How To Cut Wood With An Axe

What You'll Need
Felling axe
Safety glasses
Work gloves (optional)
Steel-toed boots (optional)
Leather sheath

Cutting wood with an axe is a healthy activity, a practical skill and fun to do. Follow the instructions given in this article and you will soon learn to safely and efficiently chop through the largest log you can find.

There are several things to consider before you take your first swing with an axe. Select an axe of a length and a weight that you will be comfortable with and choose the appropriate axe for the job. A felling axe is used for chopping logs or trees perpendicular to the grain. There are 2 types of felling axe: a rounding axe is used on hardwoods and a wedge axe is used on softwoods. Make sure that the cutting edge is sharp and rust-free. Do not use an axe if the head is not securely fastened to the handle or if the handle is cracked or split. Wear safety glasses when chopping and make sure that you can grip the handle tightly and firmly (wrapping the handle with electrical tape will prevent slippage due to perspiration). Be sure that you have sufficient clearance for your swing and that there are no overhead obstacles that might interfere. Practice your swing by chopping a log laying horizontally before you on level ground.

Step 1: Position Yourself

With your feet about a foot apart, stand at a distance from the log so that the axe head will strike the log when your arms are fully extended. Relax your body and lean slightly forward.

Step 2: Relax, Take Aim and Start Slowly  

Begin your swing by spreading your hands on the handle as you lift the axe overhead, sliding your top hand almost to the axe head. Hold the axe head so that it will strike the log at approximately a 45-degree angle. Turn slightly in the direction of your upper hand (right or left).

Step 3: Follow Through with a Smooth, Even Swing

Turn to face forward as the axe head reaches the high point of the arc. Slide your hands back together at the handle grip as you complete the down stroke. Strike first with the heel (bottom corner of the blade) for deeper penetration. Let your momentum and the weight of the axe do most of the work. Follow through by pulling the axe toward you to achieve maximum impact. Free an axe head that has become wedged in the log by lifting up on the end of the handle. Repeat the procedure making minor adjustments if necessary until you feel comfortable.

Step 4: Work your Way through the Log

Continue to cut into the log by making a V-shaped notch. Angle the axe head about 90 degrees in the opposite direction on alternate swings or on every 2 swings. Attempt to take out only a thin chip or slice with each swing.

It may take a while before you become proficient at chopping wood with an axe. Practice your swing regularly until it becomes a smooth, fluid motion and remember that even when used properly, an axe is a potentially dangerous tool.