The Ultimate Axe: Forging the Perfect Blade
After nearly cutting off his hand splitting logs in 2001, you’d think Matthew Paul would stay away from axes. Instead, the accident spurred Paul to quit his job and convert an old onion packing barn into a studio in his hometown of Florida, New York. He constructed a forge, and used it to make all the tools he needed to pursue his passion: knife making. Now, Paul can forge nearly anything with a sharp edge, but his favorite blades to make are Viking axes. The irony isn’t lost on him.
Paul found that Viking axes, smaller than conventional ones, were more versatile. “This is what they would have used for a lot of the woodworking and they probably would have taken them to battle,” says Paul, who initially used pictures and research he found online to guide him. “It took 15 axes before they started looking like that,” he says, pointing to a beautifully finished axe on his table. While he used to carve each handle himself, Paul now sources them from a tomahawk company.
To test the axes, Paul films himself beating on their blades He uses them to hunt, fish, butcher animals and even to ignite fires. He then posts the videos online. “The good stuff, the bad stuff, I just put it up there. And people seem to like that.” People do like it, a lot. This completely honest approach has attracted customers from across the country, and as far away as Siberia.
Now that Paul works for himself, his days are long. But when he catches a moment of peace, he hunts, collects honey from his beehives and inches towards the perfect axe.
“I made more money when I worked for other people but I didn’t have the freedom I have doing this. It’s not for everyone—it’s not for me sometimes,” says Paul, laughing. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”