To fell, chop and hew neat rows of timber and stacks of kindling you will need an axe. The job is made much easier if you use the correct tool, so here’s a handy recap on the axes we provide and for what purpose they are best suited for.
If you want to cut down trees you will need a felling axe. These are designed with an extremely sharp, thin blade with a tapered head in order to cut across wood grain as deep as possible with each stroke. To help with this, felling axes usually have mid-weight heads (about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds) and have a 28” to 36” handle. This makes them ideal for creating stumps and lopping off the limbs of downed trees.
Hudson Bay Axe
With a smaller head and handle than a felling axe, the one-handed Hudson Bay was developed in the 17th century by French fur traders working the Hudson Bay trade routes. Also known as a ¾ axe, its two pound head and 22” to 28” handle make it perfect for trimming limbs and small chopping jobs. They’re great for turning a pile of medium-size logs into kindling. The Gransfors Scandinavian Forest Axe is an example of this style of axe, though lighter than the Wetterlings Hudson Bay Axe.
A felling axe cuts deeply across the grain, but a splitting maul utilizes a heavy (six to eight pound) wedge-shaped head, designed to rend logs along the grain. These axes deliver a more forceful strike without becoming stuck in the wood and the nearly straight handle allows the user to lever the maul deeper into the split after the initial strike. The Gransfors Maul blade starts quite thin to make the initial penetration in the end grain then quickly thickens to use the weight of the axe to force the wood apart. The rear face of the head is very broad and can be used to hammer a splitting wedge through the log.
Broad axes are named for their large bits and long beard (the lower part of the bit that hangs down below the rest of the head); and have been used since ancient times in traditional woodworking for hewing logs into beams. The bits of these axes are bevelled on either a single side like a chisel, or on both sides creating a scalloped cut. This allows the user to precisely cut away the rounded edges of a log while creating a reasonably flat face. These axes can be made as dedicated left or right handed tool – dictated by the side of the bevel and even an angled head, but symmetrical double bevel versions are by far the most popular.
A carpenter’s axe is best used for more delicate woodworking. These single-handed axes are slightly larger than a hatchet, with a 1.5 pound head and 10” to 14” handle. These axes typically have long beards which allow the user to choke up on the handle for more control. The blade is straight and suited to straight cuts on things such as joints and chair legs. The poll, or back of the axe is ground so that you can knock in the occasional nail if needed.
In contrast the curved blade of a carving axe allows for more detailed work on more complex shapes. Axes used for carving tend to have short handles so the handle does not get in the way when holding the handle close to the head for good control. Carving axes are used for many tasks including roughing out spoons and bowls.
At ProAdventure we stock these and many other kinds of axe made by Gransfors Bruk and Wetterlings.