Before buying the axe I used a four-sided wedge (basically an elongated pyramid) and a sledgehammer for splitting.
So, how does this axe perform? Overall, I am very happy with it and proudly show it off at every opportunity. After spending some time learning how to use it, I can report that, for some types and conditions of wood and with the right grip on the handle, it truly does split wood in the manner shown in the video.
As noted in the other comments, certain types of wood are easier to split than others. After my pizza oven was finished, I somewhat foolishly bought a 1/2 cord of apple wood from the apple-growing region of Washington state. This wood is incredibly dense and has proven difficult to split by any means, even after 3 years of seasoning. The splitting issue is made worse by the overall knottiness of the wood.
I also bought a 1/2 cord of mixed wood from a local supplier. The axe is at its best on straight, dry, knot-free pine, oak, cedar, and so forth. The vertical motion is translated into horizontal motion milliseconds after the blade of the axe penetrates the wood and the split-off portion flies to the side with explosive force, often landing 8 to 10 feet away.
It took me an hour or two to learn to use the axe properly, with a relaxed grip to allow the head to rotate after it strikes the wood. Wearing gloves (recommended in any case) can make this even easier.
The blade of the axe is not razor sharp and does not require sharpening or other maintenance.
I used to hate fall as a kid when wood splitting season began. Pneumatic splitters are great but slow. You learn to hate hard wood when splitting but it's great to burn.
An old joke: I was 10 years-old before I learned my name wasn't "Get wood!"
A while back, I listened to her explaining to her younger sister how people can have different names. For example, I can be called "Bob" or "Dad". Then she said, "Like me. My name is Lily, but I have another name 'Earth to Lily'."
The colder it gets, the dryer the wood. This is why it splits so nicely. As soon as it heats up at all, wood gets humid and a little tougher to split.
I, personally, still just use a maul and a sledge.
My son joked that I could probably reproduce something we once saw in a cartoon, where the chopped pieces assembled themselves into a log cabin.
It seems this leveraged action (which is absolutely awesome, by the by) would necessitate the use of a tire even more. Beware of windows, cars, etc. without one.
* High heat - I aim for a deck temperature above 900 degrees Fahrenheit, but am having trouble keeping it that high during the cooking process.
* Great dough - My wife uses double-zero (00) flour and a Jamie Oliver recipe that seems to work well. We are working on extending the proofing time for a better rise. We don't know how to toss the dough yet.
* Tasty toppings - Anything fresh is awesome. At 900F, the pizzas cook in about 2 minutes so the toppings retain their essential oils and flavors. I am working to grow many of my own herbs and tomatoes this year.
* Fresh cheese - My wife and I are planning to make our own mozzarella cheese sometime soon.
* Great guests - We aim for a truly participatory event - everyone gets to help to prepare, cook, and eat!
I've basically been using these instructions for a few years and have nothing but rave reviews for my pies no matter what toppings I put on it: http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm.
See also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1464760, and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2023280.
Also, instead of using an old rubber tire, I highly recommend building a variable length, tensioning chain, much like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrLiSMQGHvY
Makes chopping wood so much more fun.
And then, there is also the stikkan: http://www.stikkan.com/
Perfect to hang it up next to your fireplace to do some more fine grained wood chopping, cutting larger pieces into smaller ones.
I'm guess that it's less useful if you're chopping against the grain or if you want precision.
And that's not a modern invention, it goes back for centuries. I'd guess that even stone age flint tools have been specialized in similar ways.
I think this is it: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61AigOH-ptL._SY300_.jp...
"Once in a while he found new axes at the hardware store. They were proclaimed to give greater striking power and strength through added weight and a variety of shenanigans to the sides of the blade."
I use a maul (about 5lb head) to split wood (mostly elm since a neighbor cut down dozens of elm trees in the attempt to stop Dutch Elm disease from propagating) and the best motion I know of is to lift it straight overhead with hands spread wide. Then accelerate it downward while sliding the hand closer to the blade down to the base. Focus on coming down in a line through the center of your body. At the moment of impact, both hands are close together and your grip is just tight enough to hold onto the maul, with arms and shoulders relaxed.
It substantially reduces stress on your body and you still maintain good control. Feels like a Kendo "shomen uchi" strike.
Sledge Hammer, Splitting Maul gets the job done 95% of the time. "Eccentric Axe" the other 5%.
Well - maybe, 85% Splitting Maul 12% Eccentric Axe, and 3% splitting wedge (which typically has a torsion in it to create a turning effect to split the wood.)
I would love to hear of an independent comparison of the Eccentric Axe versus a Splitting maul.
The tire is a really great idea though.
You're offering solutions that take significant strength -- someone who can't safely swing a splitting maul or 20lb sledgehammer could still use this axe and get a much better result than a normal axe, I think. A maul is great until you get tired and hit a glancing blow; at which point you've got a heavy steel wedge flying off at high velocity, and you'd better be strong enough to hold on the other end of the handle.
My brother and I split a lot of wood as teenagers; our family heated our house in NY with a wood-burning fireplace insert, using wood from the forested acre or so around the house.
We definitely just powered through problematic logs, though -- e.g., splitting maul, and we'd swing it hard. We had a couple of steel wedges and a sledgehammer but hardly ever used them; normally it was faster to just beat the heck out of the knotted/wet/whatever log with the maul.
I'm certainly curious to see how the eccentric axe handles bad wood -- though in any case I suspect it'd decently handle the same logs a maul would, but requiring less strength. You could always fall back to wedges plus a light sledge (and patience) for the really nasty logs.
I split a lot of wood in high school, while working for a tree cutting company. After half a day of splitting with a 15-lb head, steel handled maul you'd be unable to make a fist from the shock your hands took. We used to have wood splitting competitions, in which you'd pick logs for your opponents. I still remember one exceptionally knotty piece of cherry that a guy who I was working with found for me. While he split all his logs, the maul would just bounce of that log.
The head is heavy and out on a long handle specifically so you can apply a lot of force just starting up high and letting it drop to the wood, but that works against you if you miss your target and it goes flying off to the side.
And of course, if you've been at it for a while and are tiring, or you're less strong to begin with, aim suffers.
> ...the maul would just bounce of that log
I remember a few like that! I'll bet it was also pretty green and/or water logged... that would have that effect.
That's probably why it's in the related section.
If you want to go down a long, long rabbit hole of amazing videos, I recommend starting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvJ8Q1vAdGA
Which is an example of how to use this tool.
Instead of a tyre I use a bungee & chain. That allows me to hold a wider range of log sizes upright.
This design intriques me the most, seems effortless
The point is that it applies the force more effectively to a splitting motion. I don't know why you would insist on using a heavier maul requiring much more effort by default. Use the maul for the really knotted stuff where you need more vertical force applied somewhere in the middle, but defaulting to it seems silly.
Yes, with a lot more effort. Did you see how lightly he was swinging it for the inner splits? Other commenters talking about the extreme accuracy, but that's easier when you are hitting it so lightly.
Look, I don't regularly split wood, but I've spent several summers splitting wood before. And I've split unseasoned gnarly pine with a wedge and sledge. I am not completely ignorant on the subject.
So my question is why you dismiss it outright just because the demo uses favorable wood? Is it really wise to assume it's just a gimmick before you even tried it?
Or it would, if it didn't cost hundreds of dollars! Maybe I'll make my own in the shop.
I dunno, I guess I just learned that little twist from my uncle and grandfather, and never really thought it was so magical. Not sure how I feel about the safety of a mighty wood-cutting sharp blade being off-balance on the downswing - sure, the guy in the video has a fairly safe setup, but if you don't have the luxury (i.e. are a consumer who just bought one of these Wonder Axes) of having a safety rig, the potential for mis-direction and glancing blows from the axe being redirected towards the user seems pretty high ..
This seems like a very capable survival/bushcrafting tool for less accomplished wood cutters.
tl;dr I wood buy.
My fellow Americans please do not hold this post against Ray Mears. He is rather awesome. I am at a loss when it comes to thinking of his American equivalent. We do not have a nice guy survival expert. Anyone I can think of is not as famous and certainly not as kind spirited. The best way I can describe him is Roy Underhill from the Woodwright's Shop does bushcraft/survival skills in a Red coat.
Tangent: When I was reading the description of the ax I thought it was
strange that the handle was birch instead of the hickory that I expected.
I was reminded of one of my favorite Ted Talks, "Have Broad Ax Will
Travel", by Roy Underhill. The handle is not hickory, because, according to
Roy, "they [Europeans] put their mountains on wrong, we thought ahead
because we are Americans."
: FAQ #3: http://www.vipukirves.fi/english/description.htm
: Skip to 10:00 if you just want to know which direction to orient your
mountains. But the entire video is definitely worth a full viewing.
Also dry wood will have natural cracks. Aim for the cracks and the wood will just fall apart.
"New axe design uses lever action to make splitting wood a lot easier"
"Uses physics" sounds like "Stand back: I'm going to try science" to me.
It attaches to your car-axle and is a giant screw that splits wood.
[OTOH, I've split a fair amount of wood. And I'd have to say that anyone who thinks splitting wood with an axe is a good way to produce fuel for the primary heat source for a house, is pretty much insane. It's exhausting work. Get a powered splitter for goodness sake. :-) ]
One of the most dangerous things an axe can do is go sideways on you on the hit, that sideways rebound or if the log falls away follow through can mean an axe in the foot or leg for someone who has been chopping for a few hours and is tired.
Also, proper drying of logs before splitting can't always be done, and that log look very dry and doesn't look knotty.
Honestly when I chop wood I keep three tools near, the normal sliceaxe, a skinny thin and fast one for easy stuff, a larger wedge with splitter arms (http://www.thehulltruth.com/attachments/dockside-chat/282042...) and a normal handless wedge and hammer for the really hard stuff.
Just thought I'd share a little bit of info from a guy who spent many hours in his youth chopping logs. If I was getting paid, I did sometimes cheat and use a gas powered splitter... if you have two people working it the throughput can be much higher than two people splitting normally.
> The Leveraxe also does not bounce wildly as might happen with traditional axe. The axe changes the kinetic energy to rotational motion and is much easier to control. It is much rarer that you would totally miss the log, because the sideways wing on top of the axe and the stopping knob beneath it ensure the axe will catch the log even if the striking edge would miss it.
> The length of Leveraxe handle (90 cm) is longer than in traditional axes. This provides more kinetic energy but is also an important safety feature. Even if the axe would continue past the log the trajectory will guide it to hit the ground before you instead of hitting your legs.
Agreed that his wood looks much drier than what one normally encounters.
To address this the video should show him using both a conventional axe, and his version on the same wood. Apologies if he does this later in the video as I didn't watch the entire thing.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Some Famous American Bloke
Even with a hydraulic splitter, chunks of wood with lots of branches can stall a machine pressing with tons of force. Great demo, but unrealistic unless you only chop beautiful limbless tall oaks.
I used to split ironbark logs to sell for firewood. Your aim had to be pretty accurate, first marking a groove with an axe and then a few good hits with a log splitter. If you hit a knot the bloody thing would bounce back like it was made of rubber.
I've always liked how it's like a brute force analogy on those things. Just keep pushing until it breaks, with literal tons of force.
Isn't that true for a traditional axe as well? Splitting is the dark is harder as well as splitting in the rain.
They recently published a book wich is a lot of fun to browse through on a lazy afternoon.
And to me the thing STILL looks like sorcery... I have no idea how to hit the wood like that (I mean, the aim), but seeing each hit split the log is like... HOW???? It looks like the log split by itself.
For wood cutting, the size of the axe head matters a lot - too small and it doesn't have enough force, too large and it gets stuck very easily.
The length of the handle is also important - you'll fare much better with longer ones, but the longer it is, the harder it is to aim and control.
As with anything, practice is key, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to start with this axe.
For the most part the axe does a wonderful job against anything, and that guy has ridiculously good aim, but anyone who have at some point been bad at chopping wood probably knows those twists to the side can do a real number on your wrists and hands. It seems to happen quite a bit.
It's still an amazing innovation, and I hope to be able to pick one up as a gift. The article is sadly not very informative.
That said, it seems that the problem with traditional axes is the large amount of friction from penetrating the wood. This requires a firm grip of the handle and long swings to induce sufficient kinetic energy in the head of the axe. With the rotational design, much less energy is needed, allowing for a) a loose grip of the handle and b) shorter swings, which in turn allow for better aim.
But, as ghshephard wrote, some additional/independent information might be very nice.
> "The unhappy truth about burning wood has been scientifically established to a moral certainty: That nice, cozy fire in your fireplace is bad for you. It is bad for your children. It is bad for your neighbors and their children."
> "Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. A major health threat from smoke comes from fine particles (also called particle pollution, particulate matter, or PM). These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. In addition to particle pollution, wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants including: benzene, formaldhyde, acrolein and methane."
For fireplaces-as-heating-systems, rather than fireplaces-as-decoration, closed designs like these are more common:
Needless to say, I will be starting a pool to buy one of these axes this year...
But you haven't quantified the danger. Sunlight is hazardous to your health along with internal combustion engines. Neither of those links quantify the danger, so it doesn't really provide any information. Maybe the danger is so low that the stress relief a fire provides is less than the danger the smoke creates? The net sum could be negative.
There is a neat rule in some Scandinavian countries (I think it is more than one country but I forget the name of the rule so I cant look it up) that ensures people's right to hike across private property. I can imagine that a prohibition on fires would come in handy.
Many national parks and forest either restrict fires to metal fire rings or ban them out right during the height of wild fire season and, in southern California, some of these bands are now year long as wildfires can be so catastrophic.
Warm clothing and sleeping bags works well for heat, never had an issue with beasts other then bugs (head nets work for that) and i've spent a lot of time camping in remote spots populated with bears, wolves, mountain lions etc.
edit: It isn't the same, but in Michigan, all navigable water is a public right of way. I would assume similar rules exist in other states.
It's not a viable solution in a city but definitely among the better ways to stay warm if you live on the countryside.
"Question 1: Can VIPUKIRVES™ be used by a woman?"
As a physically weak male specimen this amuses me very much.
The tire trick, or a bungee cord, can allow big gains in speed.
This tool could possibly take the place a of a splitting maul but a great advantage of the maul is it can be used to split knotty wood that doesn't have straight grain. It takes a bunch of swings and force but does get the job done. With the wide head of the Vipukirv it wouldn't be able to get down to the center of a half-split log.
We use to chop 1m (~3feet) logs of a lot more compact wood (oak, beech), and this looks like a toy to me. Has anyone seen it used on more serious logs?
And no, I'm not buying one of these axes, a traditional splitting axe works very well. I don't see how the featured axe could offer anything beyond the traditional since you aren't constrained to a plumb blow as the marketing would have you to believe.
Especially with dry lodge pole pine I can do about as well as the guy in the video does with my six pound maul and I'm our of practice though I split a lot of wood as a kid.
On a related note, I wonder if anyone on hacker news has a favorite wood stove...I'm really intrigued by the new efficient, low emission ones but they are costly and in depth reviews are sparse.
A bit like finding that a faster cache that doesn't reduce cache misses or the cost of cache misses can disappoint when measuring overall performance.
I wonder if similar physical principles are at work in making their appearance similar.
It's very hard to improve something that has been around for the past 35,000 years, I guess. Maybe they're better of working on that car tire so that it can accomodate logs of different diameters.
Leveraxe is faster than a hydraulic splitter.
A heat pump with ground heat-sink may be a better long term option, but it's much more expensive. Also I'm pretty sure the gas is more efficient when considering the power plant and transmission line losses.
Even better would be a home gas co-generation plant. Honda has such a thing, but again not cheap: