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An axe is vital to the outdoorsman and it is important that you know how to use one safely and efficiently.

When you know how to use it, you can use it to build your shelter, make a raft, chop wood for your fire, for cooking and for keeping you warm.

Parts of a Hand Axe

Safety Rules for using an Axe

  • See that everyone is well clear of the swing of the axe – TWO axe-lengths away. An axe-length is measured from your armpit to the head of the axe.
  • Remove your scarf and any other loose clothing, like lanyards, which could become entangled.
  • Check that the area is free of overhanging branches that could deflect your axe when you are chopping.
  • Keep fingers and feet away from the blade. Wear SHOES. Do not use an axe when barefoot or when wearing sandals.
  • When you chop wood ALWAYS use a CHOPPING BLOCK. Balance the wood on the block with your hand away from the end to be chopped. ALWAYS watch the point at which you are aiming.
  • NEVER chop a stick leaning between the ground and the block – one end is sure to leap into the air.

  • When splitting sticks or logs, place the stick flat on the block and cut from the further end.
  • When chopping branches from a large log stand on the opposite side from the branches being removed.

  • Rest when you are tired. When tired you become careless and lose control.
  • Don't risk chopping into the ground. You will only blunt the bit and it is dangerous.
  • Keep the axe sheathed when not in use.
  • An axe is NOT a hammer or a mallet. It is meant for cutting wood. Use it for this purpose only.
  • When passing the axe to someone else, hold it by the haft and support the axe head with your free hand. MAKE SURE HE HAS A FIRM HOLD ON IT BEFORE YOU LET GO.

Never play games or fool around with an axe. Remember it is not a toy!

Using an axe

You should chop at angles, not at a right angle.

Caring for an axe

  1. Mask the axe when not in use. An axe may be masked temporally by driving it into the chopping block, but the blade must follow the grain of the wood, it must be secure and the half must not overhang the edge of the block where there is a risk that someone passing could knock off the haft and dislodge the axe.
  2. Keep axes dry
  3. Do not leave them out at night. Put them away carefully in the stores tent, never just inside the door where someone might kneel or step on it going into the tent.
  4. Keep the axe sharp as a blunt axe is more dangerous then a sharp one.
  5. Keep the axe head greased to prevent it from rusting.
  6. Oil the haft with linseed oil to prevent it rotting.
  7. Replace a damaged haft with a new one – never ever try to repair it.


Blank axe drawing for tests

Axemanship poster