Have you ever noticed that some axe blades are straight while others have a curved edge? Although this difference affects the look of the tool, there’s a more important reason they vary in shape. We’re about to look at why axe blades are curved so that you can decide which is best for you.
Why is an axe blade curved?
An axe will often have a curved blade to help it drive deeper into the wood. This is known as point loading, where the force of a swing is focused on the small area that first makes impact with the wood. The point of the blade penetrates deeper, pulling the remaining blade along with it.
- A curve is the best way to create a strong blade that concentrates the energy from the swing into one spot.
- It is easier to remove a curved axe that’s stuck in wood with a rocking motion.
- You get a longer blade when it has a curved profile, making cutting through wood easier.
Where is the best point to contact with a curved blade?
An experienced axe user will strike with the bottom part of the blade first, allowing the momentum to roll the rest of the blade forward. This results in a bigger cut and more efficient chopping.
A curved blade is ideal for novice axe users as any part of the bit will provide a point. Although striking wood with the toe isn’t ideal, it’s more forgiving than a straight-bladed axe would be.
Why are some axe blades straight?
Axes that are made with a straight blade will contact their target across the entire bit. This is useful for jobs like hewing and carving, where a blade with a curve would make the job more involved. A straight-bladed axe will have less penetration than a curved one.
Keep in mind a straight blade will often have a chisel grind. This is a type of bevel where one side is flat and the other sharpened. Great for woodworking and whittling, but not ideal for chopping or splitting wood.
What if an axe blade has too much curve?
You may be thinking, if a little curve helps, why don’t manufacturers add an even bigger one? While the axe would still work, too little cutting edge would contact its target. An inconsistent cutting depth would require more swings and get stuck in wood easily.
- Too much curve makes a blade weaker as the force from the impact is absorbed by a smaller area, rather than being dispersed.
- An exaggerated curve makes it difficult to rock the axe out of wood when it gets stuck.
- Well-used axes can develop a naturally rounded blade over time as the user sands back the damage-prone toe and heel.
What is the ideal curve for an axe?
After reaching out to axe manufacturers for their advice, we were told that it’s most important that the bit has a consistent curve all the way across. The ideal curve is around a quarter inch on a 4.75” blade.
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Popular curved axes
Although blade curve doesn’t define the type of axe, you’ll find some varieties suit a certain blade type.
The splitting axe is designed to split wood, cutting with the grain. A curved blade is counter-productive for this job as it gets stuck easily. Instead, a straight or shallow curved, narrow head is popular for splitting wood. A head that’s used for splitting is often heavy and flared, ideal for brute-forcing its way through the wood fibers.
A curved blade provides an increased cutting edge, making it excellent for limbing and chopping trees. That’s why you’ll often find that limbing axes have a flared heel and toe with a deep curve.
A felling axe will often have a shallow curve with a heel that curves back towards the haft. This design reduces the chance of the blade getting stuck as well as offering even cuts.
The curved heel is also good for bucking, providing deeper cuts when swinging downward. The heel strikes the wood first with the remaining blade carried forward by momentum.
Common types of axes with a straight blade
While most axes have a slight curve, you’ll find that some have a straight blade for specific purposes. They’re usually short-handled tools.
- Roofing axe: a type of hatchet that’s sharp and used to precisely cut roof shingles.
- Carpenter’s axe: a small, straight-edge axe that is good for detailed shaping and working flat surfaces.
- Throwing axe: most axe throwers prefer a straight edge that’s less likely to roll off the target on impact.
A curved blade plays an important role on an axe. It helps you chop deeper into wood by concentrating all the energy from a swing into one point. Other benefits of a curve include being able to rock the axe out when it gets stuck and a longer blade.
Keep in mind that the curvature of an axe bit is just one part of the axe’s anatomy. Instead of deciding what the axe is used for based on the blade, look at all the attributes.