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The Ax Book: The Lore and Science of the Woodcutter Paperback – March 22, 2005
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"From tree selection to fireside cheer, Cook takes the reader every step in the wood-harvesting process, tree felling, climbing, bucking, wood handling, splitting, cutting to size, storing and burning... vivid, entertaining anecdotes from a lifetime of experience.
Bud Leavitt, Bangor (ME) Daily News "
From the Publisher
Originally published in 1981 by Universe Books as "Keeping Warm with an Ax, " The Ax Book is a thorough guide to cutting wood with hand tools. Although it is one of man's most ancient tools, the ax remains the standard tool of the woodman, and has been brought to a high degree of perfection. The author explains how to use various types of axes, hatchets, mauls, saws and wedges to take down trees and prepare firewood. In addition he shows every aspect of dealing with wood from the forest right to the hearth or stove.
Throughout recorded time, the ax has been a principle tool for carving out from the wilderness the homes, farms, and roads so necessary to the advance of civilization. Even today, those who use chainsaws and other power equipment still need to be familiar with the hand tools of their craft. In many situations, only a hand-ax will suffice for the felling of trees, the rough shaping of lumber, the creation of firewood, and clearing out the nooks and crannies of forested areas for other purposes -- including the planting of new trees. Cook's The Ax Book is an ideal "how to" manual of instruction enhanced with the illustrations of Whipple to provide what is simply the best introductory guide to the subject available to readers today. The Ax Book is a "must" for anyone needing to use a hand ax for any purpose, under any circumstances.
The ax is an indispensable tool for every woodsman. Even those who use chainsaws and other power equipment need to be familiar with the hand tools of their craft. In many situations, nothing will do but an ax. This book has been proven to be an ideal resource for anyone who wishes to fell trees and take lumber or firewood from the forest.
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Top Customer Reviews
I believe that the modern reader is inclined to disbelief of some of Cooks claims when comparing speed of work between axes and chain saws. However, I suspect that Cook's claims are based on skill and fitness levels only seen nowadays in Lumberjack contest racers... Thinking about how fast those racers get through logs - I begin to think that Cook's statements may be legitimate, and if contest racers can do it, then with dedication (and a lot of calories) a person can actually get there, if they desire to.
But overall, this is a book written by a person who enjoys and has developed a significant understanding of axemanship, at the far end of a lifetime of ax use. It is very seldom indeed that such a level of understanding for such an obscure and and mostly forgotten craft, is recorded in print. As such, it is a great read, some of which is opinion (this is a craft, not a science, after all), but also provides a thought provoking and very thorough dissection of the tools.
If you desire to do more than just "go chop wood" - this book will help you to make decisions about the size and shape of the ax, how the edge is shaped and sharpened, possible install or replacement of the handle, with consideration of handle length and shape - and then provides detailed coverage of how to go about getting the wood itself from a tree into the needed size and shape for your stove. And, lest I forget, it also provides a thorough and clear instruction on how to use and maintain crosscut saws.
It claims to be a revision, but I don't see much difference between the two. Whatever may have been added or deleted seems to be minimal from a comparison of random pages. Just be aware that it is a update so you don't end up buying both it and Keeping Warm With an Ax: A Woodcutter's Handbook like I did.
It is still one of the best books, if not the best, on selecting and using an axe that I have read among the limited number of books on the axe. Cook's emphasis on safety is well presented, with a concept of "frontal zone" as the area extending from one's feet forward at the width of the outsides of the feet, with objects to be cut to the left or right of this zone. Use of a frontal zone will mean that any swing that misses or ricochets will miss the user because it is already past the user. This is a concept that I had not seen before, yet makes much sense for safety.
I strongly recommend this book. In the very limited genre on axes, it is a gem well worth reading and studying. In fact, I have bought several copies to give to my axe-using friends and relatives.