A New and Improved Ax That Makes Chopping Wood Less of a Chore

The Eye
Slate’s design blog.
April 30 2014 10:00 AM

A Brilliantly Redesigned Ax That Makes Chopping Wood Less of a Chore

140429_EYE_4
The Vipukirves ax is designed and built in Finland.

Courtesy of Heikki Kärnä

The ax has been around in one form or another for more than 1 million years. Now Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä has revolutionized the age-old chore of chopping firewood by brilliantly redesigning the tool. The new and improved Vipukirves (Leverax) uses a “unique lever action” that is “considerably stronger than a traditional axe” to separate a log into sections, allowing the user to easily create a pile of firewood in seconds. The ax is painted in traffic-light red and yellow to make it easier to spot if left on the ground.

On his website, the 74-year-old inventor writes that he moved to “the gloomy forest of Sipoo” 20 years ago and began clearing trees to build a house, an arduous task that led to an obsession with improving on the tools he found at the local hardware store. He spent 15 years building numerous prototypes of his ax at a local steel workshop.

140429_EYE_2
The Vipukirves ax has a 3-foot-long handle for extra safety.

Courtesy of Heikki Kärnä

“At times the man was discouraged, but his persistent Finnish nature didn't allow him to give up,” he writes. “The man continued developing a safer and more efficient axe; one that would allow him to conquer the roughest terrain; one that would be completely manual to overcome the lack of electricity in the middle of the thick forest; one that could be used where even a tractor could not get through, where the mossy forests are too precious to be destroyed by the digging machines.”

140429_EYE_1
A log split by the Vipukirves ax.

Courtesy of Heikki Kärnä

Advertisement

He had a design epiphany one day while levering stones with a crowbar, when it struck him that the crowbar’s prying power over big rocks and stumps could also be applied to an ax.

The Vipukirves is used like a conventional ax, except that users are required to loosen their grip on the 3-foot-long birchwood handle when the blade strikes the log, as it automatically inclines to the right, creating torque that multiplies the splitting force and detaches the chopped portion from the log with a single strike. This prevents the blade from getting lodged in the log. The ax head is attached to the handle from the side and not through the center, changing the center of gravity of the ax and the strike line.

Here’s a demonstration in slow motion:

The inventor provides instructions for how to build your own wood-chopping stand from a used tire, including step-by-step tips on wood-chopping form and safety advice, like refraining from using the ax while drunk or from allowing it to be handled by children. Another tip: “Don’t hold the log with your hand while chopping. This could result in losing a finger.”  

Kärnä’s website urges you to “order Vipukirves now and chop your work in half!” but the ax—which costs $281 and has a 10-year guarantee—is temporarily out of stock.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 4:03 PM You’re Doing It Wrong: Puttanesca Sauce
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.