Cruiser axes are rare in the United States, and they’ve become sought after for several reasons. Finding information about this lesser-known tool is challenging, but you’re in luck – this guide examines the cruiser axe and helps you decide whether it’s worth adding to the tool collection.

What’s a cruiser axe?

Cruiser axes are small, light axes that usually have a  double bit. Head weight ranges, but most brands keep them between 2-4lbs. Their handles are shorter than full-sized splitting and felling axes, usually limited to 28″ and less.

Cruisers provide excellent balance; most people will find them easy to swing. Compared to most other double-bit axes, their head is relatively small and lightweight, with small eyelets.

Uses for a cruiser axe

Cruiser axes were historically used by “cruisers,” lumberjacks employed to survey timber stands. Their axe was an invaluable tool to mark “blazes” onto tree trunks and trim branches.

The benefit of using two blades was that the logger saved valuable time. Double the blade means half the sharpening.

The cruiser axe was also small and light, a significant advantage if your profession is walking through the forest all day.

While cruisers aren’t as common today, they are still extremely popular. Use it like a boy’s axe for a wide range of jobs. It’s excellent for yard work, woodcraft, tree limbing, de-barking, camping, and packing. While the tool can be used to split wood, you’re best to keep a splitting axe or maul on hand for tougher jobs. 

Man sitting next to a campfire after having chopped firewood with a cruiser axe
Cruiser axes are ideal for camping.

A cruising axe offers flexibility thanks to its two blades. You can put a convex grind on one edge and a flat profile on the other. Use one side for dirty, damaging work like chopping tree roots. Keep the other side razor-sharp for felling hardwoods or other more challenging work.

Does the cruiser axe have any disadvantages?

While most people struggle to fault a cruiser axe, there are a few cons to them.

  • They’re hard to find; most everyday hardware stores won’t have them on the shelf.
  • There are better choices than this tool if you like a flat poll for hammering.
  • Having a sharp edge on both sides increases the risk of injury. We recommend using a quality sheath to reduce the risk of injuries and blade damage.  

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Are cruisers still being made?

Cruiser axes are manufactured in much lower volumes than they once were. Small-scale premium axe makers are your best option for a quality tool. Often joining the big axe groups on forums and social media groups is the best way to find these producers.

Another option is to buy used vintage axes that may need some reconditioning. LL.Bean, Gransfors Bruks, Hults Bruk, Bluegrass, Plumb, and Kelly are excellent performers, but be prepared to pay for them. Norlund and Condor manufacture cruisers which can be purchased online.   

What is timber cruising?

Assessing the value of a stand of timber is vital for valuing a tract of land. Assessors and forestry companies use timber cruisers to establish value.

These experienced, licensed foresters analyze a sample of land, looking at tree species and their size, height, and quality. They also look for potential threats to animal species, soil erosion, and ease of access to the site.

A forest with blue sky in the background
Cruising axes were a good way to mark trees before the days of paint.

Commonly asked questions

How long is a cruiser axe handle?

Cruisers typically have an axe handle that measures between 24-28″. 

What is a ¾ axe?

A ¾ axe is a single-bit felling axe with a smaller handle and head. It is easier to wield than a full-size axe and is ideal for small chopping jobs and removing tree limbs. A good example of this design is the Hudson Bay which typically had a 20-28″ handle and weighed roughly 2 pounds.

What axe did Abraham Lincoln use?

Abraham Lincoln was well-known for using a broad axe. As president, he gained fame as a rail-splitting champion.

What is a saddle axe used for?

A saddle axe was a versatile, two-bladed tool carried in a horseman’s saddle. One edge had a razor-sharp flat grind for jobs like carving, cutting, and shaving. The other blade had a more robust, less aggressive bit that was best for splitting, notching, and other high-impact tasks.

Should I buy a cruising axe?

Most people who invest in a cruiser find them one of the best axes in their collection. Whether mounted on a wall or used for everyday work, this is a tool that’ll serve you for many years. It is a nice-looking, versatile axe with excellent balance.

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