by Todd Walker
I keep an old ax in my truck. It’s far from a grub ax. It’s sharp and effective for harvesting desirable wood felled on roadside right-of-ways. The sling is made of nylon webbing attached to a down and dirty (ugly) sheath. It’s functional but not very pleasing to the woodsman’s eye.
Who cares, right? It gets the job done.
You don’t have to settle for function only. Shouldn’t a woodsman have both a functional cutting tool, properly sheathed… and have the ability to transport his ax hands-free with a rugged leather sling? Yes he should.
Here’s how to make your own…
First, credit for this brilliant idea goes to an article by Steve Watts and David Wescott in an issue of American Frontiersman magazine. You’ll also find Watts and Wescott sharing woodland wisdom over at Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. I pinned the article several months ago and, like so many other DiY projects, forgot about it. Then a buddy of mine, Kevin, sent me a picture of the sling with a request to help him make one. I figured I better make one for myself before inviting him over to my shop.
To make this manly sling (the sheath requires more stuff), all you’ll need is some scrap leather and a few basic tools.
Tools and Material
- An old belt (or two unless you have a 44 inch waist), a bag of scrap leather strips sold at craft stores, or any leather material 1.5 to 2 inches wide and 48 inches long
- 1/8 inch wide leather thongs to connect the sheath to the strap (and for splicing if necessary)
- Scissors or utility knife
- Leather hole punch – rotary punch, awl, drill, ice pick, etc.
- Straight edge
Cut to Length
I’m 5′-10″ tall and of average build. My sling is 48 inches on a vintage Plumb Boy Scout ax which measures 26 inches long. The two leather thongs attaching the sling to the sheath allow for length adjustment if needed for heavy winter wear.
The longest strip of leather in my remnant bag was 41 inches long. I spliced a one foot section to the sling to get to 48 inches. I think the splice adds to the appearance.
The width of the sling should fall between 1.5 and 2 inches.
To splice two pieces, overlap the two ends about two inches and punch 4 symmetrical holes through the overlapped leather (stitching the splice is an option). Thread a 12 inch leather thong through the holes to make a “x” pattern facing the outside of the sling. Tie the ends underneath with a square knot (right over left, left over right).
Attach to Sheath
Punch two holes in the heel portion of the sheath. Click here for ax terminology and anatomy. Punch two holes in one end of the sheath. Thread an eighteen inch thong through the sheath holes and then into the two holes on the sling. Tie them off with a square knot on the inside of the sling. The 18 inch thong should give you ample material to adjust the sling for your stature and seasonal clothing.
On the top edge of the sheath (poll end), punch one hole about 1/2 inch from the edge of the sheath. Now punch two holes in the remaining end of the sling. These holes are about 1/2 inch in from the end of the sling. Thread another thong through the sheath hole and into the two holes in the sling. Tie a square knot to secure.
Cut a Slit
For a 3/4 ax, measure about 14 to 15 inches down the sling where it connects to the poll end of the sheath. Mark and punch a small centered hole in the sling. From that hole, measure another 4 inches and mark and punch another centered hole. Using a straight edge, cut a slit completely through the sling between the two holes. The ax handle will ride in this slit. For longer ax handles, you may need to adjust the slit placement.
Fit and Finish
To try out your new hands-free ax carrying system, insert the ax handle in the slit on the sling and secure the sheath on the ax head. Now you’re ready to hit the woods in style. Simply remove the sheath, slide the ax handle through the sling, and do what this essential tool is made for… cutting stuff!
Ax Related Resources
- How to Make a DiY Custom Ax Sheath
- How to Choose an Ax for Self-Reliance
- 4 Ax Skill Every Man Should Know
Here’s our video on making the hands-free system (frontier style sheath and sling). Start at 16:25 if you only want to make the sling. Thanks for watching, and, please subscribe to our YouTube channel!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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