Be A Man! Buy A Hand-Made Artisanal Ax

In business, men on July 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm
The Warrior Grip (or how to hold a cricket bat)

Image by spratmackrel via Flickr

Not sure if I think this is silly or interesting. A Canadian designer in Brooklyn, Peter Buchanan-Smith, is now making and selling hand-painted axes to men, and women who groove on the artisanal, primal attraction of a practical object with design street cred.

Take that, Home Depot!

From The New York Times:

Made by a secret source in Maine, and hand-painted by Mr. Buchanan-Smith, 38, in his TriBeCa studio (with the help of two art school interns and a full-time employee), the sturdy and beautiful hatchets have gone viral.

After Andy Spade, the brander, entrepreneur and husband of Kate Spade, put one in Partners & Spade, his quasi-gallery, in May 2009, design bloggers and the design news media trumpeted the “authenticity” of this manly tool — and then promoted it largely as an art object. This was both irritating and pleasing to Mr. Buchanan-Smith, who says that he constantly worries that he’ll be perceived as “just some design hipster kicking it old-school selling some chic tools to a handful of other hipsters.”

Still, seven of his axes are hanging in the Saatchi Gallery in London. Seth Godin, the entrepreneur and marketing guru, has one, and so do Leonard Lauder, David Lynch and Mike Jones, the president of MySpace.

Even real woodsmen and -women have bought them, as you can see from the comments and photographs on Mr. Buchanan-Smith’s new Web site,, which he has created to be as much of a community center for outdoorsy types like himself as an online emporium. (Mr. Buchanan-Smith, who grew up on a farm in Ontario, has a pre-New York résumé of Hemingway-like experiences, including a job planting trees in Northern Ontario…

First, all you panty-waisted New York hipsters…..tree-planting as proof of manliness is as meh to a Canadian as waitressing or bar-tending. Yes, it’s rugged and really hard work and done way up north. But girls do it, too. Please don’t be overly impressed.

I agree that a man who knows how to handle an ax is a man with some decent hand-eye coordination; if not, it’s off to the ER, stat! The only man I’ve watched wield an ax used it, in desperation on a canoe trip, to…slice cucumbers for our salad because, being a manly man, a rugged outdoorsman, he forgot to bring a damn knife. The drive back to Toronto, all 3.5 hours of it, passed in a frosty silence.

If you’re going to try to impress a woman with your ability to be Old School Man, for God’s sake, do it right.

And what exactly are all these thought leaders going to do with their sexy new axes? Chop their way across Michael’s or into a prime table at the Waverly Inn?

  1. You’re a woman who understands men. That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and I make my wood wedges ring, doggonit.

  2. Seriously! The very sound of that sounds…Manly!

    I sort of hate a fellow Canadian for enabling these hipster guys to put on rugged airs. It can’t be done, I say.

  3. Rightly so. A place for us all, I say. Look, I can’t dress, don’t know anything about my hair but to comb it, more or less. I’m wide in the belly and narrow between the eyes, but hand me an ax and tell me which one’s the tree and by Jim, I’ll have you a stack of wood and some callouses I’m willing to wear home. Real men give each other their space, is what I’m saying.

  4. Hah! Funny enough, but not funny, our friend/neighbor caused serious damage to his hand not a month ago while trying to chop wood in his back hard. He almost lost half of it when he missed. The point? Call a professional or something, good grief. If you want to be manly, do the dishes.

  5. “If you want to be manly, do the dishes.”

    What she said.

  6. I camp whenever I can, which is not often enough. So, of course, I have an ax in my gear- a Fiskars, well built, well designed head, ergonomic lightweight plastic handle. One could buy four of them for the price of the designer axman sling pictured in the catalog. It occurs to me that a person who can easily afford a $220.00 ax probably has no real need for an ax in their daily life; while a person who really does use an ax on a routine basis is probably going to find some more needful use for that $220.00. The only thing I use my ax for is splitting firewood; a saw has much more general utility, and a good sheath knife is essential for damn near everything. (Caitlin, don’t be TOO hard on your manly friend; you always forget something, and at least he remembered his pants.) Mr. Buchanan-Smith’s axes are little marvels of craftmanship, so that much is at least worthwhile. In closing, I’d like to note that there is one outdoor tool that is more useless and dangerous than an ax- a machete. If you’re camping near someone with one of those, move.

  7. You’re assuming he remembered his pants! He did…

    When my mom and I lived and traveled around Mexico, two white women without male accompaniment, we often passed men in the countryside carrying very large machetes…

    • Trust me. You were much safer around those Mexican substistence-farmers, and sugar-cane field workers, than you would be around Norteamericano urban and suburban campers, where machetes are concerned.

      Glad to hear about the pants…

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