An axe is a handy tool that is designed to be used for cutting, shaping and splitting. If you plan on cutting your own firewood, removing trees or doing any shaping of wood, an axe is a tool that you are going to want to have on hand. There are many different types of axes, and each type offers a different benefit. Understanding your specific needs and how you plan on using your axe is exceptionally important before you start shopping for one, as your needs and your intended use will dictate which type of axe is the best one for you. In order to help make buying the right axe an easier task, we have done some in-depth research and have created this handy buyer’s guide, which is full of valuable information about related to buying an axe.
Types of Axes
There are five main types of axes, and each one is designed for a different purpose:
- Felling axes
- Hudson Bay axes
- Splitting mauls
- Broad axes
- Carpenter’s axes
Felling axes are designed with far sharp, thin blades and they have a slowly tapered head. This design makes it easier to cut across the grain of wood, allowing you to cut as deeply as possible with every pass of the tool. Felling axes also tend to have medium weight heads that typically range from about 2.45 to 3.5 pounds and a handle that can range from 28 to 36 inches. The size and weight, coupled with the design of the blade makes the felling axe ideal for knocking down trees and chopping off the limbs of trees that have fallen.
Hudson Bay Axes
Hudson Bay axes are fitted with smaller heads and handles than the felling ax. These axes were developed in the 17th century by French fur traders who worked the Hudson Bay trade routes, hence their name. Typically, the head of this axe is about 2 pounds and the handle ranges from 22 to 28 inches, which makes it easy to handle and ideal for trimming limbs and other smaller chopping jobs. A Hudson Bay axe isn’t designed to take down large trees, but is ideal for turning medium sized logs into kindling.
This type of axe features a head that has a heavy wedge design, which allows it to cut through wood along the grain. The heads of splitting mauls range from 6 to 8 pounds, which allows this type of axe to deliver a more forceful strike without getting stuck in the wood. It also has a handle that is nearly straight, which enables you to lever it deeper into the split after the initial strike has been made. The butt, or the rear face of the head, is broad on the splitting maul, which allows it to be used to hammer a second splitter through the log.
Broad axes feature large bits and long beards – the part of the bit that hangs below the rest of the head – are an excellent tool for traditional woodworking, such as hewing logs into beams. The bits of broad axes are beveled on either a single side, which gives it the appearance of a chisel, or are beveled on both sides, creating a scalloped cut. The shape of the bits allow you to cut away the rounded edges of a log more efficiently so that you can create a surface that is relatively flat.
If you intend on using your axe for more delicate woodworking projects, a carpenter’s axe is ideal. They feature a head that is typically 1.5 pounds and have a handle that ranges from 10 to 14 inches. They also tend to have long beards, which allow you to choke up on the handle, giving you more control. The design, size and weight of the carpenter’s axe cuts more precisely, allowing you to make more exact and more controlled cuts.
Considerations When Buying an Axe
When buying an ax, there are certain factors that you are going to want to take into consideration to ensure that you are buying the best one for your specific needs. Here’s a look at some of the biggest factors that we think are the most important to take into consideration when buying an ax.
How will be using the ax? What will you be using it for? The type of ax you need to chop down trees will differ from the type of ax you will need if you intend on using it for more intricate woodworking jobs. Typically, the heavier the axe, the more power it has; however, this also means that you won’t have as much control over the cuts that it makes. If you are going to be chopping down trees, a heavier ax will be better suited for the task; but, if you plan on doing more intricate woodwork, you will want something that is more lightweight an easier to control.
Single Bit or Double Bit
This is also an important consideration. Single bit axes have added weight, thanks to their polls, which allows them to make faster cuts; however, a double bit ax offers a more balanced swing and increased versatility. The double bit ax is more balanced than the single bit because both ends of the head are equal in weight and length. Also, more balance allows for better control when cutting, which means increased accuracy and greater efficiency.
The Weight of the Head
The heavier the head, the more force the ax will produce. This is great if you are an experienced ax user and you are going to be cutting down trees; however, the heavier the head, the less accurate your swing is. Plus, it can be more difficult to control an ax with a heavy head, which may make it more difficult for a novice ax user to operate.
The Length of the Handle
The longer the handle of the ax, the more force you will have when you swing it; however, a longer handle can also be more difficult to control. If you are not able to properly control the ax, you lose accuracy and the ability to make an accurate cut. If you are a more experienced ax user, a longer handle may suit you; however, if you are just starting out using an ax, or you just want to have more control, opt for a shorter handle. Handles come in two standard lengths: full-size and boy’s size. The former ranges from 36 inches to 31 inches in length, while the latter is typically 28 inches long.
Curved or Straight Handle
Axe handles are either curved or straight. The majority of single bit axes have curved handles, which makes it easier to swing the tool.
The Material of the Handle
The material of the handle is also important. Ax handles are made from either wood or plastic. While plastic may be more comfortable on the hands, it isn’t as strong as wood. If you are opting for a wood handle, the best materials are hickory or ash, as they are the strongest woos. Also, if you are looking for a wood handle, inspect the grain. The grain of the ax handle should run parallel to the hit of the ax, as this renders them stronger. If the grain runs perpendicular to the bit, the handle will be weaker and it will have a greater likelihood of snapping while being use.
Axes are pretty straightforward tools, which means that they typically don’t offer a lot of features. With that said, there are certain features that you may be interested in that can improve the power and the lifespan of the axe you purchase.
A handle that is varnished looks nice and can lengthen the life of the axe, as it provides extra protection around the handle; however, the varnish can make the handle slippery, which can make it difficult to grip.
Advanced Bevel Convex Blades
This type of blade makes it easier to remove the axe from the wood you are chopping, which also makes your chopping work quicker to complete.
Low Friction Surface
Some axes are designed with a low friction surface, which means that there will be less friction between the head of the axe and the wood. Less friction means more accurate cutting.
Sure, you can carry an axe by the handle, but a carrying sheath does make it easier to carry the tool; plus, it makes it easier to safely hang the tool when you aren’t using it.
If you want to ensure your satisfaction, look for an axe that comes with a warranty. Should anything happen to your axe, or if you are unsatisfied with it for any reason, the warranty will replace the axe.
Best Axe Brands
There are literally dozens of manufacturers that produce axes. We did some in-depth research, compared product reviews and even tested out axes from the top producers to determine what brands are the best. The results of our findings conclude that the following axe brands are the best of the best.
Fiskars specializes in producing axes that are manufactured from the highest quality, durable materials. Their cutting edge designs also make their axes extremely versatile and efficient. We liked the many different options that they had to offer.
This manufacturer specializes in creating a variety of tools, including axes. We liked how lightweight their axes were and how easy they were to use. We also liked how accurate they were. We found that this company of the best axes and reviews on we could find.
Gerber Bear produces exceptional axes that are crafted out of the highest quality materials. We liked that they offered a wide range of axes and that their tools were so versatile.