4 Tips for Choosing the Best Axe

The modern axe has survived virtually unchanged from the primitive tool that originated in prehistoric times. It basically consists of 2 parts – the axe head (made of steel) and the handle (made of wood or fiberglass) and is generally used for cutting or splitting timber. Some of the newer axes feature a one-piece forged steel construction. A brief description of the main parts of an axe is as follows. The cutting edge of the head is called the bit or blade; the opposite end is called the poll or butt. Each side of the head is called the cheek. The cutting edge is beveled on both sides and is slightly curved. The handle or haft is mounted securely onto the head through an oval hole called the eye located near the butt end. The handle is typically oval in cross-section and ranges from 20 inches to 36 inches in length. The majority of the handle is referred to as the belly. The handle bows slightly in toward the blade at the throat near the end to form the grip. The very bottom of the handle is called the knob.

There are several different axe types used for various purposes. Here are 4 helpful items to remember when selecting the appropriate tool for the job.

Axe or Hatchet?

A primary distinction is made between an axe and a hatchet. The much larger axe is used for chopping trees and splitting lumber. A double bit axe has 2 cutting edges and is used mainly by professional loggers. The smaller hatchet is designed to be used with one hand.

Hatchet: Definition and Use

The hatchet is a lighter, more compact version of the axe. The butt end of a hatchet sometimes takes the form of a hammer head and is used for driving nails. The head can also have a nail slot for pulling nails. It is appropriate for driving roofing nails and for cutting, splitting and installing wood shakes or shingles. It is an essential tool for a roofer and is quite useful to a carpenter. It can also be used when camping and for light outdoor work.

Types of Axes

Axes can be sub-divided into the following categories: a felling axe, a broad axe and a splitting maul. As the name implies, a felling axe is used for chopping against the grain as when felling trees. A broad axe has a large head and a broad blade that is flat on one side and beveled on the other. In the past it has been used for hewing rough timber but has been rendered obsolete by modern cutting tools. A splitting axe or splitting maul has a large heavy wedge-shaped head that is used for splitting wood along the grain. The maul works well with a dull blade and the butt end can be used as a sledgehammer.

Safety Tips

Never use an axe or a hatchet if the head is not securely fastened to the handle or if the handle is cracked. Do not strike the butt end of an axe with a hammer. Keep the cutting edge of the axe sharpened and rust-free. Consider the material near the grip of the axe handle. If you think there might be slippage due to perspiration, you might want to wrap part of the handle with electrical tape.