Having an ax in the wilderness can be the difference between surviving or thriving. But like all gear, it can’t take care of you if you don’t take care of it. To keep your ax in optimal shape for a long life (of both your ax and you), follow these easy steps.
These days there are plenty of survival axes and hatches on the market that have “indestructible” handles made from synthetic materials, and some of them come pretty close to living up to the hype of being unbreakable. But for those that opt for a wooden handled ax you will have to treat the wood with oil. In a pinch, any oil, including cooking oil, will do, but linseed oil is really what you should use. Apply a thin layer to the handle and then wipe it clean with a disposable cloth. Make sure to apply a liberal amount to the top wedge, this will prevent the wood from shrinking in the dry cold and the head from slipping off. Linseed oil rags are highly flammable, they have even spontaneously combusted, so always burn them in the campfire and never put them in your pack.
As with the handle the head will need to be oiled, this is to prevent rust. Any oil will do, but gun oil, or CLP works the best. It can be wiped on, but it should not be wiped clean like the linseed oil on the handle. It should be allowed to soak in, just hang it upside down where it won’t drip on your gear.
Toting an ax around in the wilderness without a sheath is dangerous. The same can be said for carrying it in a damaged sheath. You can treat your sheath with just about any oil, but saddle soap works best. Just clean it and let it dry.
Having gear is one thing, having gear that is in working condition is quite another. Keep your gear well maintained so that you can get the most out of it.
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