The best solution we have found is to make the axe dull. Instead off changing the overall geometry of the axe, I just use a flat file or a diamond stone and take the edge off. It doesn't require re-grinding the bevels or anything so drastic, and you can put a sharp edge back on pretty quickly if you are going to do some practice for which you want a really sharp edge - like chopping springboard pockets. Obviously, you lose a lot of penetration when you take off the edge, but that is part of the point for me. I WANT to take longer going through the block.
I can't offer any scientific explanation of this, but you do seem to be able to use an axe with a thinner profile and a square edge in the same situation as a thicker profile and a sharpened edge with the same (lack of damage) results. My pet theory is that the sharp edge finds some path of least resistance in the wood and follows it. I have definitely seen this happen on a racing axe, where a (very unlucky) competitor opened a small double pin knot. It was clear that the edge went to the right of the bottom knot, to the left of the top knot and straight on through the middle. Huge wave in the edge. In the same situation, the squared-off axe would likely have simply stopped at the knot, requiring an extra stroke to get through, or plowed on through. With no sharp edge to follow grain, the axe follows its initial tradjectory until friction stops it. I also see the same effect on a larger scale, when the whole of a sharp axe will scoop during a hit, curving into the grain of the block.
In terms of the chinese-made Tui, I am actually kinda interested. It looks like the machining is actually pretty good, I don't think these are going to be pot metal hardware store monstrosities. While the steel might not be up to Tuatahi's racing standards, I doubt Tui would distribute garbage, and softer steels do much better in the frozen and knotty wood that many competitors and most college teams practice with. Especially for college teams, which ruin equipment at a rate that would break your heart, these could be a god-send. They have a geometry and mass that pretty accurately simulates a racing axe, and cost half of what even a timberman does.
I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one and seeing what it's like.
Last edited by Blue Sky; 02-07-2008 at 08:15 AM. Reason: grammer, wording
I am wondering if the axes that Bailey's are pushing are the same ones that Tuatahi is selling. At this point, I am curious. A buddy of mine has used the Chinese axe and says it is softer metal but chops well. I am curious if anyone else here has used one. Bailey's will stand behind their product as they are a well respected company in the logging business. The price point allows the novice to have two or more while getting the race axe feel in the mits.
thechuck: do you have any photos of your race axes that you can post here? I'd love to see them.
Incidentally, the Baileys throwing axe is $100 with handle and looks like a polished Tui China throwing axe. The Tui head is about $32.
It might be worth noting that Baileys stopped marketing the Tui branded product line as they were bringing in their proprietary line.
1. Main practice axe - the green Keech Timberman. This thing takes all manner of abuse, as I use it for pounding dogs, chopping footholds, peeling bark, etc. The last pic shows the wave in the blade I mentioned above, but it might be hard to see.
2. BIG practice axe. This is an Emerson and Stevens Handmade axe. It is over 8" long and weighs 6.5 lbs (head only). It is as heavy or heavier than ALL of my comp axes. I like to train with this one in the weeks before a comp, because it gets my wrists used to steering a big, heavy axe.
Starting at the lower left, going clockwise:
1. Keech Racing axe (2003 vintage). 7 3/4 x 7 5/8 Chisel Grind. Done by Mike Eash. This axe was originally done up for a college team, so it is a little more rugged than some others. The shape is unlike any other axe I have ever handled, with that huge, swept-back heel. This shape makes it really nice for the underhand chop, as it helps keep it from getting hooked up on a bottom hit (one of my bad habits). This axe has started to lose its edge a bit, and is the one I always use in square wood, which is really tough on axes.
2. Brand new Tuatahi. 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 Supergrind set up for white pine. Done by the Tuatahi factory. More pics in the "new comp axe" thread. I have never swung this axe.
3. Tuatahi. 7 7/8 x 7 7/8 Mitre grind with a 5/8 chisel edge. Set up for popal. Done by Mike Eash. I ordered this axe as a copy of the axe below, which was owned by a friend of mine. This axe is an unbelievable cutting tool - the best axe in my box, but big and heavy. Hard to control.
4. Tuatahi. 7 7/8 x 7 7/8 Mitre grind. Done by Mike Eash. This axe cuts better than it has any right to, and is quite free in the wood. A glorious axe. A friend of mine owned this axe before me. It was such a nice one, I ordered a copy (as did a number of other competitors). Later, he suffered an injury and sold off most of his equipment. I was happy to be able to buy this axe from him. (It is worth mentioning that a used comp axe, if it has not been seriously shortened by regrinds, retains about 70% of its new cost, depending on several factors. Not such a bad investment). If a show has a round wood chop, this is the axe that is most likely to come out of the box. It is a bit lighter than the copy I ordered, and has a few minor imperfections which, though I don't think they do much to decrease its cutting ability, cause me to be less worried about getting a small ding. I save the above axe for clean underhand blocks.
Last edited by thechuck; 02-12-2008 at 11:30 AM.
Thanks for posting those pic.s! Not mich call for a racing ax (or any other big ax) down here in SW Florida, but I'd surely love to have one. That chinese Tuatahi might just be the way to go. I saw a guy at the Kentucky State Fair a couple of years ago do a throwing demo with a Tuatahi, and he recommended that brand for chopping, as well.
You have a splendid collection there! Thanks for taking the time to post the photographs. The one with the S curve in the blade almost hurts to look at, but the tool is still in good condition. What kind of money have you sunk into your axes? And, have you ever taken a blank and worked the edge up to contest grade quality by yourself?
I am hearing reports that Bailey's has sold quite a few of the Chinese race axes and that the performance of these tools are above average. I may have to snag one and give the old wood pile a work-over. One of my retired friends in Michigan has used this axe and says it does any job quite well but it seems a bit on the soft side compared to the older Plumbs out there.
Again, I favor the Tuatahi work axe for the all-rounder. A couple of years ago, I called Bailey's and they said that a group of special forces had bought some of these...the servicemen claimed they were darn near perfect for just about any application! I have scant reason to doubt the voracity of that statement.
I got a few of my axes second-hand or in trades, but to replace my comp box (box + four racing axes + one rigger) would cost just under $2000, and probably be a three month wait. Axes are CHEAP compared to race saws.
I am also interested in getting ahold of one of the Chinese work heads. I am putting together an order from Tui that will go in later this month, and if I manage to sell off enough of my current collection to make room for it, I will be adding one to the order. If that happens, I'll be sure to post a review.
For work axes, I have a total soft-spot (in the heart, not head) for double-bits. I find them more aesthetically pleasing, and I like being able to chop twice as long without touching up an edge. Work axes....there's another thread I'd like to see.
that is oustanding.
thanks for sharing those goodies, brother 'chuck!
is it from being frozen every year for a long time...?
Thanks for posting those pic.s NICE
Unfortunately, my answer will be a crappy one, because I am not really sure. I haven't owned most of these axes for very long (compared to their age) so I don't know that much about their history. I am not much a metallurgist, so I can't speak to the effect of repeated freezings or work hardening. I DO know that some axe grinders/competitors, with stone for a long time with a very fine stone to harden the edge, especially on axes that will be used on hard woods (generally rolled edges). I don't think bad forging is the culprit though, as many of these axes were made by masters of the craft, during its heyday.
I'll pose this question to a master axesmith, and see what his take on it is. Then, I'll report back.
I don't know much about it either but they don't get frozen here. One I use for work lives on the back of my truck in all kinds of weather, it can get pretty hot here. I've had it for about 25 years and it seems a lot harder than when I bought it. Nice pics, it doesn't look like them.
1) the composition of the steel it is made with the carbon content ECT
A)the process used to make the axe Eg. the keech and keesteel axes are cast axes where the molten steel is poured into casts much like some other older brands and the keech steel used is K2 steel making is extremely hard infact hard enough to cut other steel
B)the tuatahi are forged axes meaning they start from a block of steel which is then heated and compacted to a base shape making is some what harder than when it started in the tuatahi factory still done carfully by hand as well as some other high end makes but rare by hand in our days but usually done in one or two hits now by a machine press as to make it quick then the edge is tempered this is what most cheap store bought axes are now as it can be done very and cheaply it tempering is not exact the results can be absolute rubbish like so many store bought axes
C)the third way is milling which is also done by some top end axe makes IE Mr Mick Osborne who makes Osborne racing axes it is first started with just a single block of tool steel and the the block is milled away by diamond bits and cnc machines to create the axe head
D) the final way is a combination of 2 or more such as the tuatahi 2 piece axe where the eye and pole of the axe is good quality steel but not hardened but the head there is no blade is made seperaltly then screwed on or cold weld ECT
Anyone who is interested in competitive wood chopping I suggest you visit this site. Jason Wynyard is a true gentleman. One of the greatest axeman of all time, but one of the most modest and humble Kiwis you will ever meet.
I remember one time he came second in competition. The axeman who won had finished before the handicap allowed Jason to start.
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