I can't comment on the performance of the new axe as it is not yet complete...and as you know, the last one is now broken. Not to worry, it shouldn't be much longer. Not a bad winter here either, just got back from a 3 day snowshoe trip and we have had about 30" snow in the past 10 days.
The new design had the axe plugged at each end, but I changed the design slightly to allow for easier manufacture and to use material I had on hand. If the axe does have plugs, they will either be removable, or optional - depending if I can get them back out.