Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cutting edge

My day job is supposed to be in communications (not the wireless kind but the kind one writes advertising copy for). Advertising creatives work in the world's megapoles, and tend to be unseparable from their smartphones and other gadgets.  As I write this they are lining up to buy the new iPad 2.

I like gadgets; I love technology.  And I am very aware of the profound changes in our society wrung by the internet and social networking.  Without smartphones and Facebook, 2011 would probably not have become the year of the many revolutions.

Lately, due to pecuniary constraints, I had to make painful choices - mostly to not buy stuff.

But at some point I had to give in.  I found this fantastic multifunctional thingy, personally signed by its maker.  Hand crafted.  Ergonomic.  With a 20-year guarantee and an extensive user's manual.

An axe.  Man's most elementary tool.

Many thousands of years ago, someone made the first stone axe.  Which led to knives, spears, fishing hooks, sewing needles, clothes from cut and stitched hide instead of loosely draped furry skin, shoes; and after many millennia, nuclear power and Karl Lagerfeld.

My new axe is a Gränsfors Bruks, made in Sweden.  Its head is hand-forged high-carbon steel, tempered to incredible hardness and stamped with the initials of its forger: AS - Anders Strömstedt. Sharp as a razor.  The handle is unvarnished American hickory.
A forged steel head and a wooden handle.  That's all.

My Gränsfors Bruks 50-cm forestry axe. Photo of the actual thing, by me. 
Gränsfors Bruks axes are to serious wood choppers what Sabatier knives are to 3-star Michelin chefs.  After a bit of testing I can understand why.  My 50-cm forestry axe managed to shave off hairs from the back of my hand - my standard test for knives - after splitting a couple of small logs and chopping the end of one down to a sharp point. Anders knows how to forge an axe.
Anders the smith

Why does a copywriter buy an axe and not an iPad 2?

Because in spite of all the preachings of His Holyness Steve 1, there is no App in the Store that will chop wood. And we don't live in an apartment in a megapole but on a sizeable patch of land in the Auvergne, one of the greenest and most rural regions of France.  We have central heating, but we burn wood, which is abundant here, for cosy heat in the living room on dark and chilly days.  Our modern, high-efficiency wood burner is also our backup heat source in case of a power blackout.
Which means that I spend quite some time cutting and splitting logs into small pieces that fit in our stove. Once you have been learning that for a few years, you appreciate having the best tool for the job. 

Sorry, Steve, but the iPad is not it.


  1. Nice! Thanks for posting this. I have the Scandinavian Forest Axe by Anders as well. When I saw it amongst the others, his spoke to me. I thought the cutting edge was nice and upright compared to the others.

  2. I can add that later I asked for another GB axe as a birthday present: a 50-cm small splitting axe. It has a thicker, heavier head designed to split logs, and it does that exceedingly well in spite of its relatively small size. No axe you would buy in an ordinary DIY or gardening store even comes close. So now I have a collection of two.