How Many and Which Axes do you need?

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Dunerunner, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    If I had my way and the funds to do so, I would own several axes. I envision a time when there is no fuel for my chainsaw and splitter, a time when we are returned to an era of manual labor and hand tools to produce firewood, lumber and sustain our shelters. But, I question what I really need? Axes aren't cheap, having one is having none as we all know but which ones and how many remain with complex decisions on which best suit varying situations.

    I've decided on at least two felling axes, two woodsman's hatchets, two double bit axes, and two carving axes. There is always a need for a camp axe and I have two of those. A pair of splitting mauls would also have to be on the list. I lean toward Gransfors Burks axes because of the steel and that they have wood handles that can be reproduced from local raw materials if necessary, and axe handles break or get damaged with use.

    My question is what others have determined they need and why...
  2. Merkun

    Merkun furious dreamer

    For my limited wood hacking purposes, a proper single bitted ax, a kindling hatchet, a splitting maul and wedges for the home plot does all I need (after a buck saw.) Now, if for some reason I think I need to be elsewhere, a 3/4 ax will do, 'cause I'll be on the move and won't be splitting winter firewood.

    I simply have to hope I retain enough skills to make new handles if the inevitable breakage happens and the hardware store in short supply.
  3. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Although of little use today, the broadaxe with an offset handle and a regular axe was used to make the timbers used in almost all old timber frame buildings and there is no replacement for it. The "cruze"? or adze used by the coopers was used to make the barrels, tanks, etc most foods and liquids were stored in. Boats could not have been built without some form of adze used to shape the frames, almost all firewood was split with the splitting mall and as a kid my grand dad used a maul and wedges to split out fence posts, tree by fours for rough buildings, a froe and a wooden maul to to make short pieces of lumber, shingles, clap boards, etc. It is all a question of what period you wish to stop. My grand dad with his swede cross cut timber saw, axes, adzes, hatchets, froe and draw knifes, pick axe, grub hoe, etc and his shaving horses, etc used to hold the wood while he worked it, could of built a house, other buildings, storage casks, cut and split his fire wood, and cleared his land with about a dozen tools. They all were long lasting, often used for generations , used no gas or electricity, would store for years if not needed, and with a few boring tools, hammers , and stone drilling bits and feathers, would allow an individual to rebuild civilization out in the woods, and they did. My grand mother had the tools to take flax straw, wool, etc and make cloth from the raw materials, to butcher, harvest, prepare, and store food. My grand dad could take a raw horse hide, tan it, and make harness out of it as well as making the metal parts used in it. All common skills and people had the tool to do so in 1870 rural Minn and the Dakota's. The tools and the knowledge are gone now for the most part.
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  4. RightHand

    RightHand Been There, Done That RIP 4/15/21 Moderator Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I have two excellent felling axes with good balance - both from my Dad - and another old one from my grandfather. that's the one that fell off it's wall mount, landed where I was working on the floor of the garage and cut off my left thumb from first joint to tip. I also have several hatchets what I find most useful for my purpose.
  5. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Great questions! For a pure survival stand point, a good double bit felling axe is indispensable and will save you space by not needing separate felling axes. I can get away with the double bits for most heavy work just fine, from heavy felling, to limbing and trimming and even roughing out future work for an adz! A single bit is a most satisfying tool for general work, and with a good working edge can really make light tasks mush easier. A "Race" single bit with a tooled steel wide bite cutting face is almost perfection, you would be amazed at how many uses it can handle well. And the speedy cutting can be a real advantage in a high speed low drag situation, one of the reasons I carry it in my daily rig. Think clearing a road obstruction with tangos looking for ya!
    A good splitting maul, amd wedges is a given, and a 10 pound sledge is also a very useful alternate to a maul using the wedges. For small but very powerful multi use axe, the boarding axes are unbeatable, as a hatchet for splitting kindling, or light to medium limbing, and even shingleing, a very handy tool to have about. And its even better them a tomahawk for when things get sporty! An adz and an offset face axe, both left and right hand can do just about any job requiring a more precisely hewn cut. Those are going to be the hardest to source, but worth every penny when you do find them. Spoke shaves, and draw knives are also very handy, but a good spoke shave would be the better of the two. And don't forget a good set of planes. You would be astonished at what you can do with a high end plane! I have shaped many a rifle forend, and even shaped the buck for the coweling on my airplane! All with a plane and sand paper!
  6. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    My next axe is going to be a Bearded axe , with Adz on the back side , I figure I'll be getting 2 of them , one with the straight blade and one with the curved or convex blade. I've looked at them Gransfors Burks products . They must be top of the line products for the prices they're getting for them . Not sure I can justify those prices at this time . I figure I'll be starting out with a midgrade model to start out with . My problem is I like to put hands on before buying one , and there's not to many places around that carry that style , that I know of . I like to feel how balanced they are . But that's going to be my next style of axe/hatchett .
  7. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    I use a single bit axe with wooden handle that was given to me by a friend who was moving. So, no real choice involved, but I love this particular axe and use it often around the place for heavy chopping. I have another handle ready for just in case. I used it Friday to help split bow staves from 7' sections of hackberry, along with 2 steel gluts, a 5 lb. sledgehammer, and a 2.5 lb. hammer. I start the splits with the axe and 2.5 hammer then the wedges and sledgehammer take over. A double bit axe wouldn't work for me, as I do hammer on it to start my splits. Also have a 5' one man saw, that I have used several times to get acquainted with it should I not be able to use my chainsaw, and it's a real workout. No chainsaw means about 10x more work to do the same with hand tools.
  8. Bishop

    Bishop Monkey+++

    Estswing camp ax.
  9. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    A good Bucking saw is also a seriously useful tool, both single and double handed ( two man) and I find them more useful then a cross cut saw for the same amount of energy!
  10. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    Being able to replace a wooden axe handle is an important option.

    A modern axe handle is an artifact of subtle design.

    I wonder how many people keep a pattern for axe handles in their survival stores?

    Or any other handle, for that matter.
  11. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    That is a true statement . That curved handle to me is what can really balance out a hatchett .
  12. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Don't forget, there are many differing ways to actually replace a handle, and depending on the type of wood, the type of head and and other thing's can really effect the outcome! For most of mine, I use the steam and char method to fit a handle, and I try to avoid using wedges, preferring wood wedges when forced to use wedges!
  13. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I have a great hatchet. It is a basic wood handle hatchet that has served us well over the years. I really dislike our axe. It is a Fiskars axe that I bought at a yard sale. It is really heavy and just seems bulky. The issue that we are really starting to run into is the boys are stronger then I am so the axe does not tire them as fast as it does me. I am finding in the last few years if we are buying tools that we will be co-using then I need to be there fore the purchase. I am hoping to get a lighter axe with a nice wood handle. The plastic/fiber handles do not feel right.
  14. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    Maybe you just need to get you your own personal axe , just to have when absolutely needed , and let the boys handle the manual labor while you just delegate authority ...:D
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  15. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    I once knew an old man who made ax handles,He would finish it with a broken beer bottle.Very time consuming.
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  16. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Uncle Morgan touched a very strong nerve. Axe handles are works of art and reflect 10,000 years of trial and error engineering. A fiber glass or metal handle will last for ever and is dead dead dead. A good hickery handle on an axe or maul has to be protected, if you over strike, it will break, if you set the axe, etc on the ground and leave it, it will get damp, expand, dry out and get loose and in time it will rot. If finished right, it will be smooth in your hands, has enough give that it cushions the blow of the strike and your hands don't tingle, give you a good gripping surface, be slippery enough that you can allow it to move in your hands and guide it in your strikes, is warm in the winter as it doesn't conduct heat like plastic, cool in the summer as it doesn't absorb heat like plastic or metal, can be easily modified to fit your needs, there is no one size fits all, and a 5 foot tall 100 pound woman will want a different length handle than a 220 pound 6 foot 6 inch man. My family always had pieces of second growth deep woods hickery blanks, peeled and cut to about correct length, but left in the rough , hanging up above the grain bins in the grainery. They were always split out, never sawed, as they wanted to follow the grain of the wood. The smallest pieces were 3 feet long for hammers and ladder rungs, the longest 20 feet long for apple ladders. Grand dad would take a blank, split it to about the right size, hold it in a shaving horse and use a draw knife and spoke shave to bring it down to size, and then rasps and broken glass to get the final shape. He used linseed oil and turpentine, quite thin if I remember right, to waterproof the handles, and rubbed them a lot. He had patterns for axe, scythe, maul, grub hoe, etc, handles and they hung on the wall with person's name on them. All of this was 75 years ago and when grand dad had cancer and moved to town, it like the spinning wheels, carding tools, shaving horse, hand corn shellers, grain cleaners, potato diggers, swede saws, horse farming equipment and horse drawn wagons, etc, all disappeared. Thrown out, sold for scrap, went to antique shops, the usual fate. My dad and uncles bought their tools, got the milking parlors, the tractors and combines, the whole modern life, and the next generation, mine, worked for someone else and all the small farms are gone. It, like the stories I heard on the reservation of the time of troubles, loosely called the Indian wars, grand dad's stories of the Civil war his dad told, the way we farmed with horses, made most of our tools, saved our seeds, raised our animals. etc, now are either lost or in a book somewhere. If things do fall apart, we will have a crash course in relearning them, starting from scratch, and it will not be pleasant.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
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  17. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I have adjusted my preferences on what is necessary and what is luxury.
    A large polished (Boys ax head) hatchet head and short handle work really well for most low level processing .
    a standard full size single bit ax for limbing .
    a good double bit ax for felling
    a maul for splitting biscuits
    wedges for splitting biscuits.
    A chain saw compensating for my age.
    for carving I have a marbles hatchet ideal for this work and a carving knife I made.
    As a survival tool I have a colt ax I modified with a adds blade for gauging and digging .
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
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  18. STANGF150

    STANGF150 Knowledge Seeker

    A couple of different hatchets, a double bit, a single bit, a maul & several wedges. I have more sledge hammers than axes. Although if I pull out the big crude ancient 20 pound sledge, it means i'm pissed & what I'm beating on is going to break. For the record, don't touch the edge on my double bladed axe. I ummm.......learned to sharpen it a lil too well, and as a result I ended up buying one those covers to go on the head of the axe.
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  19. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    Dad taught me how with a 20 lb sledge to break concrete into 3'X3' slabs and repurpose them for a walk way some where else.
    We had moulds ready to pour after a customer's slab was finished poured , these moulds were for chimney caps .
    Dad taught me how to use the sledge and wedges on really big biscuits and though one can use a maul as a wedge it's too rough on the handle .
    A maul or splitting ax has no need for being really sharp as it is driven with the grain most of the work is being done by it's wedge shape and thickness .
    About the only tools that need an edge are those likely to be worked against the grain.
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  20. deMolay

    deMolay Monkey+

    I have a beautiful old Collins 1-3/4 lb double bit which can be used one handed if necessary paid 10 dollars for it at the flea market. They did not know quality. I have a nice small hatchet Granfors nice size for a belt or back pack. Of course I would take the Collins if I could only have the one. Also have a generic single bit splitting axe and a full size double bit. Yah love good quality American made.
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
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