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The Michigan axe was widely used around the 1860s, and is still used today. To better suit the thick and dense wood in the area, this felling axe became the go to.
This axe head was created specifically to handle the dense White Pine in the lumber rich area of Michigan. Lumber as a whole in the United States was a very big industry, especially this part of the United States. And so, the Michigan axe was created.
Although axes have been around for ages, each one is slightly different in its design. The Michigan pattern was created to deal with the type of wood lumberjacks came across in this part of the world. Mostly these trees were very large, heavy and possibly frozen.
When the Michigan design came into existence, it made felling these trees much easier and became the standard for top of the line tomahawks for many years.
The key points of the design was a more curved bit of the axe head. It was specifically tempered to hold an edge and differed from other more straight bit designs of the time. The curve allowed the axe to bite deeper into the wood for better power swings. Both Michigan double bit and single bit axes were designed this way.
When looking at the bit of the axe, there are 2 corners. The corner furthest away from the user is called the toe, and the corner closer to the user is called the heel. With the new Michigan design, both the heel and toe were a bit more rounded than in previous models.
This slight change really helped when chopping into extra hard wood. If the heel and toe were straight it would have more of a chance of chipping.
The Michigan pattern also introduced a heavier poll. The back of the axe (known as poll) was always quite small and did not really have any real purpose. The heavier poll helped give more heft to the axe head as a whole causing deeper bites into the wood.
The poll was also slightly rounded compared to other axe patterns but was not hardened, so it was not used as a hammer.
These axe heads ranged from about 3 to 7 pounds depending on the capabilities and strength of the user. The axe handles varied greatly from very straight to very curved – also based on personal preference.
Double bit axes were as common as single bits. They allowed fellers to only have to carry 1 axe that could do 2 jobs.
This is what makes the Michigan pattern stand out and the preferred tool for dealing with wood similar to the White Pine lumberjacks had to deal with in the Great Lakes and Michigan area.
For the most part, due to so many competing companies in those days the patterns were mostly regional. One standout being the Michigan axe head pattern, which is still used today unlike many other older patterns.