single or double bit ax? and a question

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Quint, Jan 24, 2005.

  1. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Single or double bit ax?

    Which do you prefer?

    I prefer a double bit ax. The single bit axes always felt unbalanced to me. Like I was swinging a club.

    Also, I split the handle in my trusty double bit (and chipped a little corner off the blade on an unseen rock. dangit!dangit!dangit!) so I would appreciate any advice as to the proper way to replace the handle. I've done a few shovels and rakes but haven't done an ax in a very long time. The one I did (not this ax) I'm pretty sure I didn't do right and needed to be tightened up constantly.
  2. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    May 9, 2002
    Yer post reminded me that other than hand splitting axes, I haven't swung an axe in years. In fact, wonder where they all got off too?

    Far as re-handling yours, it depends on how frugal you want to be. You can often saw the head off and shape the resulting shorter handle to fit, but I'll assume you are buying a replacement.

    Drill the old handle out unless it's loose enough to work free. Your new handle if it's store bought will come with a package with a wood wedge and a metal wedge. Ain't much to figure out, just fit your handle, drive the wooden wedge into the slot as tight as it'll go, saw off the results flush with the top of the axe head, then drive the metal wedge in.

    The hardware store will have spares of both metal and wooden wedges if necessary. If you want to keep it tight, store it in a bucket of used motor oil between uses.

  3. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    You can get a rubber gaurd to protect the handle when you take a long shot and miss the target.
  4. Thoughthound

    Thoughthound Well-Known Member

    Oct 13, 2004
    Double. No doubt about it.

    Take the time to make a jig for sharpening. It will pay back in time a hundred fold.

  5. caberjim

    caberjim Stableboy III

    Feb 19, 2004
    I currently use an axe for all my tree felling and for cutting logs down to manageable sizes so I can use my crosscut saw on them.

    I prefer the single-bit ax myself. I like to have blades facing away from me when I'm using it and when I stick it in a stump, I know there is no way to accidentally impale myself. I've never actually used a doublebit, so I cannot comment on the balance issue.

    For a new handle, drive the wedge in hard and use glue in it as well. You can always drill it out later if necessary. If you shorten the handle, you are also dramatically decreasing the orbit of the axehead and you will lose a lot of power.

    I carry a file with me and periodically resharpen the blade as I'm using it. Makes a big difference.
  6. Jolly

    Jolly Well-Known Member

    Jan 8, 2004
    Double. The higher the quality of steel, the better.

    Sharpening? In the woods, I'll swing it into a tree or log at the right angle, and sharpen with a file. There are two types of edges, depending on what you are doing. For limb trimming, or general chopping, I like a nice sharp edge. For splitting kindling, or firewood, I like a duller, wider edge that doesn't stick.

    My Dad is a master with an ax. In my case, I spend more time looking at where I've hit, than hitting where I look... :(
  7. dreadstalker

    dreadstalker Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2004
    central nebraska
    double without a doubt.i sharpen 1 side finer then the other it takes out the chips better
  8. woodsrunner

    woodsrunner Well-Known Member

    Nov 27, 2003
    It's a secret

    A tip that can only be used with a double bit. When splitting kindling, stick the sharp side of your double bit into a stump. Then place the piece of wood you are splitting against the axe, and strike it with another piece of wood. No risk of chopping fingers that way.
  9. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 29, 2004
    I vote for a double.

    An old timer showed my Dad a trick which in turn he showed to me. Right before hitting a peice of wood turn the blade ever so slightly. With practice the axe will never get stuck and the wood will pop apart.

    Mrs Whodunit
  10. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

    Jan 19, 2005
    I like them all. Pick the axe for the job.

    Love my short single bit for limbing and general chopping. The double bit where I want to remove serious wood. A fireman's axe for of all things splitting wood, doesn't ask me, it is the best hands down.

    Hatchets too, same deal, got a number of them. One weird hatchet I found and I should patent it. One of the all metal with a rubber handle, apparently something must have run over it and bent the head / blade into a curve and gave the head a small offset. IIRC found on a construction site, guy must have figured it was ruined and threw it away. Great, a must have in the tool box. Can chop or shave woodbuilding projects, framing just right. Can't do it with a straight hatchet, your hand is in the way. Great for cutting plaster out for a patch via drywall. No other tool I ever found can do it like this critter. Can chop an exact, perfect straight line or curved or any shape without much tear out, fragments along the way.

    All of them old ones made by blacksmiths are the best, no question. Best way to sharpen is on a sanding belt. I use a cheap combo 3" - 21". Use care not to generate the heat, can get it just right, perfect bevel, like a razor. Better than the factory edge, smoother than a baby bottom.

    Trick to putting a tight handle.

    Get the old one out, drilling a few holes and using a small chisel works good, basically split it out.

    Heat the top of the new handle for several days. A light bulb in a big can with the axe handle top in there stuffed with a rag works or how ever else can generate a gentle heat. Do before attempting to fit up. Preshrinks the wood to about as small as it ever will get. Don't try to shave it to fit exactly after you shrink it. Sanding works best, sand with a slight bevel toward the top. Try to install, use resistance marks to know where further wood removal is required. Pound on the lower butt end with a rubber or wood mallet to seat the head, not directly on the head. Hold the entire axe suspended once the head is started, don't put the head tight on the floor, it goes on by recoil / impulse forces. Once you figure it is about ready to go on fully after a number removals / small adjustment, spread a little white glue inside the head to lube the fit. Pound her in, and set the wedges, sand off the top of the handle to dress her pretty.

    Don't directly use an axe stored outside on a very cold day. One chop can shatter it. Always store indoors in a heated environment or preheat before use. Under your arm for a few minutes will heat it. Might not smell nice but won't break :eek:
  11. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

    Mar 11, 2004
    Northeastern Minnesota
    I've gotten too stiff to use my old crosscut saw much anymore, but I still can use my double bit axes; I sharpen one bit for chopping and the other is left dull for splitting.

    Grandpa taught me to hit the wood to be split while giving a twist at the last second with the axe; a fellow can bust about anything with an axe, except maybe Elm or Gum, but then they don't burn for siccum anyway.

    I use a pole axe handle on single bit axes. I hate a dogleg axe handle; even on a hatchet.
  12. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2002
    I prefer my doublebit but I think a little explanation is in order. I picked it up in an antique store (I buy a lot of my tools there or at auction where people generally bid on them for the "antique" value). I paid $6 for it. To use it is a thing of beauty and joy! The balance is absolutely amazing. I don't know exactly how old it is but someone put some thought and effort into it.

    I've tried other "modern" doublebits and the balance/feel just isn't the same. I'm sure if I find a well balanced singlebit I'd enjoy it just as much.

  13. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Thanks so much for the info guys. It is genuinely appreciated.

    I always ended up having to pound a nail or two occasionally into the handle to get it to stay tight on the ax that I did replace the handle on.

    My double bit ax is a family heirloom and was probably made some time in the mid 1800s maybe even earlier. Wonderful steel and balanced perfectly. Nothing new I have handled comes close even the ultra high dollar European ones like gransfors. This handle was probably in it since the 1920s and had a hairline split in it for years. It was due for a change.