This is a great video about axes put together by Bernie Weisgerber of the U.S. Forestry Service. It's packed full of information and is quite long. I believe that working with hand tools is an important skill to know, so it's definately worth watching. Since the video is lengthy (over an hour) I've gone through and listed some of the major sections so that you can easily browse the video without having to scroll through the entire thing to see what is being discussed.
Hanging An Axe (2:48)
For those you who didn't already know, hanging an axe means to attaching a new handle (haft) onto the metal part (head). He goes through what makes a good handle; grain direction, wood type, etc. Before putting a new handle in, you might need to take out an old handle, and he demonstrates how to remove the wood in an efficient way.
Following that he starts to explain and demonstrate how to properly put a new handle into the head of the axe, including cutting, rasping, and sanding the handle, then adding a new wedge to tighten everything. Finally, oiling down the handle with linseed oil for protection.
Interesting to know that the expression, "getting the hang of it", comes from this, i.e. putting a new handle on.
He starts out talking about the different kinds of sharpening tools, the primary one being the single cut mill bastard file of various sizes and different handle configurations. Also mentioned is a file card for cleaning the filing out of the file, and round axe stone.
He then explains how a double bit axe is designed. The two blades are not ground to the same angle. One edge typically has 25 degree grind, and that would be the good chopping edge. The other side is ground to a steeper angle for more blunt use, the grubbing edge is the term he uses, and you use that side of the axe to chop roots and branches near the ground, that way you keep the good side sharper. Then he gives a tip on how to not get mixed up when the axe is in use.
He then demonstated how to properly file the axe and to remove the nicks. It's best just to watch him at this point.
After the filing, then you use the axe stones, and in a circular motion rub the stone on the axe with both the course and fine side. Eventually, looking at the edge of the blade in a strong light, there should be absolutely no reflection off the edge, otherwise it is not sharp. Another way to test the sharpness of the blade is to see if it will shave the hairs (off you arm for example).
The last thing you need to do is to protect the axe head by rubbing some beeswax and oil mixture onto to metal. This will keep the axe from rusting.
He also cautions not to use a high speed electrical grinder on your axe head in order to sharpen it. It spins too quickly, causing too much friction and heat which will draw the temper out of the metal which will ruin the axe.
Short History of the Axe (30:20)
He goes through a few kinds of axes and their design through time, eventually leading to the addition of the poll (the counter balance weight opposite the blade) that eleminates the wobble of the axe when you swing it.
Single And Double Bit Axes (32:44)
Bernie then shows us various models of single bit (poll) axes, including the Jersey, Michigan, and Dayton patterns. The handles as well can be straight, or have a slight curve to them.
Double bit axe patterns include the Cruiser, Michigan, and Western models.
He then starts to show us some lesser known axes including the Australian competition axe, a short 'boys' axe, swedish woodsman patterns.
The video then start to switches to another gentleman, Ian Barlow, who talks about the proper positioning when chopping a log in various situations. This includes keeping the axe handle from hitting your feet (by keeping it parallel to the ground at it's lowest point and keeping your swing area clear.
Splitting Axes (42:12)
Bernie is back again talking about the different splitting axes (axes to split wood for fire wood) and mauls. Shown are the axe-eye maul, and the newly designed 'super-splitter.
He then shows us how strong of a man he is by swinging those axes and splitting some firewood while showing us the proper technique of course.
Giving us a trick to help reduce the axe from getting stuck into a log, he tells us that if you sgive the axe head a slight twist right at impact, it will help the wood split more openly.
Broad Axes (44:07)
Broadaxes are a special axe designed for log flattening work, usually with an offset handle to reduce the risk or banging your knuckles when chopping. He shows us the three most common patterns of the Pennsylvania, the New Orleans, and Canadian.
Broad Axe Hewing (47:10)
Hewing is the act of taking a round log and chopping off wood or squaring, making flat sides.
Using a single bit axe the log is scored or notched along it's length. The broad axe is then used in small motions to chop the wood notches off, without 'barking your knuckles'.
Aa adze ia an axe but has the blade head perpendicular then that of a normal axe. Similar to the broad axe, it is used to flatten a round log but by standing on top of the log instead of besides it. He shows us a few models including the Carpenter's model and the Shipwright's model.
A hatchet is basically a smaller version of an axe. Unlike axes which are named for the geographical region that they were developed in, hatches have more utilitarian names. Discussed are the claw hatchet, broad hatchet, shingle hatchet, hunter's hatchet, and the tommy axe.
You'll notice that throughout the video, there is a large emphasis on safety. Axes are sheathed, and appropriate clothing is worn as well.
It certainly is an educational video, much historical information was given, but aside from that, knowing how to properly care for, sharpen, and use different models of axes is important knowledge to have.