Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Pocket Axe - Gear Test Update

The Pocket Axe

Testing your gear in non-critical situations should always be a priority. New gear may look nice but the true test comes in how it performs when needed. Gear that breaks or fails to perform the needed task can be virtually useless in a survival situation. Here's the simple test done on my pocket axe.

Chopping Small Limb

Mrs. RW had decided to trim some limbs from a few of the trees in our yard and I figured this would be a good time to check out the chopping abilities of my pocket axe. Being small and lightweight is a good thing. I needed to see if it would chop wood when needed. The first thing I did was to chop a small limb that was approximately one inch in diameter. This took less than two minutes and was probably more like a minute and a half. The first thing that happened was the cord wrap was too loose and slipped upwards on the handle. This affected my grip somewhat but was manageable. You can see a slight gap in the cord in the above picture. There was plenty of additional cord hanging loose and a quick re-wrap with the extra cord and a little tightening up of the cord wraps helped the grip a lot.

Limb Measurement

This picture shows the diameter of the first small limb that was chopped with my pocket axe.

Chopping Bigger Limb

After adjusting the cord on the handle to get a better grip, I then proceeded to cut a larger limb of about 2 inches in diameter. This only took a couple minutes and tightening the cord on the handle solved the slippage problems when cutting the first limb. You can see the shortened length of cord in the above picture. When it came to chopping small limbs, it did an excellent job and the scuff marks left on the finish cleaned off easily with a little soap and water. It's important to keep your gear clean and ready for use.

Bushcraft Hammer

The next step was to test its wood-splitting abilities and I could think of nothing better than to use a bushcraft hammer (a.k.a. rock). The bushcraft hammer is a versatile tool and found easily most anywhere and anytime. You don't even have to carry one as part of your EDC gear because nature will provide one for you when needed. It will also let you know quickly if your gear will hold up. The main problems with this pocket axe is its short handle and lack of weight. It was hard to set the axe into the wood without a little assistance from the bushcraft hammer. Although, it easily split some 4 inch diameter chunks of oak that I had set aside for use in my smoker barrel, it did require a couple of taps with the bushcraft hammer to get it started. Once started, it then split the wood chunks easily. It was primarily a safety issue as I didn't trust the pocket axe to not slip and cause a possible injury when splitting the wood chunks.

Special Note: Use of a bushcraft hammer (a.k.a. rock) is not recommended for general use as it may cause gear failure.

Pocket Axe Kindling

It took less than five minutes to split a couple of chunks of oak into some decent kindling for a small fire (Native American style). If you're planning on building a bonfire (white man style), you'll need a lot bigger axe than this one. A decent amount of wood for a small fire could be still be split in a short amount of time. Its primary use is to be an easy to carry axe that would fit easily on my belt or in a small backpack allowing the ability to chop a little wood when making a fire. This small pocket axe will take care of that task. You will still need a larger axe for regular use in camp.

Finish Damage

Although there was no damage to the finish from chopping small limbs, there was some chipping of the finish that occurred when it was used to split some wood chunks. The above picture shows the chipped finish on the bevel that leads to the edge. Although disappointed by the damage, it didn't hurt its functionality and shouldn't be a problem as long as I keep it properly cleaned. The edge held up well with no apparent dulling even after splitting some oak chunks. Though the finish was marred somewhat, it still performed adequately.

Sheath Modifications

I wore the axe on my belt for several hours during the day. It was barely noticeable if my shirt was left out instead of tucked in. This is great for when you may need to use a "stealth" carry mode. With its light weight, I barely noticed it was there. Even when sitting, I was hard-pressed to notice its presence. There was a minor problem with the sheath in that it was fairly loose and the bottom of the axe had a tendency to slip out partially. Although it never slipped out completely, it did present the opportunity for loss of the axe. This was quickly fixed by Mrs. RW who put a small amount of stitching on the bottom side of the sheath to eliminate this problem (see arrow in pic above). This made the axe secure enough in its sheath to eliminate the possibility of losing it.

I had considered testing its ability to chop ice but this time of year there isn't much ice available in South Central Texas. The thought of using ice cubes from the refrigerator for a little testing had crossed my mind but a lack of ice cubes for her tea may have upset Mrs. RW and this idea was quickly abandoned.

Another option for improving this pocket axe is to see how hard it would be to customize it with a set of wooden or antler grips on it instead of the cord wrap. I'm also considering using this as a pattern to make a hand-made one out of a piece of carbon steel with some further additional modifications. These projects will have to wait for a later time.

Overall, I'm well satisfied that I now have a decent piece of lightweight and compact gear that should prove versatile and useful. If you're into ultra-light backpacking, a pocket axe is something you should consider adding to your gear. While this pocket axe won't replace your need for a regular camp axe, it would work well for a short day trip or hike from camp.

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

That was a great workout you gave your new hatchet - thanks for the write up. Maybe you could wrap some 'survival goodies' in a heavy ziplock bag, fold and wrap around handle, with final cord wrap on outside? Might as well be useful.

Anonymous said...

is always a good idea to test the gear you gonna use, see how good it performs or exchange for something more appropiate.

I'm not too much for axes but they have their purpose in the field

Now. If I can only convince you to run a test. swiss army knife vs. any others?????

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 7:32

Don't want to add too much...trying to keep the weight factor down and the use factor up. Something that is lightweight like fishing line probably wouldn't add much weight.

Thanks anon.


riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 11:28

"Now. If I can only convince you to run a test. swiss army knife vs. any others?????"

Have to look into the possibilities of doing bushcraft hammer is still working good after i tested the pocket axe!

Thanks anon.


vlad said...
Pull to cut with the sharpened hook on the Woodsman's Pal. Would a sharpened hook on the backside of the blade of your pocket ax be useful?

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