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

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

  1. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    Yeah, Gransfors makes a handsome product- I even feel the call still. It will be nice to own a proper hatchet, Gransfors or not. I’m going to get plenty of chances to use the Estwing this weekend, so I’ll have a good baseline for when she (Flying Fox) arrives.

    @leozinho can you tell us about the hatchet head you found? What’s the make? Anything interesting about it?
     
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  2. littleknife

    littleknife

    Nov 29, 2000
    The GB Small Forest Axe is more comparable to the Flying Fox if used with one hand, since you can choke up on the longer handle.
    I think it is too short for using it efficiently and safely with two hands. If you want a more powerful axe, go with the GB Scandinavian Forest Axe: if I remember correctly, it has the same had on a longer haft.
    The biggest drawback of both is the high price. You can get a comparable performance with the much cheaper Council Tool Boy's axe (get the one with 28" nominal handle length, the actual length will be 26-27".)

    The GB Carpenter's Hatchet is another good option if you have the funds: it will carve better and in most cases will chop almost as well as the Flying Fox, and it will split well enough - likely better than the half hatchet. Once again, the price is steep.
    The Flying Fox is better suited for working with the non-seasoned wood you will encounter while hiking or camping, especially for processing firewood.

    P.S.: EngrSorenson, I think you will love the Flying Fox. :)
     
  3. garry3

    garry3

    Sep 11, 2012
    I try to like Council tool but I just can't get there. Soft steel, funky designs, non standard axe handle sizes, strange grinds, sloppy workmanship. It just doesn't pensile out when good vintage heads are readily available, cheaper and better in every way.
    American made or not they just don't get it for me.
     
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  4. leozinho

    leozinho

    134
    Jan 7, 2005
    It’s (apparently) a paper label HB hatchet, although there’s no maker’s mark. Collins and dollar bill for scale.

    Last picture is after I hit it with a little sandpaper.

    I paid more than I should have. Probably due to hipsters and Gransfor, vintage Swedish heads sell at a premium.

    It’s too small so it’s going to EBay. I might cleanup the edges and take it down to polished bare metal. Maybe with a shaving sharp edge someone will think it’s neat. (I don’t really care if I lose a few bucks on it.)


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    t least I know 1.25 lbs is too small. If I’m backpacking, I’m going ultralight and count ounces and will only take a Spyderco Delica. But now that I have little boys, we are car camping more so weight isn’t a big factor. Handiness is. I’m thinking closer to 2 lbs and 20” inches may be the sweet spot for me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020
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  5. littleknife

    littleknife

    Nov 29, 2000
    Not everyone has access to readily available good vintage heads. In some locations the internet is the only source, and that is a hit or miss, especially regarding a) ready availability, b) cheap price and) good condition. Otherwise your suggestion sounds convincing, but I must have had repeated bad luck for not being able to get "readily available good vintage heads".

    Regarding the soft steel of the Council Tool axes:
    Yes, they are softer than the GB or the now defunct Wetterlings axes, but on the other hand the CT axes don't chip so much in harder or knotty wood as the Swedish axes which are optimized for the woods in the boreal forest. Many vintage American axes can be on the softer side too, not all vintage finds have steel which is hard & tough in the same time.
    As for the sloppy workmanship, I have seen it on some of expensive Swedish axes too, while a lot of CT axes show excellent workmanship.
    I think CT axes are of good quality and for me it is an important factor that they are readily available for me and very affordable. I can understand they might not be everyone's favorites.
    The good news is we still have many good options to choose from and evidently you found alternatives which work better for you.
     
  6. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    The Stihl axe options are good value IMHO. I believe they are rebranded OCHSENKOPF models. They aren't the hardest axes around but, for $35~$45 at your local Stihl store are a good buy.

    The Hultafor and Hults Bruk options are good value as well. I'm a bit of a Lamnia fan and have sourced some great value options there. Hultafor seems to be rebranded Hults Bruk without all the extra hand labor.

    Council Tool makes a lot of good stuff but, for some reason, I generally find the EU options for cheaper prices and to be more available to me.

    The OCHSENKOPF Iltis is an awesome performer for ~$100. I am really attached to this one and it is NOT my most expensive axe either! I find it a little soft but, it is thin and doesn't take edge damage unless I hit steel or a hard rock. It is easy to keep sharp with a simple Lansky puck and a few strokes.
     
  7. leozinho

    leozinho

    134
    Jan 7, 2005
    I thought Hultafor was the parent company/owner of Hults Bruk. And Husqvarna is rebranded Hults/Hultafors with perhaps less fit and finish? I could be mistaken.

    Here's a good rundown of all the Swedish models from Gransfor, Hultafor, Hults Bruk and Husqvarna.
    https://www.ramblinjim.com/articles/swedish-axe-models-compared-wetterlings-alternatives/

    I'm off to look at Stihl and Oschenkpf models now! Thanks for the tip.
     
  8. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    None will have finer steel than the Vaughan. In my mind it's a no brainer. American made 1080.
     
  9. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    I think the longer handle is better up to a point. You lose accuracy as the handle gets longer. Short heavy axes feel clunky to me. They may deliver the same energy as a lighter longer axe but it's spread out over a wider bit and so doesn't penetrate as deeply.
     
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  10. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    yeah, definitely true about accuracy (what I referred to as 'aim') as the handle gets longer. I'm not sure if you caught that last line of my original post. I think as a classic dynamics problem it's interesting, as there's always a trade off, but in general from a physics standpoint the answer of a longer haft versus a heavier head seems clear. Velocity wins the day in this kind of rotational dynamics problem. That might be why a short handled, heavy headed axe seems clunky to you (or maybe all of us)! For the same moment of inertia you could have better momentum in a lighter headed, longer hafted axe.

    Just like you say, increased bit length means increased resistance in the wood. Really it's also the taper of the bit, since the width changes the contact area. In terms of depth of penetration, a longer bit with the same bevel results in shallower cuts. That's why I'm wondering about OP's new Swedish axe head- it looks comparable to most hatchet sizes out there- judging from the dollar bill, it's probably a 3 1/4" bit. That's only about a half an inch smaller than the Flying Fox.

    She looks pretty good to me! Just out of curiosity... what's she going for? :cool:

    It seems like you're equating weight with bit length, which might not be the best assumption... for a 1 1/4 lb head, that's ball park what I'd expect. The Estwing E24A has a 3 1/4" bit (1.6 lb total weight), and the flying fox has 3 7/8" bit length (1.6 lb head weight). I think I've read that the Gransfors Small Forest Axe has a 2 lb head with a 3 1/4" bit.

    Even a Vaughan half hatchet is 1.375 lbs with a 3 1/2" face.

    Out of curiosity, what length of a bit are you looking for? That might be a good starting point.

    --------------------------------------------------
    in other, related news to the OP's first post...
    --------------------------------------------------

    I went camping this past weekend in Vermont where they supply split wood for cabin woodstoves, but all outdoor fires (which I use for cooking) must be fueled with found wood from the forest floor. I brought my Estwing E24A sportsman's axe with me, and it did all the wood processing for the whole weekend. As a side note- there was a 1/2 mile hike to the cabins with my wife and two year old, so I carried all the gear.

    I made kindling for two cabin woodstoves from seasoned and split hardwood, fell a standing dead spruce tree (10" diameter), cut it into logs, and sized all sorts of branches made from everything from spruce to white ash. I cut all the wood to fuel an outside fire for all waking hours on Friday afternoon through Sunday morning.

    My friend and his girlfriend stayed in a nearby cabin and we shared a communal fire. I explained how I can't wait for my Council Tools Flying Fox to arrive, and after seeing me using the Estwing, he asked how much better can a hatchet get? Part of it is my own personal skill- I've gotten a lot better since I started using the E24A. Part of it is also my reprofiling of the bevel on diamond stones, I'm sure, and it's consequently extraordinarily sharp edge.

    Conclusions: Great chopper, okay splitter. This was the most use it's seen in any one stint, and it's still pretty sharp and working effectively. The lower 1/2" of the bit is really sharp, leading me to believe I've only really been using the top 2 3/4" consistently. The edge is intact despite carelessly driving the edge into knots a few times. It's a weak splitter, which I believe is due to how far back the divergent part of the axe sits; all the way back at the poll. I believe more traditional hatchets will have advantage there- there is be less driving of a bit to get splitting leverage. I did notice that particularly in harder woods the Estwing cuts more effectively at more oblique (lower) angles.

    I'm very excited to get that new Flying Fox in hand and give that a try. If the Estwing truly is an average performer, then I'm in for a treat with something deemed to be "the finest hatchet on the market".
     
  11. leozinho

    leozinho

    134
    Jan 7, 2005
    I have $50 in it with shipping.

    Bit length? Not sure. Just a little bigger than what I have, which is 3”. And heavier.
     
  12. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    Yeah I agree, to me the "softer" steel isn't a real issue. If someone is legitimately felling trees with an axe, buy something that will hold an edge longer. For everything else, edge retention is adequate in the basic CT axes. As for the rest, I consider them a project and they don't cost enough to be better than that. Plus, dressing them up is quick and easy.
     
  13. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    Well I suppose hard and soft are all relative. Does anyone have a good idea for the approximate hardness level an axe should have? I'm curious where Council Tool's fits in the mix. I think my Estwing is quoted somewhere around 55 HRC.
     
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  14. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014

    Several retailers list the basic CT line as 1060 steel at 48-55 HRC.
     
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  15. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    So because I'm addicted to shopping for tools, I keep looking around various places to see about OP's original post of an affordable camp hatchet. I have limited experience with the new Collins stuff- kinda hurts considering the Connecticut Tradition. For pete sake, Collinsville was named after the place.
    I'd love to hear some folks weigh in on
    • Recent Collins hatchets
    • Recent True Temper hatchets
    • Vaughan Camp Hatchet
      (we have one post regarding the quality of the steel)
    Honestly these seem really inexpensive, which doesn't always equate to "bad", but it does send up a red flag that there might be a lot of corrective work involved, or maybe some trashy steel, and frankly, that I wouldn't get out of it what I put into it.

    I have a Collins 3 1/2 lb Jersey axe in the basement that needs a new handle, and I'm honestly not sure what's more valuable- a new hickory haft or the Collins head. The last time I used it (many years ago), it was a disappointment to use, but looking at the edge now I'm not surprised. At the very least, I believe it's soft steel based on my limited experiences.

    I do have a 6 lb Collins maul that really does the trick- I'm pretty satisfied with it, but it seems kinda difficult to screw up a maul.

    Can anyone chime in on these hardware store hatchets?
     
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  16. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    My understanding is the Collins and TT stuff is imported. The little Vaughan hatchet has been one of those little hidden gems for awhile - you can probably find lots of posts about them back through time.
     
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  17. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    yeah, I knew Collins was imported; Mexico, I believe. True temper wouldn’t surprise me if it was imported at those prices. I wonder about the quality, because Gransfors are also imported :p.

    Good call on the posts about the Vaughan. I found one here where a lot of our current participants weighed in: Husqvarna Camping axe?.

    It sounds silly, considering the hatchet getting delivered to my house later today, but I’d love to try out that Vaughan. For less than $30 bucks? I mean... sheesh!
     
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  18. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    I suppose I should have said, imported from places not known for their high quality. I mean, they can't make brake rotors hard enough not to warp. By the same token, I modified one some time back now that I think about it - I forget which brand - something I got given to me or something. Or I'm misremembering completely. Wonder where that went. I never really used it, though I do recall it taking an edge just fine.

    Weren't the Vaughans called something? Frozen .... ice ..... something to do with the cold? They were really popular by that name I was thinking.
     
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  19. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    They used to have something called a subzero hatchet, which was very small, only about a 1/2 pound- I came across @Square_peg 's post where he reviewed the oyster hatchet and that subzero thing, but they don't make the 1/2 pound hatchet anymore.

    The only american made camp-style hatchet they make anymore is the Super Steel 1 1/4 pound camp "axe". I'm very curious about it.
     
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  20. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    Ah yes that was it. Subzero. Well you should get yourself one. I'd just think of it like the CT axes, another fun project to customize. Wonder if they have any on the shelves in any of my local hardware stores?
     
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