Making an ice Chisel

Over my last couple of blogs I  discussed the importance of water and some of the various methods that can be employed in its collection. In our discussion on securing water there was significant mention of the benefits of using an ice chisel over an axe. Over the following  pages I intend to talk you through a process that proved to be simple, effective and transportable throughout our time in Sweden.

Whilst working through a large volume of literature during the planning for our winter trip both Adam and me came across a broad range of designs for ice chisel heads. The problem that we were facing was that Britain not being an all-together cold country, as far as frozen lakes go at least, finding a supplier for a suitable ice chisel was proving difficult. Nigh on impossible to be honest.

After looking through all the variation in design and realising that it was looking likely that we would need to make our own, we opted to keep everything as simple as possible in the design as long as it functioned. There were some very good functional designs out there, the ones with spade handle fittings looked extremely simple, only requiring a pole to be socketed into the head for use. The problem with this design was forming the folded socket behind the head to house the cut pole. Having access to only basic blacksmithing tools meant that it was going to prove time consuming and difficult to form the socket attached to the head for the pole locate in. In the end we went for a simple flat bar with a couple of holes drilled through and a bevel ground at the end. We had not seen many designs like this is the books, as most had tangs or sockets as previously described. We felt though that correctly attached to a cut staff out in Sweden this crude and simple tool would serve the purpose. Unfortunately for us field testing was the only way to find this out, meaning that we would have to wait for the moment of truth.

Luckily for us the design proved to be a success and was a great example of the merits of keeping things simple.

The process below will briefly talk through the process of attaching the ice chisel head to a freshly cut pole as well as how we ensured that should any bindings work loose during application the head was not lost at the bottom of a frozen lake.

The first step was to…. Find a suitable pole!


This did not prove difficult once we arrived in Sweden. The pole we were looking for was close to 1″ round and 5 feet in length.DSC03171

Once the pole is down remove all side branches. Following this a half section 4-5″ long is removed from the but end of the pole which will house the chisel head. To split the half out use a knife accurately marked up to the saw cut and baton the knife along the grain.






After the half split has been remove securely bind the chisel head to the pole. The simplest way I found was to tie a clove hitch at the base of the split before locating the chisel head. The line is then bound around the head in the tightest possible manner to ensure there is no movement. If you have pre-drilled holes a couple of nails can be driven in to hold the head as this is done.


The final stage is to attach a lanyard running form the chisel head up to the top wrist to ensure there’s no risk of loosing the head.


This was simply done by attaching a line through one of the pre-drilled holes in the head up to the wrist where a loop is tied in the line. A simple over hand knot served for this without the risk of slippage.

 DSC03226 DSC03227

This simple, robust and transportable design served us extremely well for the duration of the trip and the process described above required no maintenance what so ever during the whole 8 days on the trail. I’m sure that the broad range of prefabricated heads work effectively but for the minimal cost involved and the simplicity of the design in use has lead me to believe that there is little need to improve on what we have for future trips.





Related posts