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In search of THE axe…

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by binoclard, Nov 4, 2018.

  1. binoclard


    Nov 2, 2018

    First time poster here. My name is Olivier, I live in the french speaking part of Switzerland.

    TL;DR: I used an axe for the first time this summer (not «really» the first time, but the first time I _really_ used one, if you see what I mean). And fell in love. That simple. And now I want to gift myself a big nice beautiful axe for my 40th birthday.
    Let the name dropping begin. ^__^

    A bit longer, with some context: My wife and I bought an old (~1800) small stone farm/cowshed, abandoned since 60 years, with no water nor electricity, with the plan to make it fit to live again.
    We spent the summer camping up there, cleaning up «a little bit» before the renovation/construction process begins next spring, waking bushes with a billhook, mowing grass with a scythe, and processing firewood. It was amazing.
    I bucked and split 4 diseased large trees (ash and beech), with a saw and a common hardware axe that I somewhat managed to sharpen, then a small-ish Fiskars splitting axe.
    I loved it. The history and «mystique» of the tool, the simplicity, the efficience, the practice of an acquired skill, the pure beauty of a clean gesture and a perfect cut. I love the challenge, the practice, the mastery of the technique over the brute force. I found my zen. Duh… I don’t have to explain that, I am on an axe forum. :D

    I had always felt some kind of «axe envy», but as I didn’t had the use for one, I never acquired one, keeping myself to knives and kitchen knives.
    But now I need one, as we will heat the house and cook with firewood; and… as I am turning 40 at the end of december, I want to gift myself THE axe.
    The really beautiful tool to that will join me on this journey, that I will marvel at every time I use it, and that I will care for till my old days.

    I love nice and beautiful tools. Aesthetics and crafmanship is important for me. And I can be very picky over tiny details… I spent a year comparing and reading about japanese kitchen knives before buying my first one. I like to learn new things, reading, «window-shopping» and educate myself to make oriented choices.

    So please, give me makers name, noob advices, drown me in models and shapes and patterns and types of axes, open my mind to possibilities, so that I could choose my Precious, with as much reason than heart.

    What kind of model, what weight, lenght would be best? Knowing that I will mostly use it on ash and beech, with the occasional fir. And mostly for bucking, splitting, and a bit of limbing.

    A «boy’s axe» with a nice wedge? The Velvicut one is nice and seems like a good candidate, but it doesn’t scream «special» for me.

    What do I like?
    I think I like the simple clean look of some old american axes patterns, where the head seems to be almost just a «rectangle» with a touch of an elegant curve seen from the side vs the roundish collar-thing of the Gränsfors & alike (the beautiful simplicity of a Main wedge? Dayton? Yankee? Connecticut?…). And I think that kind would be nicely suited for my needs, no?
    I think I would prefer a somewhat straight-ish handle with subtile shapes.
    I could almost see myself buying a Best Made (yeah, I know, overpriced hipster toy, blablabla. I don’t care, I like them.), but I fear they are on the heavy side for my use.
    Basques seem great.
    I _really_ like the look of Autine axes head; but the over-curved handle, not so much… and those prices. >__<
    I also like the clean lines and appealing design of some more «rustic» poleless axes with a longer «beard» that I have seen.

    I have started to look at vintage, but… I am not so sure I want to take this way for now (restoring, rehanging, etc.). And nicely restored vintages seems almost as expensive, with the gamble.

    I am more and more toying with the idea of asking a quote to a local artisan, Serge Turberg, who appears to do great tools rooted in the tradition of the region, and I might end up doing just that, but I thought I have to broaden my horizons first, and educate myself and see as much as possible before I could make up my mind. Maybe for my 50 :p

    Wow, that is quite a wall of text… Thanks in advance for your time and advices.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2018
  2. A17


    Jan 9, 2018
    I'd contact forum member jblyttle as he has hundreds of great axes and handles for sale. Good luck on the hunt!
  3. Panthera tigris

    Panthera tigris Street Samurai Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 21, 2012
    BamaDADx3 and DavidZ like this.
  4. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    not gonna say he's over priced but i wouldnt pay $450 for a flat cheeked jersey. for that money i'd consider a tuatahi
  5. Mike Pierson

    Mike Pierson Proud Veteran Platinum Member

    Dec 22, 2017
    Welcome, & a nice 1st post.
  6. binoclard


    Nov 2, 2018
    Wow, answers already :)

    Thanks for the tip, I'll add it to the list of the options.:thumbsup:

    Yeah… Really beautiful work, but money aside, his order book seems closed.
    And FWIW I am really not a huge fan of this "round" collar thing (does that part have name BTW?). Pity, because it's a pure design/aesthetic subjective thing, I just don't think it adds anything to the silhouette. Yeah, I know, I am picky. :rolleyes:
    Mike Pierson likes this.
  7. binoclard


    Nov 2, 2018
    Thank you. It seems like a dangerously nice place, here :D
    Mike Pierson likes this.
  8. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    A True Temper Flint Edge is as fine of axe as anyone will ever want or need. Look for a Dayton, Michigan or Jersey pattern. 3-4 pounds, 32-inch curved or straight haft. If you want to stay true to classic form use a curved handle with a large un-clipped fawns foot.

    Your axe should have a clean poll, not mushroomed. The toe should not be excessively worn and should be slightly longer than the heel. It should be filed to the United States Forest Service axe gauge and hand honed to at least minimally shaving sharp. The cheeks should be conxex, not flat like most current European axes.

    Other brands will do, vintage Plumb, Collins Legitimus, Mann, Warren, Snow & Nealley, Emerson & Stevens .... etc. But it's not always clear with some brands whether you're getting a base model axe (with lesser quality steel) or a top line axe. If you get a Flint Edge you know you have a top line axe. A vintage Kelly Perfect is also going to be a top line axe. You'll spend a little more but you'll know you have the best and won't be second guessing yourself.
  9. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 10, 2015
    Welcome. I think you need two axes instead of one for your new life adventure. I would get a American pattern that appeals to you. Since you want new instead of a vintage (you will get around to having vintage axes, trust me!), a Council would be a good choice for all around farm work. For your second axe I would get something traditional to your location in Switzerland. This could be your best axe to be used when working on a special project. I suggest the second because of the story you tell in your post and your obvious love of your new place and your new life adventure.
    I think you should know that the danger you mention about this axe interest you now have is to your marriage.
    Moonw, junkenstien, Jasper33 and 4 others like this.
  10. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    I was thinking 3 tools if he will be living and working in a traditional way! Full sized felling/splitting, boy's axe and carving hatchet.

    And, don't forget the utility of a 3-4lb hand sledge and a splitting wedge or two.

    If you were to start with just one tool, and you want new, maybe look at the Council Tool boy's axe and/or the Husqvarna Muti-purpose axe.
  11. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Agent_H and Yankee Josh like this.
  12. crbnSteeladdict


    Jul 31, 2017
    Welcome to the forum.
    I hate to burst your bubble, but I sincerely believe you will end up with at least 10 different axes/hatchets :) (different tool for different job)
    I believe the best gift you can give yourself is a a new skill of hanging vintage American axe.
    You made a point of 3.5lbs being heavy: I think your perfect axe would be high centerline, old True Temper/Kelly Forest Service Boy's Axe. Not easy to find, but you should go in that direction.
    For full size you wouldn't be disappointed with beveled or convex cheeks Jersey pattern Axe.
    One more thing, personally, I hate how paint weathers on tool handles.
    Yankee Josh and Mike Pierson like this.
  13. binoclard


    Nov 2, 2018
    Thank you. I thought about that, and I'll have to look more closely at traditional axes here, but my first impression is that most patterns are exaggeratedly "flared" and I really don't like that.

    Thanks, that gives me a reference / starting point.

    LOL. I come here for THE axe, mainly to split, and you are already trying to convince me I need a carpenter hatchet. Love it ^__^

    I won't be living there full time, at least not these following years; it will be a week-end and holiday retreat for a start.

    As for getting around to having vintages, I have already started in fact :D Two, given by a neighbor, that belonged to her father. A HUGE german Ochsenkopf with a splendid but broken handle, and an absolutely fantastic "fire-fighter" (?) axe, with a long pike instead of a poll, and an elongated blade, hafted like a tomahawk. Winter renovation project.
  14. Mike Pierson

    Mike Pierson Proud Veteran Platinum Member

    Dec 22, 2017
    This is a true statement for me anyway.
    As I sit still momentarily I count 7 axes and 3 hatchets, & not even 1 is new, all are vintage bought used & all rehung, with 7 out of the ten total being rehung by myself. Old versus new I go older every time.
    I started searching on YouTube, watched buckingbilly Ray a lot then dove in headfirst, never looked back.
    I rotate my axes and have 2 dbl bits but love using my Collins Legitimus, my Kelly”s, and my OVB the most. I have a really nice BlueGrass too that makes me smile as well.
    Enjoy the journey!
    Nbrackett and crbnSteeladdict like this.
  15. binoclard


    Nov 2, 2018
    Yeah, I know. :p I am just looking for The Special One for this occasion.

    Thanks for the advice and direction. :thumbsup:
    Mike Pierson likes this.
  16. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    "....mainly to split...."

    That is why you need something larger than a boys axe. You should really be looking at a 3.5 pound axe. That's the minimum for splitting and will still do the bucking and limbing that you also do.

    This is where most people are at and this is why the 3.5 pound axe has become the standard. For bucking a 3-4 pound axe is best. For splitting a 3.5 pound or larger axe is necessary. For limbing a 2.25 to 3.5 pound is best, but 3.5 pounds is pushing the limit. A 32" handle will be fine for all 3 of your tasks. A 36" handle is too long for limbing. A 28" handle is too short for splitting (lacks power).
  17. Mike Pierson

    Mike Pierson Proud Veteran Platinum Member

    Dec 22, 2017
    True, all true.
    I look for old steel & in very good/good usable condition, and seem to always look for axes 4 pounds and heavier.
    I laugh when I go to our local hardware store and view the Chinese axes & crud they are trying to sell, and the prices they are asking.
    I stay busy and am always smiling.

    Attached Files:

    Square_peg and crbnSteeladdict like this.
  18. binoclard


    Nov 2, 2018
    Thanks, cool, I'll keep that in mind.

    I looked at some videos (I am thinking particularly of Billy Ray Bucking, Skillcult, and "the barefoot girl", who seem to split with relatively "small" axes), ans so I was mistaken by the "felling axe" labels plus the weight, I assume those were monster axes.

    Wow, Mike, that is a nice pile of wood. :thumbsup: Cold climate?
    Mike Pierson likes this.
  19. Mike Pierson

    Mike Pierson Proud Veteran Platinum Member

    Dec 22, 2017
    Northern New Mexico almost in Colorado 6000 ft elevation & living off the grid a bit.
    Propane is $$$ here so we use mainly wood.
  20. crbnSteeladdict


    Jul 31, 2017
    Haaa, The post was so long, I missed the "mainly to split" part and focused on statement that felling axe was heavy.
    Square_peg and Mike Pierson like this.

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