American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Top Ten #1: The Axe

Given the choice of just one item to take with me into the wilds it'd be the axe I would choose. Of the many axes I've tested and used the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe (SFA) has been my favorite. It came sharp out of the box and has held an excellent edge through extended use and required no modification to be useful.

Gransfors axes aren't cheap by any stretch of the imagination but they're very good quality from top to bottom.

I give the handle a coat of Linseed Oil every couple of months and the sheath has needed nothing more than an occasional brushing to remove surface dirt to keep it in service. The head gets oiled after every outing and I strop and/or sharpen the edge after every use to keep the edge where I need it.

With the SFA (or any axe) you've got a hammer, a chopper, and a cutting edge. I can use my axe to take a piece of standing dead wood all the way down to a friction fire set. You can use the bottom corner (or top for that matter) of the axe to carve the initial depression into the hearth board and making the notch with an axe is easier than with a knife as long as you remember to watch your fingers. You can even choke up on the head and use the bit like an ulu for food prep.

An axe will feed your fire, put a roof over your head, and can even be used as a weapon in a pinch. If it could purify water it'd be the ultimate survival tool. (Sure, it can feed the fire that boils your water to make it potable...)

I've used my axe to make tent pegs, trap parts, firewood, a platform bed, a roughed out spoon and bowl, and much more. It's been used as a hammer to pound in upright supports for a fire reflector, driven in pegs to hold logs in place for a primitive shelter, sunk wooden wedges into dead tree trunks to split them, and even pounded a few nails.

I'm by no means an Axe Man but I've used my axes enough to know that they're my ultimate tool and that they'd be the absolute last thing I'd give up.

Of course my environment is much more suited to an axe than the jungle or desert would be but that's why this is a Top 10 list and not a Top 1. :)

Thanks for reading,



At 8:45 PM, Blogger Wildcat said...

can't go wrong with an axe. I love my Wetterlings. Would not trade it for anything, except maybe a Gransfors.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous George Hedgepeth said...

An axe is THE top choice for the north woods. Hard to replace!

At 2:57 PM, Blogger sam_acw said...

Still not sorted mine. I've got a 1.5lb axe head I've still not sorted out along with a couple of tomahawk heads. I've also got 2 of the fiskars/wilkinsons plastic axes and they don't really do a lot for me. I'm looking forward to the next nine!

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Pablo said...

Yep. Small Forest Axe or Wildlife hatchet. Two top bits of kit.

At 6:59 PM, Anonymous said...

Yes indeed. My axe is an extension of my body. I've had this one since 1987 or thereabouts when I became a land surveyor and used it every day while surveying lines in the Great North Woods.

Even has the same handle. My axe and I go way back. I plan to be buried with it.

Oh, and you left out "weapon".

At 7:01 PM, Blogger American Bushman said...

"An axe will feed your fire, put a roof over your head, and can even be used as a weapon in a pinch."

No I didn't. :)

Thanks for the comments,


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Darrell said...

Oddly, I've been reconsidering axes in favor of a "chopper" and a portable saw.

Typically I'd fully agree, but just recently I've been experimenting with combining a Becker BK2 with various saws and they've been a surprisingly efficient combination. All tested in the Virginia mountains of the US - both deciduous and conifer rich.

I got the initial notion from some guy out on YouTube who goes by the handle nutnfancy.

I'm now wondering how well a larger "chopper" (say a BK9) and portable saw (say a fast buck saw) will team up with a small, light multi-tool. Not very traditional but this seems to hit every need for me.

Don't get me wrong lads, I still love my Wetterlings Large Forest Axe ...

Anyhow, some possible counter perspective. Thoughts?

At 8:19 AM, Anonymous George Hedgepeth said...

It is certainly a workable combination. Potential disadvantages might be difficulty splitting large wood in wet climates, and also saws can be delicate. A twisted blade pretty much ruins one, whereas a broken axe handle can be replaced.

For "survival" a big knife is fine- might even be superior to an axe when working with saplings. However, the axe can do more - and bigger- work faster. Everything is a compromise, and remember- it is not the song, it is the singer. Find what works for YOU.

At 11:16 AM, Anonymous mbhanzo said...

I love my Gransfors axes.

The more I use my Fiskars and Fiskars/Gerber axes the more I like them.. The Fiskars Pro Chopping axe is an awesome tool..

What I like about the Fiskars over the Gransfors is the additional durability offered by the synthetic handle. The head holds a great edge and works well for chores like splitting seasoned logs and making small shavings and a fuzz stick... The only time when making a fire that I use any other tool is when I strike my fero rod.

Cost is also a factor... I can purchase 3 or maybe 4 of the Fiskars axes for what I have spent to purchase 1 of my Gransfors axes.. This means I worry alot less about damaging the axe during hard use and I'm not afraid to let someone else use it..

I love my Gransfors axes and will never sell them.. It's a pure joy to use them and they cut fantastic.

Anyone that love axes and has not yet purchased or used one of the Fiskars Pro Chopping axes is missing out. The only modification to the axe I suggest is to wrap a bit of tape around the orange painted handle portion to give it more grip as this area gets a bit slick.

At 8:21 AM, Anonymous jim said...

Hi AB. I totally agree about Axes being the ultimate tool. I have a Gerber Axe and find it perfect when setting up camp. but also at home on the ranch when I need to work my way through any overgrowth.


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