A December, 2019 article in the New York Times, Our Lives In the Time of Extremely Fancy Axes, by Alexandra Marvar asks some of the questions that we get all the time: “Why are you guys making axes?” “Who buys them?” “What do they do with them?” and “Are you guys nuts?” Here is our take on those questions.
Why axes? What draws us to them?
Stories. An axe is a communal tool. In most instances when you are using an axe you are chopping wood to make a fire --- in your fireplace at home, at a campsite, at a cabin. So when you grab that axe you are transported to a good memory. For me those memories include chopping wood to put in our woodstove when the power was out on a winter's day to make grilled cheese sandwiches for my kids or bringing wood back to our family campsite on one of our many trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. Axes tell stories. I am sure you have one too.
The axe also connects us to our past. In his book on American Axes, Henry J. Kauffman writes, “It is probable that no other tool has ever played so important a role in the development of nations as the axe has in North America.” Using an axe whether in your backyard or in the wilderness connects us to all those axe users that came before us. Those who used it to make a shelter, build a cook fire, and truly fuel the growth of America.
[Photo courtesy of Patten Lumberman's Museum]
But why is there more interest in axes now? In a plugged in, always on, virtually connected world people are increasingly looking for something real. Authentic. Personal. The outdoor economy (gear, travel, experiences) is growing at a rate faster than the economy as a whole. The maker movement in which consumers want to know who is making their goods, where their money is going, and how their goods are made is on the rise. Finally, we are seeing the sunset of the throw away economy. Consumers are demanding that their products be made to last. They will spend more money to buy one quality tool instead of junk at a big box store that they expect will break and need to be repurchased. The axes we hand make in our South Portland shop are part of all these trendlines.
Our customers are buying our axes for all these reasons. They are arborists, foresters and surveyors using them in the field as a tool for work. They are outdoor enthusiasts taking them camping, canoeing and hiking. They are owners of camps and cabins using them to feed campfires and fill woodstoves. They are homeowners who chop wood to put in their firepits and fireplaces. They are people who appreciate a craft-made, heirloom quality tool.
So we may have been (are?) nuts to have started an axe company. But it has been a joy to watch our skilled blacksmiths hammer out our Allagash Cruiser and Dirigo Belt Axe, to listen to our customers stories about why they are buying and using our axes, and to join in the great tradition of axe making in Maine.