Big knife vs Axe

IMO, it boils down to the amount of wood you will need to process, the types of wood, and your accepted carry weight.

In the summer, in my area, I do fine with a 14" machete. It can chop 4-6" trees fine, limb them easily, and split some of the better woods. When I put it in my lightweight pack, it rides easily.

In the winter, I take a bowsaw, and a way to split wood. When it is cold, I would have to process a HUGE amount of wood to stay warm if I didn't have adequate shelter. In that case, the axe isn't a preferred method.

If I carried a heavier frame pack, and wanted to have the ability to do some bushcraft type work while out, then I may very well choose an axe of some sort in the summer, or throw an axe in my sled with my bowsaw in the winter.

This last winter I tried a hatchet/bowsaw combo, and it was a huge waste of time. The hatchet was next to useless on larger wood, didn't limb particularly well, and didn't split very well. I did much better with a 9" blade and a bowsaw the winter before. The hatchet worked well in the summer though, when I found a large log at a campsite, and had the time to build wedges and start splitting the log. In the winter, the time wouldn't have been there to mess with the task, and the amount of wood produced wouldn't have been enough to bother with.

img4502nw.jpg


img4503k.jpg


img4504y.jpg


img4505f.jpg


img4506w.jpg


img4507j.jpg
 
Always a fun debate. I prefer a hatchet, 4-5" blade, small folder, and a small pack saw/ cable or folding. No large knife chops as well as a comparable weighted hachet. When chopping, you will only make contact with about 3" of the blade. An axe that puts all the weight of the tool behind the cutting edge, throw chips better. Then the geometry of the cutting edge comes in, ect ect. To each his own.
This is how I split with a hatchet or large hunting axe with a 19" handle. Use a baton and start on the upper edge.
002-1.jpg


004-1.jpg


The geometry of the Bit splits the wood. Once the split starts, rotate the log around and do the same on the other end.
006-1.jpg


Pow, the logs splits, no wedge, no fuss.
009-1.jpg


As you can see with the BK9 on top, the log was too large to split with a 10" blade. The geometry of the bit does the work for you.
010-1.jpg


Then, go at the pieces the same way. Logs split much easier when you come at them from the side rather than the top, and use a baton. Smaller stuff is easily split with a top strike.
013-1.jpg


014-1.jpg

The hatchet is a Wetterling 19" large hunter. Hand forged hatchets rock!!
 
Or do you like this meathod?
A little chopping test I did. My 13" 3/16" stock O-1 golok, BK9, Convexed 11" cutlass machete, and my 12" Husqvarna hand forged hatchet.
IMG_5395.jpg


After same number strikes.
IMG_5398.jpg


All were fairly close, but the hatchet was a clear winner.
IMG_5403.jpg


IMG_5405.jpg


Same wood as the log I split with the 19" Wetterling.
15 degree bend in blade, and a wedge to help with the split.
IMG_5412.jpg


After about 5x the effort, the smaller log is split.
IMG_5414.jpg


The Bk2 took over and made kindling. Convexed from the primary grind down.
IMG_5416.jpg



It was way easier to split the log with the hatchet. The log I batonned was not nearly the size and still took way more effort. There is a reason that axes developed in the northern latitutes where hard woods dominate. They work better for wood processing, and the smaller knives do the cutting. :D
 
I try to vote "both"
4487414699_e4d6ea6e20.jpg


And a 35" full size axe fits nicely on my pack if I'm going in long.
 
Been chopping with a machete this weekend. Went pretty darn good. But if i would have all my tools available i'd grab whats best for the job.
I always carry an Izula and probably get a 4 before summer holiday. When packing i'd go with a 'chete or my RTAK-2 to complete the hardware, though the latter is pretty heavy to haul around.
 
Yep,

If I'm just hiking and need to remove branches or small trees up to around 2" diameter, I'll take my machete.

If I'm building a cabin and need to cut BIG trees, I'll use an axe.
 
Great post Cody! I've not thought of splitting from both sides before. Don't know why, it seems so obvious now. Thanks again.
 
Awesome stuff cody, Gonna have to try that sometime. Got a 19" gransfors forest axe that I'm getting mailed over to me from England. If you've had a chance to use one of these please let me know how it compares to the wetterling 19".
Thanks man.
Also just though I'd mention... You were using a splitting hatchet with a flat grind Any Cal.
I'm not surprised it didn't pull it's weights worth. Convex is so much better for chopping and if the faces are done right much better for splitting also.
Some really great posts everyone,
Thanks for sharing:)
 
Also just though I'd mention... You were using a splitting hatchet with a flat grind Any Cal.
I'm not surprised it didn't pull it's weights worth. Convex is so much better for chopping and if the faces are done right much better for splitting also.

I have a SFA as well, and ounce for ounce, I would say that the tools perform similiarly. If a small Wildlife hatchet would perform like the SFA, then I would agree that there would be point to bringing it along. Until then, I think other tools perform similiar tasks with less weight on my back.

I should mention though, that axes could do any job needed, it is simply a matter of how big an axe you need to do the job, and if you want to carry that big a tool. I would need a good hatchet that weighed close to twice what my machete does to equal its performance, so if someone wanted to pack that, more power to them.
 
Last edited:
Awesome stuff cody, Gonna have to try that sometime. Got a 19" gransfors forest axe that I'm getting mailed over to me from England. If you've had a chance to use one of these please let me know how it compares to the wetterling 19".
Thanks man.
Also just though I'd mention... You were using a splitting hatchet with a flat grind Any Cal.
I'm not surprised it didn't pull it's weights worth. Convex is so much better for chopping and if the faces are done right much better for splitting also.
Some really great posts everyone,
Thanks for sharing:)

Thanks for the comments, fellas. The Wetterling and the Husqvarna are both convex ground. Wetterling makes the Husqvarna line and is owned itself by GB. I convex most all my stuff. The bk9 is convexed on the edge also. My 12" Husqvarna hatchet is under 2lbs with sheath and it's not the mini. My golok is 19.4oz without a sheath. They are comparable in weight. The real issue is what you are going to be doing and what you prefer. Eat a couple less bites of oatmeal in the morning and you will make up the weight difference. :D
 
Or eat a full-monty fried breakfast with toast on the side and take them all! I had no idea they were owned by GB, will have to check them out. 2Lb hatchet! I think that weighs more than my 19" GB forest axe. Must be an awesome little chopper/splitter. Do you do any carving?
 
I normally take a large knife for one main reason: The people I am with all have hatchets. I like big knives and none of them ever bring one, so it's the perfect fit.

I'm seriously considering taking a Junglas on my Appalachian trail hike next year.
 
Or eat a full-monty fried breakfast with toast on the side and take them all! I had no idea they were owned by GB, will have to check them out. 2Lb hatchet! I think that weighs more than my 19" GB forest axe. Must be an awesome little chopper/splitter. Do you do any carving?

It's a 1.2lb bit. Once you add in the handle and sheath it comes in just under 2lbs. The Husqie has a thinner geometry than the Wetterling. Much closer to the GB geometry. Here is a pic of my mini Wetterling next to the 12" Husqie. You can easily see the thinner geometry on the Husqie.
IMG_4326.jpg


IMG_4327.jpg


I have the Husquie forest axe and it destroys trees.

My favorites!
IMG_4852.jpg
 
It might have some climate/region factors also.

Out here in the North West, with large old growth forests and second growth timber, you don't see big chopping knifes, you see big & small axes, hatchets and splitting mauls (at least in my personal experience, yours may vary).

Reading this knife forum is the first time I even heard of a dedicated "chopper"style knife.

My largest knife is a Buck 119, and I have rarely/never carried it. My most carried fixed blade knifes are in the 3"-4" range. Never had need for anything bigger.

You've never met some of the sar guys in the area. Busse and kin are big. One thing they're good at is prying things like fatwood.
 
First, I'm not opposed to axes or hatchets, of any size, for any reason, BUT...

The first requirement for needing to carry an axe/hatchet or any combination is...actual wood.

That's not something you find very often over here in the desert.

For survival needs, I find that a small folding saw (e.g. Gerber/Fiskars, etc.) and a medium-to-large (e.g. 3-5") fixed blade are more than adequate to provide whatever chopping/cutting/skinning/slicing capabilities necessary. An axe/hatchet, no matter how nice or well-crafted or fancy, will not help you one bit if you don't have wood. It'll just be dead weight.

Now, like someone said earlier, if I'm at home and have the leisure of planning a trip (i.e. NOT a survival situation), the axe and/or machete will be in the truck, guaranteed. If I'm on a hike somewhere, I *might* take a machete, but only if it's a multi-day excursion, deep in the woods (in all reality, I'd probably opt for a larger fixed blade - a la ESEE-5 or -6). If it's just a day trip, the fixed blade is more than enough to split wood for a fire. No way am I taking more than I absolutely have to, unless there is a reasonable expectation that the trip might turn sour.

(Not that anyone wanted my opinion anyway, but I have given it some thought, and have put it into practice.) :p
 
A big knife is going to be more versatile. If I was in any type of warm climate, I'd definitely prefer a knife. If I was trapped up in the borean tundra somehwere, I'd prefer an axe, because I'd be chopping a whole lotta wood to stay warm.
 
For pure wood chopping axes are best, but when we scout around/hike, cut a trail, make a campfire etc. I prefer a large knife.

As we walk I can use it as a machete, and I don't have to aim at the branches like I do with an axe. For splitting wood and collecting enough deadfall for the fire it's quick and easy. Plus, if the knife is at least 1/4" thick with a nice convex grind I find you don't have to swing hard at all, just let the knife do the work.

[youtube]ErB5PsnuZ00[/youtube]
 
Or do you like this meathod?
A little chopping test I did. My 13" 3/16" stock O-1 golok, BK9, Convexed 11" cutlass machete, and my 12" Husqvarna hand forged hatchet.
IMG_5395.jpg


After same number strikes.
IMG_5398.jpg


All were fairly close, but the hatchet was a clear winner.
IMG_5403.jpg


IMG_5405.jpg


Same wood as the log I split with the 19" Wetterling.
15 degree bend in blade, and a wedge to help with the split.
IMG_5412.jpg


After about 5x the effort, the smaller log is split.
IMG_5414.jpg


The Bk2 took over and made kindling. Convexed from the primary grind down.
IMG_5416.jpg



It was way easier to split the log with the hatchet. The log I batonned was not nearly the size and still took way more effort. There is a reason that axes developed in the northern latitutes where hard woods dominate. They work better for wood processing, and the smaller knives do the cutting. :D

Cody1 thanks for those great posts. I also have the Large Hunting Axe and it will definitely out-process my 12" Blade Cold Steel Barong Machete by a factor of 2-3, even though the Barong is probably one of the best out there as far as survival machetes go.

I carry the Barong in the warmer months and sometimes into fall, but if it is later in the season then the axe comes with me:) The biggest thing is learning how to use an axe (Ray Mears on Youtube has an excellent tutorial). Once you learn you realize how great they are, provided you get a good one like a Fiskars, Wetterlings, Gransfors, Iltis Oxhead, Snow & Nealley or Council Tool. I still carry a 7" folding saw but a good axe will go through logs with less energy than even my 21" Corona Crosscut saw which is a beast.
 
Back
Top