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Reinventing the Axe 217

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 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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  • 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.

  • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

    by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:37PM (#46809173)
    Popular Mechanics [] agrees. It isn't good for splitting wood that has any tension to stay together.
  • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

    by chuckymonkey ( 1059244 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (notrub.d.selrahc)> 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, Informative)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> 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.
  • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

    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?

  • Re:Neat (Score:5, Informative)

    This applies even moreso to using a maul; after learning the proper technique on a splitting maul as a kid, I found I could do a couple of cords a day without it getting too heavy to swing (maul technique is different than axe technique, where you need more force and twist, less dependency on the mass of the head). Before I switched to a maul, I used to wear myself out using an axe, chopping at the wood instead of splitting it. With a maul, I could concentrate less on the force of the swing, and more on accurate placement of the head. Once you master the technique, using a heavier long-headed maul is actually much easier, as it almost always split the wood on the first drop.

  • 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. []
  • Re:not an axe (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tyler Durden ( 136036 ) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:40PM (#46811763)
    Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt. If you already happen to know the awful secret behind the universe, feel free to skip ahead.

    Let's say you have an ax. Just a cheap one, from Home Depot. On one bitter winter day, you use said ax to behead a man. Don't worry, the man was already dead. Or maybe you should worry, because you're the one who shot him.

    He had been a big, twitchy guy with veiny skin stretched over swollen biceps, a tattoo of a swastika on his tongue. Teeth filed into razor-sharp fangs - you know the type. And you're chopping off his head because, even with eight bullet holes in him, you're pretty sure he's about to spring back to his feet and eat the look of terror right off your face.

    On the follow-through of the last swing, though, the handle of the ax snaps in a spray of splinters. You now have a broken ax. So, after a long night of looking for a place to dump the man and his head, you take a trip into town with your ax. You go to the hardware store, explaining away the dark reddish stains on the broken handle as barbecue sauce. You walk out with a brand-new handle for your ax.

    The repaired ax sits undisturbed in your garage until the spring when, on one rainy morning, you find in your kitchen a creature that appears to be a foot-long slug with a bulging egg sac on its tail. Its jaws bite one of your forks in half with what seems like very little effort. You grab your trusty ax and chop the thing into several pieces. On the last blow, however, the ax strikes a metal leg of the overturned kitchen table and chips out a notch right in the middle of the blade.

    Of course, a chipped head means yet another trip to the hardware store. They sell you a brand-new head for your ax. As soon as you get home, you meet the reanimated body of the guy you beheaded earlier. He's also got a new head, stitched on with what looks like plastic weed-trimmer line, and it's wearing that unique expression of "you're the man who killed me last winter" resentment that one so rarely encounters in everyday life.

    You brandish your ax. The guy takes a long look at the weapon with his squishy, rotting eyes and in a gargly voice he screams, "That's the same ax that beheaded me!"


    -John Dies At The End

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead