Showing posts with label Hatchet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hatchet. Show all posts

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Axe And You Will Receive


I recently spent an extended weekend in a cabin in southern West Virginia.  It is beautiful country filled with rugged trails and incredible views.  The cabin had a brick lined fireplace and a wood pile was available, so I made use of it.

In anticipation of chilly nights and warm fires I packed my SOG hatchet.   It didn’t work very well.  Despite the small amount of cutting I did several years ago, my hatchet was dull.  Using that axe really brought out the true meaning of the expression, “Firewood warms you twice.  Once when you cut it and again when you burn it.”

Fortunately my nephew brought his hatchet, a smaller and much sharper Gerber.  It didn’t take too much work before I realized that my SOG made fast work of splitting quarter logs in to eighths, but was crappy for making the thin pencil-like sticks need to build fires.  The Geber made nice pencils of wood but failed to impress the larger quarter logs.

Two hatchets
The Gerber is noticeable lighter and compact than the SOG

The two hatchets would complement each other (after I re-sharpened the SOG), but you really can’t completely interchange them.

The Gerber has a small head resembling a flat grind Regular Wisconsin while the SOG has what appears to be a modified double bevel Virginia. 
axe head
Gerber hatchet head


Don’t be confused, think of grind the same way as you think of knife grinds.  Axe head style defines the shape and appearance of the axe head.  Historically, some heads worked better than others for specific jobs.  What worked for splitting long logs into quarters or fence rails, wasn’t the best design for log bucking.   Some axe heads just develop a regional interest and became known by that name.

SOG axe head
SOG hatchet head


My cutting experience indicated the Gerber might be a great hatchet for backpacking.  It weighs in at 22.4 ounces and is 14 inches long.  Not a bad combination for carrying in a pack.  The small size limits its practical use.  Need to cut a tent pole or cut down branches into small burnable size?  Great!  Quarter a four inch diameter log, not so hot.  Typically, after you drive the hatchet into wood, you would pull the handle to one side or the other to rotate the metal head to act as an expanding wedge.  This action causes the crack to propagate down the wood.  The short handle made it feel like I couldn’t produce enough torque to turn the axe head and the split wood.  The handle is a fiberglass composite and I felt queasy about using it as a lever arm.

My dull SOG weighs in at 33 ounces and is 16 inches long.  The steel is a 1055 steel.  It is too heavy for very much backpacking.  Car camping, sure bring it along, but why not bring a three quarters length axe and really chop wood?

The SOG’s weight and steel handle gave me confidence I wasn’t going to break anything but the log when I twisted the hatchet handle to pry wood apart.  The dullness made it difficult to cleanly split the wood into pencil size kindling.

The SOG camp axe has a RC hardness of 50-55.  Not bad for a hatchet, but I noticed that after several days of chopping wood the edge had several dents.  Clearly a sharpening stone or file should be this hatchet’s constant companion.

Pick the right tool for the right job!


All I could find on the Gerber was that it has been replaced by a new and improved version.  The hardness wasn’t published.  But I wouldn’t be afraid to carry it into the woods.


So, I learned I need to look after my hatchet better and that proved what I already knew: the right tool makes any job easier!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ax and You’ll Receive It

Do you remember when you first saw it and knew it would be the only one for you?  You tried out others, but they just weren’t right.  Oh, you could make it work, but it wasn’t fun and the moment you let up, things went to hell in a hand basket. 

The balance was off; it felt wrong; the look was just wrong.  In the entire universe there was only one, and you had to have that one.

I’m talking about hatchets.  What did you think I was talking about?

I first saw the hatchet for me in Boy Scouts.  It had a black rubber grip bonded to a bright metal handle which was attached with a red collar to the black ax head.  The only silver metal on the ax head was the bevel face.  It was called the Jet Rocket!  What a name!

Made by Ames True Temper, it only took hammering a few tent pegs into the ground and splitting a little kindling to know I needed this.  The only other object I needed that bad was a HP 35 calculator and that waited until college.

Over the years I used and abused it, sharpened it and chopped it dull again.  I never should have used it to hammer steel wedges to split wood.  Over the years I deformed the axhead butt, and finally I thought I was seeing a few metal cracks in the metal.  The dire messages of my Scout leaders about damaging my hatchet flooded back and I started worrying the hatchet would fail when I needed it.  Clearly it was time to retire it.

About two years ago I started searching for a new one.  I want a new copy of what I had, but that was futile.   The moving finger of time had moved on.

After several years of admiring cuties like the Firestonebelt ax or Condor Greenland pattern, I was almost seduced by Wetterling’s hand foraged small hunting ax.  Still I held back.

I’d been around the block, made piles of wood chips and I still remember how those wood handles felt when you hit a nice solid piece of wood.  I also remember how slippery wood handles felt and the crush grip required to control the hatchet and how my hand felt after several hours of making chips.  No, I wanted a high friction rubber grip. 

Sog Camp Axe and Jet Rocket hatchet
The SOG is on top and my Jet Rocket on the bottom.  Years ago I had to replace the sheath on the Jet Rocket.



SOG Camp Axe and Jet Rocket hatchet mano y mano or monkey to monkey
Let's go face to face.


SOG’s Base Camp Axe looked like it would fit the bill. Here’s the specifics:


  • Steel                                   1055C
  • Hardness                            RC 50-55
  • Weight                               33 ounces
  • Overall length                    16 inches
  • Blade length                       3.4 inches (curved edge)
  • Axe blade shape                Straight

I don’t have much information on my Jet Rocket. 

  • Steel                                   carbon steel, I guess
  • Hardness                            ??????
  • Weight                               24 ounces
  • Overall length                    13 inches
  • Blade length                       3.2 inches (curved edge)
  • Axe blade shape                Convex


The only three significant differences are the weight, overall length and blade shape.  The longer lever arm and weight should give me more mechanical advantage in splitting wood, but it could result in less control in splitting ultra fine kindling.

Looking down and the b lade shape of Jet Rocket and SOG Camp Ax
 Jet Rocket hatchet is on the left and the SOG Camp Hatchet on the right.  Really different shaped heads.

The perceived difference in ax head shape is a mystery to me.  The thinner shape of the Jet Rocket allows me to sharpen the edge like a razor, but that also makes for a fragile edge.  After all, I’m not slicing. I’m chopping.

Last winter I packed both hatchets and headed to a winter cabin in West Virginia.  I took pre-cut lengths of pine 2x4s to test the hatchets on.  I selected commercial lumber because I thought it would be more uniform in physical properties and make the comparison easier.  I left the wood out in the weather and the next day went to work on it.  The goal: convert big wood to little kindling and compare the hatchets.

the poll or butt end of Jet Rocket and SOG Camp Hatchet
The Jet Rocket is on the left and the SOG on the right.  Big difference in striking surface!

I think it was a draw.  Maybe the Jet Rocket came out a little ahead because it’s so familiar to me.

The longer and heavier SOG made fast work of reducing big wood to small wood.  But it worked my wrist more and I found myself choking up on the handle to have more control over it.  Pointing wooden stakes was easier with Jet Rocket.  I think the less weight gave me more control over it.  The bigger poll (that’s the hammer side of the hatchet, but don’t let a Scout catch you calling it that!) makes for easier stake pounding.

The pre-kindling stage which is followed by christmas tree-like fir sticks. 

I think the SOG straight face made splitting chores easier than the Jet Rocket’s concave face.

My bottom line?
Okay, I admit that I have a sentimental attachment to utilitarian objects that have served me faithfully.  Primitive man felt that a spirit would resided in each object and that our handling and close proximity to the tool created a bond between that person and that spirit.  The tool would work it’s best only for its owner.  Another good reason to personalize and decorate your tools.

I don’t believe that.  But what if I’m wrong?

I like the Jet Rocket a little better than the SOG Base Camp, but I’m going use the SOG.  I’ll keep both axes together and keep both of them oiled and sharpened. 

Maybe magic will happen.

Maybe my hand and brain will connect with the SOG.

I’ll learn to love it.  After all, it’s my hatchet.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

WRCA Knife Show

The 2014 Warther Memorial Knife Show is over.  It was held at Breitenbach Winery in the lovely Breitenbach Tool Shed.

WRCA knife show
The Tool Shed

I couldn’t squeeze the show in as a vendor, but I did drop in on Sunday.  I had several interesting conversations and found a few things I couldn’t live without.

If you work with ivory, collect ivory and even own ivory you should be concerned about President Obama’s Executive Order banning ivory.

No, I’m not anti-elephant.  African elephant ivory has been prohibited from import since the early 80s.  Most of the illegal ivory trade is currently driven by the Far East and laws controlling this practice aren’t enforced by their governments.

This Executive Order bans ivory from animals killed before the ban.  Oh, you can sell pre-ban, if you have the paperwork proving it’s pre-ban.  You saved that bill of sale from the 80s, didn’t you?

There’s exceptions for fossil ivory, mastodon ivory, walrus and others, but the responsibility is on you to prove it as well as documentation of the port it entered the country.  You got that as well, right?  And forget about DNA.  No matter what you saw on CSI, ivory has no DNA.

The scariest part of this is the adoption of assumed guilt until proven innocent.  The enforcement agent can simply suspect you’re guilty and seize your property and arrest you.  You then have to prove your innocence.  That’s just plain wrong. 

I see this as just another step demonstrating the government’s drive to neuter our rights.  Today it's ivory, tomorrow it might be guns, then books and the realization you live at the pleasure of the government.

Enough politics, but I’ve got to say, I’m glad I’m old. 

Did I find any treasures at the show?

Knife show inside Tool shed
The Shed is also used to store wine.


I picked up a hatchet from Mickey Yurco.  It’s a small hatchet just over 7 inches long with an OD green and black striped micarta handle.  The blade is curved and sub-three inches in length and made from 440C steel. 

My new Yurco hatchet
It's small, but it's aimed at the emergency bug-out bag.

440C is the best of the 440 steel series and represents a middle grade of steel in the knife community.  It’s a good steel, rust resistant, durable and can be resharpened without special equipment.  It’s a good choice for a bug-out bag which is what Mickey had in mind.  One thing to remember, 440C is magnetic and will affect compass readings.  Just a word to the wise.

The hatchet comes with a Kydex sheath.  I like Kydex for its durability, but this sheath is a little hard to remove. 

the Kydex cover on the yurco hatchet
The cover fits tight, not a bad thing, but I have to jerk it out of the the sheath, so don't stand too close! 

Maybe a summer Kydex sheath making project will solve my problem. 

I also picked up an older doctor’s knife made for W. Bingham Co in Cleveland Ohio.  The knife was, my internet search tells me, made by Ulster Knife Company.  That may explain why both the main and secondary blade are stamped. 

I admit it took me a while to convince myself it was a doctor’s knife.  It’s doesn’t have the spatula and the handle has an offset more typical of a gun stock pattern.  Still the blade shape and the pill crusher end convinced me.

doctor knife with two blades
The handle is more of a black with dark green highlights.  Do you see the little curve in the handle?

The handle has a faded green and black motif to it, so it must have the effect of nice weather and grassy fields that had me thinking about green and black.

Both the hatchet and knife are sweet!

How was the show?

I’m told Saturday had 280 attendees.  I left around 1pm on Sunday.  It was pretty bleak then but several vendors reported that while the count was down, sales were strong.

Even though my wife and I had driven to the winery earlier in the year, we still had trouble finding it.  The signage was poor and as you drove up the empty, winding gravel road you got the feeling as one retired LEO suggested, you were being set up for a robbery and car-jacking. 

Tucked away in Dover, the knife show was a destination.  Most of the Amish community is shut down on Sunday and Dover was no exception.  The winery was closed and if you were looking for a restaurant, well you better head to Canton Ohio. 

If you didn’t know about the show you wouldn't see anything to suggest it existed.  Nothing could be seen on Interstate-77, so the show didn’t have any impulse attendees.

I will say, if WRCA doesn’t do something, I predict there will be no Dale Warther Memorial Knife show in less than ten years.