Chopper of choice...are they necessary? - Survivalist Forum
Survivalist Forum

Advertise Here

Go Back   Survivalist Forum > >
Articles Classifieds Donations Gallery Groups Links Store Survival Files


Notices

Knives, Swords & Axes Survival knives, multi-tools, gerber, buck, cold steel, leather man.....

Advertise Here
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-26-2019, 10:50 AM
ROCK6's Avatar
ROCK6 ROCK6 is online now
Survivor
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Georgia/Afghanistan
Posts: 5,573
Thanks: 6,169
Thanked 12,501 Times in 4,087 Posts
Default Chopper of choice...are they necessary?



Advertise Here

I think many here all find value in a quality axe and saw along with what we would typically have as part of our belt kit/EDC for activities outdoors. There are some who do prefer a larger bladed knife or machete, and then we delve a little into light-weight choppers such as the "bushcraft" or hunter's axes, hatchets/hand-axes, and region specific choppers like kukris, parangs, goloks, etc.

Location, environment, season, and of course, one's activities all play a role in making sure you have the right tool or most versatile tool for the job. How does that affect your choice when you add in tools you can pack in on foot, keep in a hunting bag or bugout bag?

On another front, we often think of big choppers and axes as tools for processing wood, which is often the primary choice for most. However, there are other tasks such as carving, trimming, breaking through ice, etc. With the focus on wood processing, how big of wood do you really need to process? This is where I've changed my view on the heavier choppers (axes over two pounds). I have also started including a saw of various sizes for very efficient wood processing on smaller pieces.

Still, what size of wood do you need process? Do you need to fell trees over 6", 8", ??? Much of my focus is on shorter term survival; I'm not packing to establish a homestead for 30 years like Richard Proenneke. I'm also not necessarily just talking ultralight-weight, distance backpacking...both are at different ends of the spectrum for tool needs.

Focusing more on the "bushcraft" or "woodcraft" (both very successful marking schemes), maybe a backcountry hunting trip, etc. where you pack in everything on your back, but you plan to establish a functional camp; maybe practice some bugout skills or establish a primitive short-term camp, etc., what is your pack-chopper of choice? What do you augment it with, and what do you expect it to accomplish?

Now, context is always an important aspect. Edged tools aren't the end all be all and I don’t want to discount one’s skills and outdoors knowledge, but my focus in on packable tools where you actually expect to use them and not just as a contingency. Ironically, most of these tools aren’t a necessity for a survival situation or even when practicing with minimalist kit or primitive type camping. They simply offer versatility, efficiency, and the value of being a niche tool. As mentioned early, location and environment are significant factors for one’s choice. I wouldn’t prefer a small forest axe in a swampy environment, nor would I choose a machete over an axe for a boreal forest outing; fully acknowledging it’s the skill of the user that is more important that the tool, but some tools are just better situated to certain environments.

Now, all that gibberish said, the more universal toolset is your basic belt-mounted fixed blade and EDC:



If I pack a chopper, I will already have a smaller fixed blade, pocket folder, and most likely a multitool or SAK. In all actuality, I would choose a saw before a chopper if I already have a fixed blade. If I pack the other essentials properly, I actually find a saw more useful, often lighter, and more efficient for numerous camp tasks.



Now, once you cover your typical “basics” and start considering a packable-chopper, what’s your preference for your location, and what do you expect to accomplish with it? We have large fixed blades (larger being 8” or larger for my definition) to include machetes and all cultural varietie;, and we have both traditional axes and lighter versions like tomahawks.





What I’ve come to find out is a saw is far more versatile for my typical needs. I don’t need to drop trees over 4-5” for large shelter construction; often much smaller saplings are more useful. I can collect branches just as easy with a saw for insulation or the majority of downed wood for use as firewood. But some choppers and axes can be more efficient and far more effective for some tasks. Trimming downed trees or large branches, battening smaller rounds for kindling (oh, no not the baton!), harsher uses such as digging, camp site clearing, trail clearing; creating wood flats for fittings, fire board, or other various projects, etc.

Is there a preference? When it comes to weight, I have really enjoyed the versatility of the lighter tomahawks. They are extremely robust, friction fit heads so the handles are easily replaced, even light chopping is far more effective than one’s belt knife, chopping on larger wood sucks, but smaller and often green wood is their forte. More wood chopping axes are very efficient for what they do, but they can also add a lot of head-weight. While press-fitted heads can have their handles replaced, it's a chore (I've only done it once and it took several days to find the right handle, carve to shape, fit the head, and then use a saw to make a wedge slot...very tedious for me).

Machetes are the best choice for most locations. I’ve known a few survivalist instructors who think the 12” machete is the king for survival tools and quite versatile across the largest spectrum of environments. I’ve found they suck on hard/seasoned wood for anything more than a few inches and convex grind really helps. The steel of most machetes is softer, a good thing to avoid serious damage, but you should always consider sharpener/file of some type and don’t expect a machete to do what an axe can.

Stepping up to large knives, to include the ” thick pry-bars and many of the kukri designs offer very robust and seriously functional tools. I know much of their hype is from marketing, but my big-knife hero, the late Ron Hood demonstrated the serious survival value of such large, heavy fixed blades. I’ve always felt “survival” folders and large fixed blades were the survival tools of experts as it does take a lot of practiced skill to really maximize such tools. The downside to such large knives are weight; they’re freaking heavy in comparison to other tools, and safety cautions. While just as damaging as an axe when chopping, the smaller profile (as opposed to 20”-plus axe handle) puts the blade much closer to your body during use. If you're tired, wet and bordering on hypothermia, numb hands, etc., those large blades and axes can be lethal tools to your own wellbeing.

Coming back to the saw, if I carry a saw (which I do almost always now), I find I can get by with a much lighter chopper (Frontier tomahawk, Buck Hoodlum, or machete). Much of that is based on my current location. While it would take longer, I could build a debris hut and process enough wood for a fire with just a belt-knife. A saw and light chopper just make some tasks much quicker and more efficient.

Weight and size are factors. I don’t carry a chopper on my person, they’re usually strapped to or inside my pack. I’ve hiked with larger blades in baldrics, or purpose built sheaths, but I honestly don’t care for such a large blade as part of my “first line” of gear.

Just some thoughts on my view of choppers and their purpose. I know a heavier felling axe or 30+inch bow saw would be very handy for serious construction, but I just don’t see myself trying to pack them 30 miles or more into the backcountry. I don’t view the bigger choppers as a necessity despite my love for them as a hobby. I do find a saw almost indispensable for 80% of my wood-processing needs and paired with a good belt-knife can do just about everything I need.

What say you? Chopper preferences, tasks/functions, is it something you are or are willing to pack for long distances? Or just leave’em out of the bugout bag, leave at home or in the truck/boat/four wheeler?

ROCK6
Quick reply to this message
The Following 7 Users Say Thank You to ROCK6 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-26-2019, 02:26 PM
cbl51 cbl51 is offline
Target Shooter
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Moved to Texas.
Age: 68
Posts: 455
Thanks: 289
Thanked 1,092 Times in 319 Posts
Default

I leave 'em.

I used to be a fan of the big choppers in my younger days, but then age and wear and tear made me a bit smarter. I sold off my Randall 14 and heavy others, and went with a light weight saw or compact hatchet. I found I can cut and quarter wood faster and easier with a good saw. But then, I never did that much wood processing. Growing up in Eastern hardwood forest environment, it was easy to find finger size sticks for a small fire. Good enough to heat up a can of Hormel chilli or Dintry Moore beef stew. Water for tea was easy on a small fire.

Later in life when I got into the ultra light back packing, a small stove was used. Freeze dried food and ready to eat stuff didn't need much fire. And I studied the people who really had to make do in the woods; the pioneers.

In the Cumberland gap area of West Virginia and Kentucky, there are museums for the frontiersmen. The era of the Last Of The Mohican kind of frontier. The days of a single shot rifle for all the needs. If that one shot was't enough, then got down to tomahawks. The Tomahawk was the all use frontier weapon and tool. Chop kindling, bash in the skull of an attacking Indian, whatever. The knives the frontiersmen carried were light weight cutting tools. In effect, like large butcher knives of the day.

Going forward to the 1800's, and westward expansion, it was still a tomahawk. The Kentucky rifle was phased put for the plains rifle, or Hawken, and the skinning knives were the same kitchen butcher pattern, and the tomahawk was for the one shot gone and theres still problem. In the Mountain man museums in Colorado and Wyoming, it was pretty much the same as in the museums of the 1700's frontiersmen in the east. Single shot rifles, thin bladed skinning knives and tomahawks.

These days, roaming mourned the Texas cedar covered hill country, I keep a light folding saw in my daypack. I love saws. Not very romantic, but it gets it done. I have no use for heavy chopping blades. Then time there was a real emergency, the wife of a friend broke her ankle on a rocky trail, I and he husband both had Swiss Army knives with a saw blade. In 10 minutes we had a stretcher made and carried her out.

I'm an old man and will take the easy way out. Gimme a saw. If I were a mountain man or 1700 frontiersman, I'd take a tomahawk.

Edit add; Oh by the way, I agree on the 12 inch machete. Works great on a variety of vegitation, small saplings, and hostile two legged varmints. Interesting point, Jeff Randall, of Esee knives made the statement in an interview, that 98% of the modern knife market is B.S. and hype. I tend to agree with him. He teaches survival courses in the Central American jungles and see's more real survival situations with a machete used than any other tool. I know from my own experience that my wife and Had on our adventure tour in the Costa Rica jungle tour, that all the guides carried a 12 inch machete and a SAK. And these were people born and raised there. The pros.
Quick reply to this message
The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to cbl51 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-26-2019, 06:47 PM
ROCK6's Avatar
ROCK6 ROCK6 is online now
Survivor
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Georgia/Afghanistan
Posts: 5,573
Thanks: 6,169
Thanked 12,501 Times in 4,087 Posts
Default

I hope it's not a Freudian Slip if I say as the older I get, my proclivity towards large choppers shrinks to much small sizes? I too do more lightweight backpacking which really doesn't require much more than a mini multitool or tiny SAK at most. I still enjoy doing more leisurely "bushcraft" camping where I make a concerted effort to bring the bigger tools out; however, I'm not humping them long distance and I don't normally "need" them for my more routine backpacking.

ROCK6
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to ROCK6 For This Useful Post:
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Old 08-26-2019, 07:05 PM
JLeeS1983 JLeeS1983 is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 242
Thanks: 68
Thanked 264 Times in 142 Posts
Default

I made it so I could convert my tomahawk into a saw so I didn't have to carry a separate saw. I stole the idea from zippo. I've cut 4" trees quite easily with it. I need to redesign the handle since I'm limited to the sheath to keep tension on the blade. It keeps it tight, but eventually it will probably loosen up. Plus the handle was cut down and that limits me to an odd saw length that isn't easily available. Sometimes a take a machete instead, but depends on what I'm planning on doing. The machete I modified so I can use it to dig easier than carrying my trowel. I never really was a big fan of large, heavy knives and the fact the machete is thin and about 2" shorter after modifying it is the only reason I will carry it.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	IMG_20180729_091441.jpg
Views:	27
Size:	50.8 KB
ID:	290944  
Quick reply to this message
The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to JLeeS1983 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-26-2019, 07:43 PM
BASS BASS is offline
BASS
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: NJ
Age: 75
Posts: 1,610
Thanks: 1,368
Thanked 2,558 Times in 990 Posts
Default

I have but don't use larger axes. I have given the best ones away to "a much younger man who owns 7 acres of woods around his house".

My SUV has; LEATHERMAN Wave w/pocket sharpening stone; my large SVEN Saw w/extra blades; a "boys axe"; a Stanley hatchet with files for both axes and saw; a machete; tarps and cordage light/heavy; towing chains and sling equipment if stuck off the road; entrenching tool; fire kit; cooking equipment and the list continues.... I just acquired a double bit cruisers axe I need to haft.

I need to put in/restock: sleeping bag; flashlights w/batteries; food and water and some other things to keep me going "If/When SHTF".
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to BASS For This Useful Post:
Old 08-27-2019, 04:09 AM
ROCK6's Avatar
ROCK6 ROCK6 is online now
Survivor
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Georgia/Afghanistan
Posts: 5,573
Thanks: 6,169
Thanked 12,501 Times in 4,087 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JLeeS1983 View Post
I made it so I could convert my tomahawk into a saw so I didn't have to carry a separate saw. I stole the idea from zippo. I've cut 4" trees quite easily with it. I need to redesign the handle since I'm limited to the sheath to keep tension on the blade. It keeps it tight, but eventually it will probably loosen up. Plus the handle was cut down and that limits me to an odd saw length that isn't easily available. Sometimes a take a machete instead, but depends on what I'm planning on doing. The machete I modified so I can use it to dig easier than carrying my trowel. I never really was a big fan of large, heavy knives and the fact the machete is thin and about 2" shorter after modifying it is the only reason I will carry it.
That's a brilliant and innovated idea even if you "borrowed it". Very cool and is one way to have some versatility without sacrificing extra ounces...love it!

Take a look at how the Dustrude saws have a handle/clamp. The could possibly work with a modified hawk handle; it would be almost the reverse of the Dustrude, but would work if your sheath anchoring point was a harder fixed point:



ROCK6
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to ROCK6 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-27-2019, 06:15 AM
JLeeS1983 JLeeS1983 is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 242
Thanks: 68
Thanked 264 Times in 142 Posts
Default

That's not a bad idea. I was thinking of trying to incorporate the tension nut from a hacksaw, but the cam lock might be easier. Going to give me something to mess around with for awhile.
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to JLeeS1983 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-29-2019, 01:35 PM
Vodka Wizard's Avatar
Vodka Wizard Vodka Wizard is online now
Prepared
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 350
Thanks: 204
Thanked 528 Times in 230 Posts
Default

Awesome thread and a dilemma I'm dealing with currently.

I've referenced my situation here on other threads but for the sake of conversation I'll recap: most of my bushcrafting happened in the northwoods, pine forest around Lake Superior. A hatchet was absolutely going to go with me on every trip. Pines don't generally drop in easily collectable bits. Plus, I got rather good at making myself lean-to's with the generous coverage a large pine bough chopped at the low branch provided. It was work that could have been done with a knife or saw, but the hatchet saved on the calories and sweat in such a way that it was worth it.

I was also not carrying a shelter, so I was making it each evening. The plan at the time was that worst case I was a 7 day walk to my parent's rural home. I had a large pack to more than last me for that.

Now I'm very urban. And anything within a 3 days walks realistically with my wife is suburban sprawl of chain malls and parking lots. I don't have a concrete bugout location, so I'm learning the "what-ifs" of suburban nomad ideas (definitely not staying in the city proper).

There just isn't enough wooded area or wildlife close enough to have anyplace sustainable for much, and I'm not naive enough to think "oh I'll just live off the land!"

So now bugging in and scavenging will be the name of the game for me until I can land a better bugout plan. And that means I've had to heavily reconsider my well used hatchet. She ain't light. Trusty and durable, yes. But in the midsouthern burbs, unless the **** hits in January, I just don't expect I'll be constructing shelters and making fires.

I'd get more use out of a crowbar than a machete, I'd wager.
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to Vodka Wizard For This Useful Post:
Old 08-29-2019, 03:04 PM
dontbuypotteryfromme's Avatar
dontbuypotteryfromme dontbuypotteryfromme is offline
Survivor
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Far north queensland Australia
Posts: 19,831
Thanks: 4,427
Thanked 15,683 Times in 8,298 Posts
Default

I pack a fiskars x5 on the motorcycle for camping but it is kind of specific. So all the wood is generally stripped from campsites and so I usually buy wood and chop it down to kindling.

Otherwise the hammer function is pretty useful mechanically on the bike and to mash in tent pegs.

But I don't carry a fixed blade as the little axe is sharp enough to do any knife stuff.

I do carry a folder.
Quick reply to this message
The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to dontbuypotteryfromme For This Useful Post:
Old 08-29-2019, 04:56 PM
ROCK6's Avatar
ROCK6 ROCK6 is online now
Survivor
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Georgia/Afghanistan
Posts: 5,573
Thanks: 6,169
Thanked 12,501 Times in 4,087 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vodka Wizard View Post
I'd get more use out of a crowbar than a machete, I'd wager.
Never say never Axes are pretty good "all-round" tools. While I'm very critical for long distance backpacking, I think they have significant value if carrying one long-distance isn't a necessity outside of a boreal forest. They are still an effective sub-urban breaking tool and can help do some minor demolition.

I think there's value of a hatchet in the great northern climate (if not a small forest axe) once you get outside suburbia, but definitely if bugging in. You may fine some unoccupied wood fence and as you mentioned, an axe/hatchet is pretty efficient at processing wood (along with a good saw).

ROCK6
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to ROCK6 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-29-2019, 09:58 PM
cbl51 cbl51 is offline
Target Shooter
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Moved to Texas.
Age: 68
Posts: 455
Thanks: 289
Thanked 1,092 Times in 319 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROCK6 View Post
I think there's value of a hatchet in the great northern climate (if not a small forest axe) once you get outside suburbia, but definitely if bugging in. You may fine some unoccupied wood fence and as you mentioned, an axe/hatchet is pretty efficient at processing wood (along with a good saw).

ROCK6
If bugging in, consider this; noise, or the lack of can be veeeery important. Chopping sounds carry a ways, and a saw can deal with wood in a much quieter way.

A very good example of this ws the young Air Force captain that was shot down in Bosnia. He was hiding in hardwood forest, and his SAK with saw blade was way more useful in cutting branches to make his hidyhole more camouflaged. He said his 9mm Beretta was useless for shooting any rabbits, and his survival knife was too noisy to chop with. Captain O'Grady is a great first hand example of what really works and what is useless weight and BS.

I read his accounts, and an air pistol and better saw would have been more useful than his issued Beretta and survival knife.
Quick reply to this message
The Following User Says Thank You to cbl51 For This Useful Post:
Old 08-31-2019, 11:13 PM
Vodka Wizard's Avatar
Vodka Wizard Vodka Wizard is online now
Prepared
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 350
Thanks: 204
Thanked 528 Times in 230 Posts
Default

Lots of flash flooding in my area yesterday. Went down to the river I like to swim my labrador in. Lots of stuff on the flood level knocked down. Was wasting a Saturday morning with coffee and hiking anyway, decided to practice making a fire with wet wood.

Breaking up that wood with my RAT 3 was a chore and a half. Got enough going that I could have maybe got some water boiling.

But opening up the wet wood to dry was a huge chore. I know I said in my last post I was reconsidering but I'm now back firmly on team hatchet.
Quick reply to this message
The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Vodka Wizard For This Useful Post:
Reply

Bookmarks



Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Survivalist Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.
Password:
Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.
Email Address:
Gender
Insurance
Please select your insurance company (Optional)

Log-in

Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.



Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:53 AM.


Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Optimisation provided by DragonByte SEO (Lite) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
Copyright © Kevin Felts 2006 - 2015,
Green theme by http://www.themesbydesign.net