, is always ready to do damage.

That's why you should look about carefully when you get to where you'll stand while cutting. If there's anything around that might deflect the blade, like low bushes or low branches, clear away the obstruction. Make sure children, advice-giving adults, and animals are well beyond the place where the tree might hit if it falls where you don't want it to. Stand at a right angle to the side where you'll make your first cut, with the axe going in on the east if you want the tree to fall that way (unless you're correcting a twist).

With your right hand at the base of the head, thumb against the metal, left hand at the bottom of the handle, make your first swing, letting your right hand slide ->s you swing. It should go straight in, waist high. Your second swing goes in higher, cutting down toward the first. How much higher? It depends on how thick the tree is. If you make your blows right on top of each other, as though driving in a nail, your axe will soon get stuck.

By making a wide kerf, as the notch is called, this problem is eliminated. And even when the kerf is six inches wide, a slight twist with your right hand as the axe lands will pop out a broad, flat chip each time to clear a space clean down to your bottom cut. Alternating blows, straight in and down, continue until you're about two-thirds of the way through. This will again vary, depending on the tree. Do not go more than three-fourths of the way through. You may have a winner of a tree that leans a lot and needs only a one-third cut before the shifting of the top or the sound of a creak tells you you've done more than enough.

listening for the sounds of the tree and glancing up to see what the top is doing every few swings will help you pace yourself, instead of chopping as though each minute costs you money. High speed only costs you energy.

On a wide tree, work your way across the full diameter, cutting a chip from the far side, then one from the near, then as many as necessary in between to keep your line straight.

When you fee! "just a couple more whacks will be enough," stop, walk to the opposite side, looking up while doing so, and start your second cut. On a narrow (six-inch-wide) tree this can be about four inches higher. On one a foot in diameter it should be about eight inches higher. Unless you're cutting sequoias, li/2 feet would be maximum.

The tree will fall before you chop all the way through. So watch and listen as you chop. Pause, lean on the tree a little, long before you've cut enough, just to see if the tree agrees with your judgment.

how to limb a tree and log it

When the tree falls, a lot of it will still be in the air. Stand with the tree between you and the first branches you'll be cutting, working from the bottom to the top.

Some people do both felling and limbing holding the axe like a baseball bat. I don't like this method for felling, but for limbing, the baseball or golf club grip works fine. Cut away from your body, working only on the far side of the tree. Then go around to the other side and limb the one you were standing on first.

If you're working with a large tree, you'll reach a point where branches hold the trunk five feet or so into the air. To log into approximate eight-foot lengths, go back to the base.

About eight feet from the bottom step onto the trunk, plant your feet at least 2y2 feet apart. Have someone hand you the axe and chop from the side, with the axe going between your legs that are safely out of the way. If you had stayed on the ground chopping from the top down, the tree would eventually bend, making further chopping impossible. Make a deep notch on one side, then turn around and work from the other side. Once again, you should stop befoie chopping through. Standing with one foot on each half of the trunk when the ends break and the log shifts is not a good idea. After you're two-thirds of the way through, you can continue from the ground with the wide kerfs you've cut, giving your axe room even when the trunk bends at the hinge you've been making. When the tree has had a few of these eight-foot lengths cut out, you'll find the limbs are now easier to reach, and the eight-foot sections you've cut can be moved around to let you get at any branches holding up trunk sections.


Wait until you feel tense and frustrated. Then go out and prop up an eight-footer across another, or even across a few so that a two-foot section sticks over the end. Cut it off. A bow saw is the best hand tool for this, since it'll leave you a flat end that's important later. If using an axe, make that first cut straight in and chop toward it, gradually turning the log so each piece you cut has one flat end. Then move the log you cut farther along and do it again and again, until you have a stack of two-foot lengths.

In cutting hardwoct's—trees that once had leaves—you'll find the g^ing a lot easier if you cut while the logs are still green. This isn't as important with softwoods, but again it makes the work a little less.

To split the wood, look for cracks in the log. Stand one up on a stump and drive your axe into the biggest crack. Some people pick up the axe and log together at this point. But the log will twist on the axe. The log may fall off the axe onto you. The log may come back with your axe and keep going, as though propelled with a throwing stick on your backswing. Instead, I pry the axe loose, reset the log, and whack into the same spot. Three or four whacks and you'll have most logs in half. Depending on the diameter, you may want to split it again, and possibly again.

If the log is as big around is the potbelly stove, the method you've just read doesn't always work. You may find it best to drive a wedge (which can be a genuine wedge or a battered axe head you picked up at a junk shop) into the top of the log, using a sledge. Using the back of your good axe for this can stop it from being your good axe, so use the sledge. Then lay the log on its side and use your axe to drive toward the crack the wedge started.


by Lewis Weeks

When a piece of wood is too large to be halved or quartered with an axe, daisying is called for. To daisy a big hunk of wood efficiently is a pleasing experience both mechanically and aesthetically. As you move around the chunk, backing away from the last cut, you split off a three- or four-inch deep piece from the outside of the chunk. If your cuts are clean, each piece will fall away from the center of the chunk and lie flat on the ground. When a complete circuit has been made, there will be the petals of your daisy, facing out from the center. Pile the petals, and go around again and again until you have reduced your big piece to half or a quarter of its original size.


When you are done using your axe, take a hefty swing at your chopping block and leave the axe imbedded, assuming you'll return the next day. If you won't be chopping for a few days, bring the axe inside, wipe it off with an oily rag, and put it away. Storing it behind a bookcase or workbench will make sure it doesn't cause problems.

This sounds as though using an axe is a lot of work. It is, especially at first, when you forget to wear gloves and raise blisters. But it's satisfying work that you will enjoy in several ways. It removes you from the majority of folks who rely on store-bought logs to fuel their stoves, since in many areas the <tate forest services have areas open for those who want to cut their own firewood. It gives you a justified sense of self-sufficiency as you gain skill. And it makes your evening fire a matter of pride, something far more enjoyable than it would otherwise be.

How to daisy a log


The following manufacturers and suppliers deal in forestry equipment of all types and sizes. If you are looking for peaveys, cant hooks, grapples, axes, shears, or machetes, try the following:

Snow and Nealley

Manufacturers of "Our Best" line of forged tools for loggers and lumbermen (pulp hooks, cant dogs, pickaroons, etc.) along with some real specialties—bush hooks, grab hooks, and tell-tale rods.

Snow and Nealley 155 Perry Rd. Bangor, ME 04401


The Glen-Bel catalog features a full line of hand tools for woods work, including shears (Wiss, Belknap, Cyclone, and Blue Grass), pruning saws, bow saws, pike poles, timber carriers, and all types of axes and hatchets.

Glen-Bel Enterprises Rt.5

Crossville, TN 58555

Tree-Trimming Tools

Stanley offers a good variety of bydraulicaHy operated tree-trimming tools, from pole chain saws and tree pruners to circular saws and weed eaters,

Stanley Hydraulic Tools 13770 S.E. Ambler Rd. Ciackmas, OR 97015


The Friend catalog features a full line of hand and power pruning equipment—shears, anvil pruners, lopping shears, pole tree pruners, telescoping saws, and more.

Friend Mfg. Co. Gasport, NV 14067


A comprehensive line of tree-trimming equipment is offered by this company.

Bartlett Mfg. Co. 3003 E. Grand Blvd. Detroit, Ml 48202


This firm offers a complete line of pruning saws, bow saws, and hand saws.

Sandvik, Inc. Saws fc Tools Division 1702 Nevins Rd. Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

An Assortment of Woodlot Tools

Stanley Agricultural Power Prurter (3,4, and 5 foot lengths) Stanley Hydraulic Tools

Ames Pole Tree Trimmer Ames

Ames Pole Tree Trimmer Ames

Stanley Ames

¿¡faniey Agricultural Long-Reach Circular Saw (overall length. 5 feet) Stanley Hydraulic Toots

Ames Brush Hook Ames

Ames Brush Hook Ames

Cumberland General Store Crossville

Survival Equipment Co.

This company manufactures an especially helpful lightweight, machete-type tool for efficient land-clearing with minimum fatigue. It features a concave design with a blunt toe at the end of the cutting edge to minimize the risk of injury from a missed stroke.

Woodsman's Pat Brush-Clearing Knife Survival Equipment Co. Oley Tooling-, Inc. Oley.PA 19547


Pruning knives and saws, lopping shears, and budding and grafting knives are among the forestry-related equipment of various manufacturers listed in the Cumberland catalog.

Cumberland General Store Rt. 3, Box 479 Crossville, TN 38555


This firm markets pole saws, pruner poles and pruning saws, timber carriers, peaveys, cant hooks and other logging tools.

Anchor Tool«

William Day at Anchor make« and sells some of the more primitive woodworking tools like adzes, broadaxes, and drawknives.

Anchor Tools & Woodstoves 618 N.W. Davis Portland, OR 97208


A complete line of logging equipment, replacement parts, specialty forgings, and wood turnings is available here.

Dixie Industries, Inc. 1210 Greenwood Ave. Chattanooga, TN 37404


The Meadows catalog contains 500 pages of forestry and engineering equipment of every description. They carry many specialty items found nowhere else.

Ben Meadows Co. 3589 Broad St. Atlanta, GA 30366

Forestry Suppliers

They are among the world's largest forestry supply houses. If you can't find it in the FSI catalog, you might be in trouble. A sampling: skidding grapples, bowsaws, crosscut saws, pruning saws, timber carriers, pike poles, tree climbing gear, horticultural knives, and much more.

Forestry Suppliers, Inc. 205 W. Rankin St., Box 8397 Jackson, MS 39204

A German Supplier

Wolf and Bankcrt produce high-quality cutlery, including machetes and land-clearing knives for every purpose.

Wolf & Bankert

Werkzeug Fabrik

563 Rcmschied, W. Germany


Manufacturers of a wide range of quality equipment for professional foresters in Europe and North America. A few highlights in the Fiskars catalog are their log hooks, timber stacking claw, skidding grapple, and forest hoe for planting bare-rooted and rolled plants.


Mannerheimintie 14A Helsinki, Finland


This distributor carries a good variety of food-handling tools, as well as pruners, shears, and machetes.

Belknap, Inc. P.O. Box 28 Louisville, KV 10201

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

Get My Free Ebook


    When laying a broad ax down on flat side, should the edge be flat accross?
    6 years ago
  • madoc
    How to pull axe away from the axeman from wolf amoung us?
    5 years ago

Post a comment