Keep both hands on the handle to reduce the risk of slipping or making a wrong cut. Place one hand further up the handle and then let it slide down the handle as the axe is swung downward. Thick branches may sometimes require a counterstroke or a sidestroke to prevent splitting.
Always stand so you have the log between you and the branches you are removing, to reduce the risk of cutting into your leg if you slip.
Check that there are no small branches or anything else in the path of the axe. Clear any hanging branches that might deflect the swinging axe. Stand firmly on the ground and never balance on logs or branches.
Direction of chop: from root end to top end