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A novices first Axe - First steps into Axemanship

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by HoFFdog, Jul 10, 2012.

  1. HoFFdog

    HoFFdog Member

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    Hello everyone.

    There seems to be quite a few posts regarding a suitible choice for a first knife. The common recommendation being either a cheap Mora or Hultafors as a means of a novice learning the basic skills and techniques of using, sharpening and maintaining a knife is obviously best done on these budget blades before one progresses on to a higher end more specialized knife

    I have my Hultafors HVK to learn the basics of knifecraft. However there do not seem to be similar posts (from what I've found in the archives) advising on a suitible brand/type for a novices first Axe.

    Axecraft is a skill I want to learn but have no experience of using. I need the axe to be versatile & flexible in its ability to be an appropriate & effective tool for a variety of tasks; from lighter work such as carving & supplying large quantities of kindling, to heavier jobs like splitting logs for firewood and even small scale felling. I have access to woodland to use as my training ground (i intend to seek tuition in using the axe) and I also have a genuine need for constant firewood as my only means of heating.

    I get the impression many would regard the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe to have the degree of versatility I am looking for. However, as a novice I am uncomfortable in owning such an axe from the get-go. I would rather find a good budget equivalent, much in the same way as getting a Mora Training Knife for a first blade. Something where it doesn't matter if I blunt it by accident or do a pigs ear of a job of sharpening it.

    The Bahco Ash Hatchet Axe has a helve length of 50cm & weighs 1.1kg, almost identical size & weight to the GB SFA and at £18 is very cheap. Tho I'm interested to hear what others think for a good first axe and tips as to how to go about learning this tool effectively.

    Any advice & wisdom will be very much appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Dan
     
  2. barryasmith

    barryasmith Full Member

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    Hi Dan,

    I'd suggest that you get a Gransfors Bruks small forest axe and practice with that. The worst thing that you'll do is damage the edge through misuse, in which case you can then teach yourself how to recover it back to the original position.

    Mora knives are excellent and great to learn with, in fact they are great full stop. I haven't personally seen a 'budget' axe that is a suitable comparison but others might have.

    Barry
     
  3. swright81076

    swright81076 Tinkerer

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    I know its not in the realms of a GB axe, but I use a fiskars x10. I'm happy with it. The balance suits me for carving and chopping.
    It takes an amazing edge, and holds it. I'm happy with it, and probably won't change it.
    Then again I'm the sort of person who would happily carve some feather sticks with a bear grylls ultimate in front of anyone.

    Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
     
  4. udamiano

    udamiano Full Member

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    I think that really any axe will do, especially one you are comfortable using, when choosing an axe,

    1. Make sure its made of a half decent steel, either a high carbon steel, or a similar stainless that CAN keep an edge, there are good reasonably priced axes that use a good metal, but be warned there are also some real carp ones out there. the blade makers on here can give you a good idea on whats the best to look for.

    2. Check the head is in line with the haft, do this by looking down the half and lining the edge up, this means that the edge will be at the centre of your swing line.

    2b. a good judge of the length of a haft is about the same as your arm, from tip of your fingers to shoulder, this of course is for a average type multipurpose axe, and not a heavier felling or splitting axe types.

    3. Made sure you spend time and get it sharp.. I mean really sharp, a blunt axe is more a danger than most people realise. a good convex edge will last longer and give you a descent edge.

    4. Choose a weight your comfortable with, but one that will supply the necessary weight to do the harder jobs such as chopping, about 1-1.5KG is a good weight for most jobs other than felling.

    5. Check how the haft is attached to the head, and make sure its secure, there should be NO play in it whats so ever, discard any that have.

    6. Once you have found the one you like, take care of it, make sure to keep the head oiled and the halt (if wood) treated, and it should give you a lifetime of use.

    Note: I find metal hafted axes transfer vibration along the haft, and are not as comfortable to use as wooden hafts, but that my opinion.

    hope this helps
     
    #4 udamiano, Jul 10, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  5. Wayne

    Wayne BCUK Welfare Officer
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    Sound advice.
     
  6. mrcharly

    mrcharly Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    tbh, I think you need two axes. A hatchet for the carving duties and a full-length axe for splitting and chopping.

    udamiano's advice about picking an axe is spot on.

    For carving use, profile of the edge matters more than quality of heat treatment.
     
  7. Hammock Hamster

    Hammock Hamster Full Member

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    It really depends what you want to use it for as to whether it will suit your needs - most hatchets will suffice for splitting wood or limbing but would not be the best tool for felling a tree or carving.

    That said, as with knives, a lot if it is down to personal preferance. I make no secret that i am a big fan of GB and have a number of their products and in my experience their axes give me the most confidence when using them which in turn gives me better results (how good those results are are a different matter :rolleyes: )

    I have used fiskars, gerber and other camp/outdoor axes and cant seem to get on with them but i tend to do a fair amount of carving which IMO they are not made for however they will happlily perform most normal camp tasks well.
    I have also used the Hultafors version of the GB SFA (classis trakking axe if i recal) and it just didnt feel right, the grind was very convex and couldnt carve worth a d*mn though that could easily have been down to my technique.
    I have heard good things of Wetterlings but never had the chance to try one.

    At the moment I have GB mini hatchet, wildlife hatchet, SAF, carpenters and swedish carving axes however i am favouring the mini hatchet.
    Unless i am out for an extended period it will allow me to split small logs (when used to start a crack for a wedge), make wedges, split kindling and acts as a knife when the mood takes me. It really comes into its own for carving as its size makes it easy to handle but there is still a good weight in the head.
    The wildlife hatchet is good if you want something with a little more length (again personal preference) and i have mine specifically for friends to use if showing them how to use an axe safely and teach a bit of carving as its a good all rounder. The SFA is great for bigger jobs or when i am building large shelters if i go out with a few not bushy friends (can have them getting uncomfortable or they wont come back).
    The carpenters and swedish carving generally stay at home now for projects but i like having them regardless.

    Anyway thats my two pence worth, no affiliation to GB i just REALLY like their axes, after trying several others these seemed to work for me.
    I know several others who have got on with other brands and some who swear by the old kent pattern head they picked up from a car boot sale for 50p.

    I also find having a good quality saw worth its weight in gold (or pack space at least) and genuinely thing the two tools go hand in hand.

    I would suggest testing some out but i doubt many retailers will allow this and most folks i know are very protective of their edged implements, i cant quite recall the line by mr mears but something about lending an axe or knife was the quickest way to losing a friendship - i learnt that the hard way after i found a "friend" trying to split a log with mine (any missing frequently) directly on top of stony soil!:buttkick:
     
  8. HoFFdog

    HoFFdog Member

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    Nice one guys, thanks for all the advice and bothering to find time to write such detailed replies. Whatever I end up getting (possibly the Bahco axes) I intend to take it to the moot in anticipation of an axe workshop occurring.
     
  9. robin wood

    robin wood Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    My personal feeling is the SFA is too long for carving and too short for felling and splitting, yes it will do either but neither well. I prefer a shorter handles axe for carving and a longer one for firewooding, certainly if you are seriously firewooding at home you don't want a short light axe. I wrote a blog post some time ago looking at various options for the best carving axe http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/which-is-best-axe-for-carving-bushcraft.html felling and splitting axes tend to be pretty cheap and easy to get from any farm supply type place.
     
  10. HillBill

    HillBill Bushcrafter through and through

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    +1 on all what Robin says, and the article on his blog is well worth a read.

    The bahco axe is a good beginner axe. It has the same head as the argos which i loved, just needs a little sharpen and the paint removing and its probably my favourite axe i've tried yet. I've had most granny B's and while good, dont offer the short handle and heavy head that the argos/bahco axes do. So i'd say i'd prefer those to granny B's but thats user preference, but the argos/bahco axe is nowhere near as well finished as gransfors axes are. Its just the shape/weight/handle length ratio i like. Cheap too. :)

     
  11. rg598

    rg598 Native

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    I think there are two issues here. The first is what axe would be most versatile in accomplishing the range of tasks you want to do. The second is what axe would be best for purposes of learning how to use an axe. They are not necessarily the same thing. A compromise axe like the SFA may suit you in terms of the tasks you want to do, but I don't find it to be a good axe for learning proper technique. If you want to learn and practice proper felling and splitting techniques, I would suggest a larger axe (at least boy's axe). For carving a hatchet would be better suited. When you have the technique down, then you will be able to decide what type axe works best for you.
     
  12. markheolddu

    markheolddu Settler

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    I think that most if not all axes need some edge attention when you first get them, it depends how much work you want to or are able to put in to it. I have some cheap axes that work very well but they needed a lot of work. If I was in your shoes I,d get an old axe with a sound helve and work on that, most of the older axes have decent steel. I think for most uses an axe does not need to be quite shaving sharp I find the edge stays sharper for longer if it has a little more "meat" a polished convex lasts the longest.
    Mark
     
  13. markheolddu

    markheolddu Settler

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    Dont forget to check out Reds axe sharpening tutorial.
     
  14. gliderrider

    gliderrider Forager

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    I've just bought a Forge Steel 2 1/2lb axe, it feels good, solid, and reletivly light, and I normally take either a 3 1/2lb or 1 1/2lb, depending on the area I'm visiting, all made by tool firms for about £20 as I dont want to take a GB out with scouts.

    GB Axes are nice, in fact my Scandinavian Forest is my baby, but they are a tad on the pricey side, especially the carving axes so not always suitable for begginers to axe care.
     
  15. spiritwalker

    spiritwalker Native

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    Firstly ill point out i do not fell trees and i do not really carve with my axe, for me its primarily a splitting tool for fuel and for making fuzz sticks. My first axe was a B&Q special then i got a GB wildlife hatchet, initially i thought my B&Q one was rubbish and when i got the the GB one it was amazing but i quickly learned the reason why... The GB was razor sharp on arrival and until it went blunt with use i understood why the B&Q one was poor (no real experience with axes until this point). So learnt to sharpen them and eventually i got the B&Q one honed up and razor sharp and grew to like it, sure the quality wasnt as great as the GB but it also wasnt fifty nicker. Eventually i sold the GB wildlife hatchet kept my cheap axe and also bought a gerber pax axe which i love a small axe suits me fine and if i was starting all over again id probably get the GB hand hatchet.
     

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