The axe has long been one of man’s best tools and an essential part of any outdoorsman’s survival toolkit. This spectacular tool has been with us for centuries and, just like us, it has evolved. Today, there are many different styles of axe. Whether you are chopping down trees or splitting firewood, there is a blade specially designed for the job. Each blade has a unique style and special characteristics.
There are many factors that make one axe better than another for a particular job. With hundreds of different blade / handle combinations now available on the market, it can all get a little confusing. Let’s examine the 5 most popular axe styles listed below.
A splitting blade uses a weighted wedge shape design to cut logs along the grain. This axe is not likely to get lodged in the wood you are splitting because its heavy blade increases the striking force at impact. Splitting blades are usually complemented with a straight handle. This allows the woodcutter to lever the maul and deepen the cut.
When splitting logs, it may become necessary to hammer the blade through the log. The splitting blade incorporates the solution to this problem by having a broad butt that can be used to assist another splitter through.
A limbing axe is designed to be wielded while standing on a tree trunk and chopping downward at limbs from the tree. It is relatively lightweight (2lbs) and can be handled with one or two hands. Its medium length handle makes this axe well suited for the downward angle.
The Hudson Bay axe isn’t designed for chopping down trees in the forest. Its short handle (22in – 28in) and light weight (2lbs) makes it an ideal choice for turning medium logs into kindling. The Hudson Bay axe got its name because it was developed by French fur traders who traveled the Hudson Bay trade routes.
Broadaxes are used to cut logs into beams. Broadaxes are beveled on one side, which, coupled with a long beard (front lower blade), makes them perfect for this job. They are specifically designed for accuracy and can easily cut a log into a beam.
A felling axe blade is very thin and sharp. This makes it perfectly suited for cutting down trees. When you cut a tree down, you are cutting against the grain. A felling axe’s medium weight (around 3 pounds) allows it to cut deep across the grain. A 36in handle gives the felling axe great leverage. A felling axe blade is ideal for clearing limbs off downed trees.
Double Bit (edged)
A double bit axe has edges on both side of the blade. This can prove useful because it allows for combo blades. For example, one side could be a splitting blade, while the other side is a felling. The downside is some loss of mobility.
A Shaping blade is used to cut wood at very precise angles and locations. This axe has a flat blade that distributes your cut evenly. This helps keep your cuts even and accurate. Because of its flat blade, a shaping axe is much better at carving than chopping.
Hatchets can be great travel axes. They are usually half the size of a conventional axe, which means they are more suitable for traveling. A good hatchet can easily split logs into kindling.
There are also a number of different length handles you can get when choosing your axe. This is called the haft length and it usually comes in these sizes:
- full length: 28in – 36in
- medium length: 18in – 26in
- pocket length: 12in – 16in
Transportation, and the amount of use, should be the deciding force behind your decision. If you are going to be backpacking in Yellow Stone National Park, I wouldn’t recommend a full length broadaxe. A pocket felling axe would be a much better fit and it will provide you with a lot more comfort on your journey.
The point here is – there is an axe to fit every need. Now that you understand the different types of axes, you can decide what axe is the best solution for your woodworking needs.