Sunday, February 19, 2012

REVIEW: Fiskars X25 Splitting Axe

After my experience reviewing Fiskars excellent new X7 hatchet last year, I've been curious about the rest of the X-series line as well. Fiskars offers high value and performance at very affordable prices, making them a sure contender for the "best axe for your buck" on the market.

This particular review will focus on their new X25 Splitting Axe, and - Yes, I know what you're thinking- "What the heck does a splitting axe have to do with bushcrafting?!" Well, in a roundabout way it does. Many bushcrafters practice their craft while car camping or at base camps, and a good splitting axe comes in handy in these types of situations when you want to keep a big, roaring campfire fed.

I chose this particular model to test over the longer 36" X27 Splitting Axe simply because the 28" X25 is easier to control for the average person. At a base camp with people of differing heights, the 28" handle is a bit more versatile in this respect. 

SPECIFICATIONS:
28" Total Length
Hardened/forged medium carbon steel head

Head weight: 4.03 lbs., Total weight: 5.42 lbs.

Country of Origin- Made in Billnäs, Finland 

Warranty- Lifetime

As noted in my Fiskars X7 Hatchet review, the newer sheaths have been redesigned to be more robust and are meant to be a permanent sheath solution, whereas the older thinly-made sheaths fell apart fairly quickly. Note the clever new rotating orange locking knob which helps to keep the axe firmly secured:


The shape of the head has also been redesigned and lightened to 4.03lbs, compared to the Super Splitting Axe's 4.25lb head weight. The X25's cutting edge (bit) is also wider and slightly more axe-like than the almost pure wedge shape of the previous Super Splitting Axe, as shown here:




Also, as noted in the photo above, the handle on the older Super Splitting Axe used to be slightly curved at the end. The X25 (along with the entire X-series) now has a straight handle, which Fiskars claims "perfected the balance and power-to-weight ratio, increasing swing speed to multiply power, much like an aluminum baseball bat." I can't verify this claim scientifically, but from my experience testing the X7 Hatchet and the X25, it seems to have definitely improved the performance and feel over the previous models.

The X25 is now rubberized at the bottom of the handle as well, which I consider a big improvement. Vibration is reduced and it also makes it more grippy when "going for the gold" on full power swings.




Performance Testing

I wanted to test the splitting performance of the X25 using both softwood and hardwood. The first test was to split a seasoned 13" Ponderosa Pine log shown here:




The first swing resulted in a large crack and the start of a split:




The second swing easily cleaved the log in two:




Splitting the rest of the pieces was a one swing affair, resulting in a nice pile of firewood ready for the wood stove:




Hardwood Split Test

For the hardwood splitting test, I used a piece of seasoned Elm in which half the log was a giant knot, pretty much a nightmare to split:



Here's a shot of the Elm from another angle right before attempting to split it:



The only realistic way for me to split this piece (which was essentially half a giant knot) was to turn it on its side and come down as hard as I could. This resulted in large crack and the start of a split from the main log:




The next swing did the trick:




The smaller piece that was split off was then set on the chopping block:



I was able to split this piece with just one swing:



 SUMMARY

I'm sure there are some who will prefer the older Super Splitting Axe to the new X25, but having used the previous model at our homestead, have to say that I'm partial to the newer model and its overall feel. The redesigned head\handle, at least from my testing, appears to be an improvement in overall comfort and performance. The bit also came very sharp for an axe in this price range, another plus. 


All in all the X25 is a comfortable, well balanced splitting axe, great for the homestead, campground, base camp or wherever you need to split logs for firewood. Throw in the redesigned sheath, more comfortable and balanced handle, as well as the increased performance, and it combines to make this Finnish "splitter" a home run in this category. Highly recommended.



About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tips & Tricks: An easy way to carry your axe while backpacking

Many backpacks have side netting as well as compression straps-- use them! They will easily and securely hold a sheathed axe up 28" long. For example, here's a 26" Hudson Bay Axe strapped to a Gregory Denali Pro 105 Pack:



If your axe doesn't have a sheath this obviously won't work as the axe bit will just tear the netting. Also, make sure to counterbalance the weight in your pack on the opposite side of the axe when doing this.


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wilderness Survival: If you have a clear plastic water bottle and sunshine, you have safe drinking water

I originally learned this trick a few years ago while going through Red Cross training, but it's a technique that's still not widely known. If you have a clear PET plastic bottle and fill it with germ and virus filled water and leave it out in the sun for at least 8 hours in hot weather (up to 48 hours in cold weather), the sun's UV radiation will render it safe to drink. This process is known as Solar Water Disinfection. Check out this video from CNN where they show people in undeveloped areas of Kenya purifying their water this way:


video


It's a great survival skill to know if you are close to a source of water of questionable quality and have run out of potable water. As always, be extra cautious and when in doubt, leave the water bottle in the sun for several hours longer than recommended if possible.


About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Testing the heat output of fatwood with assistance from my local fire department

Special thanks to the Estes Valley Fire Protection District for assisting me with temperature testing some different samples of fatwood\pitchwood for an upcoming article I'm working on. I still have more research and testing to do, but I can say at this point that fatwood burns hotter than both Trioxane and Petroleum Jelly soaked cotton balls. We also saw the highest consistent temperatures from a piece of solid Douglas Fir resin. Here's a shot of the fire captain testing a burn sample with an infrared heat camera:




Cool shot of the infrared camera during testing: