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View Full Version : Best new axe for general bushcraft in a hardwood forest?



Andy
03-09-2009, 10:24 AM
Is there a good new axe still in production which works well on hardwoods?

Here are some of the options I've researched:

Gransfors-Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe and Small Forest Axe
Awesome axes, but apparently made for working mostly with softwoods.

From: http://www.jackmtn.com/simplog/?p=130


After watching someone swing an axe a few times I can tell if they’re an expert or a beginner. My friend Don Merchant is as good with an axe as anyone I’ve ever seen. He grew up on a rural farm and has been using an axe since he was seven. He wields it like a surgeon. And he doesn’t like the Gransfors Scandinavian forest axe. The problem is that this axe is held in high regard by many of the gurus, and now their followers, and is popularly known as the best axe for wilderness use. Granted, it’s the best steel available in any new axe, but it’s grind is concave so it can wedge into a cut.


Wetterling
I think of these as a step down from the GB axes. I assume these have similar head geometry problem (being concave) as the GB?

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Edit:
This review and photos (http://outdoors.magazine.free.fr/spip.php?article147) show that the Wetterling long hunting axe (LHA) bit profile is straighter (slightly convex) than the slightly concave bit of the GB small forest axe (SFA). This would make it more suited to general purpose use. The review found that the LHA penetrated deeper than the SFA, but also got stuck more often. The straighter profile should make the LHA better at splitting, although this wasn't tested in the review.


...the LHA [Wetterling long hunting axe] is also the axe that has the most tendancy to stick, but this is also because it penetrates deeper. Nothing bad anyway a litles shaking and it releases, but it does stick more. The thin convex profile of the LHA is certainly very efficient.
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Snow and Nealley
From: http://www.poleandpaddle.com/2006/11/then-and-now.html

The old stamped Snow and Neally's have a much better temper than the new. I talked with someone once who had called Snow and Neally and asked them why they changed the temper in their axes. The answer was, customer demand. The customers wanted an axe that was easy and fast to sharpen.

Iltis Oxhead
A German company which apparently makes decent axes with decent tempers and steel. I don't have much data on these, but haven't heard anything negative about them.

Rubarb
03-09-2009, 10:44 AM
I have a couple of Gransfors axes and have used them of soft and hardwoods no problem at all, but they are expensive, must admit these days i tend to use my cheapie B&Q (Home Depot) axes more than anything else, cheap as chips, they do the job as well as the Gransfors and it doesnt hurt as much if you ding the cutting edge, just need to spend some time initially putting a decent edge on them.

I know Wetterlings have quite a following in the US, but having never used one, i cant really comment on them.

Uinta
03-09-2009, 11:28 AM
I have a 19" wetterings lg hunter axe. It took a lot of work to get the head in shape but it is very nice to use. I do however use it only on spruce, pine and aspens. Not too many traditional hardwoods grow here other than scrub oak.

IA Woodsman
03-09-2009, 12:00 PM
I own a Wetterings Forest Hatchet. Great chopper. Paid like 30 bones. The GF look nice but I can't pay that much money for an axe.

Keyser Söze
03-09-2009, 12:18 PM
andy, just pick up a old axe head from ebay ,sometimes they come in lots of3-6 or just one, i can recommend , true temper, kelly works, plumb,collins, tomahawk ,the real old stuff ,i,l take some pics for you today from what i have in my projects

Leif
03-09-2009, 12:41 PM
Gransfors Bruks for me any day. Difference with GB is they ensure the heads are aligned and fitted before being shipped out. I have heard several complaints on wetterlings being hit and miss on that one. Or like gaga said get a head and do your own handle.

Bushpuukko
03-09-2009, 12:52 PM
Mike Stewart of Bark River Knives wrote an EXCELLENT article on axes a while back. A MUST READ as far as I'm concerned. Explains a lot of things few people think about. Very insightful.

Keyser Söze
03-09-2009, 07:37 PM
Andy save your $ for a good knife and get an older axe head ,it should look like this after you dip it in 50/50% muriatic acid and water for 30 minutes ,the gray area shows the temper and means a good blade holding edge ...look in axe/saw #### for more:D

Andy
03-10-2009, 08:49 AM
I have updated the first post with this new information:

-------------------------
Edit:
This review and photos (http://outdoors.magazine.free.fr/spip.php?article147) show that the Wetterling long hunting axe (LHA) bit profile is straighter (slightly convex) than the slightly concave bit of the GB small forest axe (SFA). This would make it more suited to general purpose use. The review found that the LHA penetrated deeper than the SFA, but also got stuck more often. The straighter profile should make the LHA better at splitting, although this wasn't tested in the review.


...the LHA [Wetterling long hunting axe] is also the axe that has the most tendancy to stick, but this is also because it penetrates deeper. Nothing bad anyway a litles shaking and it releases, but it does stick more. The thin convex profile of the LHA is certainly very efficient.
-------------------------

IdahoBackwoods
03-10-2009, 09:16 PM
This is quite interesting. I agree that a concave grind will tend to stick in the cut rather than popping a chip out. In fact, that's what my Estwing hatchet does. However, my Gransfors Brux hatchet (13" long) has a conVEX grind, and definitely chops better.

So I'm wondering if GB's Small Forest Axe has a fundamentally different grind than the hatchet....

CloaknDagger
03-10-2009, 10:03 PM
I hadn't heard any other complaints about the wetterlings axes other than that they were inferior to the GB in terms of fit and finish. More... utility grade, if you will. So I went ahead and bought one from a fabulous site called bensbackwoods.com. The 15 inch model I got is fantastic, and I feel in love with it immediately. I was something of a "chopper knife" aficionado before I got my wetterlings, but I've pretty much switched over to axes and 5" compact knives. The fit and finish is somewhat...rustic... but not in any way that would impair its utility. The edge that came on it was better than most hardware store tools, but not quite up to my standards. 30 minutes with a diamond stone and it sails through timber. Hardwoods? no problem. I've chopped through oak without any signs of trouble, let alone chipping or rolling. Hard pine knots also presented no difficulties. So, if you don't want to pay for a GB (though they're great axes, don't get me wrong), don't discount wetterlings.

If you're looking for a bushcraft axe, I recommend the wetterlings 15" for these reasons
-Great value: less than $50! Out-chops a $500 busse!
-No problems on hardwoods: conVEX edge
-easy-to-use leather sheath
-can take a superb edge
-widely available online
-Compact: Fits in most day packs, though they also make a 19", 26", and 31" if you need a bigger axe

Andy
03-11-2009, 07:51 AM
Thank you all... great feedback and ideas.

I would really like to get an old axe, but I already tried one which didn't work out so well. By the time I try a few more, I'll have spent more money and time than if I had just purchased a Wetterlings, or maybe a GB.


So I'm wondering if GB's Small Forest Axe has a fundamentally different grind than the hatchet....
It appears so. You'd think GB and Wetterlings would describe the bit profile in more detail given the people they're trying to sell to.


... So I went ahead and bought one from a fabulous site called bensbackwoods.com.
...
-Compact: Fits in most day packs, though they also make a 19", 26", and 31" if you need a bigger axe

I'm already very close to buying a Wetterlings from there, actually. :) I just need to decide between hatchet, short axe, and 3/4 axe.

IdahoBackwoods
03-11-2009, 10:36 AM
This has all been quite interesting. In poking around this morning, I notice a difference in advertising claims for the GB Scandinavian Forest Axe and the GB American Felling Axe. Here are examples from two online sources:

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japanwoodworker.com :

GB Scandinavian Forest Axe: A professional axe for those who want to limb a felled tree in a traditional way. Forged to a thin, curved bit and sharpened to make it suitable for cutting branches in fresh, resinous wood, spruce or pine. The long handle gives extra strength and power to the cut. The axe has a 31/2'' face and a 25'' hickory handle and the head weighs 2 lb. It comes with a grain-leather sheath.
( $114.75 )

GB American Felling Axe: A professional axe for working in the same way as the ''fallers'' of the old days. Hand forged out of a solid piece of steel and carefully tempered and sharpened. This traditional American single-bit axe was asked for by Geoffrey Burke, boat- builder and axe man in New Hampshire. He and axe collector Lawrence Lyford put in a lot of effort to help us build the right model. The head weighs 3.3 lb and the face of the bit is 4½˝. The axe has a 31˝ American hickory handle.
( $175.75 ) It is also available with 35” handle.


highlandwoodworking.com :

Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe is designed for limbing felled trees, splitting sticks and chopping limb-sized wood for fires. Traditional Scandinavian Forest Axe is a professional-size limbing axe with a thin, curved 3-1/2" face sharpened specifically for cutting fresh, resinous wood. Handle is 25" long; head weighs 2 lbs.
( $115.99 )

After three long years, the classic Gransfors Bruks American Felling Axe is back!! Thanks for your patience. Gransfors Bruks first-class full size axe for felling trees and sectioning logs is based on a classic Colonial American pattern. 3lb. head has a 4-1/2" face. 31" handle.
( $176.99 )

---

I agree, though, that these are astronomical prices!

amisk
03-11-2009, 03:16 PM
I have been using a 3/4 canoe ax (24" x 1-3/4lb head) most of my life, actually would choose one over a knife if I could only have one cutting tool (not ever likely).
Presently I am using a smaller GB Hunters ax 19" handle with a 1-1/2lb head goes right in the out side loops of my day pack, can hardly feel it there.
Carry a coarse diamond folding file in my belt pouch all set to go.
Westerlings are an excellent choice also (didn't have any in the Hunter configuration)

Bushpuukko
03-11-2009, 05:25 PM
Seems to me I remember seeing somewhere that GB and Wetterlings were owned by the same company.

GreyOne
03-11-2009, 05:47 PM
GB and Wetterlings are now both owned by a single indivual, but are operated as seperate companies with their own respective management and traditions.

msbushman
03-11-2009, 10:17 PM
I love both my wetterling axes. I have a 15 inch hunters axes and a full size felling axe. They seem to me to cut deeper and not stick like my GFB did.

Scott

IdahoBackwoods
03-12-2009, 07:45 AM
I ordered a Wetterlings Felling Axe a couple of days ago, and it should arrive next week. After I sharpen it, I'll be very interested to try it out.

msbushman
03-12-2009, 09:00 AM
I ordered a Wetterlings Felling Axe a couple of days ago, and it should arrive next week. After I sharpen it, I'll be very interested to try it out.

it won't need sharpening maybe a little finishing or polishing.:)

Finnman
03-21-2009, 02:17 AM
Have you ever tried Roselli hatchet?

IdahoBackwoods
03-21-2009, 07:10 AM
Have you ever tried Roselli hatchet?

No, but I'd be interested to try one. Cliff Stamp's Cutlery Science website has this brief review:
http://cutleryscience.com/reviews/kellam_long_hiking_axe.html

Old Jimbo draws similar conclusions:
www.oldjimbo.com/Outdoors-Magazine/Gransfors-Bruks-Small-Forest-Axe.pdf
www.oldjimbo.com/Outdoors-Magazine/Wetterling-long-hunting-axe-VS.pdf

I get the impression that the Roselli may be good for splitting, but not as good for chopping. Do you have one? Is that true?

Andy
03-22-2009, 11:21 PM
Have you ever tried Roselli hatchet?
No, I haven't had the opportunity unfortunately.

I ended up ordering the Wetterlings forest axe (1.88 lb head, 26" long) from Ben's Backwoods. I like it. In hardwood, I haven't cut anything larger than kindling, but I did cut through a downed 10" diameter pine fast. I'm glad I got the longer axe. It fits nicely in the ski slot on the side of my rucksack.

Finnman
03-23-2009, 01:25 AM
I have never tested one, but I have heard that it excels in splitting (where axes are mainly used), but Roselli name it as "general purpose axe" so I think it does ok job in chopping also.


from Roselli´s website:

" A real power package! The carpenter´s axe of the old days. Reshaped by H.Roselli after 5 years of intensive tests. This axe is equipped with a half kilo blade and is more powerful than most other bigger axes yet it seldom gets stuck in logs. The Roselli Allround Axe does a proper job when it comes to cutting, hollow and carving wood.

Roselli Allround Axe has a solid leather sheath without unnecessary decoration. Practicality and clear simplicity makes Roselli Allround Axe a reliable and effective tool. "

Misanthrope
03-23-2009, 04:42 PM
I've been carrying a Roselli axe, same head as the hatchet just on an 18" handle, for years.. One of my favorite and most versatile woods tools...

DavidEnoch
04-01-2009, 10:25 AM
I second the notion of old axe heads. I have had good luck with the old Norlunds. You can find them on e-bay. But, it's hard to go wrong with an old Collins.

David Enoch

Native Justice
04-09-2009, 03:10 PM
Take a look at the Bark River Axe. It was designed for use in an hardwood environment

Grits
04-10-2009, 05:26 PM
Slightly off-topic, but I keep my eye out at flea markets and such for old axes and hatchets. I pass over many, but I've purchased four:

1 very small Nordlund hatchet (1 lb. total weight)
1 Plumb Boy Scout hatchet with wooden handle and leather sheath
1 "Kleen Kutter" hatchet with broken handle which I replaced
1 unbranded 2 lb. axe head only, for which I cut an axe handle to 20" and attached so I could have a little heavier pack-axe/kindling splitter.

Been mighty happy with these tools. Probly spent $50-60 bucks.