American Edge Tools and their Makers

  An Ax to Grind: A Practical Ax Manual by Bernie Weisgerber (USDA)    

I’ve always had a passion for axes. I received my first ax—a toy—when I was 8 years old, and my first real ax not long afterwards.  Since that time, for over 45 years, I’ve used and collected all kinds of axes and adzes in my professional work restoring historic buildings and structures.

We cannot explore everything there is to know about axes in this publication. What I would like to share with you is a brief background on the development of axes, the hanging and sharpening of axes, how to use an ax, and detailed information on certain ax patterns. 

I’ve tried to place the discussion within the context of working with axes today and from a historical perspective of their use within the USDA Forest Service.

In An Ax to Grind: A Practical Ax Manual, you’ll find:

  • A brief look at the history of the ax, especially its evolution in America
  • Types and patterns of axes and adzes, showcasing some examples from my
    personal collection and some from old catalogs
  • How to hang and sharpen an ax, two essential skills for anyone using an ax
  • Various examples of using axes, incorporating historical material
  • Where to buy a good ax
  • Some other good references about axes that you may find useful.

This manual is intended to be a companion to my video program, An Ax to Grind (99-01- MTDC). The video (Figure 1) was produced by the Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC). Copies are available from the center. I hope you’ll take a look at it.

Bernie Weisgerber

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.

D. R. Barton


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