Nov302012

9 Comments

5 Reasons to Have an Axe in the Home

Guest post by Alex Leavens, who teaches homesteading and wilderness skills. Visit his site, Old Federal Axe Co.

For the Survival Kit in your Car

An axe is a handy all-purpose tool that can be tossed into the trunk of a car, canoe, or backpack, and should be a guest on every camping trip, hunting trip, or country drive. An axe can be used to rapidly process firewood in an emergency but can also shave kindling, clear downed trees on a back road, cut through thick ice, help dig a car out of mud or snow, pound wooden stakes, and many other creative tasks.

Your Off-Grid Fuel Source

More and more people are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels. Whether you live in the city or country and if you saw your own firewood or get cordwood delivered, you’ll need a splitting maul and a hatchet. Axes can be all-purpose tools but they’re also surprisingly specialized. There are axes for splitting, chopping, and shaping wood. Having the right axe for the right job will save lots of time, money, and frustration. Tools used to split wood will be thicker near the blade as their sole job is to separate the long wood fibers, unlike a thinner, sharper chopping axe whose job is to sever the fibers and lift away waste chips.

An Axe is a Chainsaw’s Best Friend

Whether it’s for fuel for your wood stove, removing a downed tree in the yard, or just managing the back forty, the chainsaw clearly dominates the woods. But where your chainsaw goes, so should your axe. The axe can be used as a mallet to pound in plastic chainsaw wedges, limb branches too awkward and unsafe to get with a chainsaw, and your work need not stop just because your chainsaw breaks down or runs out of mix. If your chainsaw needs a break you can do some important limbing and clearing with a light and portable ¾ axe or a “cruiser axe.” (A small double-bit axe with a 28inch handle.)

The Axe is a Thinking Tool

I believe that it takes more brains and sensitivity to operate an axe than it does pure muscle. Of course there’s always a degree of elbow grease required when using any hand tool but a skilled axe-person will be able to read the wood, use good form, and let the weight of the axe do most of the work. A person who learns to use an axe with skill will develop finesse and artistry and knowledge of the axe is also linked to knowledge of wood—how different woods behave, what wood is good for tools, for firewood, or for building—an essential body of knowledge for someone interested in survival.

A Mark of Skill, Independence, and Americana

The American Felling Axe we know today is a true American innovation. The heavier poll and shorter, wider blade made it a far more efficient tool than the European axe from which it evolved.

It’s an important symbol of American spirit and independence and it’s a tool that is uniquely intertwined with classic American icons and images. Abraham Lincoln was a master with an axe, the poetry of Robert Frost is rich with images of the axe and tools of the farm, and the axe appears in the many drawings an paintings of the American artist, Eric Sloane—famous for his paintings of barns and knowledge of old tools and country ways.

The axe is also a living symbol that’s making a comeback as more and more people take to the homestead and relearn old skills. A person who wields an axe with skill and knowledge can carve out quite a comfortable existence in the woods or homestead and pass those skills down to the next generation of independent Americans.

Give Alex’s Facebook page a “Like” and check out his website and training DVDs.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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(9) Readers Comments

  1. Great article. In today’s society, many times the axe has been forgotten or left behind in favor of the chainsaw. Not only does an axe have a place in every tool shed, but the exercise you get while using one makes you a healthier person. Thanks for the great article.

    • Thank you, and I agree. The kind of exercise I get swinging an axe out in the fresh air makes for a healthy body and soul.

  2. I never knew an axe had so many applications. I like the idea of it not using any kind of fuel besides good old elbow grease. I guess an added benefit is that it gives you an upper body workout………:)…..just what ever girl needs……:) If I were to come across an axe what should I look for in terms of quality? How to I check for safety? In other words how do I know the metal end is not going to come off when I try and use it. Thanks!

    • There’s so much to look for when choosing axe that’s new or used, and you’re right that the most important thing is not to have the axe head fly off the handle. For a newer axe that you find at a hardware store or farm supply store, you still want to make sure that the head is on tight and that the handle is straight.

      Or if you’re out for a day’s work with a group of people and someone hands you an axe (that you’ve never met before) you would want to check that axe from top to bottom. Look for cracks or damage in the handle, big chips in the blade or the poll, and jiggle the head to make sure it’s on tight.

      If I find a 2nd hand axe at a garage sale, farm sale or flea market, my favorite way to get new axes (new to me, that is), I rarely, rarely keep the old handle. The steel is generally better on older American made axes than the ones we see today at hardware an big box stores and when I hand pick a handle for that axe head I know that I’m going to have a reliable tool for many years.

  3. Having an axe makes sense. we need one.

  4. There is something satisfying about swingin an axe. I still appreciate my saw, but I know ive done something profitable after the axe needs a file, and I need a shower! I bought a fiberglass handle because I knew I had to train the new guy. I love the look of a weathered well used axe.

    Firefighters carry two types of axe one is the flathead like the picture above. FF’s dont try to cut the fibers of the wood its more of a smash or break the fibers. Flatheads are usually married with a halligon tool. This married pair can be handled by one but is “worked” better with two. This is a very common set for those assigned to search and rescue or ventilation. There are not that many doors out there that I couldn’t get through if I had my pair. The operator can also hold the head in hand and use the handle as an extension to search a smoke filled room.

    The other is a pick head axe. Sounds just like it looks, it has a triangle shape attatched to the opposite side of the cutting edge. Its mainly is carried by engine companies. The pick allows the operator to pull like a hook, or poke an access hole or starting point for opening a wall or ceiling.

    Most FD axes aren’t sharpened, they generally stick in the wood when sharp. That being said they are kept with a clean edge for the same reason. Also painted edges are usually a sign of not used or lazy maintenance. Axe heads should have a nice clean oiled look.

    Axes also make a formidable defense weapon. requiring some training! Dont forget hatchettes, tomahawks, and machetes either!

    I believe I have may have a bladed fetish…..:)

  5. Thanks! I had no idea there was so much to axes. I know we have one, and a gadget to help with splitting wood with a mallet, but I don’t really know the specifics. I guess I should go check if we need to augment the tools again!

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