Tips on buying the best axe

by timgraphics

A well designed splitting axe is essential for all your log splitting needs

These days we are all watching carefully how we spend our hard earned money. We know that buying the cheapest is not economical in the long run. This is very true when buying an axe. A cheap axe will not hold its edge for long; the handle may break more easily; the blade can chip if it is too brittle.

Council Tool Company Premium Axes
Council Tool Company Premium Axes

Pay more and get the best quality

Paying for top quality means your axe will have the following features:

  • The correct shape of head for the job.
  • The steel head will be properly tempered, meaning it can be sharpened effectively but not easily damaged if treated well.
  • A wooden handle will have as straight a grain as possible, making it stronger.
  • The axe will be properly balanced so you will need less effort to use it.
  • The head will be very firmly fixed to the handle, and properly aligned, making it safer and more efficient.

Types of Axe

You may have a picture in your mind's eye of a rugged woodsman carrying his one trusty axe to chop down trees and reduce them to logs or for shaping wood. Of course there are axes which are designed to do a range of jobs and these tend to be a compromise.

Your choice should be the right type for the job and not too light or too heavy so you can use it comfortably.

Full Sized Splitting Axe

An axe designed for splitting wood has a head shaped so that it does not become stuck in the wood, but pushes it aside. It is the speed of the blow, rather than strength, that splits the wood.

These have a handle about 36 inches in length and are used for felling large trees, or, with the right type of head, for splitting wood. An excellent example of a modern splitting axe is the Fiskars 7884 X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe.

Fiskars 7884 X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe

Fiskars 7884 X27 36-Inch Super Splitting Axe

Fiskars axes are made in Finland and feature a very modern design with modern materials. The hollow handle is made of a composite that is light weight but stronger than steel. The X-Series Splitting Axes also include advanced bevel convex blade geometry.

The head is teflon coated which helps to stop the head getting stuck. These axes have many fans and get excellent five star reviews on sites like Amazon.

Gransfors Bruks American Felling Axe Straight

Gransfors Bruks American Felling Axe Straight

Gransfors Bruks axes and hatchets are hand made in a small town in Sweden. The company was rescued from bankruptcy by Gabriel Branby, who turned it into a small scale, high quality manufacturer.

They are a favourite with many experienced exponents of bushcraft. Each axe head is stamped with the initials of the smith who forged it. They have an extremely sharp edge out of the box. These are high quality tools which will last for a lifetime or longer if looked after.

Council Velvicut American Felling Axe

Council Velvicut American Felling Axe

The American company Council Tool has been making a wide range of tools since 1886. Following in the footsteps of Scandinavian axe manufacturers, they decided to bring out a range of high end axes for discerning buyers.

The range is called Velvicut and has received excellent reviews in the more specialised blogs and websites. Amazingly the head has a lifetime warranty. If you are looking for a top qualty axe which is all American made, this range is the one to look at.

Back to Sweden now with the Wetterlings company, started in 1880. As with Gransfors Bruks, the company is owned by Gabriel Branby.

Reviewers talk about the high quality and precision of these axes, even though they may not be as highly finished as some. But then you aren't going to leave it hanging on a wall to look at. Wetterlings axes are amazing value for money.

Boy's Axe or Limbing Axe

This type of axe is a good compromise between size and weight for splitting and chopping. They are usually about 26 inches in length. A limbing axe is used to to chop off branches from a fallen tree. This length of axe can be dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced user. If the target is missed, the blow can hit the feet, ankles or body!!

Gransfors Scandinavian Forest Axe #430

Gransfors Scandinavian Forest Axe #430

Cold Steel Trail Boss Hickory Handle

Cold Steel Trail Boss Hickory Handle

Snow and Nealley Hudson Bay Axe

Snow and Nealley Hudson Bay Axe

Small or Hand Axe

This is a small axe which can be used with one or two hands. It is heavier than a hatchet and can split larger kindling.


Someone interested in bushcraft or wilderness survival may carry a hatchet which is portable and used for many tasks. If you want to split large logs to fit into your wood burning stove, the job is best done with something larger.

Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet

Wildlife Hatchet

Looking After Your Axe

  • Never store your axe wet and oil it to prevent rusting.
  • Avoid storing it in a hot place or the handle will dry out; use linseed oil or beeswax if it gets too dry.
  • Do not store below zero celsius or the head may become fragile.
  • Keep your axe sharp - it is safer to use. Learn how to sharpen an axe properly with a grinding stone.
  • Wear safety goggles when chopping wood.
  • Protect the axe head with a leather sheath - you can make one yourself.
Updated: 02/28/2012, timgraphics
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