Ode to the Axe

Archeologists suggest that some 350,000 years ago our ancestors attached a sharpened stone to a stick.  It was the first time simple tools were used in harmony: a wedge and a lever united in triumphant ingenuity.  Our ancestors saw power in the thing and must have wondered at its great potential.  Such a primitive tool could not possibly last through the technological advancements of the Bronze Age, let alone the next hundred millennia, yet it has been infused in our DNA and refuses to leave the hands of hard-working people.  The axe is not only a tool, but it’s an icon, a true piece of Americana, and a symbol of independence.

An unmarked single bit I refurbished and rehung when I had a yard and a decent tool box.

When you take a look at a modern axe, it has two parts.  It is wood and steel: two things that have been instrumental in our success as a species.  Truly, it is an elemental tool, and because of that it speaks to us on the simplest level.  An axe does not lie to you, it says what it is and works as hard as you will.  The beauty of it is in that simplicity.  It serves a purpose, has a function, and can solve your problems if you’re willing to sweat.  If you ask an axe a question, it will not provide the answer, but it can lead you to one.

The one word that comes to my mind when someone mentions “axe,” is meditative.  During some of the most chaotic moments of my life, I have sought out an axe to confide in.  You can pick up an axe, hold it tight within your hands, and plunge the bit as far into a piece of wood as you can.  And you can do it again and again and again and again until there is a moment of clarity and a deep breath and somehow, for that moment, everything leaves you.  My greatest moments of self-reflection have always been at the splitting stump.

Like many other tools, an axe can do many jobs.  It can pry, smash, cut, slice, skin, gut, bore, dig, and about almost anything else you might need to do.  But there has always been something more to an axe that nobody has ever been able to figure out.  When you pick an axe up, you instantly feel empowered.  Holding that much potential energy does something to you.  It connects you with your distant past; the success and glory of every person that has come before you, their vigilance, their fortitude, their perseverance all run through your veins when you wield an axe as they once did.  It is a time capsule of greatness.

Plumb 4# head rehung on 32″ of Appalachian hickory with a natural finish.

A friend of mine once marveled at an axe in all its forms, whether the head was forged from steel or knapped from volcanic rock.  Whether it was used for cutting timber or driving a stake into the ground, one thing remained the same.  “At the end of the axe is the man,” he said, truly capturing the reflective nature of the thing.  An axe is an icon when it hangs on the wall, but when you hold it—it becomes an extension of your soul.  An axe is as much a part of you as you are of it, and I imagine it will be that way for a long time to come.

Red and white chevrons splitting this mahogany/natural stain job on a custom piece.

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