Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Choosing and using a Felling Axe

A felling axe with a glass carbon handle

An axe to cut wood: well...

It depends, it really depends on the type of job you need to do. If you want to make firewood, a chainsaw and a splitting maul are probably the way to go. The felling axe is however a versatile tool with many uses...

Splitting wood along its grain

If your answer splitting wood along its grain as in splitting logs to make them thinner to fit within your fireplace, the tool you need is splitting maul which is a blend and heavy axe. As a second choice, a felling axe works as well.

Cutting across the grain of wood

If cutting wood across the grain is what you need, you will probably either want a steel bow saw (or chainsaw) or an axe.
Saws are very good when the piece of wood you're cutting is stuck/attached somehow and you have to saw at a good angle and are terrible at splitting logs. Axes however are much more versatile as they can be used both to cut wood or split logs and is therefore a very handy tool to have... but you need to chose the right size.

Depending on the type of job you want to do with an axe like chopping branches off or helping cutting difficult knots in a log you're trying to split. You're going to need a hatchet or a felling axe.

Using an axe

There are so many different ways of using an axe. With uses ranging from felling trees to warefare or as a versatile tool, we're going to focus here on cutting wood/felling a tree:

Felling notch

Useful to fell trees : you hit the tree at a 45 degrees angle. You will need to make a wide notch (both vertical and horizontal) as low as possible. Make sure you you start on the side where the tree leans:
  • Start off by making your first strokes (45°) along an horizontal line. 
  • Widen your notch by striking along a slightly higher horizontal line and repeat the process a couple of times until you have a 15 to 20 centimetres high notch.
  • Remove the chips still attached to the tree by hitting the tree almost horizontally.
  • Repeat these steps until you reach the middle of the trunk.
Start a second notch a little higher (a couple of centimetres) than the first one. If you chose your side well for the first notch, the tree should fall on the other side.

V notch Axe Bucking

A video (from Ben's Backwoods, see below) says more than a thousand words. Here are the important things to know:

  • Keep your feet and legs away
  • When you start your V shaped Notch make sure the groove points toward your waist.
  • Precision is more important than strength.
  • Keep a 45° angle and hit from both sides (in a V shape)


  • Work as close as possible from the ground. If you miss one of your strokes, you reduce you chances of getting the axe in you leg or foot.
  • Always swing your axe from top to bottom. Going up is hazardous.
  • Use common sense, axes are dangerous tools.

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