May 062014

It’s rare to come across a tool that revolutionizes a 400,000 year old design. Almost unbelievable, really, that a planet full of inventors would have taken so long to improve on the axe.

The axe has a long and distinguished history as a mandatory tool for work and war. It is, in the language of high school physics, an inclined plane (two sided) attached to a level (handle) that allows one to deliver terrific force to a point. In the case of a round of wood this force causes the wood to split. In the case of a Viking holding an axe, heads split even more easily. The axe is what my physics teacher called a “simple machine.” The fact that its basic design has stayed constant for generation on generation attests to its usefulness and efficiency.

A wood burning home depends on the axe and variations of the theme. Our personal collection includes a standard axe, a maul, a hand maul, two hatchets, a collection of wedges and a thing called a “wood grenade.

Recently I took the plunge and purchased a Finnish Vipukirve, a surprising new variation on the axe which increases the ease of splitting wood by a factor of at least two. That is, I think it is twice as easy to split wood with the Vipukirve.

It’s kind of amazing that it took 400,000 years or so for someone to come up with a completely new twist, an axe with a counter weight, that torques hard to the right as the blade makes contact with wood so that you get downward and sideways force at the same time. For someone who enjoys splitting a winter’s worth of wood it’s the equivalent of going from a wooden tennis racket to a one of those Prince oversize rackets that appeared in the 80’s.

The Vipukirve (or Leveraxe) is safer too. It has a longer handle which makes it more difficult to whack yourself in the leg. But what really makes it a safer tool is that you don’t have to swing so hard. Because of the design the Leveraxe never penetrates completely through the wood. In addition it doesn’t get stuck like a conventional axe which often means using wedges to extricate the blade.

Almost as valuable as the Vipukirve itself is the idea of putting your round inside a tire. This is magic. Check the video.


  4 Responses to “Axe vs Leveraxe”

  1. Randy, this is amazing. The inventor’s website says he’s been overwhelmed with orders and is temporarily out of stock. At 203 Euros, this is a little too expensive for me – but I’m wowed by the video of the in-tire chopping demonstration. Can Paul and I come over and chop your wood to try out the tool?

  2. The price is high when compared to an axe or maul. It’s low when compared to an electric or gas powered splitter. Efficiency wise, the Leveraxe would fall somewhere in between the historic hand tours and the power driven equipment.

  3. i think this is cheap if you take account time savings ja easier work.

  4. This renews my confidence in rethinking practically anything, and the internet. Best video of 2014.

    I’ve had a “japanese style” splitting maul for several years and don’t bother with the old type anymore. It’s much less work. This new axe takes advantage of that experience we all must have had, when the axe comes down out of alignment near the edge of the round. This often just leads to tingling hands but sometimes a nice piece cleanly flies off. I’ve seen this skillfully used for kindling, I never got it fully mastered. This guy turned that “mistake” into a solution, an improvement on the oldest tool of all, the axe. Or that’s what I think of the axe, who knows an older tool?

    The tire is so cool. Unfortunately tires are free. There’s nothing to sell, which keeps a lot of great ideas out of sight. It makes it worthwhile lifting a round up onto a stump. Otherwise, one swing and it’s go pick it up again. I’ve been keeping the rounds close together on the ground, so they don’t all fall over on the first split, which helps. Wood that only needs one split probably won’t find it’s way into the tire.

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