A split personality

Usually, I like traditional tools.  Hand tools, by the 1910’s, were at their zenith.  The forms had evolved and been refined for centuries.  They were effective to use, and much more comfortable than today’s iterations.  Don’t believe me?  I have a modern crosscut saw with hardpoint teeth and “ergonomic” handle (I hide it in the truck).  I also have a vintage Disston panel saw from right around the turn of the century.  See which one feels better to use, especially for something more than cutting a 2×4.

But on occasion I get smitten with something new.  Invariably, I don’t want to like it.  It’s not traditional and it’s all…new-fangled.  Bah!  Get off my lawn!  But eventually certain tools win me over because they just work better.

This is one  of those tools.  I use a couple of cords of firewood every year.  Most of it I split by hand.  I’ve used a splitting maul before, but they were always pretty mediocre in my experience.  But now, in spite of the stainless steel head and plastic handle, I use the Fiskars X27 splitting axe.


It’s all modern looking, I know.  But it works better than any maul I’ve ever used.  And it splits better than using a regular felling axe.  It’s pretty light at only 5 pounds or so.  That seems a little wimpy until you remember the formula for muzzle energy from the “9mm vs. .45ACP” forum flame wars: E=½mv².  Or, to apply it here, if you can make that axe head swing faster, it squares the velocity value, whilst the mass of the head only increases linearly.  Now that plastic handle (which takes a little getting used to, looks wise)  is so light that the axe feels unbalanced…until you realise that the handle is a full 36″ long, and all the mass is up at the sharp end.  Hello, lever arm.  You can get it to swing fast.

If you’ve spent any time in the woods with other people, you know that you should NEVER swing any hafted tool in line with another person.  If the head comes off the helve (and if you haven’t had that happen yet, you’re in for an interesting experience), it will fly straight out from where you’re striking.  If another person is there, it gets…unpleasant.  This Fiskars axe, though, molds the handle over the head.  Much safer, as it can’t come off in anything resembling normal service.

In summary, if you are using hand power to split your winter’s heat, this is the tool for the job.  Even if it isn’t vintage.