By Steve Watts and David Wescott
For years we’ve scoured the early literature for a handy way to tote an axe safely in the woods without having to carry it in a pack. This great little invention was created years ago by a Florida craftsman for a mutual friend who is a noted North Carolina wood craftsman. It keeps the axe sheathed—slings it out of the way for woods-running—with the release of one fastener, puts the axe in your hands, ready for use. When you get to camp, you slide it off your shoulder and hang it on its peg just inside the tent door so you always know where to find it.
The project gets you familiar with the vernacular craft of basic leatherwork—handcrafting and doing things yourself with simple tools and natural materials is the foundation of wood craftsmanship. This sheath sling can be made in the field with nothing more than a sharp knife and an awl (the punched and laced version), or the classic model can be dolled-up using all the kinks and dodges found in the traditional craftsman’s workshop. If your axe has a sheath already, just add the sling—a 1.75-inch-wide strap cut 48 inches long with a 2-inch loop at each end. Cut a 4-inch slit in the center of the strap, up about 14 inches from the end connected to the pole, for a 3/4 axe. Buckskin wang strings can be used to connect the sling to the sheath, making the length of the sling adjustable for wearing with a heavy winter coat or a light summer chamois.
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Use your imagination when creating the sheath outline, but remember to allow enough room for the bit to roll into the sheath, past the protective welt, without cutting the upper part of the cover; test-fit the axe using a cardboard pattern first. When making the pattern, take into consideration the narrow bit and wider area around the eye and pole. When you flip the pattern to draw the mirror side, space it about 0.25 inches away at the bit and 0.75 to 1 inch at the pole. This will allow the pattern to flare and fit the way you planned. Also, note that the strap-style closure will take two hands to retrieve the axe, but the flap closure (as seen in the original design) can be opened with one hand, allowing the axe to quickly slide out of the sheath on its own. Cruising the woods with hands free and your axe slung changes the way you move while keeping you within easy reach of this essential trail tool. Any time a piece of gear has to be taken off or set aside, it’s easy to get into the habit of leaving it in camp and not having it when you need it most. Make your own sheath sling and carry your axe comfortably as you tramp along the trail.
Dan Beard on Axe Etiquette
1. An axe to be respected must be sharp, and no one who has any ambition to be a pioneer, a sportsman or a scout, should carry a dull axe, or an axe with the edge nicked like a saw blade. It may interest the reader to know that the pencil I am using with which to make these notes was sharpened with my camp axe.
2. No one but a duffer and a chump will use another man’s axe without that other man’s willing permission.
3.It is as bad form to ask for the loan of a favorite axe as it is to ask for the loan of a sportsman’s best gun or pet fishing rod or toothbrush.
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4. To turn the edge or to nick another man’s axe is a very grave offense.
5. Keep your own axe sharp and clean, do not use it to cut any object lying on the ground where there is danger of the blade of the axe going through the object and striking a stone; do not use it to cut roots of trees or bushes for the same reason. Beware of knots in hemlock wood and in cold weather beware of knots of any kind.
6. When not in use an axe should have its blade sheathed in leather. —Dan Beard, Camp-Lore and Woodcraft, 1920
Tools And Supplies
The classic tool kit can be used to make a variety of crafts while sitting around camp or in the workshop. You can choose whatever tool fits your style. Holes can be made with all sorts of implements; from something as simple as a nail to awls, stitching tools, rotary punches, even drills—“egg-beater” drills, Yankee drills, even power drills.
• Clothespins or clamps
• Rotary punch
• Rivet setting tool
• Grooving tool
• Stitch spacing tool
• #10 Glover’s needles
• Drills and bits
• Nesting pots for wax
• Tongs Supplies
• Scrap paper and light cardboard
• Lacing thongs
• Fasteners (antler, wood, snaps, etc.)
• Glue (Duco is fast and easy!)
• #9 copper rivets
• Waxed thread (nylon or linen)
• Paraffin or beeswax
• Leather dye (optional)