There is a saying that there is a tool for every job, and that is as true in homesteading as it is anywhere else. When we first got started on this adventure, we were a little overwhelmed by exactly what tools we needed, which products offer the best value for our money, and which ones to stay away from altogether. To share our experiences, we plan to do a series of product reviews that we are calling “The Dirt”, where we will review the best and worst of the homesteading products that we have tried.
Today, I am highlighting one of my all time favorite tools…the wood splitting axe. Specifically, the Chopper1 Axe. With the winter over and us being solidly into our springtime routine, it feels like an odd time to be writing about splitting wood. But, such is life in homesteading. No sooner are we through one winter before we start preparing for the next. Spring is actually a great time to split wood, giving your logs plenty of time to season before you need them to burn clean and hot when the cold winter sets in again come fall. In fact, I have not yet finished all of my wood splitting for next year, and I am feeling a little behind about it!
The Chopper1 Axe is made by a small company in Phillipsburg, NJ, and is one of the toughest axes that I have ever used. I use this for almost 100% of my wood splitting needs, except for making kindling, where I use a smaller, lighter axe, or sometimes a hatchet. This ends up being about 3-4 cord per year, consisting mostly of oak, beech, and maple, including logs that are 24″ or more in diameter. Most of my neighbors use hydraulic splitters, and they wonder how (or why) in the world I do all of mine by hand. In addition to my sheer love of splitting wood by hand, this axe is my secret. Here are a few specific reasons that I love it…
1) It can split almost any piece of wood – The axe uses a simple technological enhancement in the form of spring loaded wedges that, when the head strikes a piece of wood, exert a tangential “sideways” force that greatly enhance its effectiveness. With a little experience in knowing where to strike a piece of wood and a little technique in how to swing a slightly heavier axe (more like a maul than a standard splitter), this axe is capable of splitting all but the most gnarly and knotted logs.
Figure courtesy of www.Chopper1Axe.com
2) It is extremely durable – This is one seriously tough tool. From the solid head to the finely crafted wood handle, everything about this tool is built to last. The only part on the tool that has failed in all of my years of using it is the springs that attach to the wedge. I break about one per year, which are cheap enough that I just keep a bunch on hand and won’t have to worry about it for another 10 years or so. This is actually the same kind of axe that I grew up using…my Dad still has his, which is >20 years old at this point, and it still works as well as the days that we chopped wood together when I was still a little boy.
3) Not only is it made in the USA, but it is fairly local to us – It is really important to us that we support local family owned businesses. This is a great opportunity for us to do that, with the benefit of getting a great tool that will last a lifetime.
At $90, the Chopper1 is a little more than you will pay for a regular wood splitting axe at the local hardware store, but the extra money is well worth the splitting power and the durability of the axe. If you split your own wood, and enjoy doing it by hand, this axe comes with my highest recommendation!