Unlocking North Vancouver History

Moodyville: Legend and Legacy

Double Bitted Axe

To cut down the massive trees, loggers used only simple hand tools and followed a specific procedure. First, they wedged springboards into notches cut into the wide base section. While standing on these, they sawed into the tree on the side towards which it was intended to fall, creating an undercut. Using axes, they would widen this cut from above into a semicircular notch. They continued sawing and chopping in the same fashion from the opposite side, but at a slightly higher level, until the tree toppled over of its own accord. To prevent a tree’s weight from squeezing the saw, the loggers would insert narrow wedges while cutting. The double-bitted axe, seen here, was a North American innovation that appeared in the 1870s. It spared loggers from having to carry two axes into the bush instead of one. Handles were especially long on the West Coast because the trees were so huge.

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The double-bitted axe had two cutting blades, doubling its usefulness. This one had a 4.5-pound (2-kg) head mounted on a 42-inch (1.1-m) hickory handle.

Double-bitted axes were a classic product of Yankee ingenuity that spread to Canada’s West Coast. They became standard tools for loggers working on the north shore.

Double-bitted axes began to appear in logging-tool catalogues published in the eastern United States as of about 1875.

Canadian loggers working on the West Coast likely purchased the factory-made axes, which were shipped in bulk to logging areas.

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