This axe does nothing new, it is an expensive gimmick for people with more money than sense.

“Physics-exploiting axe splits wood in record time.” reads the headline. There are some folk that think that 4000 years of development of a traditional  tool can be improved by modern design thinking. I am all in favour of questioning things and sometimes it is true genuine improvements can be made but this axe is all over the internet at the moment and it is simply a gimmick with good marketing. I get so wound up seeing it all over my facebook timeline.

Vipukirves-590x330The theory goes that it is clever and new because it creates a twisting action that is helpful when splitting wood. Well yes it is and all of us that split serious quantities of wood know that and use a twisting action with an ordinary axe. The axe should be swung down vertically but with the head not quite vertical, at impact the off centre weight flicks the edge sideways pushing the fibres apart. Here is a great video of Peter Vido’s daughter using the method. It shows you don’t need a fancy axe or huge strength just good technique and clean straight wood.

and just to show that the twisting/leverage action of log splitting isn’t a new idea here is a vid from the 60′s of a guy working with skill and easy racing against a hydraulic splitter. Notice the way he brings the axe down vertically but the head is always skewed at an angle so that on impact it generates twist or leverage to ping the log apart. I should say that this technique (and no doubt the nasty red axe) only work well on clean straight grained wood, the sort that anyone can split with ease anyway. Once you get onto really gnarly wood you need to bring the axe head down vertically and use more of the wedging action.

There is a really good explanation of the technique in slow motion at 2mins 15 secs into this vid

 

So if you are in the market for a splitting axe please don’t waste £200 on a horrid red thing, learn good technique and use the axe you have. If you really want to spend money on something extra sexy I love my Gransfors splitting maul.

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22 Responses to This axe does nothing new, it is an expensive gimmick for people with more money than sense.

  1. Andy Collier April 25, 2014 at 12:08 am #

    I had no idea the Vido’s had an axe site! I have been a fan of their scythe website for years.

  2. Josh April 25, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    So have you tried this new axe?

    • Robin Wood April 25, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      Josh this is one of the rare occasions where I have made a comment on something without having used it. However the comments are based on 25 years experience of heating with wood, that means splitting a whole lot of firewood, and using 100′s of different axes.

      • Eric Rucker May 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

        Robin, this blog post and your reply to Josh reveal you’re either having a bad day or you are arrogant.

        Maybe the axe is an expensive gimmick, but to insult people who buy it out of possible ignorance is just not on. Some people may be going back to the land after both sides of their family tree being away from it for generations. From what little I know of your backstory you might have been in their shoes once. It seems like you are trying to prove your mastery even more than their ignorance, which doesn’t speak well of you.

        Your notion of how long axes have been around is comical. The clip of Tom Clark is from the early 80s, but you’re only off by 20 years instead of tens or hundreds of thousands. Tom Clark saw fit to invent his own axe, which he called a Buster. So the old-time expertise you posted for us may have been in part thanks to his “new and improved” axe!

        What could a similarly dyspeptic person have to say about your nested bowl sets for £895? “Clearly the people who buy them have more money than sense. People have been eating out of bowls for at least 4000 years, and mostly made their own. Anybody who needs to pay someone to make a bowl for them is an idiot.”

        Maybe you should try the axe. 25 years and hundreds of axes don’t mean you know it all or have experienced it all. Because there are very few people alive doing the work you do means you have a level of celebrity that exceeds what you would have earned when green woodworkers were thick upon the land. Have some humility about your place in history and the fact that none of us are giants, only people standing on a ladder of people who came before us. And then do your best to share what you have re-learned and don’t look down on the people who are the next rungs in the ladder you’re a late and small addition to.

        • Robin Wood May 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

          Eric, my aim is not to insult folk that have made the purchase rather to protect those folk that may have been away from wood for a generation and show them that they don’t need to spend $250 to split firewood.
          I had to look dyspeptic up in the dictionary. I was thinking yesterday about this axe as I was splitting some particularly gnarly old beech and trying to work out why it was that I took offence at it and what business it was of mine saying my piece. My problem with it is that the marketing implies that it is such a clever invention and that all those giants on who’s shoulders we stand were actually a bit dim and that if they just had an understanding of physics and design they could have done it so much better.
          I was indeed off with the age of the Tom Clarke vid but I think 4000 years is about the length of time hafted axes have been developed. As far as I know they appear in the Neolithic, hand axes (sharpened stones held in the hand) have been around from the Palaeolithic.

  3. Steve Kubien April 25, 2014 at 2:35 am #

    I’m not even certain how “new” this thing is. I seem to remember video of it circulating 2-4 years ago. Maybe it was a prototype?

    The only thing I know about splitting wood is that I kind of enjoy it. Recently I bought a Fiskars splitting axe & really like it (and its $50 Canadian price tag). However, I had no idea about this technique you describe. Holding the axe slightly askew “sounds” dangerous as hell but I think tomorrow I’ll lace up my steel toed boots & give it a go.

    Cheers.

    • Judith Garlick April 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

      Honestly it is not dangerous – probably safer in the long run as one does not become frustrated by a stubborn sod that refuses to split .
      I use a Oregon 6lb splitting maul with the little twist to crack through -such satisfaction !
      Judith Garlick

  4. Justin Tyson April 25, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks for saying what pretty much everyone who has split a reasonable quantity of firewood was thinking…

  5. Mike,aka midas. April 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    What a Girl!!!I’ll buy here a pair of “Jimmy Choo’s”if she’ll come n split my logs…lol.

  6. anobium April 25, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    The Gransfors splitting axe looks very similar to a French tool called a merlin (pronounced mairlan) available widely in France in outlets like Monsieur Bricolage for about €50.

  7. Bear Limvere April 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    Years ago my father bought one of those mauls with two small cams that supposedly spread the wood apart as the maul embedded in the log. I tried it, and went back to an axe. Several times. Can’t see how this thing is that much different.

  8. Hedge April 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    With the wood shown in the wonderaxe video and the Vido video, I could just about split it with my pocket knife.

  9. Richard Andrew Law April 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    Easier on the tired old limbs with an hydraulic splitter, but they cost, so does my body. I have two log burners that burn about 4 or five, mabbee 6 trailer loads a Winter, I would be dead splitting that much wood with an axe. Young man’s work.

    • Jonathan May 26, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

      My sentiments too!
      I am 53+, not as strapping as I once was. I built my own splitter (rotatry screw type) It is a breeze, no hydrualic’s, has done up to 20 inch log’s nibbling segements off the edges.
      That red axe looks clever, but the videos all seem to be using nice straight clear baby birch logs(as do the Hakke-Pilke processsor videos-logs which would split easily with my roselli axe (at a pinch) It wouldnt handle rough old oak or beech or elm branch or crotch sections

  10. Graeme April 29, 2014 at 1:05 am #

    Good one Robin, so I’m not crazy insisting on using an axe!
    I hadn’t heard of that technique, probably because we only ever had knotty and cross-grained wood blue gum to work with. What I particularly like is that it keeps the axe from carrying through into the dirt so saves the effort of stacking onto a block first. I’ll give it a go next time I’ve got some straight grained wood to work with.
    I don’t like the mauls but they are handy when the going gets really tough being designed to be hit and are very effective used opposite a normal firewood axe in the same block.

  11. Marc Chappe May 1, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    We’ve been heating with wood here on the coast of Maine for 45 years. We buy our hardwood [mostly red oak, maple, white birch] tree-length and green for $125/cord and work it up a year before we burn it. The cost of this Vipukirves “boutique” axe would pay for two cord of wood, or about half a winter’s worth. Bought my son a Fiskar’s X27 splitting axe for $50 at Home Depot and it’s as “slick as goose grease.” As for myself, I broke down a couple of years ago [as I entered my arthritic, late 60's] and bought a hydraulic splitter to replace my 8 lb. maul and wedges.

  12. Gareth Phillips May 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    After many years of splitting wood for heating I’m inclined to agree with Robin on this. I’ve watched a video of wood being split by this axe and I fail to see what is so good about it. The wood that was split was straight grained, easily split by most axes, though the holder in a tyre was a good idea. If it split gnarled wood, that would be something, but in which case why not use a wedge and maul?

  13. Heikki Kärnä August 24, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Obviously the Vipukirves/Leveraxe is still too complicated for some people to understand.
    Please, try to make yourself acquainted with this new way to split firewood safe and with great joy. You will not lose anything.
    http://vipukirves.fi/

    http://youtubedoubler.com/?video1=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D9ol57Y57-mw&start1=0&video2=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DUJt-UR9f_a4%26feature%3Dchannel%26list%3DUL&start2=&authorName=meahwahwah

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=vipukirves

    • Robin Wood August 25, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      Obviously Vipukirves have a large marketing budget.

      • Daniel Todd September 30, 2014 at 11:13 am #

        How is that relevant to whether this axe is whatever it claims to do?

  14. Phred Ziphell September 28, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    Let’s face it, unless one is extremely down on one’s luck (and if so, you have my sympathies), buying this one tool should not break the bank.

    As an example, if you’re willing to skip 1 or 2 fancy restaurant meals with a family, you can afford this tool.

    Yes, it is just a tool, nothing more or less, but if it makes someone feed good to forgo this “luxury” item, that’s fine, I have no argument with that. I don’t mind spending money on good tools, and already own Fiskar and Bruks (I wish my fellow Yankees would be as creative and obsessed with quality as fine Europeans brands).

    There are infinitely many more products that would be fairer game for the cost-to-performance argument…..but to me, it just falls flat when it comes to a difference of $100 or so.

    However, I respect the opinion of the reviewer, although if the company has bollocks (I do hope I’m saying it right) they should provide him with a test specimen to try on his own, no strings attached.

    I do hope, if the company is successful, that they can lower the price point to improve its distribution. I will buy this as a vote of confidence and support of a small company.

    BTW, excellent site Robin; I just discovered it and have a lot to learn ;-)

  15. Arch October 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    So funny that this is the only negative article among hundreds and writer haven’t even seen the Leveraxe. I am not even speaking about testing. Shame on you dude.

    But I can understand if you are just selling Gransfors, some kind of affiliate program?

    I don’t even hope to get answer, obviously you will just delete my comment :)

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