THREE FACTORY AXES TAKE THE CHOP, LIMB, TRIM, SHAVE AND STRIP TEST
We got snowed in one New Year’s in a rented cabin in the mountains. When I expressed concern about relying on electric heat in a remote cabin, the rental agent assured me that the electricity never went out. In any event, she said, “There was plenty of firewood for the fireplace and an axe. You’re an experienced outdoorsman. I’m sure you can cope.”
Of course, the electricity went out. I found about a cord of unsplit logs, each log 6-to-8 inches in diameter and 3 feet long. No split wood. No kindling. No axe. I batonned my ever-present Randall Model 1 around the edges of the logs to make kindling, and split enough wood to keep the fire going until the electricity came back on. Three days. I coped but every time I went to the wood pile, I wished I had an axe. Any of the axes in this field review would have been welcome.
Almost anything will chop softwood such as pine. For a proper challenge, we spent a day clearing madrone and oak at a friend’s property. Oak is a hardwood. Madrone is more fibrous and even tougher. We also split seasoned oak logs for our friend’s fireplace.
HIKING HACKER: The Fox Trekking Axe
The Fox Trekking Axe is a terrific chopper for the backpacker, hunter or woods wanderer. Reminiscent of a medieval design, it’s light enough to keep in a rucksack and very well made.
The thin blade came sharp enough to cut paper and kept its edge during a day’s work. Its good edge geometry and balance, comfortable and ergonomic handle—well, really, its overall efficient configuration, which I suspect was inspired by an old, well-proven design—enabled painless hours of chopping, limbing and trimming. The long edge worked well for stripping and shaving bark to make bare poles. I have no doubt that the Trekking Axe would serve to quickly erect a shelter against an incoming mountain snowstorm, or dress out and break down an elk carcass. With its long, almost knife-like edge, it could also skin out the elk.
The thin blade, so efficient at taking down saplings and other work, tended to bind when chopped into the center of the seasoned oak logs. That’s a matter of geometry—the blade is not wedge shaped and won’t serve as a splitting maul, which is outside of its design envelope. A change in method overcame that limitation. By working around the edges and splitting off sections an inch or 3 thick, we were able to reduce logs to kindling.
Overall it’s a well-designed, well-made tool that I wouldn’t hesitate to take to the deep woods.
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