Wetterlings Forester's Axe.....small camp axe.....maybe too small...

Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
838
I was checking out gear on the internet the other day and I ran across the Wetterlings Forester's Axe. Intriguing idea; a very much smaller axe than what I normally use, but still an axe and not a hatchet. Depending on who is doing the review the head is somewhere around a pound and a half. The length is listed as 24", mine measures at 23 1/2".



The feature that caught my eye was the curved cutout for your finger when holding the head up close for fine work.



I tried a little fine work and I did see how gripping it up closer would be an advantage.



On the Wetterlings web site they have a video of how the axe heads are made by hand in a massive press. Not a job that would allow much day-dreaming.



The axe handle has no steel wedges in it and is allowed to extend past the head just a little bit; as you can see it flairs out and acts, I would guess, to help hold the head on. I believe the next time I replace an axe handle I'll try it their way.



The grain in the handle is darn good, not prefect, but for a production axe better than most.



The axe comes with a sheath, it's workable but a little lacking in my opinion. Maybe the guy who designed it spent too much time at the beach looking at the gals in bikinis (if such a thing is possible) it covers what's necessary but no more than that, pretty much like the famous swimsuit.
Given that I really try to avoid getting cut, I made one on my own. Since everything is so small I couldn't use the boot lace closure that I normally use, so snaps it is.



I did read all the reviews, but until I could hold it and see how it was to chop with it just didn't sink in how darn small the axe is; for me anyway too small.



I did give it a good testing and can report that it cuts very well: not that I expected it to come loose, but the head is still tight on the handle. For me though about a 28" handle ought to be just about prefect. It's too bad, it fits inside my larger camping box.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
838
Hi Memaquay, I think you've seen just about all of them. There is a cheap, modern, wanna-be HBC axe I keep in the old truck for emergencies, it's in disgrace, it bit me and after I took such care to put a new handle on it and dressed up it's edge! Ha! That's gratitude for you.

For a while I haunted E-Bay, looking at axe heads, every time I found a usable old one with some interesting markings on it I'd get all excited. Make what I thought was a reasonable bid and watch it for days, sometimes weeks and then in the last seconds.......zooooom!!!.......some bunch of lunatic millionaires run the price up beyond anything I'd ever imagine!

What I do have is a super quality 28" Boys axe handle, squirreled away waiting for the day when I find the axe of my dreams at a yard sale or at the thrift shop! It doesn't hurt to have a harmless dream.
I really don't know why, but there is nothing I'd rather do than rescue some honorable piece of (on a small scale) history and restore it to valued usage. Just nutty I guess.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
Messages
3,670
Location
Appleton, Maine
So how do you end up with a flare in the wood at the ax head? I like the sheath, looks like you could quickly put it in a pocket of a jacket or pants while working, not to get misplaced.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
838
I'm guessing here Robin, but I doubt you need to do anything, that flare is an indication of the pressure the wedge exerts sideways on the handle. That push is pretty much the same inside the axe head except you've got the steel of the head holding it in. But the part of the handle above the head is un-contained and gets pushed over. I was watching some manufacture's video and they showed the handles being put on the heads. The guy had a horizontal hydraulic press and in one quick movement the head was in place and then in the next stroke the wedge was pressed home so slick. I can only imagine the pressures he is able to summon to do the work that takes me most of the day. But still, I'll bet my fit is finer than his!

One of the changes I'm going to try the next time I put on a handle is: in the past I've pounded the wedge in from the top and it's very easy to split the wedge while you're pounding it in. Of course the wedge is wider than any hammer and even if I put a block of wood on top of it, it still seems to often split. What I'm going to try now is placing a small anvil I have on the ground and put the wedge/axe head on that with the end of the handle up. I'll tap down with a small sledge hammer on the end of the handle. You know how when you're gluing something up and the darn glue helps the work to slip around while you're trying to get the clamps in place? Well, I'm going to try to see if I can use that lubricant property to work for me, helping the wedge to slick in smoother and tighter.
We'll see, many of my ideas sound good until I try them out.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
G

Guest

Guest
Very nice axe and sheath! Do you also carry a saw also or do you use the axe to cut and split wood? I only carry a hatchet. I cut the wood with a saw and then split it with the hatchet driven by a piece of wood. Just curious. I'm always on the lookout for better ideas.

I read somewhere that you can bore a hole in an ax handle (opposite the head) and fill it with some type of natural oil. A cork is then placed in the opening to trap the oil and allow it to slowly be drawn into the wood fibers. An occasional topping off will keep the wood from drying out and the head tight.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
838
Well Brian, I never heard of that idea with the oil in the axe handle; don't know what kind of oil a person would use. I do know that years ago a gunsmith friend told me to go easy on the machine oil in my rifles, he said that when you put them up in the rack if any oil seeps down into the recoil lug or tang areas it will act to degrade the wood there. And also if your buying a used gun, check out the tang for oil staining in the stock wood. All the various linseed oils sooner or later dry up, so I doubt I'd use them.

The way that was taught to me was to get a top quality handle and set it where it would continue to dry out for at least two years. If there was any finish on it, sand it off. The goal is to let any moisture from when the wood was alive to leave the wood.
That's all well and good but if you need a new handle right now, just pick the best handle the hardware store has to offer and do the best you can.

After the handle has been carefully fitted and well wedged on, many folks think they're done. I suppose if you lived in the desert that might be true. But the problems start once the axe head gets wet. Think of an axe in the bottom of a canoe in a rain storm. That end grain in the axe head will draw in the water just as it did when it was alive, and it swells. The problem comes in when the already tight wood swells and some of the cell walls in the wood get crushed. They couldn't help it there just wasn't room to expand. Then once the axe is set aside and it dries out, the wood shrinks. But because the cell walls (some of them) got squashed it is smaller than when the handle was fitted and the axe starts on the road to becoming loose. Now, nobody notices it when the head is tight from being wet, but once it dries out the cry goes up "My danged old axe dried out and now it's loose".

Well: what to do? I've got a jar of old valspar varnish that's diluted down a bunch with thinner, and I paint that on the end grain. Let it dry and paint some more until the wood of the end grain won't take any more. Then it's sealed from any moisture. I paint the rest of the axe and handle with that Watco Danish Oil when ever it looks like it could use it.

Goodness, I'm sure getting long winded in my old age, sorry!

About the cutting of wood, I bring a bow saw too. Lately I've been using a little piece of wood to hold the block I'm splitting while I whack it with the axe. The stick gets my fingers out of the way of the decending axe.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
G

Guest

Guest
"My danged old axe dried out and now it's loose" :D

Your explanation makes perfect sense. Crushing the cell walls is an issue in the building of larger wooden boats also. When building my replica 1860's rowboat (punt); I was warned by a retired boat builder and old salt not to try to pull the boards together too tightly with clamps. He said if they were overly tight one of two things will happen. The boards will pull loose from or break their fasteners or; the cell walls in the opposing boards will be crushed and once dried out would never swell tight again.

I'm not sure what type of oil was meant by "natural oil' either. Maybe a furniture polish or wood finishing type oil. I'll have to give that a try on an old hammer to see how well it works in the real world. Your idea with the thinned varnish is a good one. I guess you would have to treat both ends unless your glue method of installing the wedge would take care of that. Boy my project list is growing day by day because of this forum. I love it!

I use the finger saving stick method sometimes also. I don't always find a piece of dead wood suitable to use as a baton for splitting. Cheers!
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2012
Messages
838
Brian, I think the baton method of splitting is the safest of all, but truth be told, I really like whacking wood with my axe. It comes I think from reading the news; problems and messes that I can't have any effect on, nor do anything to clean them up, but they still aggravate me.
But looking at a section of log, I can say with some surety "You, you little booger are going to split!" And if the wood wants to be recalcitrant so much the better!
I've had particular twisty sections of log with carved on the spot wedges sticking out all over, tapping in each as the increasing gap allows until finally the thing pops apart. God! I love it!
Such is the stuff of entertainment of a second childhood!

Best Wishes, Rob
 
Top