Axemanship and Knife Safety

Axe, Felling Axe, Axemanship, Scout, Explorer, Safety, Axe training, Axe coaching, Life Skills, Cuffley

The Rules of Axemanship

The following rules and other points offer a guide to using an axe safely. They are not definitive and nothing beats employing basic common sense. You should only use an axe when you assess it is the right tool for the job, possibly for chopping or splitting wood for burning or to execute some planned forestry.

Before you use an axe for the first time seek some training /coaching in its use from an experienced user. If you are a younger user you may only use an axe under adequate supervision. Whoever has the axe at any one time is responsible for it.


  • Ensure you use an axe in an environment where you can get help if you need it.
  • Check your surroundings. Look around and above you for obstructions.
  • Mark-out an area and work within it on your own[1].
  • Stop use if others get too close.
  • Work with a purpose and focus. Plan and re-plan as you do so.
  • Keep calm and cautious.
  • Chop downwards and away from your body.
  • Aim to chop onto a stable and solid wooden block which can accept the full blade.
  • Let the axe do the work. Remember your posture is important.
  • Wear stout leather shoes or boots preferably with steel toe caps.
  • Remove a Scout Scarf, lanyard or similar and tie back loose clothing.


  • Throw an axe.
  • Play with an axe. An axe is a tool, not a toy.
  • Chop into or directly onto the ground.
  • Leave an unused axe lying around.
  • Use an axe
    • that is too big or heavy for you to hold and swing comfortably;
    • in the place of another tool, such as a hammer or mallet;
    • at dusk, in darkness, poor light conditions or bad weather;
    • when you are tired. If you become tired stop use at once;
    • if you are feeling unwell;
    • under the influence of alcohol, medicines or any other drug;
    • when wearing trainers, light boots/shoes or wellingtons.


  • Store an axe in secure, dry conditions.
  • Keep an axe masked and preferably in a leather sheath all the time it is not in use.
  • Ensure an axe is always sharp, clean and kept in first class condition at all times.
  • Lubricate the axe head (bit) to prevent rust.
  • Lubricate a wooden haft with Linseed Oil.
  • When transporting an axe, especially if unmasked, hold the bit firmly with the blade pointing away from your body. Never hold by the haft and/or be tempted to swing it other than for use.

Other observations

If you are below the age of 16 the law does not let you purchase or own an axe. At any age you need to be able to prove you have good reason or lawful authority to use one. 

Together with others such as the Tolmers Forestry team, we will coach and train First Cuffley Scouts and Explorers in the safe use of an axe when they reach a suitable point in their Scouting career. This is when it is considered such knowledge will be helpful. Learning to use an axe does not mean you have an open authority to work with one, it only signifies you have another life skill that may serve you well in the future. 

[1]  Advice may vary according to circumstance but at least three axe lengths (tip of shoulder to end of axe with arm extended is one axe length) is recommended. This measurement will change according to the size of the axe and is designed to protect onlookers if you slip or let go of an axe, from loose axe heads and flying debris.

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Knife Safety