What to Take Into Consideration When Buying a Fire Axe

Usually, a fire axe is used by firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) or by paramedics to help them do their jobs. The great thing about these handy tools, however, is that they can be used in many ways under many different circumstances. They work exceptionally well for cutting wood, but also for breaking windows if necessary, cutting down shrubbery, clearing trails and even for something rare like needing to cut a tow line on a boat that needs to be freed quickly, especially if the boat is damaged or taking on water.

a fire axe close-up

The most important things to look for in a high-quality fire axe are the use of durable materials, the safety features of the axe, whether there is a sheath that can be placed over the blade when it’s not in use, and a good manufacturer warranty. It’s also best to make sure the axe is made from exceptional quality materials, so it will give you years of reliable, trustworthy service. Soon you may find that your fire axe is your new go-to tool for tasks that you used to do with other tools!

Things to Consider When Buying a Fire Axe

You should always look for the best quality materials you can afford in the axe you’re considering buying. Here are some of the prime components to look at when you consider adding an axe to complement your tool collection:

#1. The Head of the Axe

Ideally, this should be high-quality steel with the correct amount of carbon in it to make it strong, easy to sharpen, and resistant to breakage and chipping. The axe head must be sharpened to the point where it will cut through surfaces easily with as little resistance as possible, and be sharp enough, so your cutting jobs will be done accurately. The sharpening ability of the axe head is based on the quality of the steel it’s made from. If a lesser quality steel is used, the axe head will be more prone to chipping, may wear down more easily and be so soft that it can’t hold an edge the way it should be able to.

#2. Whether the Axe is Single or Double Bit

A single bit axe is the most popular type for many common home uses. A double bit axe features a blade that is sharpened on both sides of the axe handle for more versatility. The double blade fire axe can be used for tasks in farming, gardening, recreation endeavors like camping, sports uses or home uses like cutting and stacking firewood. The swing you may experience with a double bit axe is often considered to be more accurate because of a more even weight distribution, and less of the wobbling motion you can experience with a single bit axe. The double bit also means you can use each bit for separate axe functions, like felling a tree with one side and cutting small limbs and roots with the other.

#3. Weight of the Axe Head

firefighter with fire axe

The weight of your selected axe head depends on what tasks you plan to use it for. It’s usually best to stick with heads that are around three pounds, especially if you’re new to using an axe. Heavier axes can range from five pounds to seven pounds. When the axe head is heavier, you’ll have more force. Heavier heads are often used in axe cutting competitions. But for everyday use, they can cause you to experience less accuracy. This is why the three-pound axe head is the weight that is recommended most often.

#4. Material Your Fire Axe Handle is Made From

The most highly recommended material that axe handles should be crafted from is wood. The woods used most often are hickory and ash. You want to look at the direction the wood grain goes, as well as the width of growth rings and the quality of the wood. Wood grain should run parallel to your axe bit. There should ideally be many growth rings that are narrowly spaced for extra strength.

Some axe handles are made from hard plastic, or they can feature painted or varnished surfaces. The problem with these materials is that your hands can slip on them, making the axe less safe to use. Rubberized handles give you a better grip, and can also be an attractive option. You always want to be able to have good control over the axe handle for the safest use.

#5. Length of Your Axe Handle

Another critical consideration is the length of your axe handle. The most accuracy happens when you use a handle that is just a bit shorter than you think you might need. With a longer handle, you can lose some of the accuracy, and in turn, your cutting won’t be as efficient as it could be.

A standard length of an axe meant for felling trees is 36 inches. The recommended length for most fire axe uses, however, is about 31 inches for a person who is six feet tall. You can use a 28-inch handle length if you are a shorter stature person. In fact, the shorter handle length will normally give you better control.

#6. Straight or Curved Handle?

One last consideration when you’ve decided to invest in a fire axe is whether your axe handle is straight or curved. The most common shape for a single bit axe is curved. However, double bit axes only come with a straight handle, so you can flip them around to use the bit on the other side.

There’s a good story about a woodcutter who cut down a lot of trees in one day, but less on the second day. He thought he had not worked hard enough. He was so busy trying for the quantity that he forgot to take care of his axe by sharpening it. The biggest lesson from this is to take great care of any fire axe you choose and to choose it wisely. By taking this smart advice, your axe will give you many years of excellent service.

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Pamela M. Slocum