Where Have All the Axes Gone?

Thank you Tony Nester for sharing this (surprising) article from The Atlantic

Where Have All the Axes Gone?

The treasured woodchopper’s talisman is a guide to an almost-lost way of life, an Object Lesson.

Last year was, by some accounts, the year of the lumbersexual—big beard, big plaid, big boots. Although not measured by time spent in the woods, the look’s ultimate accessory would have to be an axe. A big one. Happily, a Tribeca graphic designer and axe enthusiast was willing to fulfill the need. Offering both a smaller Hudson Bay and a four-pound Dayton-pattern American felling axe, the Best Made Company adds value with more than a dozen handles with brightly painted color schemes. Although the axes are high quality (made by Council, one of the finest axe manufacturers in America today), the catalog’s many pages amount to differently decorated versions of the same two patterns.

By contrast, the Mann’s Edge Tools company (begun by William Mann in 1833) produced axes in more than 70 patterns—Michigan, Rockaway, Wisconsin, Hoosier, Yankee, Black Raven, Muley, Perfect, and also ice, broad, and carpenter’s axes along with adzes and mattocks. Though some are regional, most of the subtle differences are technical, each performing different tasks.

An 1859 Scientific American article on axe manufacture notes with some humor that, “It is true, if not touching, that many choppers think of and cherish their axes as though these were so many children or precious talismans…

Go to The Atlantic for the rest of the article.

About Christian Noble

Chris Noble is the founder of MasterWoodsman.com and Woodsmoke Camping Company. A Master Naturalist, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and has worked as a Registered Forester and Certified Burn Manager in several states. Chris is also a Wilderness First Responder and since the late 90’s has been “practicing primitive” skills and taking lessons from numerous Master Woodsmen throughout North America. An advocate for Conservation, teacher of Wilderness Living Skills, and happily married, he enjoys passing what he has learned thus far to others, especially his 2 children, Emerson and Duncan.

One Response to Where Have All the Axes Gone?

  1. YankeeSurvival@GMail.com'
    Yankee December 18, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    I’ve actually been to the Best Made Company’s storefront in NYC. It was the only place I could source a 28″ handle for my vintage Norlund Hudson Bay Axe. I called ahead to confirm that they had them in stock and when I arrived, they had them spread out across their glass display case for me to pick my hafts. It was a nice experience.

    They also had on display some vintage unrestored axes. While there, I also picked up their version of the Council Tool Hudson Bay Velvicut because it’s the ONLY place that you can get one with a 28″ handle (CT only sells them in the smaller size) and the price was about the same as CT’s catalog. Sold!

    While I’m not one for the painted handles, just like Seton did in the 1900’s, it’s the city folk and urbanites (aka 80% of the nation) who yearn and long for the country life more than those who actually live in the country. Think about that for a moment. That would make sense that they romanticize living in the woods more, no? And they are right to.

    Give me the city slicker that wants to spend a weekend in the woods and by the time they return back to urbania, I’d have them making fires with flint & steel kits and cooking over an open flame with a Cold Handle skillet in no time. They are hungrier for the woods life than those who live in the woods.

    As for the lumbersexuals? Pffft! They are like buses when it comes to fads. Just wait in the same spot on the right corner if you miss it. There’ll be another fad coming by in about 15 minutes like clockwork.

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