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Thread: Choosing an Axe: Handle Length

  1. #1

    Choosing an Axe: Handle Length

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    I need some advice in chosing an axe.

    The axe needs to be capable of felling 8-12" trees (mostly softwood) without extensive effort as a primary function. With occasional (light) splitting. (I have a GB Wildlife hatchet that handles kindling)
    Safety is a major concern as I'll be a long way from a hospital. It'll need to do a fair amount of work but not so frequently that it'd warrant the weight and hassle of a chainsaw.

    I know I'll want a bit with a thinner profile for the felling (as opposed to a wedged shaped splitting axe)
    But the part that has me confused is what length of handle? I really like the GB Scandinavian Forest Axe but, from some of the things I've read in this forum, I wonder if that handle length (25") isn't a major liabilty?

    Would I benefit from a longer handle or am I just being paranoid? I really like the Gransfors axes and have been salivating at the thought of getting a second, but I don't want to end up with the wrong tool for the job or worse chopping off my foot. But then again I'd really rather not have to get a 36" handle 5 pound monster as I'd also like to be able to use this as an extended period survival axe (needs to be lighter) should the unlikely scenario ever arise (that's a whole 'nother debate ). Ox-head and Snow & Neally seem to make several axes with handles in "in-between" sizes 28" and 30". Might one of these suit my needs better?

    If it helps, I'm 5'10" and not real heavy.

    Any suggestions?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 1998
    Where ever I go, there I am.
    Quote Originally Posted by coroney
    ...from some of the things I've read in this forum, I wonder if that handle length (25") isn't a major liabilty?
    Jim Aston favors longer handles, even on smaller heads. They let you work closer to the ground which is nice, yes they keep the head further away, but it isn't a huge amount, and you also have the higher velocity to compensate.

    What I would concentrate on is technique and *CHECK* the wood. You should always, always, always try the wood with the bit but almost everyone doesn't if you cut a lot and just visually checks it, however this won't always find rot/ants.

    Glances are most likely on soft wood where the axes bits through, poor rooting where the tree moves, or a knot/twist grain where the bit comes out. As well check for overhead branches.

    How you stand when you cut wood is important as well, most axe books go in detail about how to protect yourself in this regard. Personally I see the wood as being more dangerous than the axe, either in kickbacks or bad breaks/splits or overhead branches where are weakened more than you see.


  3. #3
    You make a very good point about checking. I've seen a lot of trees that have rotted underneath the bark, but since the bark holds its shape you don't have a way to know, if you don't test with the bit.

    Cutting low to the ground isn't really an issue for me. I'm mainly concerned to know if I can get by with a shorter / lighter axe (ignoring decreased power) without sacrificing safety?

    Sounds like yes, assuming I do everything right?

    It's not a big deal to get a longer axe if it would make much difference. But, I'd like to cut down on weight and space if its reasonable. (Plus the GB Scandinavian Forest Axe is so pretty)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 1998
    Where ever I go, there I am.
    3/4 size pack axes are commonly used, yes they are a bit more dangerous as you are closer to the wood but are much more efficient at a lot of things such as limbing. Focus on proper stance, smooth and controlled swings, and check the wood for consistency and rooting.


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