Wood Trekker: Classic Backpacking Gear: Cutting Tools

Wood Trekker: Classic Backpacking Gear: Cutting Tools
On this publish I need to give attention to butting instruments which might have been obtainable to
and utilized by woodsmen through the Classic Backpacking interval of 1880 by way of 1930. As with
shelters, precise decisions by specific woodsmen or authors aren’t notably
vital as a result of the chosen instruments are a really private factor to every
particular person and mirror as a lot the individual’s tastes as they do the sensible
features of the instruments. Subsequently, the knowledge I need to present right here is
targeted extra on what would represent interval right device from which you’ll be able to
make your choice in case you are within the exercise.

Axes and Hatchets

Let’s begin with the axe, maybe an important chopping device. “On the
ax greater than on anything relies upon the consolation and success of the northern
forest traveler, no matter his calling. He might, to lighten his load, discard all
of the articles in his outfit which aren’t completely important, however by no means by
any probability is the ax amongst these forged apart, as a result of this software is probably the most
essential and probably the most helpful article utilized by the bushman. Not a day passes that
the ax is just not put to strenuous use, and on the lure line almost each hour of
the day finds the ax at work, smoothing the tough path of the traveler and
offering for his consolation and welfare.” Elmer Harry Kreps, Woodcraft, 1919
p. 52

The very first thing to think about can be what precisely constitutes a interval right
axe or hatchet.

Beginning within the 1750s, the axe went by way of some vital modifications, giving us
axes we acknowledge immediately. Beginning with a tomahawk-like axe, with spherical eye and
lengthy bit, the axe progressed into the American Felling Axe which got here do
dominate the market ever since. Within the image under you see three axes. The
first axe on the left is an instance of a 1850s axe, the second is a 1890s W.C.
Kelly Good axe, and the one of many proper is a 1940s trendy Plumb axe.

There are definitely variations within the axes ranging from the 1850s and going
via the 1940s. You’ll be able to see a extra in dept dialogue about them right here. The underside line nevertheless is that the majority trendy axe designs
will match completely properly inside this time interval. You don’t should search for
something out of the strange.

You possibly can see an instance of obtainable axes on p.67 of the 1907 Abercrombie &
Fitch Catalog. They’re clearly a totally trendy design.

Abercrombie & Fitch weren’t huge axe distributors, nor did they manufacture
their very own axes. I consider the axes have been truly made by Mann Edge Device Co. Even
so, that is an instance displaying that in 1907 the obtainable axes have been largely
trendy in design.

Equally, a design proven by Elmer Harry Kreps on p.55 of his 1919 e-book
Woodcraft exhibits a contemporary axe design.

In fact, the difficulty then comes up of precisely what sort of axe to make use of: measurement,
deal with size and sort, and so forth. As I discussed above, the selection is a really private
one to every woodsman, and every of the authors on whom I’m relying his a
totally different concept of what makes the right axe.

The one factor that each one the authors have in widespread is that none of them advocate
a full measurement axe for something aside from a big camp with transportation different
than backpacking. There isn’t a query that a full measurement axe will get the work
completed quicker, however carrying round such a software in your again is extra of a
trend assertion than a sensible use of your assets. “A full-sized axe
ought to be carried, in chilly climate, if technique of transportation allow. Its head
needn’t weigh over three or three kilos, however let the deal with be of ordinary 36-inch
size for a full- arm sweep. A single-bitt is greatest for campers, because the ballot is
helpful for driving stakes, knocking off pine knots, to rive timber (putting
with a mallet), and as an anvil (bitt caught in a log or stump).” Horace
Kephart, Tenting and Woodcraft Vol I, 1918 (2nd version, 1920) p.113

For backpacking functions, the suggestions assorted relying on the writer,
starting from a small hatchet to a boy’s measurement axe. 

For heat climate Kephart most popular a hatchet. You’ll typically see him refer
to it as a tomahawk, however it’s not an precise tomahawk, its a hatchet. Tomahawks
weren’t generally use round that point and wouldn’t have been carried by
anybody aside from for nostalgic causes. 

“A woodsman ought to carry a hatchet, and he must be as important in
choosing it as in shopping for a gun. The notion that a heavy searching knife can do
the work of a hatchet is a delusion. With regards to cleaving carcasses,
chopping kindling, blazing thick-barked timber, driving tent pegs or lure stakes,
and maintaining a bivouac hearth, the knife by no means was made that may examine with a
good tomahawk. The widespread hatchets of the hardware shops are unfit for a
woodsman’s use. They’ve broad blades with beveled edge, and they’re usually
manufactured from poor, brittle stuff. A camper’s hatchet ought to have the sting and mood
of a very good axe. It have to be mild sufficient to hold in or on one’s knap sack, but it
ought to chew deep in timber. One of the best hatchet I’ve used (and it has been with
me within the mountains for seven or eight years) is one proven in Fig. 103, besides
that the deal with is a straight one, 17-inch, that I made myself. Its weight, with
leather-based sheath, is 1 lb. 10 oz.” Horace Kephart, Tenting and Woodcraft Vol
I, 1918 (2nd version, 1920) p.165-166

I’ve omitted the the drawing Kephart offered within the ebook (you’ll be able to in fact
take a look at it for your self) as a result of we all know the mannequin hatchet that he truly
used. It was manufactured by Colchester Bros. of Eldorado, PA. 

Within the above image, acquired from the West Carolina College Hunter Library
Particular Assortment, it’s also possible to see a model of the Nessmuk double however pocket
axe that he most popular.

For winter journey he advisable a bigger axe. “The brief axe could also be of Hudson
Bay or Damascus sample. There ought to be a small mill file to maintain it so as,
in addition to the whetstone.” Horace Kephart, Tenting and Woodcraft Vol II, 1918 (2nd
version, 1920) p.144 He lists the axe as weighing 1lb 12oz. I don’t know if that
is the load of the top, or the complete axe. 

Different woodsmen like E.H. Kreps advocate a bigger axe for yr spherical use. You
have already seen the drawing he offered above. “For the northern forest
and the western mountain district the ax that I might advocate would weigh solely
about two kilos, deal with not included within the weight. A few of chances are you’ll assume this
completely too mild, however the northern Indians use axes of just one and a half
kilos, and discover them heavy sufficient for sensible functions, whereas mild to hold
on the path. To make a light-weight ax efficient, nevertheless, it should have an extended deal with.
An ax like this could have a deal with of from thirty to thirty-four inches over
all, and with such a device you’ll be stunned to see what heavy work could be
executed.” Elmer Harry Kreps, Woodcraft, 1919 p.56

Lastly, a lot has been stated about concerning the form of an axe deal with in current
years. Sadly, in 1981, Dudley Prepare dinner revealed a e-book titled Protecting Heat
With an Axe, which was later re-published as The Ax E-book in 1999. Whereas the guide
is usually wonderful, it incorporates a dialogue on the “best” form for axe
handles. Mr. Prepare dinner clearly prefers straight handles on his axes, and there’s
nothing incorrect with that. Sadly nevertheless, he felt the necessity to justify his
private choice by presenting some extraordinarily low high quality geometry and
physics as “proof” that a straight deal with is extra correct and permits you to
swing more durable. Whereas his principle is laughably poor, it did spark a following of
web axmen, who now have for years perpetuated the absurd statements made by
Dudley Prepare dinner. 

So, let me say this concerning the form of axe handles: An S-shaped deal with is not any
much less correct than a straight deal with, and lets you swing the axe with simply
as a lot energy. Actually, the S-shaped deal with provides you higher suggestions as to the
angle of the bit. This deficiency of the straight deal with might be compensated for
through the use of an octagonal deal with relatively than a rounded one which offers you a
higher really feel for a way the deal with is popping in your palms. Octagonal handles are
not wanted for S-shaped designs as a result of there the curvature does the job. 

Kephart seems to have most popular straight handles, or at the least was wonderful with
them. “In making a brand new axe-helve, don’t hassle to make a crooked one like
the shop sample. Hundreds of professional axemen use, from choice, straight
handles of their axes — single-bitted axes at that. In making a brand new axe-helve,
don’t hassle to make a crooked one like the shop sample. I’ve seen such
handles full 4 ft lengthy, for use mainly in logging-up massive timber. Two
ft eight inches is lengthy sufficient for strange chopping.” Horace Kephart,
Tenting and Woodcraft Vol II, 1918 (2nd version, 1920) p.188-189

Kreps most popular a S-shaped deal with. “Did you ever marvel why an ax deal with is
curved in an S form? It’s made to suit the arms of the consumer with out pressure on
the arms or wrists, and this curved form allows him to carry the ax extra
solidly when hanging a blow than might be accomplished with a straight deal with. The
deal with ought to be fairly thick and “hand-fitting” close to the top the place it’s grasped
by the left hand (or proper, based on whether or not the consumer is true or left
handed), however the different half ought to be formed so the hand can slide simply again
and forth whereas chopping.” Elmer Harry Kreps, Woodcraft, 1919 p.57

The difficulty of straight deal with vs. S-shaped deal with is one in every of private choice,
and arguing that one is best than the opposite is identical as arguing that a
Michigan sample axe head is best than a Yankee patter axe head. It’s
one thing it is best to depart for web woodsmen, because it doesn’t concern individuals
who truly spend any time within the woods. Each deal with designs existed in the course of the
time interval of 1880 by means of 1930, and each are equally efficient.

So, to summarize, in case you are desirous about Classic Backpacking, any trendy
design axe, ranging in measurement from a hatchet to a boy’s measurement axe, with a straight
or curved deal with, will match the invoice. Smaller axes and hatchets have the profit
of being extra moveable, whereas bigger axes get the job achieved quicker and with much less


On the subject of knives, a lot of the American authors of the time interval appear to
have taken after the instance set by Nessmuk. 

“A phrase as to knife, or knives. These are of prime necessity, and ought to be
of the most effective, each as to form and mood. The “bowies” and “hunting knives”
often stored on sale, are thick, clumsy affairs, with a kind of ridge alongside the
center of the blade, murderous wanting, however of little use; relatively fitted to
adorn a dime novel or the belt of “Billy the Kid,” than the outfit of the
hunter. The one proven within the minimize is skinny within the blade, and useful for skinning,
chopping meat, or consuming with. The robust double-bladed pocket knife is the perfect
mannequin I’ve but discovered, and, in reference to the sheath knife, is all
enough for camp use.” George Washington Sears, Woodcraft, 1892 p.13

Nearly all of the wooden working appears to have been accomplished with a folding pocket
knife. The belt knife was often a butchering sort knife and was reserved for
recreation and meals processing and sometimes had a blade between four and 6 inches in

A well-liked design for a hard and fast blade knife was a standard butcher’s knife, as may be
seen on p.146 of the 1907 Abercrombie & Fitch Catalog.

Such a design can presently be discovered within the Russell Inexperienced River Searching Knives.

One other fashionable design was the “hunting” knife. I consider early variations have been
popularized by Marble’s. An instance could be seen on p.146 of the 1907 Abercrombie
& Fitch Catalog.

If we glance outdoors of the Americas there’s a further fashion of knife
obtainable on the time, the puukko, and comparable variations. The Lapin Puukko
Vuolupuukko #31 you see under is an effective, reasonably priced instance. Comparable designs
have been round since lengthy earlier than the interval at which we’re wanting of 1880
by way of 1930. Whereas they weren’t extensively obtainable in the USA,
examples that have been introduced over by immigrants should have definitely been round at
the time.

A barely totally different design emerged from Sweden. In 1891 Frost-Erik Ersson
began Frosts Knivfabrik, which was later bought by KJ Eriksson AB in 1912,
and later turned what we now know as Mora of Sweden. Under you possibly can see an early
commercial for what can be Mora knives within the 1920s.

Under is a contemporary Mora #1 knife. The design has seen some minor modifications like an
epoxied deal with quite than a pinned one, however the design is essentially the identical.

Pocket knives have been sometimes double blade, non-locking knives. Under is a picture
offered by Nessmuk. Comparable designs can simply be discovered right now.

“Many hunters don’t carry sheath knives, saying (and it’s
fairly true) that a widespread jackknife will pores and skin something from a squirrel to a
bear. Nonetheless, I like a small, mild sheath knife. It’s all the time open and ”
get-at-able,” prepared not just for skinning recreation and cleansing fish, however for
slicing sticks, slicing bread and bacon and peeling ” spuds.” It
saves the pocket knife from moist and messy work, and preserves its edge for the
positive jobs.” Horace Kephart, Tenting and Woodcraft Vol I, 1918 (2nd version,
1920) p.167

In abstract, any of the above designs can be applicable to make use of in the course of the
Classic Backpacking interval. The American mannequin was to make use of a butchering fashion
fastened blade knife, mixed with a folding pocket knife. In Europe the puukko
type knife was in use on the time. This on no account covers all forms of knives
that have been out there and used on the time, it’s solely a pattern of what might be


In all the studying that I’ve accomplished whereas doing analysis on this topic,
which admittedly just isn’t a lot, I’ve not discovered any references to utilizing small
saws for camp work. There are discussions of huge cross slicing saws, each when
it involves their choices and to transporting them by way of pack practice, however the
use of small saws doesn’t appear to have been common. For some time I assumed that
they only weren’t out there on the time, however then I discovered a reasonably good instance
on p.70 of the 1907 Abercrombie & Fitch Catalog.

It had a folding eight inch blade, and in some ways resembles trendy folding saws.
In fact, it’s exhausting to inform from the image how usable the noticed truly was.
It may need been unreliable and simply broken.

Both method, small moveable saws don’t appear to have been in use by any of the
authors I referenced earlier. All of them most popular to depend on their hatchets and
knives for wooden processing. Perhaps that’s as a result of the saws obtainable on the time
weren’t of notably good design or high quality, or it might be that they
have been so used to utilizing axes that a small noticed appeared like a ineffective merchandise to hold. 

My Decisions

After going via the above choices, I made a decision to go together with a hatchet and a
Scandinavian fashion fastened blade knife.


The hatchet is an older mannequin Husqvarna. Since Husqvarna outsources their axe
manufacturing to numerous totally different corporations, I cannot inform who the precise
maker was, however in design it very intently resembles the Wetterlings Wilderness
Hatchet. It has a head on roughly 1.25lb and a 12 inch deal with.

The knife is a Mora #2. I’ve used it for years when backpacking, for every part
from processing recreation to woodworking. For my part it’s a a lot higher design
than the fashion knives utilized by the likes of Nessmuk and Kephart. It additionally
eliminates the necessity for me to hold a separate folding, woodworking knife.

I do have a bigger axe that I like to make use of. It’s an previous Collins Homestead axe
that I restored and re-hung. It has a 2.25lb head and a 26 inch deal with. Simply
like with my hatchet, I made a leather-based cowl for it. 

It’s a superb axe, however sadly I’ve had no cause to make use of it. It will
be nice for processing giant quantities of wooden, however I’ve been making an attempt to
prohibit myself to what I might contemplate accountable practices. On most journeys
that limits me to fallen lifeless wooden, which is usually not more than three inches
thick. For that I don’t want an axe this measurement. A hatchet does the job simply high-quality,
and it’s simpler to hold. It doesn’t imply I might by no means apply it to a visit, it’s
simply that thus far I haven’t had the chance.

So, that is just a few background on the difficulty of chopping software within the context
of Classic Backpacking, in addition to my decisions.