Things to Avoid when Picking a Hand Axe
When picking out a hand axe, you must take care regarding the shape, size, weight and angle of the axe being purchased. Buying an axe that is too large for the applications you have in mind can make chopping tasks more difficult or even introduce problems with transport, and having an axe that is too small a handle will increase the amount of physical labor involved.
Different Types of Axe Handles
Avoid purchasing a hand axe with any type of handle other than wood. Plastic or vinyl handles are subject to warping or breaking, and metal axe handles are often hollow, and subject to bending under conditions of hard use. Most experts recommend a hardwood handle, usually hickory or something similar. When selecting the handle, take note of the grain of the wood wood. Longer lasting handles will have a wood grain that run parallel to the axe head. Wood grains that run cross-wise in comparison to the blade are more likely to break under heavy use, and should be avoided.
Avoid Treated Handles
Avoid handles which are coated with paint or some sort of lacquer. Coated handles offer to two possible dangers, first by creating increased chance of blisters during use, and secondly by increasing the danger of sweaty palms losing traction, resulting in poor or no control of the axe during the swing. A slippery axe handle could even result in the axe slipping completely out of your grip, transforming it instantly from a valuable tool to an extremely dangerous weapon.
The balance of your camping axe will have a large impact on how well the axe works for you. The ideal hand axe handle should weigh about the same as the axe head, or even a little less. Axes work by applying leverage to the chopping point, and a handle that weighs too much reduces the effectiveness of the swing. To check the balance, place the frontal junction of axe and handle on one hand, edge on, and allow it to swing there. If the head tends to dip downward, the balance is suitable for most uses, and if the handle is the part with the most leverage, it might be a good idea to try a different hand axe.
Axe Head Angle
The way the axe head can be very important in how well the axe will work. Avoid an axe head made so that the handle arcs too far forward, as that can reduce you leverage dramatically, and upset the delicate balance involved. The eye of a hand axe should angle very slightly away from the cutting edge, so that the handle is positioned with a very small angle toward the blade. While a hatchet should have the bottom of the handle almost in line with the cutting blade, the handle of a hand axe should actually terminate somewhat short of the cutting blade. This results in greater leverage during swinging, and reduces the amount of labor required by almost half.