The Quest for an Affordable American/Canadian/European hatchet?

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by leozinho, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. leozinho


    Jan 7, 2005
    As the title says, I'm on the quest for an affordable American, Canadian or European hatchet. I've got multiple boys, so I need multiple hatchets. Probably wouldn't spring for a Gransfor even if it was just for me.

    I do want to avoid Chinese or Mexican made hatchets.

    I'm looking at Ebay for a vintage heads, and have no problem cleaning old ones up and re-hanging them. But must be the hipsters - vintage heads sell for more than you think they would. I don't have time to drive around to estate sales looking for bargains, unfortunately.

    I'm just looking for something classic - 1.25 to 1.5lbs and around 13" inches.

    Right now the best choices seem to be Husqvarna for $50 or Council Tool for a bit less.

    I did stumble across this US made Vaughan -

    I can't find anyone talking about it though, and no one but Vaughan seems to carry it. I can get two for less than $30 each, and it will probably need to be thinned behind the edge. I'm fine with that.

    Saw the Bahco but the reviews are pretty bad. Not sure if it's made in Germany anymore either.

    What else should I consider?

    sdc1104 and Square_peg like this.
  2. E.D.C.

    E.D.C. Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 7, 2016
    I like the little logging hatchets from Husky and Stihl.
  3. crbnSteeladdict


    Jul 31, 2017
    It is a little heavy and handle is 16" but it has hardened poll.
  4. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    the flying fox seems great all around

    there were a couple on the exchange recently
    Miller '72 likes this.
  5. cityofthesouth


    Jan 29, 2014
    Miller '72 likes this.
  6. FLINT77


    Apr 8, 2013
    I would also consider Estwing - especially for boys as they will be rough and their aim not so good, and Estwing will be pretty "boy proof" I definitely destroyed some wooden handles when I was young. and not so young.
    RLB0414 and cityofthesouth like this.
  7. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    The Flying Fox is one of the finest hatchets on the market today, and yet quite economical for the features it offers.
  8. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    I modified an old half hatchet I found in my father's basement while cleaning it out. I cut off the hammer and bearded the blade, then made a 9-10" handle for it. It works really well for carving, which is all I've used it for so far. Maybe you could check out those Vaughn half hatchets? I'm sure there's better out there, but it's pretty user friendly for ~$20. I'm not sure exactly what your boys are intending to use a hatchet for, which might be another consideration. I don't know if I'd be out trying to split substantial rounds with one.

    I like my Estwing E24A with the leather handle- If OP wants to hand the sons something bomb-proof, I might consider that.
    I just don't feel like mine ever cut like it "should", even with some bevel reprofiling- I'm actually in the market now for an "upgrade", which is how I happened across thread.
    I feel as though there's a lot of heft to the E24A, and yet very little of that actually gets used. I might personally prefer a wooden handle.

    you had me at "one of the finest"... do you think you might be able to elaborate on what you like about it? I've read so many axe reviews this past week that my head is spinning. For almost any axe I look at there's a dichotomy which falls into two camps, "this is the greatest axe of all time" and "I can't believe I spent my money on this". I'm 2 beers and a bad day at work away from just going in for the Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet, just because I've found less negative reviews about that one. (well... and it looks pretty cool.)

    Anyone else get exhausted from watching axe reviews and reading the comments? I'm bushed.
    RIP Dequincy Jynxie likes this.
  9. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    The GB Wildlife hatchet is a fine hatchet, but quite expensive. It is appealing, has the brand recognition and coolness going for it.
    It is a good chopper and an acceptable splitter, comes with a nice sheath. If you plan to carry your hatchet on long hikes, it is an excellent choice.

    For a fraction of its price you can get the Council Tool Flying Fox hatchet.
    It is another excellent hatchet, but it is heavier, so if weight is of primary concern, it wouldn't be my first choice.
    It is a good chopper and an excellent splitter, you can tackle thicker and harder wood with it than with the GB Wildlife.
    You have to buy a sheath for it separately (e.g. the nice synthetic one made by FortyTwoBlades), but even so the combined price will be less than 1/3 of that of the Wildlife. It also has a hardened poll with which you can freely hammer nails or metal stakes - things I would avoid doing with the Wildlife.
    If looks and pride of ownership are important to you, you may want to chose the GB Wildlife. It is a really nice looking hatchet!

    Depending on the amount and type of wood you want to process, and the length of time you want to carry it on you, either one can provide advantages over the other.
    Performance wise either one of those would be a great improvement over the Estwing, half hatchets or even the ones currently sold at home improvement stores.
    Good luck with your choice!
  10. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    Thank you, friend- this was superb guidance; it’s as if you have been in my shoes. You’ve helped me choose- as cool as a Gransfors would be, I’d probably openly weep with the first ding I put in the blade. They’re works of art, to be sure.

    To further elaborate on internal battles, I was considering the Small Forest Axe vs the Wildlife hatchet. I liked the idea of the SFA; the heavier, more capable head seems nice, but the handle length seemed awkward. Picking up a spare 28” haft gave me that revelation.

    it seems this Council tool flying fox is actually what I was looking for in a Gransfors offering. 1.6 lb head on the flying fox is equal to the total weight of the Estwing; of which a significant amount of that is probably in the handle. If I’m going to be swinging 1.6 lbs, it might as well be where it counts. I’m ordering one right now, though it seems our friend @FortyTwoBlades is unfortunately out of sheaths! Not a problem for right now.
  11. cityofthesouth


    Jan 29, 2014
    Yeah I know I do get tired. It's like that with anything today - information overload, not to mention the amount of BS you have to wade through to get to the information you're looking for. I can tell you the bottom line on the two camp problem though. Expectations.

    The object known as the axe has devalued in the minds of most people to the point that almost any money is too much if the thing isn't absolutely flawless in every conceivable way. We live in the plastic age and people seem to think every tree on earth grows wood to exactly the same specifications as the tree next to it as if they aren't a living thing. Often these same people will pay $200 for a few ounces of super steel in a knife that was entirely produced by machines and held together with a couple screws, but then can't fathom how multiple POUNDS of steel could cost money. It's shaped like an axe, therefore the steel costs less to the manufacturer? Then that steel has to be drop forged. Apparently, that is somehow "easier" than stamping out their knife blade from flat stock. You get where I'm going here, and I could go on.

    Council has struck a balance in value. The materials and time spent putting the thing together produce a useful quality tool, without costing a fortune at today's real manufacturing costs. As far as the specific features of the flying fox that make it great, I'll leave that to the people with experience. Axe design can sometimes be subtle and really use specific. I have two Gransfors - I can't remember what they're called anymore but I think one is the wildlife hatchet. It's handy for carving I can tell you that much. I've not personally found a lot of use for really small hatchets beyond that myself but I'm not a real big camper bushcrafter whatever. If I was going camping and I was going to split firewood, it wouldn't even occur to me to take something with less than 24 inches of handle, unless the head was relatively heavy, which might describe the flying fox.
  12. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    The amount of bologna out there is amazing, but I think it sticks around because it comes from sources that often have some credibility- grandpappi taught me how to properly sharpen a knife and he also said stainless is garbage. One of my favorite pieces of trivia comes from the old Northfield Cutlery Company up here in Connecticut. It's been a while since I've revisited it, but the story basically goes they were demonstrating their heat treat by encouraging people to "whittle nails", as if whittling a nail was somehow meaningful, or even possible beyond putting some marks in the mild steel.

    In my experience the expectations tend to be merciless. I even catch myself being hyper critical of some of my favorite GEC knives. It's like once someone mentions something like blade centering, I can't un-think it. The internet can do wonderous things, but sometimes it pools it's criticisms together to make for one super unhappy group of disenchanted buyers.

    This has largely been the trouble I've been having with reviews of various axes; it's darn near impossible to tell how to judge something like an axe. To pick on the Gransfors Hand Hatchet for a second- advertising only talks about what it can do. I suppose it would be marketing suicide in most cases, but when the maker explicitly states limitations people tend to listen. I love the idea of a small portable Gransfors Hand Hatchet, but I have to remind myself that I'm losing losing mechanical advantage and momentum in the tradeoffs. Folks use what I call a felling axe to split wood all the time, when I would probably be reaching for a splitting axe or a maul. Yet by virtue of people doing it I think, "why can't I do that, too?".

    Comments like this are extremely helpful. I'm currently mounting a 3 3/4 lb craftsman to a 28" haft; the original handle was broken and at 3 3/4 lbs it just seemed manageable. I need a full size axe around; I use a hatchet more, but you're absolutely right that there's no substitution for a full size axe.

    This lead me just now down the rabbit hole of optimization- is it better to have an axe with twice the head weight, or twice the haft length?
    Assuming achieving the highest momentum is the goal and making all kinds of other assumptions, looks like increasing the head weight nets you ~78% of the momentum that increasing the handle length generates.

    Theoretically, you just can't beat a longer handle. Of course practically there are other considerations, like aim, etc.
  13. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    The Flying Fox also happens to perform VERY nicely when fitted to a boy's axe handle, by the way.
  14. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    Ah! very exciting- if I ever have to rehaft it, perhaps I'll set it up like a really sweet "small" forest axe. I'm going camping this weekend with the family- I'll have to suffer knowing a better hatchet is coming in the mail. I'll be sure to grunt and complain a lot while using my estwing, and then I'll show my wife how I'm not grunting or complaining when I use my new Flying Fox.

    @FortyTwoBlades you, sir, are quite the salesman.
  15. cityofthesouth


    Jan 29, 2014
    Yeah I *try* to caveat my opinions with my experience and my use. Here is what I know, and here are the things I'm not experienced to really have an opinion on. So my opinion is, you can run a head a little lighter than a boys axe AND with a little shorter handle AND still have a powerful multipurpose tool that's easier to carry. If you've got big bear forearms then maybe you can rock something shorter and weighty. At the opposite end, if you want to do little work, then the Wildlife Hatchet is little work size, as in, you can actually swing it repeatedly one handed, long enough to carve something and the bit (and handle) is actually well designed for the task IMO. The things in between those, I dunno, shorter than 24 inches but longer than 13ish, then it's long enough to be cumbersome (not really a one handed tool), and too short to make any power with safely or for any length of time. I mean, I split tiny kindling with the same full size axe I split the rounds with at my wood pile. Not saying it's best practice but you know. Plus, 20" handles are just long enough to whap yourself in the nuts with while splitting up kindling.

    I think the Hand Hatchet is even smaller maybe? Yeah to me that's like a "survival knife". It can do all the things if you're in trouble, but it sucks at all of them. Simultaneously too big and too small. And I'm 100% sure there are people who consistently prove I'm wrong simply because the tools work perfectly for the type of work they do, or their skill set or whatever it is.

    That actually sounds pretty awesome.
  16. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    I'm absolutely dying laughing right now- Axe safety comes in many forms. :D

    I think you're absolutely right about that odd 15-24 inch range. measuring from shoulder- to shoulder I think I'm somewhere between 18-20 inches across. Add a couple inches on either side for grip and that's about 24 inches. I'm guessing hand travel on a choke up on a swing is roughly that distance, because that's comfortable distance to reach in a relaxed pre-swing position. 28 inches even feels a little tight to me, but not uncomfortable.

    10-15" for a hatchet haft makes sense, because you can't change your grip relative to the center of gravity when you're only using one hand, so naturally you want to be relatively close to the head.

    @leozinho I'll happily give you a review of the flying fox when I get it! Maybe that will help you in your quest.
  17. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    That Vaughan is an excellent tool for the money, the price shows in the finish but the steel is good they're hung well and they sharpen up well.
    My grandmother bought one a few years ago for kindling and I have sharpened and maintained it for her.
    Well worth the money and perfect for something a kid won't take care of.

    I don't have any experience with any of the other US made camp style hatchets you can get today aside from Vaughans little one, but the standard 1.25lb camp hatchet is good for the money.
  18. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    I have been thinking about getting a council saddle axe and putting it on a 24-26" handle.

    that's not nearly the value of the flying fox, but it's something I can't stop thinking about

    this thread is a great read!
  19. leozinho


    Jan 7, 2005
    Please do. I made an impulse buy of a 1.25 lb Swedish hatchet head that just arrived. And it's smaller than I anticipated. I wish I had gone with the 1.625 lbs Flying Fox, but I'll wait for your impressions before pulling the trigger on it.
    cityofthesouth and EngrSorenson like this.
  20. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    ^I'm in a similar boat.

    originally was planning to get a flying fox, but couldn't resist the call of a GB carpenters axe :rolleyes:

    it'll be great to read that review, good to help with the coffee for waking up in the morning
    cityofthesouth and EngrSorenson like this.

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