For anyone who needs to survive in the great outdoors, a good ax is one of the most important tools to own. It lets you fell trees with minimal effort, and quickly gather the necessary components for campfires and improvised shelters. However, an ax (sometimes spelled “axe”) isn't just a crude wood handle with a sharp metal wedge at the end—there's a lot more to this seemingly simple tool than you might think.
If you'd like to learn more about the long history and design elements of this important chopping tool, the U.S. Forest Service has an excellent resource called An Ax to Grind: A Practical Ax Manual. This 68-page document was developed in 1999 by the United States Department of Agriculture for the Forest Service, and covers some of the following topics:
Trust us, there's a ton of useful info and illustrations in the manual. Even if you only use an ax occasionally, you can learn something from it. We just found out that the phrase “can't get the hang of it” originated from lumberjacks struggling to mount their ax heads correctly—interesting, huh? Well, with this guide, you can get the hang of your ax head.
Possibly the most useful part of the entire guide is its commentary on ax safety, and how to chop limbs off trees without accidentally removing a chunk of your own limb. It's essential for beginners and experts alike.
Click here to download a free PDF of An Ax to Grind from the U.S. Forestry Service.
If you don't have an ax or plan to own one, do yourself a favor and at least learn to split logs with a knife.
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