For thousands of years, man has depended on axes to split, shape, and cut wood. On the list of man’s tools, it probably ranks right behind fire, and who is to say the first fire wasn’t started with wood chopped by a primitive axe? History has shown that the original Stone Age axe had no handle. It was a simply a stone wedge that used a combination of dual inclined planes to reduce the power required to split wood.
Over the centuries, the axe concept was continually improved upon, with archeologists discovering axes made of various stones and metals all over the world. Eventually, man began to fasten a handle to the blade. This was the creation of the modern axe. All modern axes have two basic parts: the blade and the handle, also called the helve.
Anyone who has ever had to cut firewood using a dull axe can tell you that, it is no easy task. I have seen many callused hands as a result of using a cheap axe. A dull axe can make cutting the smallest logs an intense chore. A rough axe handle can also increase the impact force you feel per cut. These reverberations are transferred to your bones and joints and can cause discomfort and fatigue.
All of this can make your axe a lot harder to hold onto and significantly increase your workload. If you are like most of us, you are probably ready for a new axe.
How to Choose the Best Axe
It is important that you understand that your body type will be a major factor in choosing the best axe. Also your exact cutting scenario will be equally important. If you are going to be cutting wood, you need a cutting axe. If the majority of your work is splitting firewood, you would want to choose a splitting axe. There are three main purposes an axe serves:
Cutting – A cutting axe is specifically designed to cut against the grain. It works like a heavy razor blade.
Splitting – This blade is wider than a cutting axe. The extra width in the angle helps tear the log in half.
Shaping – This blade is designed to produce an even cut. This is required when converting logs to beams.
Let’s take a second to examine the differences between a cutting axe and a splitting axe. Cutting axes differ from splitting axes in their construction. Most cutting axes have a shallow wedge angled blade. This gives you added precision but sacrifices a little power.
Splitting axes, on the other hand, are more likely to have a deeper angle. This deeper angle allows the splitting blade to penetrate deeper into the wood and assist it in chopping. Better penetration is the key to lowering the power required to split logs.
Over the last several thousand years, the axe design has remained semi-consistent with only the blade material really making improvements from copper to bronze, then from iron to steel. It wasn’t until recently that axe makers made significant improvements in these categories:
Axes have seen a drop in overall weight and an increase in strength by utilizing new high carbon steel blades. They can also be infused with other state-of-the-art materials. This has also allowed for axe heads to become as sharp as razors.
There are 100s of axe head shapes. New technology has allowed for improved beveling and angles. All this means less resistance per chop and more control of swing.
Carbon fiber composites can significantly reduce weight and user stress. The impact of your cut is absorbed and your cutting force is magnified.
A perfectly balanced axe can be wielded with proficiency. It should balance evenly while holding the blade in your hand.
Your personal traits and cutting scenarios are a big factor to weigh when choosing the best axe. These are the 5 most important points to consider:
It is important to choose an axe that matches your height. If you choose an axe that is too short, you will strain your back, if your choose one that is too long, you can lose cutting power.
You should feel the weight of your potential axe to make sure you can easily manipulate it. You don’t want an axe that is greatly overweight. It will increase your fatigue and the chances of missed cuts.
How often you will be cutting
It is important to consider how often you will be using your axe. If you are planning to do some serious woodwork you should consider spending the extra money on a high end brand.
What you will be cutting
Do you plan on cutting a lot of oak, pine, or birch? Each wood has its particular peculiarities that can affect your axe’s performance. Knowing your wood is an important part of becoming an axe smith.
How will you transport your axe? Are you expecting to carry it for long periods of time? Is it primarily for camping? All of these questions can help determine which axe makes the most sense for you.
The right axe should feel comfortable and precise. It shouldn’t be too heavy and it should be tailored to your specific needs. With all of these factors choosing the right axe might seem overwhelming. Let’s take a look at a 5 of the bestselling axes on the market.
It only takes one swing to realize that the x27 is a cut above the rest. The Fiskars x27 super splitting axe is the culmination of years of research, design, and use. This highly advanced axe originates from Finland. When Fiskars created the x27 design, their goal was to create an axe that was simple but highly effective. They definitely succeeded.
The x27 incorporates an ultra-sharp edge. The axe head uses optimum blade technology to increase splitting power. The use of a softer metal allows the blade to become extremely sharp and the beveled design creates a splitting action as soon as the blade impacts the wood.
The non-stick coating on the axe head works great and the narrow blade design helps keep this axe from getting lodged in your logs. The 27 can easily cut hardwoods such as oak or aspen.
This axe uses state of the art material to increase strength and lower weight. The 4-pound head can easily turn logs into kindling.
The patented FiberComp handle is specially designed to absorb the impact shock of your swing. This longer handle translates into more splitting power.
This locks over your axe head preventing the blade from catching or dulling. The easy-open lock is located at the back of the axe head can be released in seconds. All this means you can transport your axe with greater ease and safety.
If your handle cracks, you just contact Fiskars and they will replace your damaged axe.
- ideally suited for taller users
- state of the art blade angling
- lifetime warranty
- perfect power to weight ratio
- state of the art design provides maximum force
- due to its longer handle, it is a little more common to over swing
- loss of some portability due to longer size
The Fiskars x27 definitely holds its own against the competition. Fiskar’s excellent quality control and advanced manufacturing techniques make the x27 stand out among the crowd.
The Fiskars x27 is a great multipurpose axe and a great addition to any outdoorsman’s tool set. The added technology really makes this axe a great solution.
It is lighter and stronger than its predecessors. Fiskar’s patent pending design is a break-thru in axe technology. It’s a great alternative to a full size felling axe. When it comes to clearing trees, or cutting downed trees into logs, few midsized felling axes can compare.
The x15 incorporates ultra-sharp edge technology into its hardened steel blade. This new axe head is thinner and stronger than previous models. The use of softer metals allows the blade to become extremely sharp, and the thin blade penetrates deep into the trees with ease.
This axe incorporates space age composites to reduce its overall weight. New carbon fiber composites have been specially engineered to increase strength and durability.
A vibration-absorbing chamber keeps your cuts stable by deferring the impact of your chop and dispersing it within the handle. The carbon fiber reduces stress and fatigue and, if your handle shows any signs of breakage, Fiskars will send you a replacement model at no cost.
Fiskars’ easy to use blade lock allows the x15 to be easily stored. The carrying handle is the perfect size for transportation and it keeps your blade sharp and safe.
You know a product is built with superior materials when the manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty. Even though the x15’s handle is advertised as indestructible, there is always a slim chance your product could have an issue. If you happen to be one of these unusual cases, you can have peace of mind knowing that your product is protected for life.
- lifetime warranty
- cutting edge blade technology
- blade sheath
- due to its smaller size, it can be uncomfortable for taller users
- slight loss in cutting power due to size
The x15 has some unique features that make it stand out amongst the competition. The shorter handle gives it more mobility with little to no loss in chopping power.
If you need a portable axe that can produce results similar to a full size, the x15 is a solid choice for you. The new material used in the construction makes the x15 lightweight and much easier to handle than the competition.
The Fireside Friend is a great camping tool, especially because there are a lot of scenarios when a full size axe is not reasonable. You can use it to easily split logs, and the hammer side of the axe head can be helpful when it’s time to nail tent stakes in. The Estwing Fireside Friend truly is the perfect tool for camping.
The 4-pound head is perfectly suited for splitting logs with the grain. The patent pending double-tempered axe head design utilizes three tools in one. The E3-FF4 has a maul/splitting axe head that combines many characteristics of a felling axe.
Because of the E3-FF4’s lightweight design, you don’t have to lift the axe above your head to make your splits. This increases safety and accuracy by creating the ideal leverage and power for easy wood splitting.
The Estwing E3-FF4 is a small size splitting axe weighing in at 4lb of true cutting power. The Fireside Friend is the perfect size for portability, making it the ultimate camping tool.
1-Piece Forged Steel
The one piece forged steel design makes the Fireside Friend an incredibly strong axe. It also increases its durability and lifespan by decreasing any weak points.
The Blue UV coating and shock reduction vinyl grip handle reduce impact shock by 65%. This added comfort means you can cut longer and stronger without fatigue setting in.
- 1-piece design
- double tempered head
- made in the USA
- no sheath
- small size
Estwing hit a homerun with the E3-FF4. Taking the place of your axe, and your sledge hammer, the E3-FF4 is the culmination of years of experience in axe production. The Fireside Friend balances portability with splitting power.
The Estwing E3-FF4 Fireside Friend makes keeping the campfire healthy easier and quicker. The solid steel one-piece design makes it a sturdy alternative to traditional axes. Whether camping in the middle of a forest or splitting logs for your fireplace, the Fireside Friend is an easy to use solution.
The E45A can be used for felling full-size trees without giving up any log splitting power. The E45 is a small to mid-sized axe. It is very similar to large hatchet. The Estwing Axe Company has been providing top quality tools to outdoorsmen since 1923. They are recognized around the world as one of the premier axe manufacturers. This axe also includes a lifetime warranty. It’s a great axe for around $40
This unique axe head is designed to be useful in a number of traditionally knife scenarios. The E45 can be used to notch wood and you can even use it to create feather sticks to start a fire. It comes very sharp from the factory and the axe head has an elongated beard like broadaxes. Its compact design is particularly suited to chopping small to medium logs.
This axe weighs in at 3.7 pounds. The axe is expertly balanced to increase your power per swing. The balance also helps decrease missed cuts and splits.
This axe is specifically designed for camping. The 26in design means you can store it in your camping gear without having to choose between your axe and other essential tools.
1-Piece Forged Steel
The E45A is constructed from a 1-piece forged steel design. This means an increase in durability and a decrease in weight.
A nylon-vinyl deep cushion grip ensures heightened accuracy with every swing. It also absorbs the majority of the impact from your chop. You can even use the E45A one handed comfortably.
- 1-piece design
- double tempered head
- made in the USA
- no sheath
- small size
- loss of leverage due to its smaller size
The E45A provides an inexpensive solution to your campfire needs. It is much more affordable than the competition, costing almost half as much as the leading competitor’s brands.
The combination of different axe components makes this a very useful companion to have in the wild. If you are planning a camping a trip and are in need of an affordable mid-sized axe with excellent chopping power, the Estwing E45A is a solid choice.
Gerber Gator II
A traditional small sized axe or hatchet can be useful when it comes to splitting medium to small size logs. This trade in size vs. power can leave you at a disadvantage in certain scenarios. The Gator Combo Axe solves this problem with a unique twist. Housed inside the patented lightweight fiberglass filled nylon handle is a 10in saw blade.
The Gator II includes the benefits of a small axe melded perfectly with the accuracy of a saw. The stealthily hidden saw blade easily springs into action in under a second. This innovative design continues to impress campers worldwide.
The Gator II is specifically designed to work in the roughest conditions. The space age materials provide much more strength than its predecessor, while not sacrificing weight.
The forged steel head of the Gator II is specifically designed to retain its sharpness. The 2.7in blade can easily split medium to long size logs with ease. The blade is slightly curved to assist in the penetration of logs and the blade is slightly wedged to help split firewood.
A patented fiberglass-filled nylon handle means you can swing your Gator II with confidence. The improved weight-to-power ratio means the Gator II can handle extreme workloads without any compromise in results.
The overall length of the Gator II is 15.6 in. This makes it the perfect travel axe as it can easily be stored in your backpack. The Gator II lets you free up space and backpack weight while increasing your ability to handle wood-working situations.
- light weight and small size
- nylon carrying case
- one handed use
- textured handle
- loss of power
- one handed
The Gerber Gator II provides allot of unique features that can make your camping experience much more enjoyable. Its short size and lightweight make it a better choice than competitor’s brands and no other brand incorporates a built-in saw.
The Gerber Gator II is a perfect example of merging two very necessary tools to create a light-weight multipurpose device. The Gator II improves on its predecessor in a number of ways, including size and strength. All of these points make this a better axe and a great addition to your camping tool kit.