best axe

The Best Axe

How to Choose the Best Axe

One of the oldest form of crude tools was a stone axe head. And for good reason, axes can be used for chopping wood, skinning hides, and a million other things. That’s why having the best axe around is always a great idea. On the list of man’s tools, it probably ranks right behind fire, and who is to say the first fire wasn’t started with wood chopped by a primitive axe? History has shown that the original Stone Age axe had no handle. It was a simply a stone wedge that used a combination of dual inclined planes to reduce the power required to split wood.

Over the centuries, the axe concept was continually improved upon, with archeologists discovering axes made of various stones and metals all over the world. Eventually, man began to fasten a handle to the blade. This was the creation of the modern axe. All modern axes have two basic parts: the blade and the handle, also called the helve.

Anyone who has ever had to cut firewood using a dull axe can tell you that, it is no easy task. I have seen many callused hands as a result of using a cheap axe. A dull axe can make cutting the smallest logs an intense chore. A rough axe handle can also increase the impact force you feel per cut.  These reverberations are transferred to your bones and joints and can cause discomfort and fatigue.

All of this can make your axe a lot harder to hold onto and significantly increase your workload. If you are like most of us, you are probably ready for a new axe.

How to Choose the Best Axe

It is important that you understand that your body type will be a major factor in choosing the best axe. Also your exact cutting scenario will be equally important. If you are going to be cutting wood, you need a cutting axe. If the majority of your work is splitting firewood, you would want to choose a splitting axe. There are three main purposes an axe serves:

Cutting – A cutting axe is specifically designed to cut against the grain. It works like a heavy razor blade.

Splitting – This blade is wider than a cutting axe. The extra width in the angle helps tear the log in half.

Shaping – This blade is designed to produce an even cut. This is required when converting logs to beams.

Let’s take a second to examine the differences between a cutting axe and a splitting axe. Cutting axes differ from splitting axes in their construction. Most cutting axes have a shallow wedge angled blade. This gives you added precision but sacrifices a little power.

Splitting axes, on the other hand, are more likely to have a deeper angle. This deeper angle allows the splitting blade to penetrate deeper into the wood and assist it in chopping. Better penetration is the key to lowering the power required to split logs.

Over the last several thousand years, the axe design has remained semi-consistent with only the blade material really making improvements from copper to bronze, then from iron to steel. It wasn’t until recently that axe makers made significant improvements in these categories:

Blade material

Axes have seen a drop in overall weight and an increase in strength by utilizing new high carbon steel blades. They can also be infused with other state-of-the-art materials. This has also allowed for axe heads to become as sharp as razors.

Blade shape

There are 100s of axe head shapes. New technology has allowed for improved beveling and angles. All this means less resistance per chop and more control of swing.

Handle material

Carbon fiber composites can significantly reduce weight and user stress. The impact of your cut is absorbed and your cutting force is magnified.

Weight distribution

A perfectly balanced axe can be wielded with proficiency. It should balance evenly while holding the blade in your hand.

Your personal traits and cutting scenarios are a big factor to weigh when choosing the best axe. These are the 5 most important points to consider:

Your height

It is important to choose an axe that matches your height. If you choose an axe that is too short, you will strain your back, if your choose one that is too long, you can lose cutting power.

Your power

You should feel the weight of your potential axe to make sure you can easily manipulate it. You don’t want an axe that is greatly overweight. It will increase your fatigue and the chances of missed cuts.

How often you will be cutting

It is important to consider how often you will be using your axe. If you are planning to do some serious woodwork you should consider spending the extra money on a high end brand.

What you will be cutting

Do you plan on cutting a lot of oak, pine, or birch? Each wood has its particular peculiarities that can affect your axe’s performance. Knowing your wood is an important part of becoming an axe smith.


How will you transport your axe? Are you expecting to carry it for long periods of time? Is it primarily for camping? All of these questions can help determine which axe makes the most sense for you.

The right axe should feel comfortable and precise. It shouldn’t be too heavy and it should be tailored to your specific needs. With all of these factors choosing the right axe might seem overwhelming.  Let’s take a look at a 5 of the bestselling axes on the market.

Axe Comparison Chart

ImageAxe ModelPriceRating
Fiskars X27Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe, 36-Inch$$$4.8
Fiskars X15 Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe, 23.5-Inch$$$4.8
 Estwing E3-FF4Estwing E3-FF4 4-Pound “Fireside Friend” Wood Splitting Axe/Maul with Shock Reduction Grip$$4.8
 Estwing E44ASE 16-Inch Special Edition Camper’s Axe Estwing E44ASE 16-Inch Special Edition Camper’s Axe$$4.7
 Estwing E24ASEA 14-Inch Special Edition Sportsman’s Axe Estwing E24ASEA 14-Inch Special Edition Sportsman’s Axe$$4.6
Estwing E45AEstwing E45A 26-Inch Camper’s Axe$$$4.5
 Gerber Gator Combo Axe II Gerber Gator Combo Axe II $$$4.5
 Graintex CA1752 Single Bit Camp Axe Graintex CA1752 Single Bit Camp Axe$4.5
TEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp AxeTEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp Axe$4.3
 Seymour AX-P3 3-1/2-Pound Pulaski Axe Seymour AX-P3 3-1/2-Pound Pulaski Axe$$4.1

Fiskars x27

It only takes one swing to realize that the x27 is a cut above the rest. The Fiskars x27 super splitting axe is the culmination of years of research, design, and use. This highly advanced axe originates from Finland. When Fiskars created the x27 design, their goal was to create an axe that was simple but highly effective. They definitely succeeded.

Fiskars x27


Axe Head

The x27 incorporates an ultra-sharp edge. The axe head uses optimum blade technology to increase splitting power. The use of a softer metal allows the blade to become extremely sharp and the beveled design creates a splitting action as soon as the blade impacts the wood.

The non-stick coating on the axe head works great and the narrow blade design helps keep this axe from getting lodged in your logs. The 27 can easily cut hardwoods such as oak or aspen.

Balanced Weight

This axe uses state of the art material to increase strength and lower weight. The 4-pound head can easily turn logs into kindling.

 Advanced Handle

The patented FiberComp handle is specially designed to absorb the impact shock of your swing. This longer handle translates into more splitting power.

Blade Lock

This locks over your axe head preventing the blade from catching or dulling. The easy-open lock is located at the back of the axe head can be released in seconds. All this means you can transport your axe with greater ease and safety.

Lifetime Warranty

If your handle cracks, you just contact Fiskars and they will replace your damaged axe.


  • ideally suited for taller users
  • state of the art blade angling
  • lifetime warranty
  • perfect power to weight ratio
  • state of the art design provides maximum force


  • due to its longer handle, it is a little more common to over swing
  • loss of some portability due to longer size


The Fiskars x27 definitely holds its own against the competition. Fiskar’s excellent quality control and advanced manufacturing techniques make the x27 stand out among the crowd.


The Fiskars x27 is a great multipurpose axe and a great addition to any outdoorsman’s tool set. The added technology really makes this axe a great solution.

Fiskars x15

It is lighter and stronger than its predecessors. Fiskar’s patent pending design is a break-thru in axe technology. It’s a great alternative to a full size felling axe. When it comes to clearing trees, or cutting downed trees into logs, few midsized felling axes can compare.

Fiskars x15


Axe Head

The x15 incorporates ultra-sharp edge technology into its hardened steel blade. This new axe head is thinner and stronger than previous models.  The use of softer metals allows the blade to become extremely sharp, and the thin blade penetrates deep into the trees with ease.

Balanced Weight

This axe incorporates space age composites to reduce its overall weight. New carbon fiber composites have been specially engineered to increase strength and durability.

 Advanced Handle

A vibration-absorbing chamber keeps your cuts stable by deferring the impact of your chop and dispersing it within the handle. The carbon fiber reduces stress and fatigue and, if your handle shows any signs of breakage, Fiskars will send you a replacement model at no cost.

Blade Lock

Fiskars’ easy to use blade lock allows the x15 to be easily stored. The carrying handle is the perfect size for transportation and it keeps your blade sharp and safe.

Lifetime Warranty

You know a product is built with superior materials when the manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty. Even though the x15’s handle is advertised as indestructible, there is always a slim chance your product could have an issue. If you happen to be one of these unusual cases, you can have peace of mind knowing that your product is protected for life.


  • lifetime warranty
  • lightweight
  • cutting edge blade technology
  • blade sheath


  • due to its smaller size, it can be uncomfortable for taller users
  • slight loss in cutting power due to size


The x15 has some unique features that make it stand out amongst the competition. The shorter handle gives it more mobility with little to no loss in chopping power.


If you need a portable axe that can produce results similar to a full size, the x15 is a solid choice for you. The new material used in the construction makes the x15 lightweight and much easier to handle than the competition.

Estwing E3-FF4

The Fireside Friend is a great camping tool, especially because there are a lot of scenarios when a full size axe is not reasonable. You can use it to easily split logs, and the hammer side of the axe head can be helpful when it’s time to nail tent stakes in. The Estwing Fireside Friend truly is the perfect tool for camping.

Estwing E3-FF4


Axe Head

The 4-pound head is perfectly suited for splitting logs with the grain. The patent pending double-tempered axe head design utilizes three tools in one. The E3-FF4 has a maul/splitting axe head that combines many characteristics of a felling axe.

Balanced Weight

Because of the E3-FF4’s lightweight design, you don’t have to lift the axe above your head to make your splits. This increases safety and accuracy by creating the ideal leverage and power for easy wood splitting.


The Estwing E3-FF4 is a small size splitting axe weighing in at 4lb of true cutting power. The Fireside Friend is the perfect size for portability, making it the ultimate camping tool.

 1-Piece Forged Steel

The one piece forged steel design makes the Fireside Friend an incredibly strong axe. It also increases its durability and lifespan by decreasing any weak points.

 Advanced Materials

The Blue UV coating and shock reduction vinyl grip handle reduce impact shock by 65%. This added comfort means you can cut longer and stronger without fatigue setting in.


  • 1-piece design
  • double tempered head
  • balanced
  • made in the USA


  • no sheath
  • small size


Estwing hit a homerun with the E3-FF4. Taking the place of your axe, and your sledge hammer, the E3-FF4 is the culmination of years of experience in axe production. The Fireside Friend balances portability with splitting power.


The Estwing E3-FF4 Fireside Friend makes keeping the campfire healthy easier and quicker. The solid steel one-piece design makes it a sturdy alternative to traditional axes. Whether camping in the middle of a forest or splitting logs for your fireplace, the Fireside Friend is an easy to use tool.

Estwing E45A

The E45A can be used for felling full-size trees without giving up any log splitting power. The E45 is a small to mid-sized axe. It is very similar to large hatchet. The Estwing Axe Company has been providing top quality tools to outdoorsmen since 1923. They are recognized around the world as one of the premier axe manufacturers. This axe also includes a lifetime warranty. It’s a great axe for around $40

Estwing E45A


Axe Head

This unique axe head is designed to be useful in a number of traditionally knife scenarios. The E45 can be used to notch wood and you can even use it to create feather sticks to start a fire. It comes very sharp from the factory and the axe head has an elongated beard like broadaxes. Its compact design is particularly suited to chopping small to medium logs.

Balanced Weight

This axe weighs in at 3.7 pounds. The axe is expertly balanced to increase your power per swing. The balance also helps decrease missed cuts and splits.


This axe is specifically designed for camping. The 26in design means you can store it in your camping gear without having to choose between your axe and other essential tools.

1-Piece Forged Steel

The E45A is constructed from a 1-piece forged steel design. This means an increase in durability and a decrease in weight.

Advanced Materials

A nylon-vinyl deep cushion grip ensures heightened accuracy with every swing. It also absorbs the majority of the impact from your chop. You can even use the E45A one handed comfortably.


  • 1-piece design
  • double tempered head
  • balanced
  • made in the USA


  • no sheath
  • small size
  • loss of leverage due to its smaller size


The E45A provides an inexpensive solution to your campfire needs. It is much more affordable than the competition, costing almost half as much as the leading competitor’s brands.


The combination of different axe components makes this a very useful companion to have in the wild. If you are planning a camping a trip and are in need of an affordable mid-sized axe with excellent chopping power, the Estwing E45A is a solid choice.

Gerber Gator 2

A traditional small sized axe or hatchet can be useful when it comes to splitting medium to small size logs. This trade in size vs. power can leave you at a disadvantage in certain scenarios. The Gator Combo Axe solves this problem with a unique twist. Housed inside the patented lightweight fiberglass filled nylon handle is a 10in saw blade.

Gerber Gator 2



The Gator II includes the benefits of a small axe melded perfectly with the accuracy of a saw. The stealthily hidden saw blade easily springs into action in under a second. This innovative design continues to impress campers worldwide.


The Gator II is specifically designed to work in the roughest conditions. The space age materials provide much more strength than its predecessor, while not sacrificing weight.

Axe Head

The forged steel head of the Gator II is specifically designed to retain its sharpness. The 2.7in blade can easily split medium to long size logs with ease. The blade is slightly curved to assist in the penetration of logs and the blade is slightly wedged to help split firewood.


A patented fiberglass-filled nylon handle means you can swing your Gator II with confidence. The improved weight-to-power ratio means the Gator II can handle extreme workloads without any compromise in results.


The overall length of the Gator II is 15.6 in. This makes it the perfect travel axe as it can easily be stored in your backpack. The Gator II lets you free up space and backpack weight while increasing your ability to handle wood-working situations.


  • light weight and small size
  • durable
  • multi-purpose
  • nylon carrying case
  • one handed use
  • textured handle


  • loss of power
  • one handed


The Gerber Gator II provides allot of unique features that can make your camping experience much more enjoyable. Its short size and lightweight make it a better choice than competitor’s brands and no other brand incorporates a built-in saw.


The Gerber Gator II is a perfect example of merging two very necessary tools to create a light-weight multipurpose device. The Gator II improves on its predecessor in a number of ways, including size and strength. All of these points make this a better axe and a great addition to your camping tool kit.

flooring ideas

Flooring Ideas by Room

Find Flooring Ideas for EVERY Room

The best feature of current flooring options is the wide variety of types, colors, styles and materials from which to choose. Unfortunately, all that variety can get very confusing, so it makes sense to approach your flooring decisions by first looking at the function of the specific room you’re going to floor. After you determine the function of the room, you will be able to narrow down the type of flooring that will go best with that room.

Let’s take a tour of your home to recognize some of the practical and aesthetic factors that should influence your flooring choices.

Begin at the entryways to your home. Whether the front hall, or a mudroom off the kitchen, these are the places where steady traffic brings dirt, moisture, salt and just about everything else mother nature has to offer into your home. Any stains or wear-and-tear are going to be far more evident here, so choose a sturdy material that can withstand a lot of pounding. Vinyl or laminate are good choices, as they hold up well in high moisture areas. For more formal entryways, choose ceramic tile or even wood parquet. And don’t forget that a well-placed area rug not only traps dirt and moisture, but also adds style and warmth.

best flooring ideas

Next, move into the living room, which, along with the family room, is typically the focal point for family activities, and also the areas you are most likely to entertain guests. Here you want flooring that is more formal, yet comfortable. The ideal solution for these rooms is carpeting, which has styles and fibers that range from the very formal to casual. Another good choice, hardwood floors add elegance and warmth, and an area rug helps to soften the room.

flooring ideas for living room

The dining room is often an extension of the living room, but with a difference. There is always the concern of food and liquid spills, so you need a wear-resistant and stain-resistant flooring. Fortunately, most carpet styles now offer stain and moisture resistance, so that the same carpeting used in the living room can flow through to the dining room. Another option is the durability of wood, laminate or tile in the dining room. As long as the choice complements the styles of adjacent rooms, and your furniture, then you can choose whichever flooring best suits your own fashion sense.

Now let’s move into the kitchen, where there is usually high foot traffic, more spills than you may care to admit, and generally more cleaning required due to cooking. In addition, this is an area where you want to minimize the possibility of slipping. Wood laminate, vinyl or linoleum has traditionally been the best choice in the kitchen. Recently, ceramic tile has gained in popularity, but keep in mind that tile is harder on the feet, and can be colder in the winter months. On the other hand, ceramic tile makes a dramatic statement in the kitchen, and works in both contemporary and traditional homes.

kitchen flooring ideas

The bathroom is an area where your flooring must be waterproofed, washable and non-slip. Here you can use vinyl, ceramic tile and even some of the newer laminate and wood products that are specifically designed to hold up in high moisture areas. Again, area rugs add a soft touch, and are much easier to clean than wall-to-wall bathroom carpeting. Be sure any area rugs or mats are non-slip.

Finally we come to the bedrooms, where the furniture and coordinating fabrics may take precedence over the flooring. Because foot traffic is less of a problem here, stains and wear are minimal. Carpeting is the traditional choice in bedrooms, but wood or laminate floors can also be a good choice, again enhanced with matching decorative area rugs. The key is to choose neutral flooring that doesn’t distract from the room décor. Any good hardwood flooring contractor can point you in the right direction on which to choose. You want to be able to change the colors and textures of your bedroom as often as you want without having to change the flooring as well.

bedroom floor ideas

In general, choose your flooring to follow the function of the room, but always keep in mind that your house is not a group of separate rooms, but a home. So whatever your flooring choices, be sure to blend them with the style of your home, and the overall decorating theme of your furniture and accessories.

basement sub floor

Install a Basement Subfloor System

How To Install An Insulated Floating Subfloor System

Before you can start installing an insulated floating subfloor in your basement, the first thing that you are going to have to do is clean it out if you’ve got a bunch of junk down there. There could be a ton of different reasons to put down a subfloor, but one of the best reasons for this type is to help keep your space warmer when you happen to be below-grade and to protect your finished basement floor.

If you’ve got a concrete slab or even a finished floor that tends to get really cold, this could be an excellent solution. But to take full advantage of it and make the space warmer, you really need to make sure that you have already insulated the walls and ceiling as well if needed.

Of course, if you already have a finished floor and want to do this project, you are going to need to remove that first. If it’s reusable, great. If not, you may need to keep in mind that you’ll need another type of material to go on top of this one once it’s finished before you decide to tackle this project.

Once you’ve gotten all the “stuff” out, just make sure that you have cleaned and swept the floors as well. Then you are ready to start putting down the subfloor.

The subfloor system that we are going to talk about using down in your basement today is from DRICore. Although it’s a bit on the pricey side, I’m really impressed with this product. For one, this subfloor has a patented moisture barrier built right into it and will protect floors, furniture and electronics from potential water seepage in a wet basement. Plus, they are dead simple to install making for a perfect DIY insulating and waterproofing solution as well.

The product itself is actually made like engineered wood floors with a whole lot of pressure compressing a bunch of wood chips together. Afterwards, it’s all sealed up tight with a waterproof glue. For an extra layer of protection, there is a raised polyethylene moisture barrier that allows for any condensation or moisture that’s captured underneath to dry adequately and without harm to those items on top of it.

One thing to keep in mind though, just like any other flooring material, you need to let the panels acclimate in the room for at least 24 hours before you start working with it. Oh, that’s right, forgot to tell you that they come in panels that are easy to work with and approximately 2-foot square. The panels actually lock together like regular tongue and groove floors to make for easy installation with no additional steps like glue required. So you won’t even need a hardwood flooring contractor, you can do it all yourself.

This particular system is called a floating subfloor system because it doesn’t actually get attached to the concrete with glue or nails. It just sort of “floats” on top of the concrete. This is actually really good in this type of environment because it allows for the entire floor to contract and expand with temperature/moisture changes.

Another thing to keep in mind is you will need to use spacers around the walls like you would with laminate basement flooring. A quarter inch gap is really all you need. That gap is what gives the subfloor some of it’s durability allowing it to expand as needed. Plus, if your concrete floor isn’t as level as it should be, these panels come with shims designed to fit right over a portion of the moisture barrier panel to help level it all out. You’ll be able to tell where you need them by simply sliding one panel up to the next and see if there is a gap where they are supposed to come together.

Simply start in the furthest corner with the longest wall and begin piecing together the first row. Use a wood block and a hammer on the end of the second pieces to tap the boards together to fit in the grooves. When you get to the end of the first row, you’ll likely need to make a cut to a full panel for it to fit correctly. Just measure and mark the appropriate distance.

A table saw works great when needing to cut a DRICore panel. But if you don’t have a table saw, a hand held circular saw will work just as good. I personally don’t like to use jigsaws or dremels for this cut but if that’s all you got, it’ll work too. I save the jigsaws for more intricate corner/pole notch cutting when doing our basement renovation work, not when I’m cutting the piece basically in half.

pull barOnce you have your cut piece, it should just drop right in place. However, now you got a bit of problem getting the two pieces to fit together snuggly in the tongue and groove. Now’s the time for your first flooring trick. When you do a job like this, you’ll find that a tool called a pull bar quickly becomes one of your best friend. This particular one shown is a Sinclair pull bar that has a wide tail block and welded hammering area that will let you adjust and compress the panels in the groove quite easily. Whatever you do, don’t try to use pliers or some other tool that isn’t designed for the job!

All you have to do once the piece is in place is slip the tail block into the space between the wall and the panel with the hammer block laying across the piece you want to secure. Take your hammer and give it a few taps until the joints come together cleanly and then simply remove the pull bar.

But what about that other piece that was cut? Do you throw it away? Absolutely not, that’s the piece you can start with on the second row. No need to waste it here. Plus it gives you a bit of strength and security to your subfloor as well because using this piece allows you to stagger (or overlap) the panels so the seams aren’t at the same place. Ideally, you’d like the second row of seam’s to fall in the middle of the panels from the first row.

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, just continue building and cutting row after row until you have a finished floating basement subfloor. This system is perfect for finishing any basement but even better if you have concerns due to a low ceiling. It is a raised system, but it’s about half the height of a conventional subfloor coming in at about 7/8ths of an inch in thickness.

Here’s what I like about this insulated floating subfloor:

  • You get a built in vapor barrier for protection.
  • You get a finished surface that’s ideal for basement carpet, laminate, vinyl plank flooring, engineered hardwood and even tile.
  • You get some insulating value as the floor is raised off the cold concrete slab.
  • You get a professionally quality subfloor that’s do-it-yourself friendly and goes in quickly.

Here’s what I don’t like about this subfloor: cost. Period. That’s it. It’s simply the cost of the system. You’ll end up likely paying as much, if not more depending on what you use for the finished floor as you would for the subfloor. The panels cost about $6 each. So if you have about a 1000 square foot to cover, you are going to need an estimated 303 panels and at that price you are looking at around $1818. However, if you can swing it, this floating subfloor system is definitely worth it for a basement.

types of axes

Types of Axes – What You Need to Know

The Different Types of Axes for Every Job

The axe has long been one of man’s best tools and an essential part of any outdoorsman’s survival toolkit. This spectacular tool has been with us for centuries and, just like us, it has evolved. Today, there are many different types and styles of axe. Whether you are chopping down trees or splitting firewood, there is a blade specially designed for the job. Each blade has a unique style and special characteristics.

There are many factors that make one axe better than another for a particular job. With hundreds of different blade / handle combinations now available on the market, it can all get a little confusing, especially when you’re trying to figure out which is the best axe for your uses. Let’s examine the 5 most popular axe styles listed below.

Splitting Blade

A splitting blade uses a weighted wedge shape design to cut logs along the grain. This axe is not likely to get lodged in the wood you are splitting because its heavy blade increases the striking force at impact. Splitting blades are usually complemented with a straight handle. This allows the woodcutter to lever the maul and deepen the cut.

When splitting logs, it may become necessary to hammer the blade through the log. The splitting blade incorporates the solution to this problem by having a broad butt that can be used to assist another splitter through.

Limbing Blade

A limbing axe is designed to be wielded while standing on a tree trunk and chopping downward at limbs from the tree. It is relatively lightweight (2lbs) and can be handled with one or two hands. Its medium length handle makes this axe well suited for the downward angle.

Hudson Bay

The Hudson Bay axe isn’t designed for chopping down trees in the forest. Its short handle (22in – 28in) and light weight (2lbs) makes it an ideal choice for turning medium logs into kindling. The Hudson Bay axe got its name because it was developed by French fur traders who traveled the Hudson Bay trade routes.


Broadaxes are used to cut logs into beams. Broadaxes are beveled on one side, which, coupled with a long beard (front lower blade), makes them perfect for this job. They are specifically designed for accuracy and can easily cut a log into a beam.


A felling axe blade is very thin and sharp. This makes it perfectly suited for cutting down trees. When you cut a tree down, you are cutting against the grain. A felling axe’s medium weight (around 3 pounds) allows it to cut deep across the grain. A 36in handle gives the felling axe great leverage. A felling axe blade is ideal for clearing limbs off downed trees.

Double Bit (edged)

A double bit axe has edges on both side of the blade. This can prove useful because it allows for combo blades. For example, one side could be a splitting blade, while the other side is a felling. The downside is some loss of mobility.

Shaping Blade

A Shaping blade is used to cut wood at very precise angles and locations. This axe has a flat blade that distributes your cut evenly. This helps keep your cuts even and accurate. Because of its flat blade, a shaping axe is much better at carving than chopping.


Hatchets can be great travel axes. They are usually half the size of a conventional axe, which means they are more suitable for traveling. A good hatchet can easily split logs into kindling.

There are also a number of different length handles you can get when choosing your axe. This is called the haft length and it usually comes in these sizes:

  • full length: 28in – 36in
  • medium length: 18in – 26in
  • pocket length: 12in – 16in

Transportation, and the amount of use, should be the deciding force behind your decision. If you are going to be backpacking in Yellow Stone National Park, I wouldn’t recommend a full length broadaxe. A pocket felling axe would be a much better fit and it will provide you with a lot more comfort on your journey.

The point here is – there is an axe to fit every need. Now that you understand the different types of axes, you can decide what axe is the best solution for your woodworking needs.

How To Remove a Stuck Screw

How To Remove a Stuck Screw?

Almost everyone under the sun has experienced the horror of a stuck screw or bolt, and each craftsman has assuredly fought off more than his fair share of frozen screw frustrations. Trying to remove a stuck screw can fast turn into one of the worst jobs around the house or in the shop – it can feel like a physical impossibility to remove bolts or screws if they become stuck, frozen, or their heads has been stripped or broken.

Many will go to excessive and extraordinary lengths, using back-breaking force to remove these stubborn parts, but when temperatures cool down and the dust settles, craftsmen find the screw extractor. Good things do come in small packages and though the screw extractor is a small, its a tremendous device that gets into the center of a stuck screw, and releases its gnarly grips from the inside out.

The screw extractor is a small tool with big results designed to dive into the interior of a stuck screw (through a pilot-hole), bite into the it and turn the screw out counter-clockwise. Screw extractors range to fit screw-heads from 3/32″ and 1/2″ in diameter. They are built with a square head and shaft on one end and reverse tapered (cutting screw) threads on the other. The square head is designed to be fastened to a T-handle providing leverage to turn the extractor into the frozen screw. The square head can also be turned with some type of pliers like vice grip pliers or an adjustable wrench.

Extractors are manufactured with superior grade steel so that the shaft can be gripped with vice grips or an adjustable wrench for additional force or turning power. The extractors tapered threads are the real muscle of the device biting into the insides of a screw. The treads are designed to turn counter-clockwise, or backwards, reverse drilling into the center of a screw to pull it out. As the extractor is turned, it bites down tighter and digs deeper into the frozen screw and eventually begins turning the damaged screw with it. Essentially the extractor reverses the screw out of its frozen position.



Drilling a pilot-hole into the damaged screw is the first step to getting it out: With a power drill, drill a hole into the center of the damaged screw’s head. Start by using the smallest drill bit available and work your way up to a larger sized bit for a larger pilot-hole. Because the size of the pilot-hole will vary depending upon the size of the extractor, the extractor should come with a bit size recommendation on its packaging; this should help eliminate most of the guess work on your part.

After drilling the pilot-hole, firmly grip the extraction bit with a T-Handle or pliers and insert the extractor into the pilot-hole. Tap the top of the extractor with a hammer to secure it firmly into the screw. While exerting downward pressure on the extractor, turn it counter-clockwise (to the left) to begin releasing the stuck screw. If turning the extractor is difficult or unstable, tap the extraction bit down a bit more firmly into the screw. This should give the threads a better hold, and better biting power into the screw.

You may also press down a bit more firmly on the top of the extractor, but be careful not the break the extraction bit off into the stuck screw. If a better bite, or increased pressure doesn’t make the process any easier, you may try enlarging the pilot-hole. Slightly enlarge the pilot-hole and attempt the process again. This should have that stubborn screw out in no time.

Before loosing your cool over that blasted stuck screw, look to the screw extractor to break it free with minimal time and effort. Rather than resorting to the most drastic measures, allow the screw extractor do the dirty work you and eliminate the stress and headache of tackling the seemingly impossible on your own.

The Last Resort

If all else fails, then you’re going to need to drill out the screw completely and re-tap whenever it is you’re working on. For this you’ll need a drill and a tap and die set. A standard tap and die set literally make a new screw hole for your new screw to thread into. It is always a last resort but is unavoidable when you have no choice but to drill out the entire screw. This often happens when it is too rusted, or seized in some other way. There are a few of the best tap and die set reviews here if you’re unsure which set to get. They aren’t the cheapest option, but some times you just don’t have any other choice.

backyard design

Design The Ultimate Backyard Haven

Top 10 Tips to Designing an AMAZING Backyard haven for your family

Quality family time is about laughter, fun and fantastic memories. Build the perfect spot for creating these moments in your very own backyard. With these tips, every summer day will be like a family vacation.

1. What Do You Have?

Look outside the patio door and survey the yard. Sketch out the lay of the land, including any existing patios or decks, as well as any established trees and gardens.   You can even use patio or deck design software to see what you have on and around your patio or deck and can see how you can easily change things.  You already have something to work with, so start there.

How can you dress up or clean up what you have to be more family friendly? Paint or wash the deck or patio, trim the trees and clean out the garden, noting the sunny and shady spots for future reference. Plant vines to hide unattractive but functional features.

designing backyards

If you need more privacy, plant a tight row of evergreen hedges that will fill in quickly to make a natural sight, sound and wind barrier.

2. What Would Each Person Love?

Now is the time to have a family conference or illicit some feedback. There needs to be elements of the backyard that are designed with each person in mind.

Kids will love the adventure of a treehouse or clubhouse. Readers of all ages will escape in a comfy, quiet nook. Add a gazebo or outdoor tent for more protected space. Some of these play tents are ideal for indoors or outdoors in case you have harsher winters. Have a place for sipping coffee and flipping through the morning paper and don’t forget some tables for card games and a chess board. A wood porch swing is the perfect place to snuggle and sway together.

The whole family will thrill with the inclusion of a miniature garden railroad. As the train chugs around weatherproof track, the family can enjoy the fun of building and running this toy for all ages.

3. How Much Maintenance Can You Handle?

If hours of lawn care and gardening don’t appeal to you, be sure to design with that in mind. Low maintenance plantings that will behave and flourish are ideal.

Mulch the gardens well annually to prevent the spread of weeds and keep the moisture in the soil. Under patios and walkways, landscape fabric is a good idea to keep the weeds out. With some research and wise choices, your yard and garden can be less work than you may think.

4. Why Not Cook Outside?

To keep the interior cool and the exterior festive, grill your meals whenever possible. Whether you prefer the convenience of natural gas, the traditional propane or the smoky taste of charcoal grills, there is a BBQ out there to suit your fancy.

Install an outdoor fire pit to bring the memories of family campfires into the backyard. Traditional wood burning pits can be built, or for more convenience gas or propane patio fireplaces work well.

5. How Can You Make Everyone Eat Their Vegetables?

Fill your table with vegetables grown in your very own patch. There are plenty of simple, kid-friendly choices like pumpkins, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes. Plant what your family will eat and enjoy the freshest produce available. Or decorate your home with bright, cheery cut flowers. Zinnias, daisies and sunflowers grow quickly and will last throughout the season with colorful, smiling faces.

6. What Are the Best Furniture Choices?

Make sure you invest in well crafted, intelligently designed outdoor furniture. That way you can enjoy it for years to come. You’ll need a quality patio set, as well as some other favorite pieces. Choose a hammock or a glider bench, a chaise lounge or a wood porch swing, and then use them to create relaxing, cozy spots for the whole family.

Be sure to include colors to complete your design. Patterns or solids, your choice of colors for cushions, pillows, paint and accessories will turn ordinary furniture into family heirlooms.

quiet backyard space

7. Want to Have A Conversation?

When you set up the perfect patio furniture, think about how you can create a conversational atmosphere. Casual pieces, often called conversation sets, are a combination of low tables and cushioned couches arranged to face each other. Place a patio fireplace in the center for even warmer gatherings. Incorporate enough seating for everyone with a few extra for guests.

8. How Do You Add Soothing Sounds?

Bring the stereo speakers right into the backyard for the joy of music any time. There are even outdoor speakers manufactured to look like garden rocks. And others that are waterproof and even wireless. So no excuses here. Even if they are wired, just a pair of pliers is all you need to install them. They will blend right into the landscape and provide just the atmosphere you want.

9. Are You Calmed By Water?

The addition of water features in your yard help to create a tranquil atmosphere. Bubbling waters in a fountain and the splashes of a birdbath will disguise the harsh sounds of traffic nearby. Ponds attract many sights of nature and provide an ever changing picture of calm.

10. Do You Want To Win?

The fun of friendly competition and games is a must for backyard relaxation. Save a grassy area for catch, bocce and Frisbee. Put up the Badminton net or dig out a horseshoe pit. The whole family will look forward to a good soak in the hot tub, too. Any way you look at it, everyone wins with outdoor fun together.

Your backyard haven will be the perfect spot to spend time in this season. Design with your family in mind and enjoy plenty of time together.

Deck Design Software

Using Deck Design Software for the Ultimate Deck

Deck Design Software Makes Deck Designing!

Homeowners that are interested in constructing a new deck can greatly benefit from deck design software.  The software helps homeowners visualize what their completed deck can look like based on changing variables such as size, shape, style, colors, materials and accessories.   The design software can be used by deck construction or home improvement contractors or by the homeowners themselves to make designing a backyard deck an easy process.

Contractors often use 3D deck design software to show potential customers what the finished product can look like based on possible design decisions.  This allows homeowners to see exactly what their deck can look like, rather than trying to visualize it the best they can from sketches or drawings or even just a one dimensional design.  The software also makes it easy to see how changing variables, such as the shape, color of the decking materials, type of balusters or more can change the end design.  The three dimensional design can have homeowners visualizing exactly what it will be like to have specific options as part of the deck.

Homeowners also have the opportunity to use home deck design software on their own in order to help them determine what they like best about different deck design choices and to then show to potential contractors so they can easily explain their design choices.  Using the software is also a smart option for do-it-yourselfers, since building a deck is a rather large and difficult project.

Knowing exactly what the deck will look like when finished and being able to change options prior to starting the deck to determine what will work best goes a long way towards making do-it-yourself construction a much easier task.  Some deck design software products will also provide a materials list based on the parameters set within the design so that the process of ordering supplies is simplified as well. Others even list out the tools you’ll need.


When homeowners are getting ready to build a deck to enhance their outdoor décor and to increase their backyard’s functionality, they can find deck design software free by searching online or can purchase a software package for a small fee.  There are a number of websites that offer free online deck design software.  Some of the software is offered by companies that are also deck contractors, but it is usually free to use even if you aren’t using the company to build your deck.  There are also inexpensive products that can be purchased, either online or in a retail store.  Instant deck design software can be purchased for as little as ten dollars or less.

What makes deck designing software so beneficial to both homeowners and contractors alike is that it offers the opportunity to make informed design choices from the outset of the project.  By doing this, there is less chance that changes need to be made during the construction process and a greater chance that homeowners will be more satisfied with the end result.  It helps contractors “sell” their design to potential customers and shows them how different options will affect the look of the finished deck.  It helps homeowners get a better idea of what they want by being able to see exactly what their choices will look like.

No matter what type of software is used, whether it is instant deck design software that is purchased for a nominal fee, professional deck design software offered by a home improvement or construction company or one of the free online deck design software options available by searching on the internet, the use of this type of design tool will make it easier for homeowners to ultimately enjoy the deck of their dreams.

slip joint pliers

Slip Joint Pliers

What Are Slip Joint Pliers?

Although there are many types of pliers, the one model that always stands out is the pair of slip joint pliers. They are versatile and should be in every person’s toolbox.slip joint pliers

Slip joint pliers are a device that consist of a fulcrum or a pivot point. The fulcrum is moved in order to increase the size of the jaws. Most of the slip joint pliers allow the pivot point to be changed and the pliers can be opened in several positions. These pliers are also called lineman’s pliers. In fact the slip joint plier is a hand tool which is devised for gripping, bending or mending the apparatus. German pliers are usually considered as the well developed and advanced class of the slip joint pliers. For working on electric appliances insulated pliers are the best known types of pliers.

The have a long nose with a slip joint spring which is loaded on the comfort handles. With handles these pliers provide a lifetime warranty and packed in the blister pack. These pliers can be of many kinds like Hand pliers, steel pliers, locking pliers, miniature pliers, multi Stanley pliers and so on. Many tool manufacturing companies that make the slip joint pliers along with the other instruments like German pliers, insulated pliers and other equipment also offer shipment facilities for the slip joint pliers in bulk.

The material of construction of a slip joint pliers are different and may vary from different materials like wood, copper, steel, bronze and so on. In fact it is the material of the tongs of the pliers and not the jaws which are made of different materials. The jaws of the slip joint pliers are always made of the same material all over and that material is stainless steel.

While making purchase for a slip joint plier the assortment regarding different forms of slips joint pliers which differ from each other in both material and functions. A slip joint plier can produce twelve out of thirteen models of pliers which can be purchased online as well as from the outlets where professionals dealing with the instruments and tools can guide you very well regarding the purchase of slip joint pliers.

The main criterion which determines the accurate working and functioning of the slip joint pliers depends on the depth of its jaws, the directions in which the fulcrum or pivot can be rotated and how to use them.

Because the handles of slip joint pliers are longer in size than the jaws, for this reason the handles of the can act as levers and these long handles have the ability to increase the force which is being applied to the object. Basically these pliers are meant to gripping and holding of the objects. For this reason the pliers are designed in such a way to provide a good grip to the user of the objects being held. The holding capability of slip joint pliers can be enhanced by coating of rubber or any friction reducing agent.

The pliers also include the cutting features and the sizes of slip joint pliers are decided according to the work which they perform for the user. The history of these pliers dates back to more than 4000 years when it was used in Europe and with the passage of time the structure was modified. In the beginning it was a simple structure with two handles joined at the neck or pivot. The adjustment point of the slip joint pliers is joined in two ways. The jaws are designed in such a way so as to give an opening angle of 45 to 60 degrees in the centre.

types of pliers

Types of Pliers

Types of Pliers and Their Uses

Just about every household tool set on the market includes a pair of pliers. Like many hand tools, the design and function of the different types of pliers hasn’t changed much over the millennium. Way, way, way back in the day, pliers were made of wood. In fact, ancient Greek art depicts the god Hephaestus using pliers in his forge. Apparently even a god can get a boo-boo by grabbing a hunk of superheated metal!

As the centuries rolled by, specialized styles and shapes evolved to meet the unique demands of a task. Think of the old west blacksmith who had to shoe horses all day long and how much the right pair of pliers helped him avoid a swift kick in the behind.

Over the past few decades, advances in metallurgy and ergonomics have led to refinements, but it’s likely our ancestors would instantly recognize and understand the function of a pair of modern pliers. Seems you can’t improve a whole lot on a classic.

So if you find yourself confused about the right style of pliers to use for a project, get a grip on yourself and read this summary of the most common and useful pliers.

Plier Types

Slip Joint Pliers

Slip Joint PliersBy far the most common type of pliers and probably the most versatile too. You can use them to pull nails out of walls and boards, grip, yank andturn stubborn objects and even use them as a makeshift wrench for very small nuts and bolts. Though we don’t recommend it, pretty much everyone has use slip joint pliers as a makeshift hammer. “Slip joint” refers to a simple jaw positioning scheme, which allows you to adjust the jaws for a narrow or wider grip by opening the handles wide and slipping the jaw pivot post into a new position. Hard to explain, easy to figure out and pretty darn handy sometimes. There are a few different sizes available, with the 6 inch length by far the most common and suitable for just about everyone.

As with pretty much all types of pliers, the cheapest slip joint pliers have bare metal handles and loosey-goosey pivot joints. Not great but adequate for occasional household use. More expensive models offer heat-treated carbon, nickel or chrome vanadium steel, more comfortable and ergonomic handle designs and tighter joint tolerances.

Groove Joint Pliers

Groove Joint PliersGroove Joint Pliers, A.K.A Tongue and Groove Pliers, have jaws that can be adjusted for a wide range of openings.  Each “groove” represents a slightly wider span between jaws, from touching two or more inches apart. This feature, along with serrated jaw teeth, makes it handy for grabbing, holding and turning lots of different sizes and shapes, from round to hex any pretty much anything in between.  These are popular pliers for plumbers and contractors and can come in pretty handy around the house too.

Here’s a tip: if you want to loosen or tighten a showerhead, faucet or something else with a nice finish that you’d like to avoid scratching, first wrap the showerhead etc. with a rag, and then grip the rag with your groove joint pliers and turn.  If you can’t get enough leverage to loosen it this way, then it’s time to employ a pipe wrench or strap wrench.   Groove joint pliers come in sizes ranging from 8 inches to 18 inches or longer.  The most versatile size that provides enough leverage for most household jobs would be 12 or 14 inch sizes.

Long Nose Pliers

Long Nose PliersLong nose or “needle nose” pliers are suitable for holding smaller objects, these pliers are widely used for electrical, electronic, jewelry and hobby tasks. The long narrow jaws with serrated teeth can fit into confined spaces and hold very small objects. When used for jewelry making, the jaws are often smooth as not to harm the softer metals needed for jewelry making.

Long nose pliers are available in lots of handle lengths, from a mini size 4 or 5 inch handle suitable for jewelry to long handle models with 11 or 12 inch handles that fishermen and women swear by for extracting hooks. They’re great for hobby crafting with a dremel tool too.

Diagonal Pliers

Diagonal PliersProbably the second most useful household pliers, diagonal pliers don’t grip, they cut. Which makes them indispensable for any kind of electrical project as they are great for cutting and stripping wires.  They’re also perfect for snipping cable ties and bicycle brake and shifter cables. They’ll even cut thin sheet metal in a pinch.  Sizes range from 4 inches to 8 inches, with a 6 or 7 inch size being about right for household tasks

Locking Pliers

vice gripsLast but not least are the handy locking pliers.  Locking pliers are designed to clamp firmly onto objects, with a built-in spring loaded locking device that holds the pliers jaws together until you unlock them. This makes them ideal for gripping and turning stubborn pipes and they can be pressed into service as a clamp as well. Clamping force can be adjusted via a thumbscrew which adds to the versatility of these pliers. Sizes range from 4 inches to 12 inches and curved or straight jaw styles are available as well.  A 10 inch size would be a good choice for most tasks.

How to Use a Dremel for DIY Projects

How to Use a Dremel or Rotary Tool Correctly!

dremel toolFew power tools are as versatile as a rotary tool, and for some jobs, a rotary tool is the only practical choice.   Just try and name another tool that can drill, cut, grind, sand, file, buff, debur, carve, engrave and polish.

A rotary tool is pretty darn easy to use, too.

There are three keys to success:

  • Select the right bit, wheel, brush or other attachment for the task
  • Set the correct tool speed
  • Apply the right amount of pressure to the workpiece


Let’s start with the basics.  I’ve selected a typical Kawasaki Dremel Tool Set that includes a rotary tool and a vast selection of accessories. A kit like this will pretty much answer the needs of every hobbyist and do-it-yourselfer on the planet.

Kawasaki Rotary Tool Set

Let’s look at the rotary tool itself.  First make sure the tool is unplugged now and whenever you change bits, clean, maintain or store your rotary tool.   One of the keys to the versatility of a rotary tool is the variable speed function.   This Kawasaki model has a speed adjustment dial on the back of the tool that allows speed adjustment from about 8,000 RPM to 30,000 RPM.   Adjustment is made by rotating the dial, in this case clockwise for higher speed and counterclockwise for lower speed.

rotory speed dialRotating The Speed Dial to Adjust RPM

Now is probably a good time to don some safety glasses, plug in your rotary tool (without any attachments attached), turn it on and play with the speed control. This is a good way to get an idea of how the tool feels when running at slow, medium and fast speeds.

There is a noticeable difference, as the tool motor exerts a bit of centrifugal force as speeds increase.

Now turn off the tool and unplug it – let’s look at the business end of the tool where bits and accessories are attached.   Note the silver shaft lock button on the side of the tool.
rotary lock button

Rotary Tool Shaft Lock Button

If it weren’t for this button, you’d never be able to load a bit into the tool.   To see why, grab the knurled collar at the end of the shaft and try loosening it by turning it counterclockwise.   You can turn it all day by hand and nothing useful will happen.

Now push and hold that silver button with your thumb and turn the knurled collar counterclockwise again.   The collar will spin freely for part or most of a revolution, then the silver button will depress all the way into the tool body.   At this point the knurled collar will stop spinning uselessly, and you can loosen and/or remove it either by hand or with the mini-wrench included in the kit.

Pushing the Shaft Lock Button

Go ahead and spin the knurled collar off the threaded shaft.   Underneath that collar is another critical part called a collet.  The collet can be pulled straight out of the shaft by hand -go ahead and pull it out and have a look at it.

Rotary Tool Collet Assembly

Note the collet has slits cut into the sides; this allows it to clamp down on the shaft of a bit.   Some rotary tool kits like this one have a few different collets included of varying shaft diameter.

Changing a Dremel Bit

Different bits have different shafts diameters to match these collets. Take a look at the drill bits in the set we’re using – note the shaft size difference between the smallest and largest bit.

Rotary Tool Bits with Various Shaft Diameters

I’ll bet you can guess what to do next – yep, you’ve got match the collet size to the bit shaft size. This is a trial and error process, but not a difficult one.  Once you’ve selected the correct collet size, load it into the tool then screw the knurled collar back into place lightly.

Load the bit into the collet, then push that silver button to lock the collar and tighten the whole assembly down.   Don’t go all he-man when tightening the bit;  the design of the collet assembly is such that it will hold a bit firmly without a lot of torque.

Selecting the Right Bit

Now that we know how to load a bit into the tool, the next task is to figure out which bit to use for a particular task.

The Kawasaki rotary tool kit we’re using here has over 190 bits and attachments, which is a testament to this tool’s versatility.    Let’s start with the most familiar: drill bits.   Why use a rotary tool to drill holes if you have a perfectly good cordless or corded drill?

Rotary Tool Drill Bits

Two good reasons are precision and control. It’s much easier to hold and control a relatively small and lightweight rotary tool versus a heavy full size drill, especially when using a very small diameter drill bit to drill very small holes. If you need to drill the hole in a precise location, again this will be much easier with a small lightweight tool.

When drilling holes, keep the tool speed at a medium setting;  too much speed will make it difficult to control the rate of drilling and may distort or melt plastics. It’s also critical to keep the tool and drill bit aligned with each other and square to the workpiece to avoid breaking a bit with sideways pressure.

Some rotary tool kits have unusual looking bits with odd-shaped sparkly tips. These are diamond-coated engraving bits. As the name suggests, these can be used to engrave or cut hard materials like metal, gemstones, ceramic, glass and plastic. The different shapes can be used for everything from drilling to channeling materials.

Diamond Coated Engraving Bits for Rotary Tools

Up next are grinding stones. These come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.  Two common stone materials are red aluminum oxide and green silicon carbide.   In our Kawasaki rotary tool kit, both the red and green stones are 120 grit, a medium grit useful for general grinding and shaping.

Rotary Tool Grinding Stones

These stones can be used to grind and shape precious metals, gemstones and non-ferrous metals like aluminum and brass.  When grinding, it’s best to keep tool speed on the slower side to help control the amount of material you’re removing.  Here’s another important tip for grinding stones – never use a grinding stone that is cracked or chipped as it can fly apart at high speed and cause property damage or injury.

Many rotary tool kits also come with a selection of brushes. For example, our Kawasaki Rotary Tool Kit includes nylon, stainless steel and brass brushes.

A nylon brush is handy for buffing, polishing and light duty cleaning. The metal wire brushes are much more aggressive and thus useful for removing tarnish and rust from metal surfaces.

Nylon and Wire Brushes for Rotary Tools

Next up are mandrels and the various accessories that are attached to the rotary tool using a mandrel.   The Kawasaki Rotary Tool Kit we are using here includes three types of mandrels:

  • One that looks like a shaft with a wood screw on the end – used for attaching “soft” accessories like cloth polishing wheels
  • One that has a small screw and washer threaded into one end – used to attach “hard” accessories like polishing stones and cutting wheels
  • One that has a rubber drum on it used to attach sandpaper drums