ax pick

How to pick an ax

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When used correctly, an ax can be one of the most useful tools in your repertoire, especially if you live in wooded areas and like to gather around a warm, roaring fire in the wintertime. But how do you choose the right one?

If you are purchasing an ax for the first time, there are a few key things you need to look out for.

Step 1: Shop with experts

First make sure you are going to a store where employees have knowledge of axes, especially if you have never bought one. Not only will the axes be higher quality, but the employees at the store will be better prepared to help you choose an ax that is right for you.

“Most people selling axes don’t know anything about them except that they want to sell many of them,” said Tim Smith, founder of Jack Mountain Bushcraft School.

Look out for shops that offer Maine-made axes like Snow and Nealley, or ones that make axes for themselves, like Brant and Cochran in South Portland. Smith also recommended a store like Pole and Paddle in Hollis, which restores antique axes.

Don’t be deterred by antiques, either. Connor Winn, general manager of The Axe Pit in South Portland, said that refurbished antique ax heads are a great option, even for modern ax users.

“I particularly like refurbishing antiques to put them back to use,” Winn said. “In my opinion, a tool was made to be used and that is what ought to be done. Whatever you like that’s going to be what’s good for you.”

Step 2: Consider the tasks at hand

Once you have found a good place to purchase an ax, consider what you want to use it for. Smith pointed out that if you were to go to a logging museum you’d see at least “30 different types of axes,” each specialized for different tasks.

Your main purpose for the ax will help determine the bevel, or angle, of the head you want. For instance, shallow, fine bevels are great for limbing and felling trees, but less effective at splitting wood.

“Something with a wide bevel will serve you a little bit better because it’s acting as an edge driving the wood fiber apart instead of driving deep into the log where you can get your ax stuck easily,” Winn said.

Step 3: Test the head (or ask about its quality)

If you find a head that seems suitable, you might want to test the quality. Smith said new ax owners will have to rely on salespersons to help evaluate the quality of the head.

One thing you can do if you have experience is to bring a hand file used for sharpening axes with you. You want to be able to run the file along smoothly and cleanly, without either too much give or too much difficulty.

“Run the file along the blade,” Smith said. “That’s going to tell you a lot about the quality of the blade. It’s a tactile thing. [If] you run a file along a crappy ax at Home Depot, it’s going to be really soft or too hard and skip.”

Step 4: Think about weight and length

Then consider the handle, as well as the heft of the head. Handle length and the weight of the head will depend somewhat on your height and strength

“There’s a sweet spot in there,” Smith said. “I’m 6-foot-1 [and] I swung a 29-inch ax for years and years, [which] feels right to me. The shortest ax we let people use is about 25 inches. A lot of 35-inch handles at hardware stores [and] I don’t like that — [a] 29- [to] 30-inch handle feels better. Stay away from anything shorter than a 20-inch handle.”

Step 5: Look at the handle

Many of the other elements of choosing an ax, like handle material, come down to personal preference. In general, Smith said that heavier, slightly longer axes are more safe, but “people like different axes like people like different knives.”

For example, curved handles are generally more ergonomic, but Winn prefers straight handles.

“Glass reinforced nylon is something that has become very popular,” Winn said. “Generally, you will find that the strongest handles are wood handles.”

Smith said that he will even have his students at the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School carve their own handles. In that case, it is much easier for inexperienced whittlers to craft a straight handle. Plus, you can get more handles out of a single log.

Winn said some axes will be “full tang,” which means that the metal that the ax head is made of runs down the length of the ax handle all the way to the bottom. These axes are very sturdy, he said, but they are an acquired taste.

“They generally just coat those in rubber, which some people like some people don’t like,” he explained.

Step 6: Consider the cost

When it comes to cost, Smith said that the “fanciest axes” in his estimation come from a Swedish company called Gransfors Bruk — the design of which, he insisted, is based on an old Emerson & Stevens ax from Maine — that sell for more than $300.

‘That’s the high end of the scale,” Smith said. “The low end for a good quality [is] maybe $75 to $80, but you can definitely go cheaper.”

Winn said to expect to shell out $45 for a decent tool.

“I myself have spent $75 on a real decent splitting ax before,” Winn said. “If it’s something that you’re going to use once, twice a year in the summertime, don’t pay more than $50.”

While shopping for axes, Winn said to practice with a few to see what you like.

“There’s no shame in asking questions, trying different things and figuring it out for yourself,” Winn said. “The safest ax is the one you are comfortable using.”

Smith said that whatever ax you learn to use first is the one you will likely prefer.

“Whatever ax you cut your teeth with — weight of handle, straight or curved, head weight — that will feel right because you spent so many hours with it,” Smith said.

If you are purchasing an ax for the first time, there are a few key things you need to look out for.

AX-201 – SMT Pick & Place System

AX-201 – SMT Pick & Place System

Assembleon manufactures a range of Surface Mount Technology (SMT) placement equipment, Pick & Place Machines and provides related services.

LA VELDHOVEN, Netherlands

  • +31 40 27 23000
  • +31 40 27 23200

AX-201 – SMT Pick & Place System Description:

For High Accuracy With a Wide Component Range

The AX-201 offers a no-compromise combination of high placement accuracy, extremely wide component range and fast placement rate. This makes it ideally suitable for either stand-alone applications or as an end-of-line machine in combination with AX-501 or AX-301 machines.

  • Scalable output
  • High placement accuracy and reliability
  • Handles a wide range of components
  • Modularity ensures a seamless line fit
  • Small footprint


With feeder trolleys, the AX-201 provides up to 212 twin tape pick positions or via 106 via single tape feeders. Each tray trolley allows 94 JEDEC sized trays or 188 different matrix trays providing a maximum possibility of 376 JEDEC sized trays.

Other feeding possibilities are:

  • carrier tape tray
  • stick
  • tray stackers
  • surftape
  • waffle pack
  • direct die
  • direct die ultra
  • GPAX
  • radial tape
  • stacked tube
  • label
  • device programming feeding (Data I/0)

Tray Feeders

  • Manual tray, for a maximum of two trays (JEDEC size)
  • Single stacked tray feeder, for single tray components (maximum of 30 JEDEC trays)
  • Multiple tray feeder, for multiple tray components (maximum of 94 JEDEC sized trays or 188 matrix trays)
  • Carrier tape tray, for feeding small strips of tape (8 to 200 mm wide, 10 mm deep)


The AX-201 utilizes one vision tool over two placement head types. A second offline vision tool is available to prepare components offline.

Large Field of View: For components up to 45 x 45 mm, odd components up to 130 mm long and bump sizes from 0.150 mm with programmable placement forces from 2 to 8 N or 0.9 to 40 N depending on the placement head type used.

Small Field of View: For components up to 22 x 22 mm and bump sizes from 0.08 mm with programmable placement forces starting at 0.9 N with the High Accuracy Placement Head.

AX-201 – SMT Pick & Place System AX-201 – SMT Pick & Place System Assembleon manufactures a range of Surface Mount Technology (SMT) placement equipment, Pick & Place Machines and provides