Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Two vintage double bits in a handle length chop off - 28" vs 36"

Awhile back there was s thread discussion on Blades and Bushcraft forum, "bigger is better", you can see here http://bladesandbushcraft.com/index.php/topic,4707.0.html, In it was discussions of axe sizes, from head weights to handle lengths.  I got to looking at two of my axes very closely and they were as close to the same as you can get without being the same, except for the handle lengths.  So a comparison was in order, here's what was tested

3.5lb.  Double Bit Plumb on 36" handle

3.5lb. Double Bit Mann Edge Tool Co on 28" handle

(those both are just great ol USA axes by the way)  here's the duo

head comparison, these are very close in overall lengths, edge lengths, profile, and sharpness.  Just a good pairing for this handle length test (Plumb top, Mann bottom)

this next photo is the Mann on top, Plumb bottom

Well let's get to it, all test were on hardwoods

First test I did was downward chopping, 20 swings each (36" haft Plumb right, 28" haft Mann left)

This was closer than I thought it would be but the 36" haft Plumb was the winner

Next test I did was chopping on a standing dead tree, 20 swings each.  Plumb left, Mann right.  I chopped at the same height so the hardness of the wood would be the same.  At first I chopped below, but the wood was clearly softer on the lower cut.  So this evened the playing field.

Here's the 28" haft Mann's cut

Here's the 36" haft Plumb's cut

This was surprising, The 28" Mann was the winner in this test.  Again it was close but the 28" Mann was deeper and it felt that way during the test as well.

So I've been thinking on my results as they didn't seem to confirm the theory of "Longer handles do more work".  The variables of the head sizes is as close to even as I could get.  The handle lengths is the variable I'm testing.  So after thinking on this I know why my results turned out the way they did.  The uncontrolled variable is ME and my Muscle Memory.

I pretty much only use my 36" Plumb for splitting, and it won the downward chopping test.  I'm tall( 6'4) so the 36" haft feels safer splitting for me and I'm USE to it.  The 28" Mann I as more hunched over and not as comfortable.  And that showed during my test.

I pretty much only use 3/4 axes and smaller for felling trees on my outings, and the 28" Mann won my standing tree chopping test.  I'm used to standing a little closer and the length of the 28" Mann just felt more natural for me cause that's what I'm USE to, the 36" Plumb did feel a little awkward for me standing further back from the tree.  I wasn't as confident in my aim.  And that showed during the test. 

So I think all my comparison really showed us is that being familiar with your tool is the best way to be efficient with it.  Changing tools all the time won't help you be proficient using it.  Muscle memory is a great thing to have.  You only get it when you really know your tool well.

Well this is just my results, I think I found the error pretty fast.  It would be great to see some other tests like this from you axe guys.  Maybe some of you that are accustomed to both lengths for the same tasks.  I love axes, they're my favorite tool, but I don't get to use them as part of my daily life.  So someone who does could probably do a more fair approach with this test. 

Anyways...hope you enjoyed it, using axes is just fun.  So I enjoyed this

Here's one last shot for the contestants:

Thanks for looking. 


  1. Yor statistics teacher would be proud. Lol

  2. First of all, GREAT vintage axes. :)

    Excellent analysis of the results! I agree completely. Unless you use axes of multiple sizes day in and day out, it's hard to objectively gauge how two axes compare.

    Also, as you mentioned, practice is the only way to get the most out of all our tools!