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Double Eagle

Hatchet or just ax

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I've taught the use of woods tools for several years, decades. As of late, some scouters have questioned the use of hatchets and some leaders have forbidden the use. They have no problem with the 3/4 ax. I kind of revert back to teaching them to "be prepared". Many places a hatchet or hand ax is easier, lighter, and more appropriate to use than the ax. With the new compact models with sheaths that can be attached to a belt, not a popular practice due to safety, they seem to pack quite easily. The BSA has modified the sheaths so they are not able to be carried on the belt as in old photos. The BSA catalog carries them and sheaths. Is the hatchet or hand ax on its way to extinction? What are your views on whether to use or not use hatchets?

 

I still own and use axes too.

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Personally I am concerned about hatchets as the fingers of the opposite hand look to be in danger. I train my Scouts quite rigorously in the use of axes and have several different weights in head size but all with the same length handle. The hatchet has, in the past, connected with enough fingers. We use bush saws instead ...sorry, don't know your term for them.

 

Now if you could put boots on hands then maybe the risk is less! A full length handle can gather more speed etc than a hatchet but seems to connect with feet less often.

 

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Woods tools all have their place, and as long as their use is taught, observed, and checked correctly and frequently, there should be no reason to eliminate any. Eliminating one is doing ourselves no favors. Teach it right and make sure it's being used correctly is the better way.

 

With regard to fears that the blade may come in contact with the fingers of the other hand, I'd say that's a sign that they're not being used right. The fingers of the other hand should be nowhere near the point where the blade impacts the wood.

 

And, unfortunately, there are no devices of protection for the hands like boots for feet. And even boots on feet will only slow the blade, not stop it. Steel toed boots will stop or deflect the blow, but only if dead-on. Leather is no fool-proof protection against the blade of an ax, or the chain of a saw. Woodsmans competitions at any level less than adult require the use of armor over the boots, but that would be costly and hardly easy to provide for Scouts in all circumstances, even if it provided the best protection. Hands don't have that option at all. There are Kevlar gloves and gloves made with a core of stainless steel wire under a fiberglass yarn on the market, specifically made for protection against cuts, but not direct puncture or blade impact.

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I teach our boys how to use a hatchet. We don't get into axes though. There doesn't seem to be much practical use for them anymore. We use the hatchet to prepare kindling.

 

There is an inherent danger in using a hatchet or axe. My thought is that some time down the road many boys will have an occasion to use a hatchet, and I'd like them to be confident and safe knowing the skills the learned in they Boy Scouts.

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As camping technology develops and as more and more campgrounds move to letting groundwood decay as part of the natural cycle the need for wodd tools declines.

 

Axes have many draw backs saftey being only one issue. Think of how you have seen scouts and scouters, possibly even in your own troop use an ax or hatchet, then look in the scout handbook at the personal protection equipment they are suppossed to be wearing. For years the handbook has had the use safety glasses, gloves and sturdy shoes as part of the safty they need to learn for totin chip. How many boys or leaders have you seen follow those rules? Very few I would bet. That's why wood tools are one of the most frequent causes of injuries in scouting.

 

The main reason that I think axes will eventual disappear as a camping tool is the growing restrictions against wood fires and the growing use of alternate fuels. Plus as the handbook points out, and most backpackers will tell you, it's a lot of weight for very little return.

 

Bob

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One of the visible trademarks of Scouting has always been that of self-sufficiency in the boy. The ability to survive in the wild using the skills he learned in Scouting. Although the ax and hatchet are only small tools that do only one job, it's kind of sad to see them being left on the wayside as not necessary any more. With all due respect to the leave no trace and environmental movements, I still like to see the boys learning the old ways, how to do things with their hands, without electricity, without buttons to push, without the things we take for granted as necessities today. Having to build a fire or shelter using hand or woods tools may not be something everyone has to, but I think it's a skill still worth knowing and understanding well. The lights may go out someday, the gas may run out someday, even if only for a little while. Or the boy may be one of those who is lost in the woods and has only his wits and tools with him. I'd rather he know how to use them, and therefore will never look upon them as eventually disappearing.(This message has been edited by jmcquillan)

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I recently had cause to reflect on this issue when I taught the ax use portion of the new Outdoor Leaders Skills class. When I was a scout, we used a hatchet, also referred to as a hand axe, all the time. We also occasionally used a regular axe. Times have changed. There is little use for these tools anymore. I told my class that, in fourteen years as an adult leader, I have used a hatchet only once on an outing. That was on a canoe expedition where we had the opportunity to build a campfire and needed to make some larger dead wood into smaller dead wood. I also told my class that the safest thing to do with an axe is leave it at home. The only time our scouts now use any kind of axe is to make kindling for the fire building competition at camporee.

 

We should still teach scouts how to use these tools. In my mind, axe safety is right there with firearm safety. Some scouts may never shoot a gun other than at a rifle range at scout camp, but they learn to respect firearms and how to use them safely.

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My personal opinion when it comes to wood tools is that a bow saw is far more useful than an ax or hatchet. If I need wood for fire or shelter and need to adjust the length of the stock, a saw is far more efficient and a better tool choice. The only real value in an ax is to split wood to get to the dry heart.

 

I have to chuckle when I think of an ax being useful to build your shelter or make a fire when the gas or electricity in your home fails. It reminds me of the run on tents when the people were scared by the Y2K bug that some thought would destroy civization as we know it.

 

It tickled me that people thought if their power failed that they would find comfort by setting a tent up in the back yard. :)

 

If and when (because it happens too frequently in my neighborhood) we lose power, my last thought is to grab my ax and go outside to build a shelter, or if my gas went out I don't think chopping wood for my gas fireplace would help.

 

I build a fire every time I camp and I overnight in a natural shelter at least once a year. I'm sure I haven't used an ax for anything other than teaching Totin'Chip in 15 years.

 

As far as lost in the woods, a compass and a water bottle weigh less and more usefull than an ax.

 

IMHO,

Bob

 

 

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I heat my house with a woodstove. I split the wood by hand using three wedges and an 8 pound sledge. My son splits all the kindling with a hatchet. He also sells kindling in the neighborhood, $5 for a grocery sack full. Maybe I'm a throwback, but I like it that way.

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Our Troop hasn't used hatchets for years. Experience has shown me they are way to dangerous. We use a couple of 3/4 axes to teach Totin Chit. We allow limited use of the axe, as rarely are we in a position to use them. Bow saws are our mainstay. Much safer and more efficient.

anderson

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Hatchet, ax, good. May not be good if you don't do anything or go anywhere or only backpack or only do one thing...but if you want to let young men experience different things and learn self reliance then hatchet and ax...good...as are many other tools. I don't always use my 1/2 inch socket wrench but I got one and know how to use it. And there is risk in most things...bet the people that are concerned about hatchets and fingers will let their boys drive cars when the time comes...much more risky business.

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Having just returned from Summer Camp, the only reason we did NOT have a campfire was because I had left the wood cutting tools at home due to the extreme fire danger. Since I live only about 150 miles from the camp, just outside Yellowstone, I thought they had similar drought conditions we had.

 

To the contrary, there was significant (for Wyoming) rain the previous week, and light rain twice while at camp. Although I still think I did the correct thing in this instance, we did miss the campfire at our own camping area. Wood from winter cleanup of the camp had been provided at each campsite. Amost all of it would have needed to be split, a perfect time to put in use the skills of the "Totin Chip".

 

In our area, wood stoves, in some form, are in almost half the homes. These skills are used by most people in their daily lives, not just as "scouts".

 

For those of us in this region, the skills will never be "out of use".

 

Paul Johnson

T-4013

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Thanks for the input. It seems like my hope of keeping the hatchet alive is going to hold. For those that like the use, please keep teaching it safely. For those that do not use them, maybe a taste test and I leave it up to you and the scouts to decide.

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Teach both.

 

It is true that I have not used an axe in years but the skill of using either one safely and effectively is invaluable.

 

I'm a backpacker and I rarely use a compass either but I practice the skill regularly.

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I've cut down good sized trees with a saw and with an ax. Unless you have a good sized saw, an ax does a better job.

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