Wednesday, August 26, 2020

American Axe: The Tool That Shaped a Continent

American Axe is a comprehensive and interesting history with tutorials of the ubiquitous and (previously) unsung tool which helped tame the North American continent. Due out 29th Sept 2020 from Storey Publishing, it's 192 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The author writes authoritatively and well with practicality and humor about axes of all types and uses. The introduction is a good primer on axes and shows the anatomy of the axe parts, interesting background and development, construction, and more. I found the pictorial essay on axe construction at the Brant & Cochran forge especially fascinating and admit that I hadn't really thought too much about where the tools we depend on actually *come* from. Buying an axe these days entails walking into a big box store or farm coop as contrasted a couple hundred years ago when acquiring and caring for such a vital tool could literally mean survival in an inhospitable climate. Axes were necessary for providing shelter, fuel, clearing land, and sometimes even for defense. This chapter also gives a good overview of the different types of axes and a short explanation of the tasks for which each type is dedicated.

The following chapters go more in depth and are aimed at homesteading tasks, a look at antique axes, modern axes, an extremely useful and comprehensive tutorial for sourcing and restoring axes found "in the wild", and a final chapter with throwing axes and other fun pastimes. This chapter also includes a spiffy tutorial for building a throwing bullseye target for throwing practice. Several places throughout, the author has also included fascinating tidbits about competitive wood chopping and other lumberjack games.

The photography is crystal clear and abundant. There are numerous short tutorials included with advice and step-by-step instructions for diverse tasks such as building an outdoor fire effectively and safely, felling a tree (safely), stripping bark, squaring timbers, an overview of finishing timbers for cabin building, and more.

The layout and design of the book are rustic and rugged and I especially liked the inclusion of antique advertising print ads for long vanished manufacturers. (Our Peerless Axe! Dunn EdgeTool co. Oakland, Maine). The book also includes a cross referenced index. This would make a superlative selection for homesteaders, smallholders, tool fanatics, historical recreators, and allied hobbyists.

Five stars for the target audience. This is a definitive guide.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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