Why an axe? Knives, other sharp tools as well as axes have been important throughout our history. Our ancestors used them in battles, for hunting or in medieval tournaments. They were made of various materials that were available at the time (stones, bones, metals etc.). Depending on their purpose, axes varied in size and weight, while their form has remained the same to this day. Despite leading-edge technology axes remain as an essential part of equipment and a handy tool in forestry work and around the house.
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I was never interested in axes, so I never used them or carried them to the forest. However, my opinion has changed recently. My pocketknife has been joined by another forest essential –an axe. I think it’s safe to say that an axe is a multi-purpose tool that can be used in various survival techniques, for hunting or for protection. A number of different types of axes are now available on the market. They come in different shapes and sizes and are made of the best cutting materials, which makes the decision which one to buy quite difficult. It took me a long time to find THE axe for survival. I sought information, read magazines and articles, and finally picked one. I chose the Finnish FISKARS X10 axe. Fiskars is actually the oldest operating factory producing axes and cutting tools in the world. Its beginnings date as far back as 1649. My better half Klavdija gifted it to me and so it really means a lot to me!
WHY THE FISKARS X10 AXE?
It’s a general tool that’s basically intended for carpenters and for wood chopping. It’s light and very well-balanced, which means it can be used with one or both hands. The fibre composite handle is hollow and as such resistant to any weather, mechanic or temperature changes as well as seawater. I drenched the axe in seawater for a while, but I didn’t notice any damage or changes other than dried salt on the handle and the blade. It doesn’t vibrate or cause vibration while chopping, which means it’s rather easy on the wrists and hands. Its shape is typical with a sharp end on one side (intended for chopping and cutting or creating sparks using the fire starter). The blunt end is useful for driving sticks and poles into the ground, crushing nutshells (walnuts, hazelnuts), softening the bark to be used as timber etc. The blade has a smaller angle. It’s very sharp and stays that way for a long time. It’s also Teflon-coated to glide through wood more easily and reduce friction. Even if you bury the axe into the tree trunk or wood, you can remove it very easily. The axe is matte grey and stays invisible despite strong light or sun, so it won’t expose you. You can sharpen it with only a couple of strokes on the sanding roller, which is intended for this brand of axes. If you find yourself in nature, use wet stones and fine sand. Note that the blade is surrounded by the handle, which is different from ordinary axes that are mounted on the handle. So don’t worry about losing the blade while cutting and hurting yourself.
The Fiskars X10 axe is an all-rounder. Its handle is hollow and therefore perfect for storing your firestarter or fuel, glow sticks and stormproof matches to help you start a fire later on. In an emergency, you can always scoop water from a spring using the handle and also drink from it. What I added was a 3mm thick string attached to the hole in the handle. It can be useful in building your bivouac or traps, making a bow for starting a fire, for hunting or scooping water from a difficult position. Whenever you can’t reach the body of water, you can tie the axe to the string and scoop your drinking water. Another tip is to keep your water in the handle for later. You can make a simple cork, scoop the water and close the hole at the end of the handle. This amount of water can be crucial for your survival!
Nowadays the market is overflowing with various types of axes for different purposes. Many of them fit the classic definition of an axe with a blade on one end and a blunt side on the other. They vary in weight, size of the blade and length of the handle. The majority of them have a forged blade, which is mounted on the coated blade to eliminate slipping (beech, ash). The upper part of the handle features a wedge to prevent the blade from falling off. However, a number of manufacturers have recently started producing composite material axes that have the blade enclosed in the handle.
I still have my first classic HOJNICA Krmelj “survival” axe. It’s smaller, forged and has a larger blade. I shortened the wooden handle, adapted it a little and added a string to make it easier to carry around. The blade, which features a sharp angle, doesn’t lose its sharpness, but it is shock-sensitive. Significant strength is necessary to pull the axe from a tree trunk. Long-term exposure of the blade to humidity also leaves some consequences, such as rust in the form of dots, especially in damaged areas of the blade. For this reason, I wiped the blade dry with a cloth and coated it with an anti-rust fluid before storing the axe. The wooden handle performed well, the only downside was that I had to impregnate it several times to prevent wood-attacking insects from entering and destroying it. In dry weather or after a lengthy period without using the axe the handle often became loose, but this issue can be resolved by soaking that part of the axe in water.
Once you know how to use it, the axe becomes an essential part of your survival kit. When the time comes to select your axe, pick one that will serve its purpose and become your favourite tool. Good luck!