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New axe design uses lever action to make splitting wood easier (vipukirves.fi)
579 points by sinned on April 18, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments

I bought a Vipukirves axe early this year. I have a wood-fired pizza oven in my backyard and use small, nicely split pieces of wood in order to retain some control over the fire.

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.

It also easier to spit wood when it's cold out -10C to -20C it seems to crack better.

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!"

It was because of my father that from the ages of seven to fifteen, I thought that my name was Jesus Christ and my brother, Russell, thought that his name was Dammit. "Dammit, will you stop all that noise?" And, "Jesus Christ, sit down!" One day, I'm out playing in the rain, and my father yelled, "Dammit will you get back in here!" I said, "Dad, I'm Jesus Christ!" -- Bill Cosby

True story time. My oldest daughter is five and, uh, let's just say she has a lot of energy and doesn't focus very well. Sometimes we have to try really hard to get her attention.

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'."


I was also the wood splitter sent outside in the winter to take care of that task. The worst part is that it was pure vanity: my dad just liked having a fire in the fireplace.

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.

I use a Fiskar X27[0] splitting axe and swinging that into a 12" round log of white birch or white spruce at -30C to -45C is like cutting through butter.

[0] http://www2.fiskars.com/Gardening-and-Yard-Care/Products/Axe...

Yeah, but that's cheating. Anything goes through white birch like butter.

I can also confirm that the Fiskar X27 is awesome ! I initially was skeptical when I read the reviews online but once I used it was so great. It saved me a lot of time and energy.

Another vote for the Fiskar X27. I haven’t used anything else for a few seasons now.

I don't know how common the "tire guard" featured in the video is, but it seems like a damned good idea. It would solve the problem of split pieces flying off with explosive force. I'd probably pursue that idea posthaste.

I should mention that the pieces fly off in a very predictable pattern and end up in a stack! The force is tightly constrained based on the direction and orientation of the axe when it strikes the wood.

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.

That's remarkable. I'd love to see a video of someone making a pile of wood from the chopping block. The rest of the internets probably wouldn't mind it either.

Some sushi/tepanyaki chefs on HN maybe?

This is one of those things that seems common once you see it. I spent a couple years living in Prescott National Forest in northern Arizona, and split wood to warm my house. It didn't take long for a neighbor to come over and suggest a tire after watching me chase down all the wood I flung in every direction.

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.

It's even more important given how this axe works -- using the remainder of the kinetic energy to essentially exert force outwards on the two parts of the wood.

I think the tire trick is fairly well known / common ... I've seen it as a setup in quite a few splitting tutorials on youtube, etc.

i agree, when i saw that in action, i was like, that is an amazing idea! i live in central AZ and don't really need to split wood very much though..

I have also seen folks use bungee cords. You can get a lot more wood in a big circle, then stand on top of it and split it.

I’ve always used the bungee trick, too. Easier than getting split wood out of the tire.

Bah, living the dream. Have you figured out how to make exceptional neapolitan pies yet? I'm a regular at Paulie Gee's and would love to be able to make pizza like that.

We are doing our best to make exceptional pizzas! So far the most important factors are:

* 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!

The "30-minute" Mozzarella recipe that most people start with really is easy and generally has a good success rate. It might not be completely authentic or "world-class" but it goes great on pizza.

Yes! The 00 or similar is key. I add a bit of semolina flour too - it's quite yellow and seems to help make the dough extra stretchy. In other regards I follow the Jamie Oliver recipe too. The bases cost about 5x as much to make compared to when I used normal high grade flour, but they are so much better.

Honestly, just start tossing it. It was much easier than I expected. Make an extra dough ball, so if you drop it dinner isn't ruined.

A useful rule: "What the eye doesn't see, the chef gets away with." -- from Fawlty Towers

It helps if the dough is cold, too. When we make pizza, we've started letting it rise in the fridge for 24 hours or so. The result is a flavorful dough that's super-easy to toss.

Use sourdough in your crust.

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.

I know nothing about that type of wood, but I have found that leaving wood for too long makes it way harder to split - I try and do it within the year. However native New Zealand wood and pine is likely different to your situation.

This axe looks really awesome, physics for the win.

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.

It amazes me when someone makes improvements to a job as old as splitting wood. Millions (billions?) of people have been doing it for thousands of years, and there's still room for improvement.

This is really a specialty tool. Normal axes were also used to fell trees, demolish wood structures, and occasionally personal defense.

I'm guess that it's less useful if you're chopping against the grain or if you want precision.

Chopping firewood takes up so much labor, that there have always been specialised tools, there is no such thing as a "normal axe" - an axe for felling trees is different than an axe for splitting firewood, there are differences in the shape, width and weight of the axe head and you wouldn't want use one for other if you're doing it more than once a year; and a carpenter would use a different type of axe(s) than those.

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.

True. It's also worth nothing that axes intended as weapons are also very specialized. Indeed, there are multiple types, depending on just how you want to kill people with your axe.

This isn't actually a new improvement, just a 'hardware' implementation of a really old technique. You can get the twisting action with any normal axe, even if you're a barefoot girl:


... you just linked to some one's pornography didn't you.

That's how I felt when I saw a paper box a few years ago. It had a folded lip in the paper that makes the lid stay shut when you close it.

I think this is it: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61AigOH-ptL._SY300_.jp...

you might like the history page. It's a great "man sits and thinks of how to improve simple task" story, even if a bit contrived.


I found it entertaining, mostly for the interesting use of language.

"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."

It looks interesting. I have to wonder if the sideways action of this ax is tough on the wrists? I know with a regular axe when you get a bad hit and the ax goes sideways, it's very unsatisfying - not to mention slightly jarring to the wrists and arms.

Try to relax just before impact.

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.

I'd have thought the rubber tire was easier on the axe if you miss.

That has to be some of most seasoned knot free wood ever split. I wonder how many logs he had to go through to find stuff that split that well - 20 logs for every one that did that?

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.

For those who aren't familiar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splitting_maul -- but I have to laugh to notice that the "related" tools listed are Sledgehammer, Axe, and War hammer.

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.

When your using a good size maul, you really should let gravity do the work for most of the logs. You really should only have to swing through on really tough ones. (That isn't to say you don't need some strength -- picking up a heavy maul over your head is not easy.)

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.

I don't disagree -- esp. with decent logs, the strength you need for a maul is more about safety when things go wrong than about swinging it; i.e., strength grants control rather than brute force.

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.

The war hammer looks a lot like this tool: http://www.stihlusa.com/products/chain-saws/accessories/fore...

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.

Indeed, and that looks like birch. In my experience that splits if you look at it sideways.

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 http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=111_1363524786

That is the first liveleak video I have ever seen where someone does not die. Is liveleak becoming a general purpose video site?

It's a demo.

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.

If I'm splitting cedar, white pine, or poplar - yes, I will split with a splitting axe - and I'll go through it almost as fast as the demo, ex-knotty wood. But, if I'm splitting larger (20"+) gnarly pine logs (which, for whatever reason, seems to be the only wood we collect off the crown land next to us), it's all about the maul, and, if I don't make any progress with that - it's the wedge+sledge hammer (which will split anything)

> I'll go through it almost as fast as the demo, ex-knotty wood.

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?

You're right, perhaps I'm a bit more cynical than I should be. What would have been nice is a A/B comparison of a normal axe and then a Leveraxe, showing how the two perform differently with different types of logs.

Clearly it works very, very well on some wood - the video proves that. So it deserves a place in my tool rack in the shed.

Or it would, if it didn't cost hundreds of dollars! Maybe I'll make my own in the shop.

+1 for mauls. Why people use axes to split wood I don't know. I have a 10lb maul which _usually_ will split logs (even large rounds) on first strike assuming the wood is reasonably well seasoned. I used to use an axe + sledgehammer/wedge for the tricky stuff, but it's a ton more work that way.

Yet another way of storing human muscle power, then releasing it all at once.

If you are serious about splitting wood you should just skip the axe altogether and go for one of these... http://youtu.be/2eengn9eNQw?t=2m14s

I thought it was already common knowledge among the axe-wielding cognescenti that the way you chop wood, without tiring yourself out completely, is that you add a little 'twist' to your down-swing, just as the blade makes contact, that has the same leverage effect - albeit with a 'normal' blade.

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 ..

I, as well as others, have a history of strained wrists when splitting wood with a traditional axe. Clicking through to their website they recommend a loose grip when the head is about to strike, allowing for the rotation to take place. This makes sense because before you'd need a strong grip to hold onto your axe to make sure it doesn't slip out of your hands when giving a swing strong enough to split. Since you are swinging much more gently, this may actually work! At the very least I am glad that I don't need to split wood these days otherwise I'd give this a try in a second.

Losening your grip just as the axe hits the wood also works for normal axes. Makes chopping a lot easier on the wrist.

Aren't there materials that become semi-fluid when a shock is applied to them? (The opposite of your non-Newtonian cornstarch fluid.) How about steel handled mauls covered with something like that?

This is really cool. I've never split more than a couple dozen logs in my life but Ray Mears teached me to wedge the blade to the side on impact. This seems to emulate these physics. I'm not a big guy, and it's a pretty hard motion to get in to when you're swinging down as hard as possible.

This seems like a very capable survival/bushcrafting tool for less accomplished wood cutters.

tl;dr I wood buy.

This is a terrible survival/bushcraft tool. It is big and heavy which could be acceptable if it was not single purpose.

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.

Haha, there are some funny ones though. Like this one [1] where he brings his entire collection of wetstones to show us how to sharpen a knife @ camp.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wALGfOe3XAA

Correct me if i'm wrong, but wouldn't this allow for a smaller force lever, because the axe multiplies the forces and does not rely on the user to swing hard enough with the right technique?

I don't want to "correct you" but if I had to correct you about something it would not be on swinging technique or the physics of a lever. I do not think that it is a good idea to identify the best wood splitting tool in a laboratory environment and hang a ribbon around it that says "best survival/bushcraft tool." Obviously all survival situations are different but there does seem to be a certain mobility component in all survival situations. This thing is 3ft(90cm) long and 5.5lbs(2.5kg). Not my first choice to carry that up or down a rocky incline or beat a path through thick brush with it awkwardly strapped to my back. However you might be able to talk me into the extra weight and bulk if it did more than one thing. Unfortunately this thing does not do anything else, but don't take my word for it "VIPUKIRVES™ is a special tool designed for chopping firewood, not appropriate for carpentry [AKA felling and hewing trees] or for use as a striking tool."[1] I love the UNIX philosophy of do one thing and do it well, but you will notice that in resource constrained environments the 100+ binaries from coreutils are provided by a single small executable: busybox.

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."[2]

[1]: FAQ #3: http://www.vipukirves.fi/english/description.htm

[2]: 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. http://youtu.be/Au1TbIyLcPU

My trick to avoid getting an axe stuck is to aim for the outside edge of the log furthest away from you. Not sure why it works, but it does. The closer to the middle of the log an axe lands the more likely it gets stuck.

Also dry wood will have natural cracks. Aim for the cracks and the wood will just fall apart.

Maybe the wood acts as a lever arm to apply more force to the center, where more force is needed.

This is the page you need to read!


Yes. We changed it.

Alternative title:

"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.

When I read "uses physics" my grumpy morning attitude thought "Sorcery would have been cooler than Physics." How else does one split wood if not with physics? As someone pointed out elsewhere the article is not well written, 15 seconds on the product's homepage and you get a better idea of what is happening.

And it suggests that physics isn't involved when it comes to traditional axes.

Me too. Thanks for the better title. We'll change it.

For me the greatest part of this innovation was putting the log into a car tire.

And for what is probably the least safe way to split wood, http://www.thestickler.com/

It attaches to your car-axle and is a giant screw that splits wood.

This is an interesting idea. It's amazing to think that a tool like the axe -- which has been around for millennia -- can still be improved.

[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. :-) ]

But that wood is the kind that will heat you 2 times. You don't get that with a powered splitter. ;)

Interesting that it's not just eccentric, but that it also has a guard on the blade itself, to prevent it going too far into the wood.

This looks dangerous to me. I grew up in the mountains, and consider them my home. (The kind of place where the nearest walmart is an hour and a half drive away, and everyone shares their elk kills and logs and chops their own wood)

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 manufacturer's website says that the axe is specifically designed to mitigate those risks.

> 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.

A lot of folks here are claiming that the type of wood being split makes a huge difference and it's true, however...

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.

This famous quotation kind of needs an update:

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Some Famous American Bloke

Abraham Lincoln, as I recall.

Knotted wood is much more challenging to split.

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.

Yeah, that wood looked like stiff butter.

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 don't think they've ever stalled mine.

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.

Be careful though, if you end up bending the shaft they are useless.

> Knotted wood is much more challenging to split.

Isn't that true for a traditional axe as well? Splitting is the dark is harder as well as splitting in the rain.

I think I would rather split birch than oak.

That’s a typical tool one might find on Cool Tools: http://kk.org/cooltools/

They recently published a book wich is a lot of fun to browse through on a lazy afternoon.

if you ever tried to use an axe, the video in the article will look like sorcery.

That person can really swing an axe too. Very accurate.

I never swung an axe (no need where I live, the only thing I did to prepare for this winter was... close the windows, I can still walk around the house with light clothes).

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.

This would hurt sooo many newbies... You're much better off with a normal axe that won't try to twist and jump out of your hand every single time.

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.

I've spent nearly every winter growing up swinging axes, and I cringed a bit when I saw him strike branches.

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.

The article is a waste of reading time, but you can click through to http://www.vipukirves.fi/english/description.htm, which is marketing material, but way more informative.

I have no idea about axes in general, so please acquire a large piece of silicon dioxide before reading on.

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.

A firm grip on the handle as the axe hits the wood is a sure way to sore/strained wrists even for a normal axe, as the handle can rotate and also vibrate, depending on how and where it hits the wood. A loose grip looks like a must with this axe. Notice the handle is round for most of its length, to rotate easily. This is not usual for a normal axe, as the shape of the handle gives position feedback to the hands.

Silicon oxide? Take it with a grain of... quartz?

Sand. Probably meant a grain of sodium chloride! :)

Sand is silicon dioxide. Quartz is the same stuff. But if for whatever reason you have to acquire a "large piece"... quartz is much prettier ;)

My apologies :)

From the website, it looks like it costs $266. I think you'd have to being chopping a lot of wood for it to be worth it to get that expensive of an ax, even if it is better.

This may be an unpopular reply, but splitting fire wood sounds like you're going to be making an open fire. Open fires are a danger to your health:


> "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."

Open fireplaces are mostly used for decoration, not heat. The heat transfer characteristics of a traditional stone open fireplace are rather poor. Most of the heat escapes upward through the chimney, which has to be sized large enough to prevent the smoke problem you mention from becoming noticeable to the inhabitants. Depending on the fire's temperature, much of the heat that does make it into the house is due to radiation, not convection.

For fireplaces-as-heating-systems, rather than fireplaces-as-decoration, closed designs like these are more common:



Every winter, myself and a group of ~15 others hike out to a 3-walled cabin and usually spend 3-4 days there, hiking and generally enjoying the outdoors. It is about as rustic as you can get, and with the temp getting down to -20F this past winter, being able to quickly cut and split firewood is important (you know, to survive the night...).

Needless to say, I will be starting a pool to buy one of these axes this year...

I do not know if it is going to be an unpopular reply but it could be a naive reply. Firewood can also be used in wood burning stoves. Furthermore what do you and Prof. Harris recommend for camping trips?

I simply commented on the evidence of dangers from smoke on open fires. I haven't anything else to say. If the comment doesn't apply to you feel free to ignore it.

> I simply commented on the evidence of dangers from smoke on open fires.

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.

Open fires are banned in many places where people go camping. If you must cook food, you should use a gas or alcohol stove.

I wonder if this is a European thing? Most of the places I have hiked/camped in America allow fires. What do you do for heat and beast repellent?

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.

Lots of places in the US have bans on fires though some are seasonal. You can't build a fire above 5000 ft in much of the cascade and olympic mountain range because the small alpine trees can't stand up to wood gathering.

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.

There was a neat corner case with easements/rights-of-way and water from property class that I would constantly screw up in hypos. I obviously bombed it on the final but whenever I hear it I always think it is interesting. I think it is something to do with waterfront access to property that is otherwise inaccessible.

Possibly the situation where a public resource or right of way (eg. a lake) is completely enclosed by private properties (eg. a developer or HOA acquiring all lots which have any of the lake's shoreline)?

The people who split a lot of wood are those who heat their house with wood. Open fire places are for ambiance. If you actually want to heat your house, you use a wood stove, which is closed.

It still pipes the smoke outside, where it will affect you and your neighbors (though to a lesser extent).

Both articles seem to tackle the problem merely from the perspective of middleclass suburbans who want a "cozy" fireplace. An open fireplace is more of a decoration than a effective way of warming your house. Warming spaces with wood still a very viable alternative and can be cheaper than electricity if you have proper a stove in your house and a reliable and cheap source of wood.

It's not a viable solution in a city but definitely among the better ways to stay warm if you live on the countryside.

I am most impressed by the use of the tire to keep the wood upright and positioned.

First question of the FAQ...

"Question 1: Can VIPUKIRVES™ be used by a woman?"

"In practice, everybody who has tried splitting wood with a traditional axe knows that it takes a lot of power to penetrate and split the wood. Consequently, women and children may have serious trouble operating the traditional axe."

As a physically weak male specimen this amuses me very much.

This statement and the faq entry seems so out of touch with reality...

This axe isn't the only one that can deliver such a video. Good wood and a proper splitting axe allows similar results.

The tire trick, or a bungee cord, can allow big gains in speed.


That is quick, but still the axe gets lodged in the wood at least four times in that video.

I'm amazed how many of you have used an axe. Nothing to add, you all have said it all :)

For splitting wood from a fallen tree or cleaning up around the property a regular axe and splitting maul are fine. When I've had to split enough wood to burn for the winter I always just rent a hitch-mounted hydraulic splitter. 60 bucks and I can do 5 cords in day.

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.

25cm birch logs surely are fun to split. With any kind of axe.

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?

It's pretty easy to known who really knows how to split wood with any kind of axe. You start on the outside working your way in splitting off sections that look like they present the best chance to avoid a knot. Anything other than that is snake oil and bluster.

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.

Neat idea and i'd love to try it but i'd need to see it side by side with a good maul which makes use of physics in a few ways.

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.

The key here is that the axe splits the wood rather than forcefully gets into the wood. Not sure how this is different? Try turning the wood on its side and see how the axe works then. By striking it parallel to the wood structure, it separates the wood from the point of impact. If one were to strike it orthogonal to the wood structure, this would be pretty pointless.

This makes me want to instrument my wood splitting. I suspect that I will find that improving the fast splitting is less important than avoiding or improving the outcomes for the toughest pieces to split.

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.

You can get the same effect using an angled strike with a regular axe, here's some Russian dude demoing it with a big fresh pine log: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Os...

Is it just me or does it really look like an incisor?

I wonder if similar physical principles are at work in making their appearance similar.

This is one of those inventions, like the hot-air baloon, for which we had all the prerequisite technology for ages.

Looks like this is more primitive knowledge being rediscovered. Note how cavemen axes were stones tied to the side of a stick. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/evidence-uncovered-of-worlds-old...

Accurate axeman, but with that kind of neat log I guess you can have the same results with a regular axe and a good technique.

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.

there's nothing new or innovative here. people have been doing this for years... it really depends on the KIND of wood you're chopping. this guy has it down to an art: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vThcK-idm0

  Leveraxe is faster than a hydraulic splitter.
Faster than a small one, maybe. The larger ones are pretty damn quick, as you'd want them to, for the price: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knZkc_vzGUE

That thing is awe-inspiring, the spec sheet quotes 16 tonnes in high-power mode (split speed of 2.6s) and 7.5 tonnes in high-speed mode (split speed of 1.85s), with a cut length of 68cm

Off topic perhaps, but I switched from oil/steam to gas forced hot air last year. Between the 96% efficient furnace and new gas hot water heater (compared with the 75% oil / steam with super inefficient continuous hot water attachment) and the fracking boom, I can report that gas is much, much cheaper: for me $3500 -> $700 / year for a 1100 sq/ft apartment near Boston.


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:


You know what really annoys me? People are now so used to gas starters or starter logs, that they don't split their wood at all. Just pile up the whole pieces and try to start a fire. Then fight it for three hours and end up with smoke a bunch of half burnt wood.

Interesting cross between an axe and a froe. Gives you the levering action of a froe in one motion.

I needed to break up a bunch of concrete back in the day, so I bought a medium duty jackhammer. Later, I discovered the joy of easily splitting wood.

As a left-handed person: great, another lethal tool optimised for right-handed people and therefore more unwieldy and dangerous for us.

No, they address that in their FAQ. They found no difference in use for right or left-handed people. Hooray from a fellow leftie!

Oh, that's good to hear! A quick CTRL+F for "left-handed" did not give any results, but I should have just looked for "left"

I should have mentioned this in my original comment. I am left-handed and this axe, unlike the vast majority of hand and power tools, works just fine for me and doesn't emit those all too familiar lethal vibes.

Can you elaborate on this? Having split a lot of wood it's not clear this design is affected by handedness.

My immediate and apparently wrong assumption was that since it is asymmetrical, the improvement of the design was somehow tied to an optimisation for handedness, which in practice is always for right-handedness.

After awhile your hands will hurt. For few choppings per day maybe not bad, but price...

cool axe. FWIW, an easier/more efficient way of keeping the wood together while spiting it is a bungie cord. Using a tire only works if you have a relatively big logs.

Such beauty in the simplicity of this concept!

Archimedes would approve.

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