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Reinventing the Axe 217

Posted by samzenpus
from the exotic-weapon-proficiency dept.
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "The axe has been with us for thousands of years, with its design changing very little during that time. After all, how much can you really alter a basic blade-and-handle? Well, Finnish inventor Heikki Karna has tried to change it a whole lot, with a new, oddly-shaped axe that he claims is a whole lot safer because it transfers a percentage of downward force into rotational energy, cutting down on deflections. 'The Vipukirves [as the axe is called] still has a sharpened blade at the end, but it has a projection coming off the side that shifts the center of gravity away from the middle. At the point of impact, the edge is driven into the wood and slows down, but the kinetic energy contained in the 1.9 kilogram axe head continues down and to the side (because of the odd center of gravity),' is how Geek.com describes the design. 'The rotational energy actually pushes the wood apart like a lever.' The question is, will everyone pick up on this new way of doing things?"
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Reinventing the Axe

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  • Neat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:10PM (#46808829)

    This is really damn clever. Few thoughts though:

    - My wrists hurt just watching this guy. I gotta imagine some of that rotational force is transferring into the wrist and elbow, which can’t be good over the long term
    - That tire: that's brilliant.
    - That price: that's insane.

    The question is, will everyone pick up on this new way of doing things?

    The new way of doing things is called a log splitter. You can get one pretty cheap now (especially if you can do with electric), and while it doesn't have that same rustic appeal, it works really damn well. Personally splitting and stacking was my chore as a kid (I'd guess I’ve split at least 60 cord in my lifetime), and I'm not planning to ever split a log by hand again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also the video shows them splitting some very easy to split wood.

      • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

        by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:37PM (#46809173)
        Popular Mechanics [popularmechanics.com] agrees. It isn't good for splitting wood that has any tension to stay together.
        • by jfengel (409917)

          I was wondering about that. If you've got well-seasoned, knot-free, straight logs it splits easily enough with a plain old maul. This may have an advantage over that, but it seems like trying to improve on a situation that's already good enough.

          As the GP says, if you're splitting by hand, you're already choosing to do a job by hand that really can be efficiently outsourced to a machine. (And given the high price of this axe, one that's not necessarily all that much more expensive.) The thwack of splitting c

          • never mind the fact that some people would pay money for a gym membership in order to use a machine that works the same muscle groups. :) Domain dependency i tells you.

          • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

            by Em Adespoton (792954) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:25PM (#46809687) Homepage Journal

            I was wondering about that. If you've got well-seasoned, knot-free, straight logs it splits easily enough with a plain old maul. This may have an advantage over that, but it seems like trying to improve on a situation that's already good enough.

            As the GP says, if you're splitting by hand, you're already choosing to do a job by hand that really can be efficiently outsourced to a machine. (And given the high price of this axe, one that's not necessarily all that much more expensive.) The thwack of splitting can be quite cheerful; you feel like you've accomplished something.

            I'd like to see it applied to some of the crap I've split in my time, where it takes a dozen carefully-placed whacks to get it to go (and sometimes, not even then). That's not fun.

            I had a similar question. When I was first taught to use a maul, I was taught to choose a maul with a handle that puts the kinetic energy slightly off centre from the blade tip -- and if the handle ends up true, to adjust my swing so that at the point of contact, angular momentum is slightly to the side.

            I don't see that this really adds anything other than changing the swing technique needed to use it to an even curve with a straight grip instead of a twist grip -- and it seems to me that this could be a bit jarring on your wrists as the momentum from the design overcomes the way you're holding the axe.

            Wouldn't it be better just to learn how to swing a maul efficiently?

            • The PopMech link describes exactly what you're saying. The experienced swing has a wrist twist to finish the split. This 'axe' does it for the beginner.

              Still think this is a solution in search of a problem. And that it costs 2-3 times as much? ouch.
          • by dwywit (1109409) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:17PM (#46810169)

            Yup. I'd like to see it used on a piece of Ironbark - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org]

            Hint: it's not the bark that feels like it's made of iron. There are some eucalyptus species with nice, straight grain, but many don't. You can expend a great deal of energy splitting ironbark, or you can use a chainsaw. Petrol and electric-powered logsplitters are also an option.

            My father recalls being put on tree-felling duty in far north Queensland after returning from WWII, along with many others still in the services, while waiting for their discharge. They were dropping ironbarks to cut up and use as railway sleepers. He told me he doesn't feel the need to chop wood *ever* again.

          • I've split countless loggers cord of birch when I was in my teens. I never once found it to be a cheerful experience. - just say'n Cheers!
        • The only woods worth splitting are hard woods like birch and oak etc for heating a home. Thus they are easy to split. (Hint: If you've never swung an axe, birch wood splits apart really easy when its about -20F outside.) I never split pine or other woods such as cottonwood because their value in heating was limited. Pine causes creosote build up really fast. Cottonwood burns up too fast to be as effective in heating a home.
      • by jandrese (485)
        Yeah, my impression of the video is that he's making wood that's easy to split even easier. On something like scrub pine, that axe would probably be a nightmare. I really don't need a breathtakingly expensive maul to split dry birch.
    • I haven't used a log splitter in at least 10 years, but last time I did, it was considerably slower than doing it by hand. It saved a hell of a lot of energy, but it just wasn't very fast compared to doing it by hand with a good axe.

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        Like most tools, there's a great deal of variability and options out there.

        Some log splitters are painfully slow, whereas some of the better multi-stage/variable speed types probably work at about the rate I could.

        Even with a slow log splitter, I'd rather hang out with a beer and feed the thing over a few hours than spend a half hour with an axe.

        • Like most tools, there's a great deal of variability and options out there.

          Some log splitters are painfully slow, whereas some of the better multi-stage/variable speed types probably work at about the rate I could.

          Even with a slow log splitter, I'd rather hang out with a beer and feed the thing over a few hours than spend a half hour with an axe.

          Axes are for chopping -- use a maul for splitting. :)

          I've always found that while a splitter takes less physical effort, the time taken is about the same, minus the time spent refueling, fixing blade alignment, getting the stuck pieces out, etc.

          Plus there's the odd feeling about burning fossil fuels to prepare trees for fuel use -- with me not getting much exercise out of the situation other than a sore back from leaning over to pick up the rounds and load them.

      • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

        by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:50PM (#46809337) Homepage Journal
        My experience with splitters is that they were much faster than doing it by hand, but we were always splitting stuff that required a wedge and multiple strikes because the interlocking fibers would hold the log together (and snap back if you pulled the wedge) until you had pounded practically all the way through the wood. Of course sometimes we got some nice dry poplar and we would be finished with the whole tree in a couple of hours, but usually the wood we were splitting was just awful.

        I can't imagine the guy in this video doing the same with some choke cherry logs.
        • I split quite a lot of wood, and in quite a range of types, from reasonably easy (straight grain macrocarpa) to very difficult (large old falled bluegum with twisted grain).

          These days I mainly use a fiskars X27, which is a very nice splitting axe (not too heavy, fast swing, weight in the head, does not stick).
          I also use a maul at about twice the weight, but mainly to releast the x27 on the rare occasions it does stick.
          http://www2.fiskars.com/Gardening-and-Yard-Care/Products/Axes-and-Striking-Tools/X27-Super

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        That's nawt a lawg splitta.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]
        Now that's a lawg splitta.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      The back of the blade is secure against the log, so that would minimize twisting. If it didn't this ax wouldn't work.
      log splitters are slow, and more difficult to take with you into the woods.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      If you don't want to buy one, you can rent a log splitter in many areas. Moreover, as someone else pointed out, a hydraulic log splitter works with knotted up wood, not just the very easy to split wood in the example.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Price is insane only if you think his labor is free, if you have any metalworking skills at all you can replicate this axe quickly and easily in only a few hours in the forge.
      My buddy will make it for cost of materials and 2 cases of his favorite german import beer. But anyone else it would cost $300 for him to do it at his normal hourly rate.

    • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

      by chuckymonkey (1059244) <<charles.d.burton> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:40PM (#46809201) Journal
      Having grown up splitting enough wood to fill a 30'x30'x10' wood shed every year(not all of it was split but a lot was) and all of it by hand because I grew up poor as dirt I can tell you that it's not as bad as you think. The way this thing rotates is actually how you should split wood anyway, it just takes a ridiculous amount of practice to get it right. With a more traditional single bit axe(no maul, too heavy to swing for hours like I used to) you come down as hard as you can and then right at the moment of impact twist to transfer some of the inertia laterally causing a wider split. The only thing this changes is makes it a hell of a lot easier to do and more efficient because you can get consistent results.
      • Re:Neat (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Monday April 21, 2014 @11:55PM (#46812373) Journal
        It fascinates me how many people here on Slashdot have significant experience using axes.
    • I heat with natural gas (if at all). I don't even know if burning wood is legal anymore in California...
      • by whoever57 (658626)

        I heat with natural gas (if at all). I don't even know if burning wood is legal anymore in California...

        I *think* (IANAL) that it is legal as long as it isn't a "spare the air" day and even on those days, it is still legal to burn wood if that is your sole means of heating.

    • by mmell (832646)
      I used to use a wedge and a sledge hammer for this kind of work. An ax is a good wood cutting tool that happens to be able to split logs pretty well.

      This is a purpose-designed ax, meant specifically for splitting logs. It might be marginally superior to an ax for the job. It might even be better or more convenient than a wedge and a sledge. I don't see it really catching on - I think an ax is a far more flexible tool, and if you're specifically interested in splitting logs there are other special-purpo

    • by davek (18465)

      The new way of doing things is called a log splitter. You can get one pretty cheap now (especially if you can do with electric), and while it doesn't have that same rustic appeal, it works really damn well. Personally splitting and stacking was my chore as a kid (I'd guess I’ve split at least 60 cord in my lifetime), and I'm not planning to ever split a log by hand again.

      I did also, but I never hated it. I always preferred to swing the axe rather than sit hunched over a giant piston. And as a teenager, wielding an axe to chop firewood is a MUCH better stress reliever than lashing out at parents or going to school with a gun. Very therapeutic, in my opinion.

    • by unrtst (777550)

      This also isn't the first inventive axe by a long shot... though it is unique and new to me.

      This is what my dad often used (though possibly some other brand): https://www.chopper1axe.com/ [chopper1axe.com]

      It has rotating levers on each side of the head that swing out when the blade enters the wood, pushing it apart in both directions (as opposed to the articles push in one direction). No twist of the handle and wrist pain needed.

    • I grew up splitting wood to heat our home. LOTS OF DAMN WOOD! The only really innovative thing I see here is the chopping block with tire to hold the log being split in place. That is something I wish I had thought of 30 years ago. This axe design is something I've seen before and it's not new. There have been offset head axe designs before for jobs like squaring a log into a timber beam etc.
    • by Sir Holo (531007)

      This is really damn clever. Few thoughts though:

      - My wrists hurt just watching this guy. I gotta imagine some of that rotational force is transferring into the wrist and elbow, which can't be good over the long term

      Anyone with a modicum of hand-skill will loosen their grip at the strike-moment, alleviating rotational forces on the wrist, while still maintaining lateral control of the handle. Pretty simple.

    • by ryen (684684)

      My wrists hurt just watching this guy. I gotta imagine some of that rotational force is transferring into the wrist and elbow

      The axe site says that the user should loosen their grip upon impact to allow the axe to rotate.

  • Awesome (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When can I 3D print one at home? Surely in this era of 3D printed guns and powerful computers, this should be trivial.
  • not an axe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:17PM (#46808925)

    Not an axe, axes are not used to split wood. That is a splitting maul, mauls and wedges are used to split wood. And that is actually probably closer to a froe than a maul.

    • I grew up splitting wood with a single bit axe instead of a maul and wedge(all hardwood, maple, oak, cherry, beech, ash). I could hit like the fist of an angry god with an axe because I could get a lot more velocity out of it, plus if you've ever swung a splittle maul that weighs in at six pounds-ish you get really tired really really fast. All that being said this is a great design.
    • No, that's an axe. It has an axe handle and an axe head, and you can use it to axe-murder people. If your particular field of occupation uses the term 'axe' as some piece of obscure jargon, that's your prerogative, but it doesn't change the meaning of the word 'axe' in standard English.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It's an axe.
      As are splitting mauls.
      FYI: There are may types of Axe.
      Felling, Splitting, Adze, hatchet. Axe of the Dwarvish Lords, and so on.

    • You can call this thing whatever you want, but at 1.9kg (4lb) and a narrow angle cutting wedge, it's closer to an axe than a maul. A maul is heavier, often 8 to 16 lbs and has a much steeper sloped wedge to split with both kinetic energy and wedging action. An axe of course has a narrower sloped cutting edge to bite in more. This also has nothing to do with a froe which is use with a mallet and a lever action without kinetic energy to control a split. And you can definitely split wood with an axe. You just
  • Wrong wood selection (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like someone spent all their time with nice, straight grained woods and not things with nasty interlocking grain. I've seen some woods like Eucalyptus that when hit with an axe were more likely to "peel" than split. That is the split would go around the piece instead of through it. I think this twisting action would make that worse. OTOH, having split a bunch of wood, you often apply a twisting force to open up the split, so on the right wood(s) this could be a good feature.

    • by Jorgensen (313325)
      Well... You probably won't find too much Eucalyptus in Finland...
    • And don't forgot maple -- seriously warped wood.

      Why don't they show a head-to-head comparison. Take a round, split it once. Then two guys with old & new school axes proceed to split the half rounds. A lot easier to perceive a better way.
  • weird axe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smillie (30605) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:20PM (#46808971) Journal
    I cut and hand split a couple of cords of wood every year. There are some woods such as poplar (in the video) or willow that split really easy. There are other woods that can be cracked open at the top by three inches and still need a sledge hammer to split the two halves apart. Without seeing how it works on the tough woods I can't tell how useful this new axe would be.
    • Been a long while since I split a lot of wood by hand. A decent log splitter is faster and safer.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        Been a long while since I split a lot of wood by hand. A decent log splitter is faster and safer.

        Literally decades ago, I used to split post oak using a double bit axe. I could split this stuff faster than anybody could with a splitter, especially when it was frozen. It took one swing. There is no splitter I know that is that fast. I'd set op a line of pieces and then just walk up the line popping each. Granted, this was knot free frozen green wood (which is about the best situation you can imagine), but a splitter would have been much slower.

        If you have hickory, cured or knotty hardwoods, bring on th

    • by marcgvky (949079)
      Totally agree. Good luck splitting red oak with that...
    • by geekoid (135745)

      I know someone who used this axe to split red oak. She loved it.

    • Exactly right... and you forgot to mention the wood is frozen in the video. As far as splitting wood goes, frozen wood is basically cheating. There's nothing easier to split then Pine/Poplar that's frozen. Show him splitting some oak in June like that and I'll be impressed.

  • They're selling those things for close to 200 Euros, plus shipping.
    The Home Depot sells splitting mauls for $30-$40.
    With mass production, the prices should be similar, but not until the price comes way down would I even consider it.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      They're selling those things for close to 200 Euros, plus shipping. The Home Depot sells splitting mauls for $30-$40.

      Back in High School, I used to cut and split wood to heat the house and sell for a living during the winter. I think you are right, this thing is way too expensive. Personally, give me your standard axe, hammer and wedges, skip the splitting maul. What you cannot pop with the axe, split with wedges or a powered splitter. Skip the splitting maul and this 200 Euro fad. They are not worth it, if the goal is to get the job done.

    • by jovius (974690)

      The price of this one won't come down easily. It's almost thoroughly hand made from a man of the woods to another and comes with 10 year guarantee. Sure mass production would bring the price down but it would still be expensive. It's a high quality designer tool nevertheless. Quick searching shows that splitting mauls can go over $100 too. From the description / faq [vipukirves.fi] it's evident that a whole lot of thinking how to improve the axe experience has been put to practice.

  • in the next zombie movie.

  • Try Google. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gorobei (127755) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:33PM (#46809111)

    The axe has been with us for thousands of years, with its design changing very little during that time. After all, how much can you really alter a basic blade-and-handle?

    Well, a simple Google image search for "axe catalog" shows 42 different axe heads sold by the Shapleigh company in 1929.

    So, the answer would seem to be "quite a lot."

    • I'm reminded of the trite comment about "reinventing the wheel". There are a lot of different wheels out there (check the Discount Tire website, for example).
  • by edibobb (113989) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:34PM (#46809137) Homepage
    This might be good for splitting wood, but there are a lot more uses for an axe. This axe wouldn't work well for most other uses.
    • by iroll (717924)

      Good point! Also, a standard axe might be good for other uses, but less effective at splitting wood.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      This might be good for splitting wood....

      I don't think it is all that good. I'm worried that this splitter will be rough on the user's wrists and forearms. This splitter might be OK, but I think your standard axe would be just as fast for a lot less money. I used to be pretty fast with a simple double bit axe way back in high school, but we where doing it for money (selling stove/fireplace wood). Usually only took one swing, and I spent most of my time setting up pieces to split. I don't think this new design would have changed that.

    • by Sir Holo (531007)

      This might be good for splitting wood, but there are a lot more uses for an axe. This axe wouldn't work well for most other uses.

      Well, you never do know.

      Axe-murdering, for example, might benefit from this innovation. I am not sure about the mechanics of axe-murdering, but I do imagine that this could be applied beneficially to the purpose with some modification of technique.

      Of course, axe-murderers are probably not likely to "refine" their technique before employing it, but you never know.

  • by mspohr (589790) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:43PM (#46809259)

    The splitting maul is interesting but it may take some getting used to and many not catch on...
    However, from the video I see that he uses an old tire to hold the round and this keeps the pieces from flying all over the place. This is actually a great idea!

    • Now if only I could be a used tire to be 3D printed, I would have the perfect setup.

      .
      What? There are easier ways to get used tires?

  • Like the Pocket Fisherman et al, I'm sure this will have a few fanatical buyers who become very proficient in using it, but for most the more common item is probably better.

  • As soon as I saw the picture of it, I recognized it as being the same as one that I saw someone using at a campsite I was at in the 1990's. I don't recall the exact year, but I remember the guy saying that it chopped wood a lot easier when I asked about it (I didn't even recognize it as an axe until he used it, where every single blow split his target in only one swing).
  • Floki invented this, and Ragnar would have ruled the world if he had not laughed his ass off when he saw it.

  • I split wood for exercise. (also I have a fireplace) That's not an Axe, it's a maul. Using an axe to split would would be awful.

    Secondly, the woods frozen. So he's cheating. With a maul from home depot I could do the same. When frozen, wood basically shatters because the water inside it is frozen. People that actually want to chop would fast always do it in the winter. Those of us that don't care about efficiency (I mean, really... how much wood do you need?) just do it whenever.

  • I wonder why it is so insanely expensive (US$250). That won't help it catch on.
    • by Cruciform (42896)

      Good tools are expensive.
      Someone that makes an income selling firewood can really boost their output with one of these.

  • This wouldn't have been possible 200 years ago. We didn't have the kind of metals that would stand up to the long term punishment with that kind of constant torque long term.

  • The Geek.com article seems so close to the Boing Boing article I read last week I'd be surprised if he didn't just shift a couple of words around.

  • Old News (Score:5, Informative)

    by Plumpaquatsch (2701653) on Monday April 21, 2014 @07:04PM (#46810585) Journal
    This axe received the InnoFinland honorary award in 2005. http://www.vipukirves.fi/english/description.htm [vipukirves.fi]
  • I watched a few promotional videos for the Vipukirven on YouTube. People lined up at trade shows to try out this new axe, and the promo guys were kept busy heaping the resulting split firewood onto a huge pile. It occurred to me that touring a "new axe" around to trade shows and getting passers-by to split enormous piles of wood for you for free is a great business model for a firewood vendor ...

    Of course, if you can sell the occasional axe (for US$200+), so much the better!
  • The inventor used Newtonian physics (300+ years old) to improve on an iron-age (2000-3000 years old) device. And he did it well.

    That takes some real balls. I hope he's patented the hell out of it.
  • Anyone who knows how to properly split wood is already doing what this funny looking axe does with their wrists.

    1. Buy a basic splitting axe. This is the one with the wide ramped head.
    2. Learn to twist the axe head during impact to split the wood more effectively.
    3. Look like a man.

    I mean, come on, if you want the modern version of the axe to make it easier to split wood, buy a Sawzall.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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