Build An Ark: How to Avoid Damaging your Axe Helve

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How to Avoid Damaging your Axe Helve

Well, a guy I know has suffered some axe handle damage and wanted to know what might cause it and how to avoid it in the future. I thought a few diagrams might be helpful to illustrate how such a risk can be minimised.

Here’s his “ding”

Okay the good news is that’s just a “war wound” and nothing to worry about. Howeverrepeated impacts will weaken the helve, so lets look a bit at why this happens.

My immediate diagnosis (Dr Red is taking surgery), is that wound to the axe neck was caused splitting logs. It was also caused by a technique problem.

This is how a log should be split.

Notice how the helve is at 90 degrees to the log?

When the split occurs, the bit will move into the log as shown below.

So what happened above? Well, I suspect one of three causes. The most likely is shown below. This is caused by chopping logs on a low chopping block (below knee height) and chopping at a downward angle. The bit bites down and through the log and the impact at the damage point is indicated.

The second (and least likely) cause is shown below, This is caused either by chopping too high(very unlikely) or “dropping” the wrist and shoulder at the point of impact causing the helveto sink below the line of the bit. Interestingly the impact point on the helve is the same.

Another frequent cause of helve damage is chopping too large a diameter log for the axe size in the wrong way. If the log is wide, as the bit penetrates, a large length of the helve is impacted (or a smaller length is the angle is also poor)

Imagine the bit length shown as the red line do we avoid the problem?

Well, the answer is not to split centrally, but to split off centre like this. Then rotate and repeat.

So – the right technique? Keep the helve square to the top face of the log. Achieve this bycutting at the right height on a block (it saves your back too). If cutting a wide log, takeslices off the edge, rotate the block and take another slice – don’t try to halve the log. This isa photo of me splitting logs out and about a while back – hopefully it illustrates what I mean.