An axe is a tool that has been used by mankind for millennia, designed to cut, shape, and split woods using the force of a hand. Ever since it was created, the axe had a single purpose – the only difference of axes today than the axes from the 1800s is modern axes have been more effective, impactful, and long-lasting.
The axe is a simple hand tool, but do you know that it has many parts? Showing the parts of the axe is what this article is for. A bit of disclaimer though – not all axes are the same, so not all the parts to be mentioned here are found in every single axe in the planet. Also, the parts of a single-bit and double-bit axe will slightly differ. This is a beginner’s guide to the anatomy of the axe.
Parts of an Axe
An axe is broken down into two main parts: the head and the handle. Each of them has different smaller parts for various purposes.
Parts of an Axe Head
The axe head is often referred to as the business end of the axe, because it’s the part that fulfills the tool’s purpose. It functions as a mechanical wedge. The head is the entire metal part of the axe that has two ends: the bit or blade, and the poll or butt. With the sharp bit and kinetic energy, the axe can cut through woods as it’s supposed to. Axes today are made from various steel, while the past axes use stones.
The axe bit is the cutting portion of the head, also known as the blade. It’s the most important part of the axe. The bit can be arc-shaped or straight. The steel used for making the bit is often stronger, so it can support chopping, cutting, and splitting wood. A double-bit axe has two cutting edges, one on either side.
The toe is the upper corner of the axe bit. It is where the cutting edge starts. If you’re throwing the axe, this is the section where you aim to hit the wood with. The toe must always be sharpened to make a clean chop.
The heel is the bottom corner of the bit. Sometimes, the heel can extend lower than the axe head, extending to the beard. The heel is sometimes used for carving and for creating detail-oriented work. It can also be used to puncture.
The axe’s beard is the concave part at the bottom of the bit, located near the handle. Sometimes, it encompasses the heel part. A beard can be short or long. Broad axes come with long beards, while narrow ones have short beards.
The smooth sides of the axe head are the cheek areas. It’s the widest and thickest part of the axe head, which contributes to the cutting and splitting force.
The blunt, back part of the axe head, is called the poll or the butt. Depending on the type of axe, this part can be used as a hammer, maul, or spike.
Parts of an Axe Handle
Handles or hafts are usually made from different types of wood. Axe handles are often made of springy hardwoods but can be made with durable, synthetic materials as well. Composite materials are more common today due to their superiority in strength and weight.
The eye is the hole in the head in which the handle is inserted. It’s the piece of wood used for securing the handle to the head. Sometimes, it can be seen above the bit, and it’s the part that’s most likely to break. Traditional axes use a wedge to spread the top of the handle, keeping the head from flying off the handle as you swing.
However, not all axes have an eye. Those made of a composite handle doesn’t need an eye because the head is attached to the handle in a different way. All-steel axes do not have an eye because the head and handle are all in one piece.
The shoulder is the lip of the handle just under the poll of the axe head. It’s the joining area where the head mounts on to the handle. Most axes have a noticeable curve here, but not all. Some axes have shoulders protected with metal, rubber, or leather to protect the handle and prevent it from breaking. If you overstrike the axe, this is the part that will hit the wood.
The belly of the axe is the longest part, usually the convex side of the upper portion of the handle. This area is at the front of the axe, opposite the bit. The position and curvature of the belly and the throat dictates the best area to hold on in the axe. When you’re shopping for an axe, make sure that the grain of the wood in the belly is straight and has no indication of knots or degradation to ensure its durability.
The throat is at the nearing end of the handle, which can be straight or concave in shape. It’s the part where you place your bottom hand when using the axe. The design of the throat is important for both the durability and comfort of your axe. An axe with an uncomfortable throat can make your hands feel sore and fatigued much easier.
Also known as the end knob or a swell knob, the knob is the bottom part of the handle. It generally flares out to provide a better grip and prevent the axe from slipping out of the hands while in use.
The grip is the convenient part of the handle where your hands naturally grip the handle.