Chopping down trees and splitting logs is hard work and potentially dangerous. So of course, one should be using not only the best quality tool available, but also the correct tool designed for that job. If you really want to do it right, if you want to be a good lumberjack, finding the right axe for your size and condition will also ensure success. Finding the right axe can be intimidating though, so how do you find the ideal one?
For starters you probably won’t find a better brand of axe than Ochsenkopf. Ochsenkopf has been in the axe making game since 1781, and any tool maker who can last that long must be doing something right. Some of the steps that Ochsenkopf takes to make a quality axe is to use good materials and use them properly. Ochsenkopf’s favors C60 steel as it’s regarded as one of the stronger types of steels and is used in many other hand tools, most notably Wiha. Ochsenkopf axes are also honed to a cambered edge, not a knife’s edge as this helps the blade last longer.
Ochsenkopf also has a limited selection of wood for their handles. Ash and hickory are the preferred materials, ash because it’s made up of short fibers and is a more elastic wood which means it absorbs the vibrations of each swing making it easier on the user. Hickory is the other chosen material because it consists of long fibers and in the event of a break the tool is held together somewhat thus preventing a flying axe head. The Rotband cuff placed near the head adds an extra layer of protection in that regards as the Rotband allows one to secure the head with a plate and screws.
But from those basic materials you can find a somewhat overwhelming selection of axes for different jobs and users. It can get really specific, so here’s some pointers for choosing the right axe. Ochsenkopf has narrowed it down to five considerations.
The first criteria is size of the handle and condition of the user. They recommend that a stronger user take on a heavier axe with a longer handle as they have more muscle power to swing it. The second point is to get the axe best for your job. Do you need to debranch AND split wood? The Universal Gold Axe is great for everyday jobs and various use. Are you only going to split logs? The wedge-shaped head of the splitting axes will make the work that much easier. The third point makes a lot of sense, after all, why work hard when you can get the axe to do it for you? Ochsenkopf recommends adding the protective sleeve to the head to generate more downward force to your swing. The fourth point asks you to consider if you’ll be driving in wedges to help direct the fall of a tree. To make the job easy, it’s recommended to use a splitting hammer which features a hammer face to drive wedges into the tree. Lastly, it’s recommended that if you’re dealing with a lot of branch roots, one should use the heavy splitting axe or splitting hammer.
If you need a little bit more direction from here, Ochsenkopf’s site has an axe selector to help you choose. Using a series of dropdown selections encompassing the type of work, length and need for a wedge, they will give you several axes that will work for your needs. The selector is a little picky as there are certain choice combinations that will result in no axe to choose, but I assume that comes from lack of knowledge about axes on my part. It was observed that if you select that a wedge is needed, you will end up with a splitting hammer/axe. If you choose “no” to the wedge, you’ll get a more traditional axe like the Iltis or Universal Gold. In any event, it will help you narrow down your selections to a certain extent thus making your purchase of an axe easier.
While those are excellent ways to choose your axe, sometimes you need to see the tools in action to get a good idea of what you’re getting. This video demonstrates the Ox 20 H (Ochsenkopf 1591061 Universal Forestry Axe). While he reviews the basic axe, it’s noted that it can be converted into a Rotband at a later time to extend the axe’s service life. Other highlights include that with the curved handle you don’t have to swing as hard and overall the axe was better than other brands, including Estwing. This video reviews the Ox 630 H which was said to feature steel akin to other German tools and it was concluded that this would be a tool that would last and perform well enough to pass down.
Ochsenkopf not only makes probably the best axe on the market, but they’ve helped to take a lot of the guesswork out of choosing the right one for a given job. It all boils down to whether you’re splitting or doing other work, how strong you are and what kind of handle works best for you. It also comes down to whether or not you want the extra protection and weight that the Rotband provides. Every Ochsenkopf axe is made with the care and precision you would expect and it’s a tool that’s going to last long enough to hand down to another generation.