“New-Fangled” Axes for the Homestead

In the last few days, I’ve made a gear change on the homestead. I’m turning away from my traditional, wooden handled axes and embracing the newer, synthetic handled, “new-fangled” ax.

Several years ago, I asked Michelle to pick up a new child’s ax in town (see A Child’s Ax Can Do a Man’s Job). She came home with a Fiskars X15 (paid link), the closest thing to a “Boy’s” ax available in town at the time. It’s part of Fiskars Extreme or High Performance Ax line.

I was intrigued, but a little disappointed; I’m a traditionalist, with a deep love for the wood-hafted axes I grew up using. Still, new-fangled though it may be, the sleek little synthetic handled ax looked pretty nice.

Fiskar X15

The Fiskar X15, hanging from its hard shell scabbard (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I managed not to use it for years, saving it “for best.” But, times and tools change. The manufacturer most commonly available locally, Collins, began hafting their boy’s ax heads upside down, in my opinion, so a new one requires taking off the brand new head and flipping it, probably onto a new handle (see Collins Needs to Get Their Head on Straight!). I note that Collins still does this, and makes the same mistake with their hatchets.

Meanwhile, replacement ax handles seem to lack quality. New and newly-hafted axes are breaking, some splitting lower on the handle, not simply getting chewed up by strike-misses.

Finally, I started using the X15 and discovered its worth. Its FiberComp┬« handle, shorter than a child’s ax, takes practice, but it bites deep in wood. I depended on it to fell and limb the latest “widow maker” tree (see “It’s Worth a Shot!”).

Once my latest splitting ax began to break along the grain of the handle I decided to try the Fiskars large splitting ax, sometimes known as the Fiskars X27 (paid link), although mine is actually the Fiskars 375841-1001 36″ Super Splitting Ax.

Fiskars X27 style Ax

The Fiskars splitter ax, comparable to the X27 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I was pleased to learn that Fiskars shares my views on the difference between chopping or felling axes and splitting axes, and offers product accordingly (see Choosing the Right Ax for the Job).

I went into this with my eyes open. Fiskars claims their axes are “virtually” unbreakable. One of the guys at the local hardware store where Michelle bought the X15 told her, from a friend’s experience, how to break one: leave it out in the rain, allow the hollow handle to fill with rainwater, then freeze. “It’ll break nicely!” Amazon reviews show that others have figured out other ways, most significantly using them in below-freezing temperatures. I’ll decide what to do about this over the summer. In those warmer months, I’ll use these axes without much worry. They all carry a lifetime guarantee; I assume breakage in the normal course of use would be covered, particularly since they stress the difficulty of breaking one.

I also realized that I could buy this ax locally for the price of my preferred ax, plus one replacement handle. By the second rehafting, the ax will have paid for itself, not counting my time and effort.

This post has gone long; I have more to say both for and against these axes. More to come . . . .

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, this excellent article by Toolazine helped me decide to try these axes.

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