Leave it to the Finns to update something as unimprovable as the axe. Finland is a nation populated entirely by (as far as I can tell) woodland elves and reclusive hermits, and the heavily forested country knows its way around making firewood. I'm a "don't fix what ain't broke" kind of person, but the oddly weighted Vipukirves Leveraxe genuinely seems to fix the few things that suck about chopping firewood. While a lot of the viral popularity of this slick axe comes down to the fact that most people appear to know nothing about chopping wood, this invention is seriously interesting. It looks like a rejected logo for the Artist Again Known As Prince, but the design's true value is its combination of unusual functional features. First, the head is heavily weighted to one side, rather than balanced like a traditional axe head. Second, the cutting face has an odd concave angle. Third, what the hell is that tang on the side about?
These features intentionally force the axe head out and to the left as soon as it sinks into the wood. Rather than relying on the even outward leverage of a wedge to split a log in half, this "Leveraxe" takes the same amount of kinetic energy and directs it outward which makes the gap created by the head larger and makes splitting faster. Swing it like a normal axe, chip away from the outer edge, and let its eccentric weight do the work from there. This brings the number of whacks needed way down and reduces the chances of accidental injury by directing the swing away from your innocent shins. And that bizarre metal curl on the head? It functions as a brake, keeping the axe from getting stuck or striking the ground, and reducing the amount of time between swings. Neatly done.
Most of my chopping-savvy sources expressed concern that the outward twisting of the axe would quickly wreck the user's wrists. The designer argues that with a loose grip on the follow-through you'll be fine (which I always thought was a good idea for swinging tools in general, but I'm a city kid, so who knows). Traditional axes rely on momentum of the wedge, repeated blows to finish a split, and often require picking up and rearranging the wood being split. All of these tiring factors are reduced or eliminated with the Leveraxe. The illustrated tutorial on how to do the axe thing helpfully shows their preferred method for sharp object swinging and how to assemble a high tech tire-ring chopping block. And lefties, don't need to despair—it seems to work fine for southpaws too.
The inventor of the Leveraxe is a bonafide forest-dwelling Finn, which is all the credentials I'd ask for, but there's more. In addition to a pretty sweet looking, pretty sweet acting product, the Leveraxe also offers one of the best company creation myths I've ever read. As a teaser (I'd hate to spoil the narrative) it starts with the hero, a simple man who "moved to the gloomy forest of Sipoo—a man who wanted to appreciate beautiful, individual trees." Once there he encounters great difficulty and arduous labor in the process of crafting his forest home, difficulty so great that "he sat down on a stump, threw his gloves in the moss, wiped the sweat from his forehead and started cogitating."
There are also many, many videos, several of which feature nothing but our hero walking around a stump or woodpile. It's thrilling stuff all around. If you think I'm joking, here's a friendly reminder that in Norway, another fervently woodfired nation, a primetime show on chopping, stacking and drying firewood became violently contentious for its depicted method of wood stacking. (Bark side up for life!) The show concluded with 8 hours of uninterrupted footage of a fireplace. This portion of the show was also gripping, as one audience member admitted, "I couldn't go to bed because I was so excited."
What more do you need to know? Go check out these sweet axes, their noble backstory, the bizarre series of videos, and start planning your forest retirement.