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nice axe: Gränsfors Bruks large splitting axe is awesome

 
tel jetson
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early last year, or maybe late in 2011, I bought a very nice Gränsfors Bruks large splitting axe. it's awesome. before that, I had used a wide array of lesser axes, mostly scavenged from relatives' barns or picked up at garage sales. one was a gift that was probably stolen from a big home improvement store and came bundled with a "Keep Washington Green" forest fire prevention sign chopped down to prove it was functional. they all worked fine, I guess, and the price was always right. after getting the Gränsfors axe, though, I won't be going back.

enough about me, though, how do all you feel about axes? is this something that it's worth spending a few bucks on, or does saving money take priority? are there cheap brands that seem to be better than other cheap brands? expensive axes that are better than other expensive axes? tricks to turn a cheap axe into a much better axe? things to look for when buying (maybe the metal parts or the wood used)?
 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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I have an estwing brand camp axe that I love. Its small enough to not wear me out, not too unwieldy to choke up on for splitting kindling, but big enough to fell any tree I wouldn't get the chainsaw out for. Haven't used it for serious splitting, but that's not what I bought it for.
 
R Scott
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We have the GB Maul (next size larger). It is faster than hydraulic splitters and way better sounding.
 
tel jetson
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R Scott wrote:We have the GB Maul (next size larger). It is faster than hydraulic splitters and way better sounding.


the maul has a hammer poll, yes? so you can pound in a wedge with it?
 
R Scott
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tel jetson wrote:
R Scott wrote:We have the GB Maul (next size larger). It is faster than hydraulic splitters and way better sounding.


the maul has a hammer poll, yes? so you can pound in a wedge with it?


Yes it does. It is a narrow head compared to a normal sledge, so it is easy to miss side-to-side but that also means it can follow the wedge into the piece. But we seldom have to use a wedge with it because it works so well.

 
tel jetson
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David Mcgowan Hicks wrote:I have an estwing brand camp axe that I love. Its small enough to not wear me out, not too unwieldy to choke up on for splitting kindling, but big enough to fell any tree I wouldn't get the chainsaw out for. Haven't used it for serious splitting, but that's not what I bought it for.


tell me some more about this. I'm imagining something bigger than a hatchet, but not a lot bigger. that about right?
 
Kevin P Anderson
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I got a Fiskars splitting axe a few years ago - looks about the same design as the GB and it was $40 usual but I got it on sale at a box store for $30.

It is light and works great. Not like the (ugh) 40 pound triangular maul the wife bought me that tends to bounce more than split. It collects more dust than wood chips.

I love my Fiskars...happy with the design and the price.
 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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My estwing is about 28 inches long I think...

Im not a very strong man and I can wield it one handed to great effect, but its still big enough to fell 6-10 inch hardwoods handily. Lovely tool.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvAFJ62T7R8 (not my video)
 
R Scott
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Kevin P Anderson wrote:I got a Fiskars splitting axe a few years ago - looks about the same design as the GB and it was $40 usual but I got it on sale at a box store for $30.

It is light and works great. Not like the (ugh) 40 pound triangular maul the wife bought me that tends to bounce more than split. It collects more dust than wood chips.

I love my Fiskars...happy with the design and the price.


I have both. Not even close to the same league. The fiskars is OK for the price, but the GB really does 10 times the work.

Those big triangular mauls are worthless.
 
Kevin P Anderson
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Hmmmm...looks like I will have to look at the GB now that I'm old (according to the wife I creak more now) and I don't split enough wood to justify any kind of power splitter
Always happy to find a better tool to make my work faster and easier
 
Ethan Snyder
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The Gransfors Bruks Maul is a work horse, way better design and quality than any hardware store axe I've ever come across. I do all my splitting with it and split enough for me and extra to sell, its paid for itself many times over again.
 
Austin Max
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If I could only keep one tool, it would be a good axe. I do a lot of woodwork, almost entirely with hand tools. I buy most of my tools at antique stores, flea markets, consignment etc. If you are going to use an axe only a few times a year, I would go with a cheaper brand or the flea market find. It is hard to test the steel in a flea market, so I have found that you just have to go with your gut and not buy anything completely pitted out and you can have a serviceable tool with a little bit of work on the blade and a new handle. However for axes that will see constant use I have found that spending that extra cash is well worth the investment. Gransfors Bruks has my business for life, (though they won't get much, their axes will last forever with good care). Everything I have/ have seen from them is well worth the price.

One in-disposable axe I use all the time is the Granfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. My GB axes have arrived with a great edge, and that edge requires little work to bring back to a good working razor sharp. The handles are also well hung, which in my experience is critical for longevity and ease of use. The grain on the handle is aligned correctly, and wedged accordingly. The handle also has a good shape, a good comfortable grip at any point. The head is well balanced with a well weighted poll for a good swing. The Small forest axe is very lightweight for its size, allowing for choking up on the handle when needed, and extended use without tiring out, but heavy enough to deliver a good blow. Well worth the 100 or so $$, and then some. This thing will last a lifetime. It is an ideal axe especially for limbing downed trees, felling very small trees, and it is light enough that I actually use it for various carving jobs when I need to remove lots of material.

Another expensive axe brand I have tried is the Biber Classic line, made by Mueller in Austria. After some research I bought the smaller hand broad axe. For such an expensive axe I was really disappointed with the edge. I was expecting a chisel edged tool (a broad axe should have a flat back), but it has a secondary bevel (a poorly ground, uneven one), and it just doesn't perform like it should. It will take quite a bit of grinding/filing to get it to the right, and didn't have near the razor edge a GB axe arrived in the box with. Also, this thing is heavy. For a small axe it is just to heavy to use efficiently, or for any amount of time. I would rather put a long handle on it and get a lighter broad hatchet which would suit my needs better. This hatchet is to small for timber work, but to large for carving work. And also too much work to get it into working order (for the price anyway). The steel is top quality, but I won't buy anything from them again.

I will stop being an axe nerd now, hope this helped someone....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz3rs-eaN3E kind of one of those dry info videos at time, but this is a great video for anyone who wants to know about tuning and working with axes
 
Eric Callahan
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Yes, a good axe is probably the most important tool for sustaining life, in context with itself and a person who knows how to use it.

I am fairly outspoken about Gransfors design flaws. I don't like a lot of things about them, and I think its a lot of fluff about their products. Some of their axes are nicer than others, but at the price point, I don't think is necessarily the wisest buy. Most old axes can be had for 0-10 dollars, and a couple hours with a file will make it cut better than a GB ever could due to its lack of material on the bit, cheek, face etc. I make my own handles for the sake of conviviality and frugality.

I prefer Maine or Northeastern manufactured axes (Snow & Nealley, Emerson Stevens, Rixford, Walters, etc). the ones below fit that criteria, hung on sugar maple handles.



Part of the reason I am so partial to Maine axes in particular, is that they are very well shaped by my standards-- GB falls in line with the "Thin=chopping Thick=splitting" mantra (Which is, at the very least, a vehement over simplification, or perhaps better put, a load of crap). A lot of people think these are splitting axes, but they are not per se. Although, cutting plates out of a 12" wide axe cut does require quite a bit of splitting action (More splitting than severing fibers by a large degree).



In lieu of much substance beyond this, my recommendation would probably be to get a lot of examples of old axes, learn to make your own handles know rather than down the road, and spend the extra money you have saved on other "essential" hand tools like scythes, hand saws, draw knives, etc.
 
tel jetson
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Eric Callahan wrote:
I prefer Maine or Northeastern manufactured axes (Snow & Nealley, Emerson Stevens, Rixford, Walters, etc). the ones below fit that criteria, hung on sugar maple handles.


I'm glad to learn those names. I really enjoy the GB axe I have, but I'm always looking for quality from closer to home.

on the handle material: do you use sugar maple because it makes the best handles, or because it's available to you? no sugar maple around here, but I'm growing some ash in the woodlot.
 
Eric Callahan
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tel jetson wrote:
Eric Callahan wrote:
I prefer Maine or Northeastern manufactured axes (Snow & Nealley, Emerson Stevens, Rixford, Walters, etc). the ones below fit that criteria, hung on sugar maple handles.


I'm glad to learn those names. I really enjoy the GB axe I have, but I'm always looking for quality from closer to home.

on the handle material: do you use sugar maple because it makes the best handles, or because it's available to you? no sugar maple around here, but I'm growing some ash in the woodlot.


Both. Sugar Maple is a great material, and has made itself available a lot the past couple of years. Ash is great, Hickory is great too. If all you can get is Birch, that will work (especially for smaller axes). Oak (white and red), black locust, Osage, Hornbeam, Yellow Birch all reportedly make good handles as well. Learn to make use of what is available to you.
 
Lawrence London
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Eric Callahan wrote:Yes, a good axe is probably the most important tool for sustaining life, in context with itself and a person who knows how to use it.

I prefer Maine or Northeastern manufactured axes (Snow & Nealley, Emerson Stevens, Rixford, Walters, etc). the ones below fit that criteria, hung on sugar maple handles.


Also Kelly axes, particularly the Kelly Perfect, a felling axe. I have one. It is recommended for hand hewing logs for building a log cabin alongside a broadaxe and a foot adze.

I'll post pix of my axe collection in another post here soon.
 
Eric Callahan
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Lawrence London wrote:
Eric Callahan wrote:Yes, a good axe is probably the most important tool for sustaining life, in context with itself and a person who knows how to use it.

I prefer Maine or Northeastern manufactured axes (Snow & Nealley, Emerson Stevens, Rixford, Walters, etc). the ones below fit that criteria, hung on sugar maple handles.


Also Kelly axes, particularly the Kelly Perfect, a felling axe. I have one. It is recommended for hand hewing logs for building a log cabin alongside a broadaxe and a foot adze.

I'll post pix of my axe collection in another post here soon.


Kelly, Plumb, Collins, and all the hardware companies that had axes made for them by those big companies are great. I don't prefer them over my north eastern axes though.
 
Austin Max
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Eric you make some great points. There are fine points to any tool, its all about finding what suits your needs and work style best.
 
tel jetson
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Eric Callahan wrote:
Both. Sugar Maple is a great material, and has made itself available a lot the past couple of years. Ash is great, Hickory is great too. If all you can get is Birch, that will work (especially for smaller axes). Oak (white and red), Black Locust, Osage, Hornbeam, Yellow Birch all reportedly make good handles as well. Learn to make use of what is available to you.


on that list, I've got black locust available now (after some time to dry), and ash within a couple of years.

I definitely like the handle of the splitting axe I've got. super comfortable to use. I'm sure it will take me a while to come anywhere close to that quality on my own, but it's something I'm pretty keen on doing.

I've got a couple of old double bit axe heads laying around that it would be nice to get some use out of, so those could be a good place to start. I don't think a handle for a double bit axe could be as comfortable as a handle that only needs to work in one direction, but doing something symmetrical seems like a good idea for my first foray.

anybody have any resources to recommend for making handles? I've got a couple of fairly nice old draw knives, but I really don't know what else would be involved.

also: growing a handle through the axe head is fairly appealing to me. I imagine the bark would cause some problems, but it's a fun idea.
 
Patti Sch
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I was really struggling with splitting wood until I got the Fiskars splitting ax mentioned above. I'm very small, and the regular ax/maul setup was too heavy for me; I'd get worn out too quickly. The Fiskars has a fiberglass handle, so all the weight is in the head, and it slides through wood like butter.
 
Ben Plummer
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tel jetson wrote:anybody have any resources to recommend for making handles?

http://youtu.be/6s6fG10mrSM?t=12m48s

A couple other useful videos for axes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B7Wy7iskVE and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojyl-dS4tRE

I've got the GB splitting maul as well and find it makes that task much easier than any axe/maul I used before. Be wary of later Snow & Neally axe heads, they started outsourcing and the quality dropped. A shame they went out of business, I never visited their showroom, a lot of history there.
 
Ben Plummer
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Surprised I forgot about this one, 20 minutes on carving and fitting a handle: http://youtu.be/s-dEJdyXj34. Ben's videos are great.
 
Chris Mott
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Great thread, there's quite a lot of info in here. Thanks..
 
Ben Plummer
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Anyone tried out Peavey's recent axes? Curious about their felling and double bit axes. I've held them at Shelter Institute but haven't sent chips flying. They certainly don't come as sharp from the factory as GB's.

Glad the flea market near here is starting up for the season next week, can occasionally find some good old tools.
 
Andy Cook
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+1 for Snow & Nealley. In my experience Black Locust is very, very hard and somewhat difficult to work. Maple and Ash would be my choices if available. It is very satisfying to make one's own handles, paddles etc. .. A nice small hand plane helps a great deal.
 
Peter Hutter
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I have to chime in here about GB axes. I think they are superb for a small scale mass produced tool, and personally well worth the cost. I have 2 of their hatchets, the small splitting maul, and the Scando Forest Axe, all superb tools and much better for my purposes than any mass produced American axes I have used. I do think hand made tools are often best, and being an apprentice blacksmith I plan to make my own soon. The Swedes have been making fine axes for a long time, and Lars Enander, a master axe maker and 5th generation smith who I believe designs and teaches for GB has an excellent book out on the subject. As an adjunct, an excellent bucksaw you all may know about is the Fast Bucksaw made in Hastings, MN. Another amazing tool very well thought out.
My 2 cents.
~Peter.
 
Andy Cook
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Thanks for the comment on the Fast Bucksaw. I had one long enough ago that I had forgotten the name. . . Yikes! I'm gonna go order another one, and an extra blade.
 
Peter Hutter
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You bet Andy! They rock. Was introduced to both the saw and GB axes by the Northwoods guide and author Cliff Jacobson years ago. His favorites as well.
 
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