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How to use an Axe

The trend today is against use of axes in the backcountry.
The argument is that they are more often used to deface green trees and injure people than to produce firewood.
 In truth, it is not the tool that is dangerous; it is the person who wields it.

 Outdoor experts value a good sharp axe. They know it is much simpler to produce fire after a week long rain if a splitting tool of some sort is available.

The correct use of tools can make everything proceed more smoothly. 
It is important that everyone understands how and why to use the tools

They are tools, not toys.

[What size axe?]   [THE HANDAXE]    [THE FELLING AXE]
[USING AN AXE]   [To produce kindling
[CARE]   [Sharpening]

What size axe?

Axes can come in different shapes and sizes, the two axes that are of most relevance to any camper will be the HANDAXE and the FELLING AXE.
These two axes are different in size and in use (as their names suggest).


Always make sure the head (see diagram below) of the axe is tight before use. Use proper wedging -
wedges may be metal or wood. 
If the head becomes loose because the handle dries out, soak the wood in raw linseed oil.
For temporary swelling, soak in water.

An axe haft is usually made of hickory.

Never buy an axe haft with labels or paint on it - 
your hands will blister. 

Always keep the haft clean

A properly used hand-axe is the safest of all edged tools; it is lighter and more compact than a large axe, and when used in conjunction with a folding saw, it will produce all the camp wood you need with surprisingly little effort.


There are two types of felling axe:

i)The Rounding Axe

ii)The Wedge Axe

The rounding axe is used on hardwoods. It will cut deep on hardwoods but will tend to become wedged if used upon softwoods. It is different in the fact that it has a thin tapering blade, and that it has a smaller shoulder than the Wedge axe.

The wedge axe is used for felling softwoods, and will not become wedged in the tree. Very hard dead branches will damage the bit of a rounding axe but not of a wedge axe. The wedge axe has a less tapered blade than the rounding axe. It also has a larger shoulder than the rounding axe.


When using any axe boots (preferably steel toed) should ALWAYS be worn.

When using an axe a designated chopping area should be marked off.
This should be in an area where there are few if any overhead branches.

Spectators should always be kept at least two axe lengths away.

Here are the rules for safe, efficient use of the hand axe:

1. Saw wood to be split into 12 inch lengths.

2. Use the hand axe as a splitting wedge. Do not chop with it! The folding saw performs all cutting functions.

3. Set the axe head lightly into the end grain of the wood

One person holds the tool while a friend pounds it through with a chunk of log. All-steel hand axes are better for this than those with wooden handles as they are less apt to break. When splitting very thick (over 6 inches) logs, take multiple splittings off the edges.

Safety concerns: Hold the axe solidly with both hands. Allow the log hammer to do all the work.

To produce kindling:
Kindling splits easiest from the end grain, a process that's made easier and safer if you use a stick of wood to hold the upright in place


NEVER chop on the ground always use a chopping block, and aim at where the branch is supported by the block.

NEVER use the axe if you are tired, and stop using an axe if you become tired.

Irrelevant as to which axe you have been using, when finished with or not in use the axe should always be masked. This can be done with a leather (or similar material) cover, or by being left in a log.
When leaving it in a log make sure that the axe handle is never overhanging the length of the log.

When the axe has to be transported from one area to another, it should be masked
 (obviously not within a log)
 and should be carried so that the head is in your hand with the blade facing forwards and the toe facing towards the sky.

NEVER use an axe with a split haft. Always replace a damaged haft with a new one - NEVER attempt to repair a haft however slight the damage.


For day to day sharpening use a circular carborundum  axe stone (wet or dry), making a rotary motion.
Keep your finger tips away from the blade.

 Proper Maintenance for Axe

Keep the head greased when not in use and mask either in leather or canvas.

Always sharpen your axe before you put it away.

Keep the haft slightly oiled, preferably with raw linseed oil, when not in use. Do not put too much or else it will be slippery and sticky.

Make sure that the axe obtained is not painted as there maybe hidden cracks beneath the paint.


An axe with a blunt edge becomes no more than an inefficient hammer, and indeed a great deal more dangerous as you struggle to use it.
 Always keep your axe sharp.

  Carborundum Stone

Grinding Stone



When using a hand axe, always chop downwards and away from your own body.

Never attempt to cut unsupported wood.

Never chop onto or into the ground.

Keep spectators in front of you and at least six feet away.

Never throw an axe.

Never leave an axe lying on the ground or propped up against a log or tree.

If the axe head is loose, stop using it.

If you become tired while chopping, stop at once.

Learn to aim at a particular point on the stick or log you are chopping.

Keep your eyes on the place you are trying to chop.

Keep calm when chopping.

Do not be over confident or careless

If you are wearing a scarf or tie, ect. take it off before you start to use the axe.
Anything in the way must be removed

Whenever you stop using the axe, mask it properly either by putting it in the carrying case or by masking in a block.


Never attempt to repair an axe handle

Never use any axe that has a damaged or split handle.

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