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Proper Axe Handling Techniques

Updated: Apr 23

Axes are sharp. Be sure you're prepared to use one.

Any edge tool - axe, hatchet, splitting maul, cleaver, knife, etc. - should be handled with extreme care. These tools are designed to cut, and take it from experience, they do just that. They aren't toys and following the basic guidelines below can lead to a safe, fun experience.

Axe Safety Tips | Motor City Axe
Axe Safety Tips | Motor City Axe

Handling an Edge Tool:

Chopping or splitting can be a tiring task. At some point you'll need a rest. While you can hand the axe off to the next user, we try to put the tool down and let the other person pick it up when they are ready. If you're handing the axe or hatchet directly to the next person, do not hand it handle or blade first. Handle first means the blade is in your hand and if it slips or the other person pulls you could lose a finger. Blade first mean the other person can only grab the blade leaving them susceptible to injury as well. Try to hand the tool perpendicular to you arm to so next user is able to safely grab the handle.

If you're transporting your axe, be sure to sheath the blade. This will protect not only yourself, but others around you. When not using an axe, but you don't sheath it, be mindful of the blade positioning. Single bit axes can be sunk into a log. Double bits should be sheathed or lain flat, clear out of the way of people or foot traffic. Our partner Wild Bill does all of the leather work you see on our site.

What you are doing with the edge tool will dictate its use and, typically, its swing style. For a swing style, we say to each their own. As long as you're comfortable and safe with your motion that's all that matters. I use a common method - one hand at the end of the handle with the other hand starting near the head. As you begin your downward swinging motion, slide your top hand down towards the hand at the end of the handle. You can use your core and hips in the motion as well.

Proper Gear:

Bear Knuckles Gloves | Motor City Axe
Axe Safety Tips | Motor City Axe

Will you be felling trees or splitting wood for extended periods? We recommend a nice pair of gloves which will prevent blistering and, depending on the glove type, allow for a better grip on the handle. We use Bear Knuckles Gloves around the shop, in the yard and while out in the forest.

Closed toed shoes are highly recommended. Solid shoes or boots allow for better footing and, in the case of a mis-swing, will better protect your feet/toes.

Check your surroundings. Be sure there are no people or animals around you and that your full swinging motion isn't inhibited by shrubs or branches above you. Also clear a good area for your feet so you have a solid base to stand and swing.

Eye wear or safety goggles are also highly recommended. Just this past summer while camping at Ossineke State Forest I was cutting a downed tree to use for fire wood. Something hit my eye. At first I thought a bug had flown into my eye. Turns out a small piece of wood had scratched my cornea. I avoided serious injury, but now ensure I have goggles (or even sunglasses) when chopping.

As we've previously mentioned in other blog post, we make a habit of sharpening our axes after each use. This not only keeps your tools in working order, but it's also a safety measure. When striking a tree, a dull blade is more prone to bounce off leaving you open to injury. A sharp blade will do what it's meant to do, cut into the wood.

When camping we pack a basic first aid kit. Luckily the one axe related injury we've seen is a cut on a finger during a sharpening session. That was quickly cleaned and bandaged up. In the case where a hospital visit is required, try to remain calm and have someone transport you to the nearest emergency room.

To sum it up - be safe, be smart and just use common sense. An axe can be a very fun tool, but also dangerous. Respect its power.

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