A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Alex Leavens, a survival instructor in the Portland, Oregon area, asking if I would review his DVD, “Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival.” He thought that my readers here might be interested in his DVD. After checking out his website, OldFedCo.com, I agreed.
I’ve never seen such a detailed “how-to” DVD. Alex meticulously covers everything from safely handing an ax, chopping wood and making kindling, to sharpening your ax and replacing an ax handle.
I really loved how clear he was about safety. The graduated 4-Her in me also couldn’t help but think that the instruction on the DVD would really help in the making of a blue ribbon, Grand Champion 4-H project. I would be totally comfortable having Henry watch this DVD because it is so thorough and emphasizes safety so well. This is actually not that surprising though, since in his bio, Alex states he was an Eagle Scout.
I was totally impressed with Alex’s accuracy in splitting and reading wood. Since it’s easy to impress a beginner, I brought Rick in to watch the DVD with me. Rick has chopped a fair share of firewood. He’s not an expert on axes, but he knows a bit about sharpening tools and safety. I wanted his point of view on the accuracy of the information presented in the DVD.
It was cool watching the chapters on sharpening and safety and hearing Rick pipe up with plenty of “Yep! That’s the way,” as well as having him tell me what he was learning as we watched. I liked the chapters on hanging an ax (replacing the handle) because my grandpa gave Rick all of his old tools and this DVD will be a great reference tool on caring for and maintaining them.
It is obvious while watching the DVD that Alex really knows his stuff and is also passionate about teaching. The DVD is extremely thorough. There are great close-ups of what he’s doing to sharpen his ax, as well as shots from many different angles showing exactly what is happening and how to do it yourself. It made me feel like I could choose and buy an ax, use it with confidence and maintain it myself. Check out some of the clips of the DVD on Alex’s site for some examples to see what I mean.
The section on using an ax in the back country was really cool. I liked seeing how he set himself up using what was in the woods to split wood, make kindling and make stakes. He even shows you how to make an in-field sharpening station. Plus, I loved that even in the woods, he was very consistent and followed all his own safety rules.
Alex makes sure to cover every aspect of one topic before moving to the next. There is no rushing through anything, and the pace is good for a newbie. The chapters on the DVD are organized in a logical way, and once you grasp a skill, it’s easy to skip forward on the DVD to the next skill if you are ready to do so.
In the end, while pressing the eject button on the DVD player, Rick commented that he was pretty happy to have a good reference tool on the shelf next time he needed it. I’m excited to use some of the skills I learned about sharpening and maintaining hand tools on Vera, my grub hoe.
This DVD would be great for:
- Beginners, new to homesteading and/or hand tools.
- Those who want to add to their skill set, especially sharpening and maintaining their own tools.
- People with a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
- People with a giant wood pile.
- Youth clubs like 4-H or scouts.
- Homeschoolers interested in teaching traditional skills.
- Survivalists, backpackers, hikers, hunters or others that spend time in the woods.
- People interested in hand tools, restoring old tools, reusing instead of buying new, and/or geeking out with their grandpa’s hand-me-down tools.
- People who are intimidated by using and maintaining an ax.
This DVD would not be good for:
- Our great-grandparents who grew up learning these skills.
- People who are into “more power” or using a chainsaw for everything.
- People who want to do things quickly instead of correctly.
Disclosure: I received a free DVD from Alex to write this review. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and my own.
In addition to being an authority on axes, Alex is a wilderness and survival expert. He is a former backcountry ranger, firefighter, and survival guide. He teaches classes in the Portland area, as well as offering ax sharpening services for locals.
Did I mention generous? Alex promised to give away a copy of the DVD to one lucky reader!
To be entered into the contest, please post a wilderness or survival question in the comments here before midnight, MST on November 21, 2012. If you are new reader here at The Lazy Homesteader, or have been lurking for a while, this is your chance to come out of the woodwork.
I’ll double your chances if you ‘Like’ Old Federal Ax Co. on Facebook and share this post with your friends (tag @The Lazy Homesteader or use one of the buttons at the bottom of this post). Come back here to leave a second comment telling me that you did so.
I’ll announce the winner in a separate post, so make sure to subscribe to the LazyHomesteader.com/feed or follow me by email or on Facebook/Twitter by using one of the buttons on the sidebar (above, right).
You have two weeks to enter and spread the word. Ready, GO!
The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to Alex and Old Federal Ax Co., and congrats to the winner!
Whoa, I would love this DVD. I have a wood pile waiting to be properly split into firewood and though I know how to handle an axe, I’m pretty sure there are some techniques and tips that would make everything I’m doing safer and more efficient.
My question (I can think of a bunch to ask, but I’ll just stick with a few) is what kind/brand of axe would you recommend buying? I’ve read about re-finishing old axe heads and putting on a new handle, would it be worth it to troll garage sales to find an old axe and salvage it? Thanks!!
I have a couple of axes that need some TLC, so I know this DVD would be very helpful.
Question: I found an old hatchet buried in the yard…It’s rusted and dull and I’m wondering if it’s possible/worth the trouble to bring it back to life?
We just had about ten huge trees come down in Hurricane Sandy… That’s a lot of firewood to chop! My question is: as a woman, should I get a lighter weight ax?
Ok, I REALLY need this DVD!!! I’ve been curing a huge pile of wood for a year now & am ready to split it but can only get through a few logs before getting totally worn out! I heat my house with a wood burning fireplace & it’s a pretty big deal for me to have a constant supply of wood (I could use the electric radiators but they are SO expensive, I tried using only the fireplace last winter & saved almost $100 on my heat in just one month). Luckily it hasn’t been too cold yet I am just about ready to invest in a sledge hammer since I have a tendency to hurt myself but honestly, if I don’t win this contest I’ll probably sink the money into this DVD. I have a good ax I bought at the Army Surplus last summer & another huge hatchet I can barely swing & both of them need some love. I usually just use a wedge & a hammer but like I said, that’s not really working very well for me. I also have a chainsaw I use to cut up the huge stuff but that doesn’t help the splitting part. Not so get all mopey, but I’m a single mom so having a dude around to chop wood for me isn’t a luxury I have right now!
So my question is: What am I missing with the axe versus the wedge? It seems like I just chop & chop & chop but the wedge I can slam on it a few times with the hammer & it seems like it actually does something (like going down through the wood till it splits)?!?