What good is an axe?

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Pinelogcreek, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. Pinelogcreek

    Pinelogcreek Supporter Supporter

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    The recent machete thread got me thinking. No I’m not off the deep end, I promise. I grew up in North Florida and never saw an axe unless it was used to split firewood, meaning to start a steel wedge. We were never taught how to select, use or care for and axe. Our primary trees are oak and long needle pine, neither of which like the axe at all. For anything under three inches the machete has always been the only tool used and over that a chainsaw. Even for firewood we use a machete to limb the tree. I have a Gransfors Small Forrest Axe that I am trying to learn to use but the machete seems so much faster in most cases. Any other folks raised on the machete? Anyone teach a grown man to use an axe? O how I wish for some of you northern or western folks white pine and other woods that cut easily and split the same way
     
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  2. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    For brush clearing, constructing tripods, shelters and other building projects using wrist thick or smaller limbs, I prefer a machete. Camp fire-craft calls for a hatchet. Large trees need an ax or chain saw.
     
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  3. jasam

    jasam Scout

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    I’m in the same situation as you. Grew up in South Georgia used a maul and wedges for splitting wood a chainsaw to cut it and a machete for everything else. I’ve dropped several 3-6in trees with just a machete. That being said I love my axes and I’m not sharing.
     
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  4. M.Hatfield

    M.Hatfield Midnight Joker Supporter

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    I was not raised on the axe or the machete. A good splitting maul gave me lots of my strength and outdoors workouts in my teenage years.

    Wood here runs dry and the grain tends to be straight. It simply blows apart with the right force and technique. On our property, the need for a machete was very seasonal and limited to a small section of land.

    That said, I used machetes lots of times too. Bush whacking old trails was a favorite activity of mine on trips in New Hampshire and Maine. No better tool to clear trails then a light, fast machete. :)
     
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  5. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    Axe guy here, been swinging one since I was a very small kid. Most of the calluses on my hands are from using an axe! As far as the use goes, it's just a smaller cutting surface than a machete so one needs to have a bit more accuracy in the swing. Takes a little bit of practice but once you have swung it a time or 1000 you'll get the feel for it.
    I have used machetes and really enjoy one for smaller limbs and saplings but in the north.. the axe is king!


    When I was probably 6 or 7 years old I remember going into the woods behind my house (BLM land/wilderness for MILES) and chopping down a pretty large douglas fir. It took me DAYS to get all the way through and fell the tree. I'd grab my axe and go work on it for hours. Being such a small kid I basically used the beaver technique and chopped all the way around it until it fell over. I was just playing, had no real reason to cut it down other than to watch it fall by own hand. Couple years later my dad went back there with a chainsaw and bucked it up into rounds for the wood stove, so it didn't go to waste.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2018
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  6. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Another machete guy here also.
    Growing up around a lot of southern outdoorsmen I rarely saw an ax. We used either a chainsaw or crosscut saw to process wood into size and mauls to split.
    There were hatchets available and were mainly used for splitting kindling, driving stakes or cutting the heads off of chickens.
     
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  7. OrienM

    OrienM Guide

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    Machete fan here also. We use axes at home for splitting firewood, but a machete is a more versatile tool IMO.
     
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  8. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I guess I need to add that my grandfather used an ax when we did rail splitting. Mainly used to start a crack in the cedar then he used gluts and the ax poll to finish splitting them.
     
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  9. Pinelogcreek

    Pinelogcreek Supporter Supporter

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    I thought I was alone here in my secret machete love..... nice to know there are others. I have learned the value of a good axe, mostly from this site. I also learned by trial that there are none locally available new. I like my Gransfors SFA but now I want a felling axe also.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2018
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  10. M.Hatfield

    M.Hatfield Midnight Joker Supporter

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    I've heard some makers here, mainly Scott Gossman, have started making Felling Machetes too. A bit heavy though.... :D
     
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  11. Kelly W

    Kelly W Love the Axe Supporter

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    Axes are really handy when you're doing this.

    IMG_0805.JPG
     
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  12. Mr. Tettnanger

    Mr. Tettnanger Supporter Supporter

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    So is the beer!
     
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  13. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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  14. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Check out the Machete Mafia social group.
    :)
     
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  15. Ryan Alexander

    Ryan Alexander Scout

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    Down south a machete is king, up north the axe is king i'll put it like this..
    Frozen wood, or 5 inch thick hickory vs a machete?.. not happening. The machete is going to get cold and when it does.. it's going to break. Not only that but it just doesn't have the weight and cutting power that a proper axe would.
    brush, vines and softwood trees vs machete? it's going to out preform the axe here.
     
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  16. RTDoug

    RTDoug Scout

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    It depends on the task at hand. For years on the survey crews we used machetes. Good for chopping line in brush, vines, small trees. Never wanted for an axe, but did use a chainsaw occasionally on larger stuff. For splitting, felling and around the woodpile, an axe all the time. Also, for quick limbing when cutting stove wood, the axe was handy.
     
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  17. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I certainly see no problem in giving the machete love. I feel the axe is simply a more versatile tool in the long run. This isn't saying that machetes cannot handle their share of various tasks, but some things I would rather do with an axe.
     
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  18. mtnoutdoors

    mtnoutdoors Prov 27:17 Supporter

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    I grew up in FL and I 2nd what you are talking about. Until I move to TN and now OK I don't dear to go in the woods with out an axe. Prov 27:17
     
  19. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    I have a nice vintage machete I would trade you for that axe? :)
     
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  20. mcblade

    mcblade Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    Like the man said about cutting a tree down with an axe, it took 4 hours the first 3 sharpening the axe.
     
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  21. Beach Hiker

    Beach Hiker Traveller Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Love my axes. Hate my machete! (It always bounces off what I'm trying to cut and attacks me). I never have that problem with my hatchet.

    By the way... I don't take a big axe to the woods. I take a hatchet. This is my "trusty trio".
    20171130_100154.jpg
     
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  22. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    Nice setup. :) What hatchet is that?
     
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  23. Pinelogcreek

    Pinelogcreek Supporter Supporter

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    That’s the thing, I get the same feeling using an axe.....it does not feel efficient. That is a nice trio for sure. Never had one bounce off anything so I can’t comment there but when you hit one of these oak trees with and axe it feels like the tree is laughing at you.
     
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  24. Seeker

    Seeker Woods Bum Supporter Bushclass I

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    Raised an ax guy, in upstate NY.

    When I moved to LA in 2002, I learned that another tool was needed, and so I became a machete guy... $6 machete, $70 sheath... go figure.

    Having experience in several landscapes, machete/axe is a valid discussion. I seldom have to split firewood to get anything going. I've learned what burns (scrub oak) and what doesn't (just about everything else), and being so warm most of the time (about 8 months of the year), you don't need a fire for much outside of a small cookfire, and scrub oak twigs are the best for this.

    Walking through the northern woods, in a variety of terrain/landscapes, the woods are generally more open and don't require much trimming. You might use a hatchet to blaze a trail (I did as a kid, on my parents' 60 acres). Here in the Southern jungle, there are two landscapes that require lots of work.

    One is the pine plantation that makes up most of the public hunting land, WMA, and hunting leases in the area. Row crops, really, like corn, only taller. Depending on the growth stage, thinning stage, and maintenance, it can be an impenetrable wall of vegetation, with thick "doghair" pine saplings intertwined by greenbriar, grapevine, and honeysuckle. Timber company employees walk the property lines occasionally and mark trees, and they generally scrape a trail between adjoining properties before harvest with a bobcat, so the cutters know where it ends. These trails grow over and need trimming up. A machete is the tool here.

    The other is just mixed hardwood/pine, with yaupon/raspberry/greenbriar/sweetgum patches scattered in and amongst the larger/older pines/oaks. Sometimes, even a relatively open area (relative being the operative word) will have become overtaken by greenbriar or grape vines, and again, the machete is the tool. My own hunting area is a 40 acre patch of old oaks, mature pines, and crisscrossed by two streams. The straightest line from one of the cleared paths to a favorite deer stand often needs trimming, as do shooting lanes, and the machete is again the best tool.

    On most of my day trips here in LA, I carry a machete. By hunting season, I've done all the work and don't carry hatchet, axe, or machete (though I still carry a folding saw, just in case i need to trim a branch, make a travois, or cut a stick for my bush chair). Canoe camping and backpacking, I carry a hatchet. Harder backpacking, I just carry a sheathknife, and sometimes not even that.

    Back home in NY, it's all hatchet/axe when canoe camping.


    edit: @Pict did an excellent thread on machete mods in Brazil. Some of you newer guys may know him as "Dave MacIntyre" from Alone, I forget which season. Anyway, I've done his mods. Basically, most stock machetes come with a factory edge that's about a 30* V, flat ground, maybe 1/8" on a side. This is why so many are dull so quickly.

    Take a file to the back of your machete spine. Flatten the first 3" or so from the handle. This becomes a scraper, for making wood scrapings and for striking a fire steel. Touch it up once a year or so. The rest of the spine, round it off, so you can palm it and push away without cutting yourself on the stamped steel residue that's usually left on the original blade. Hit it with some fine sandpaper (200 grit will do).

    On the sharp edge, file the first 4" or so from the handle into a flat grind, only on one side, like a plane blade. I did this with the handle in my right hand, spine toward me, so that I could push on the back of the blade away from me, if that makes sense.

    Then convex the rest of the blade. The factory V is useless. The convex is a much stronger geometry and will hold up to a couple hours of brush clearing. I sharpen my machete like I do a hunting knife, and carry a round stone to touch it up with when I know I'll be doing a lot of work that day.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
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  25. stewey1

    stewey1 Supporter Supporter

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    Cool thread!

    I grew up using both machete(tramontina) and axes.

    My childhood environment was a mainly 50 year old regrowth, Manuka(think knotty hardwood) and dense jungle like undergrowth.

    An axe was used only as a wood processing tool, felling smaller trees, delimbing and and clearing undergrowth from around the base of trees so you could safely use a chainsaw. And of course hours of splitting wood.

    It wasnt until I discovered the forums that I became aware of you crazy SOB's using axes as a trail, camp and craft tool haha.

    I sometimes think back to when I got my first laptop with internet and discovered you folks, should of thrown it out the window, you enablers have cost me thousands!.

    Anything involving being mobile and crafting stuff was always the realm of the machete. Clearing trails, making shelter and general woods tom foolery was machete only most of the time.

    I did some travel off the beaten track in Asia and when you see what these guys can do with a machete it will blow your mind. You will believe in the one tool option. My skills developed very quickly.

    Once I left home and moved south to a colder climate, With my new found knowledge I started using axes alot more as I needed more wood camping, processing bigger wood for camp meant a boys axe like I had as a young man really did well. Never could warm up to the 19inch axes they feel extremly awkward to me.

    I now use a short parang for hiking off trail and general bushcrafty stuff as its light and compact, Im also good with it.

    I guess my point is I use and appreciate both for different tasks and reasons.
     
  26. Beach Hiker

    Beach Hiker Traveller Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    @gohammergo
    It's a Polish forge... the company is called JUCO.
     
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  27. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    Looks like a very comfortable and happily used tool. :)
     
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  28. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    My early life experiences with axes had me asking the same question. Axes I used up until a certain point were the typical poorly maintained, dull, chipped, loose, or otherwise bad examples of the tools. I also hadn't had much practice with them or knowledge of how to use them. After coming to BCUSA I did what I assume most do and picked up a saw, a machete, and an axe. I went with a Corona, a Tramontina, and an old Wards boys axe made by Kelly. I followed the instructions of Bernie and restored the axe and hung it on an ugly fat club. It didn't take long to appreciate the capabilies of the axe. I don't see a machete as competition, and honestly I don't have much use for a machete in my area, but they shine at clearing thin unsupported undergrowth. I still have my saw and machete, but I fell in love with using axes. Now I've got a stack of heads in various stages and a nice selection of axes ready to use.

    I recommend anyone starting out, or even with some experience watch this video. Even machete users might be surprised at some of the work a good axe can do.

     
  29. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    No doubt about the work a well sharpened ax can do in capable hands.
    My AO is full of vines and bramble, I’d have to use my machete to clear out swinging space for an ax!
     
  30. Haggis

    Haggis Guide

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    I’ve been using an axe since I could lift one, and never lived in machete country. I think a machete might be handy as a pig’s nose for some chores, but I’ve never lived where those chores came up; I’ll stick with my axes until they do...
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  31. batmanacw

    batmanacw Guide

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    I sure do use and love all kinds of cutting tools. No reason to forsake either a machete or axe.

    For around here I prefer an axe over a machete for most camp chores. There is just something about an axe cutting half way through a 3" to 4" branch on one easy swing.

    I only get my machetes out to clear brush and lighter material. The machete will most definitely chop wood, but I don't like the feedback in the handle when I do. Discomfort wears me out quicker.

    I like a Condor Mini Duku when carrying a chopping knife. Less feedback and lots of power.
     
  32. Pinebaron

    Pinebaron Curmudgeon Supporter

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    I grew up in the north, so I was raised with axes and hatchets. Up there they work just fine. Now that I live in GA, I use both. Up in the mountains I will carry a hatchet, anywhere else in GA typically a machete. It all depends on what you are walking into and what you are used to. Both good tools and both have their place.
     
  33. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    I love them both! And my experience seems to mirror what a lot of other people here have said - it depends where you are, and what you're working in. I've lived in the NW, the SW, the SE, the NE, and Texas. What I'd choose really depends where I am and what I'm doing.

    Winter camping in the NE, or even camping in May, I really want an ax over a machete. Conversely, I never wanted an axe at any point when I camped in Florida.

    Anyways, they both have their place. I almost never use a machete up in the NE these days, but I used it a lot working around the house in the summer in TN, and I used it all the time when I lived in FL. I can imagine if I was bushwhacking during the summer up here I'd have use for it.
     
  34. Pinelogcreek

    Pinelogcreek Supporter Supporter

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    Nice video thanks
     
  35. Luafcm

    Luafcm Scout

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    I grew up holding a mastercraft hatchet, or with it it in it's sheath on my belt.

    A machete seems to bounce of the branches where I camp. An axe is ideal for limbing a pine. A hatchet can be too short if you need to do this lots, so a longer handle hatchet is perfect. I find the SFA to be purpose built for these pines and cedars.

    I also like an limbing or chainsaw axe if it's just for making camp and poles, really dig the Garant "Canadian" Axe.
     
  36. LongChinJon

    LongChinJon Guide

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    I've used both, and having never lived in the north, I prefer a machete. I think a lot of folks would be surprised how even splitting firewood rounds up to 4-6 inches can be done with some machetes. I don't, however, have sufficient experience to know which machetes are best for specific tasks (briers vs grasses vs limbs...etc). Ben (used to be @forty-two blades) at Baryonyx Knife can say what's best for what. I just use whatever is at hand. I like Tramontina, and I like my Cold Steel Kukri Machete, which happens to have a very different feel.
    I was blessed to camp in the Boundary Waters once in scouts, and the outfitter included a small saw and hatchet. I would have loved a full-size axe and large saw there, where standing dead trees were the easiest firewood to get. A machete...not so much.
     
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  37. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Ugh I have a Cold Steel Kukri machete... Not a huge fan. Its one of my dirty little secrets - I keep telling myself I need to pull it out and fix it but... I never do, so its dull as mud and unloved...
     
  38. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Show that CS some love brother. I think you will be pleasantly surprised...
     
  39. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Sigh... ok... this weekend I’ll get Puck and Kuk together.
     
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  40. LongChinJon

    LongChinJon Guide

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    I think it just takes getting used to. It swings different, maybe more like a hatchet than a machete. I use mine on limbs and such. A tramontina works better on vines if I remember right.
     
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