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Axes and Hatchets

Axe For Survival

Why would you carry an Axe in your survival pack or bug out bag? I see that there is a debate going on in some forums about whether to carry an axe or a machete in your survival gear. My preference is to carry an axe most of the time in my bush gear. I have a machete but hardly ever carry it or even use it. My axe preference is based on carrying an axe for over 50 years and using for many tasks. The tasks that can be performed with my axe are almost endless.

It does make a difference where you are going, for instance I have spent my life wandering around the Boreal forest and the West Coast of Canada. If I were to take a trip or relocate to say South America and had to work myself through a tropical forest I would probably change to a machete. 

As far as I am concerned my axe is number 1 on my survival kit list. It is even in many cases more important that a knife, even though I am never without a knife. 

The axe I prefer to carry is a Hudson’s Bay style. This axe has a 2 pound head and about at 24 to 26 inch wooden handle. This axe is light enough to carry in your hand, lash to your pack or carry on a specially made carrying strap. This axe can do just about everything. You can get it sharp enough to shave with, it can be used to skin game, it can quarter a big game animal, it can cut down trees, it can split firewood and many of the log houses built in the old days were built with this little axe. 

This axe is the preferred axe of trappers, hunters, canoeists, and campers all over the world. All of the best axe makers of the world make a version of this axe, and all of the best ones have a wooden handle. The beauty of a wooden handle is that it absorbs vibration and can be replaced if it gets damaged or broken. If your wooden handle gets broken, you can make a new one using the axe head and any chunk of wood that is handy. 

It is important to have at least a blade sheath for your axe. The sheath is usually made of good leather and will keep the axe from cutting things it shouldn’t, like the operator and adjacent equipment and gear. The sheath usually comes with belt loops but because of the length of the handle this axe is a little long to wear on a belt. 

It is also important to learn to use your axe properly. I have watched several people using an axe and recently I see several videos posted online that show and are teaching improper axe handling. It is too bad that these misguided people are posting dangerous practices on the internet. These teachings will lead to people getting hurt or will make people dislike axes. 

In fact when I went to Youtube to add a video to this post I found only videos that are teaching unsafe axe handling practices. When you learn how to use an axe properly, the axe will become one of your favorite tool to carry in the woods and add to your survival kit. 

Another thing about axes is that they are really easy to maintain. They are simple, they have a head and a handle. The head is made of steel and can be sharpened using any sharpening stone, file or grinder. In fact there are files called axe files that are specifically made to sharpen axes. In a pinch an axe can also be sharpened by using a rock.

The axe handle is made of hardwood, usually Hickory, that has a fairly straight grain. If an axe handle has a section of cross grain, it is likely to break easily. When buying an axe try to choose one that has straight grain running from one end of the handle to the other. Your axe head is held on the axe handle by friction. The friction is increased in the head by the use of wedges. The wedges can be made of wood or metal and are driven in to the end of the handle flush with the axe head. 

Axe maintenance is really simple. The head of the axe is made of steel is virtually maintenance free. If it gets wet and gets rusty, simply remove the rust using a file, sandpaper or a grinder. If it gets muddy just wipe the mud off. There is no need to shine up an axe head.

To maintain the handle, it is recommended that you rub it with either raw or boiled linseed oil. If the handle gets splinters, the best way to remove them is to use sandpaper to remove them and smooth out the sharp edges. You want your axe handle to be smooth, as proper axe handling requires you to move your hand along the length of the axe when using it. You can also use the linseed oil to keep your axe sheath in shape. 

Like most tools in your survival gear, axes are sharp and can be very dangerous. The best way to learn to use an axe safely is find a person locally that can teach you proper axe usage. I DO NOT recommend any of the video instruction on the internet. Like any other tool or process the best way to get good at using an axe is to go out and use it. 

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