Iltis Ox Head Axe

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by rocketbomb, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    Had a hankering for a larger axe for winter camping. My 19" Wetterlings is a great chopper for its size but to process enough firewood for an all night fire it's just not got enough oomph. I very nearly pulled the trigger on a 26" Wetterlings but instead went a little different route and bought an Iltis Ox Head "Europe" model felling axe.

    Have only done a bit of chopping with it so far so these are really just initial impressions. I'll add more when I get more use in with this axe.

    Specs...
    26" Handle
    Head weight is 2.5 to 2.8 lbs depending on where you read
    Forged in Germany
    Bit is about 5.5 inches wide.
    Price is roughly $100 shipped

    First a couple overall views of the axe.
    [​IMG]

    Looks good overall. Head is aligned well, seems to be on fairly solid. The grain in the handle is pretty good, not perfect but for an internet order I'm dang happy with it. Not terribly happy about the varnish/paint coating on it, but eventually I may strip it and put a proper linseed oil finish on it.
    [​IMG]

    The head is finished very nicely. I'm not a huge fan of the paint on the back portion of the axe, but it's no deal breaker. It's already scuffed all to heck from what chopping I have done with it. Eventually it will mostly wear off. Earlier axes I've seen have black paint on the head, but this is a thin yellow coat. The profile of the head is impressive, almost more of a broad axe shape to it. It has plenty of heft to it also. The edge cover is a piece of junk. It covers the edge, but that's about it. It is made from thin vinyl leather. Will need to be replaced in the long run with a decent leather cover.
    [​IMG]

    Head is mounted with a wood wedge and two very large ring pins. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of this mounting. The handle should stay on but the pins are huge and the wood in the eye has been very seriously compressed and distorted. I won't be putting the next handle in like this when it needs one. The top of the handle is cut flush with the eye on the axe... I like the Wetterlings/GB method of leaving a bit on the top but I'm holding judgment to see how this holds up.
    [​IMG]

    Just a look at how the head was fitted. Some machine marks here, as well as wood that has been scraped down by the front of the eye, apparently from being forced on. Only place such a thing was visible.
    [​IMG]

    View of the poll and the grain of the handle near the head. Nothing to complain about here.
    [​IMG]

    Top view of the profile of the head. I like it. For the most part.
    [​IMG]

    Hard to show but the edge as this axe came was THICK. Thick as in my 19" Wetterlings with a reprofiled edge bevel outchopped it without contest. Even before taking it out the first time I thinned the final edge bevel but it still mostly just bounced off logs. Not impressive at all. It's a lot of work to swing that big two and a half pound head around and get absolutely nowhere.
    [​IMG]

    So at this point I am working with files to take back the shoulders of the bit. After two hours of work on that big convex bevel it is greatly improved but still needs a fair bit more work. It's taking a long time for me to fix the profile as I'm going very slowly and trying to maintain a good convex bevel, which is a bit challenging.

    The steel is also nice and hard (quite comparable to my Wetterlings). It has taken the use and abuse of me getting used to swinging a longer, heavier axe with no damage to the edge at all. Want to make it clear that the steel is no disappointment on this axe.

    Another couple hours or so on the edge and this should be a fantastic axe. At this point it chops fairly well, but it is not what it could be. With a belt sander a reprofile job on this axe wouldn't take much at all and you'd have a great chopping axe quickly.

    The axe does hit with authority and will throw chips in a way that my Wetterlings can only imagine doing, especially on big (6 + inch) logs. With a thick edge as it has now I find myself forcing the axe and swinging hard as I can, which really defeats the purpose of a heavy head. With a proper edge the heft of the axe and the edge should do the work for you, as long as you swing the axe so it lands where it should. I think this axe has a lot of potential.

    So, overall for my first impressions of this axe... It is a well made tool. The head itself is good but needs a fair amount of work on the edge bevel to be a very good chopper. It has a lot of potential though, which is really why I bought the axe in the first place. Should be a good size axe for car camping and winter camping on shorter hikes. Overall workmanship on the axe is very good and I'm not disappointed with my purchase.

    That being said after seeing rg's review of the Husqvarna axe and seeing the price for it I might have gone with that instead. Its head also seems to be about 2.5 lbs (was looking for something in that range) and looks to come from the factory with a much better edge and less annoying paint on various parts of the axe.

    Will post more sometime down the road.
     
  2. solocanoe

    solocanoe Bushmaster

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    nice review, rocketbomb. maybe not perfectly what you wanted...but you gave it a good try!
     
  3. blackdog3

    blackdog3 Tracker

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    Thanks for the review. Good luck with you new Ox Head
     
  4. upthecreek

    upthecreek Guide

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    very nice axe. I've browsed some sites and those iltis axes are sweet looking. German quality has always been good in my opinion too.
     
  5. Aguineapig

    Aguineapig Scout

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    "Big 2 and a half pound head".. I couldn't help but chuckle at this, I've been swinging a 5 pounder for fun lately and my 2.5 feels like a paper weight! But compared to a wetterlings it is heavier. But man, that axe is HOT! I've been hankering an oxhead for a while, just cant afford one.
     
  6. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Thanks for the review, man.
    I'm getting one after Christmas...if I don't get one for Christmas.:4:

    I've got my eye on the 3.5 lb head.

    Iz
     
  7. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    I've been known to swing an 6 or 8 lb sledge from time to time, but you don't have to be real accurate with that. Swinging a dull axe gets me ticked off then I keep swinging harder though, that makes it a lot more work. And after swinging that little feather of a Wetterlings for over a year I'm pretty used to that.


    Iz does that one come with a bigger handle? That should make a great axe after you put some convex magic on it.

    Supposed to snow here tomorrow, might be a good day to sit in the shop and file away on this little guy.
     
  8. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Rocket,
    It's just like yours except it has a 3.3lb (I said 3.5, I was wrong) head on it.
    http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/ox-headiltiseuropelargefellingaxe.aspx
    It's the "large" model. Is yours the "small"?
    Iz
     
  9. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    OK Iz that's what I thought it was, but I was too lazy to check and see if the large had a bigger handle myself. Mine is as you guess the small. I'm too tiny to be swinging around anything much more than this!
     
  10. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Lol, me too. But I like having something heavy when I'm beating into hedge because I'm to lazy to swing a million times to get through it.:4:
    I carry a 3.5lb axe now with a 36" handle which is a little long but it's nice to have the extra weight.
    It weighs almost as much as me.;)
    Iz
     
  11. Aguineapig

    Aguineapig Scout

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    I'm about 130 pounds and I like a 3.5 pounder for big stuff. I think it just depends on what your used to, and maybe to a lesser extent your upper torso muscles. Once they are strong enough even a scrawny little turd like me can swing a pretty heavy axe pretty well. Still working on the 5 pounder though!
     
  12. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Not to hijack the thread but just wondering what make your 5lb head is?
    The only heavy heads I can find like that are either racing axes or broad axes.
    Iz
     
  13. Aguineapig

    Aguineapig Scout

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    I'm not sure who manufactured it, it says "Made in west germany" and 5 on it. I bought it at an antique store for 10 bucks. I think I have a pic of it in the axe porn thread, cant find the pic on my hosting site. Oh, and the steel is HARD. Some of the hardest I've seen.
     
  14. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Cool, thank man!
    Iz
     
  15. romsisel

    romsisel Scout

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  16. Keyser Söze

    Keyser Söze Usual Suspecto Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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  17. samthedog

    samthedog Guide

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    Rocketbomb, you have a good axe there. The most important thing is the profile and that seems to be very good. Nearly every axe I have seen needs work done to the edge as the convex is too obtuse on most axes from the factory. If you have a belt grinder it's a 10 minute fix. The handle seems very well attached and you will find that the Germans comply to EU safety standards and the handle-head union needs to pass stringent quality control tests. Once you get that edge right you will have a keeper.

    Paul.
     
  18. matt.s

    matt.s Guide

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    Not to hijack either, but axes in that range were and to a lesser extent still are common over this side of the puddle. Miners used to use 6lb hatchets one-handed to make pit-props. Even heavier felling axes were available until chainsaws became available.

    For droolage, see: http://www.timelesstools.co.uk/axes.htm
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2010
  19. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    I read somewhere while doing research on the Iltis axes that they make the Stihl axes as well.

    Yes I am really wishing for a belt grinder! If I get some time this afternoon I may do some more filing. Bought a new cheap Stanley file just to see how it would work and it did great for the first few minutes but I may as well be using a strop now! Gonna have to raid some of Dad's old USA Nicholson files for the rest of the project I think.

    The EU Standards on head attachment is very interesting, I would be curious to read that to be honest. (It's OK, I've read electrical codes as well as machinery safety/testing codes, I will not die of boredom) With all the safety markings and warnings on the handle I was a bit curious as to that issue.

    Do the Wetterlings/GB axes comply to the safety standards as well? They're certainly attached well, but now I'm just curious.
     
  20. samthedog

    samthedog Guide

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    I am guessing that Wetterlings and GB would have to if they are to be sold within the EU. If you can't get your hands on a belt grinder, see if you can borrow someone's belt sander. I have used one clamped to a table before as a makeshift belt grinder. Using files gets old fast, especially on a very hard bit. I'll see if I can find some info on the EU standards mentioned.

    Paul.
     
  21. rg598

    rg598 Guest

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    I hear the same thing.
     
  22. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    Want to bump this with an update... I've so far spent something like 2.5 hours filing on the head. It could use a bit more work (filing the axe by hand has been an ongoing project), but I'm reasonably happy with its chopping performance now. It still needs more work, but now it doesn't bounce off logs when you try to chop.

    On the other hand, the head is coming loose after only a few hours of use. I may try to get some pictures later tonight but there are actually gaps between the wood and the steel on the bottom of the eye. It is just going to have to be re-handled or I will have an airbone axehead on my hands. This is a real disappointment.
     
  23. Aguineapig

    Aguineapig Scout

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    Try using a straight peen hammer to tap the wedge in further. The risk of the head actually going air born is actually pretty slim, since the axe eye is tapered.
     
  24. samthedog

    samthedog Guide

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    This is a common problem when reprofiling with a file. Most people clamp the handle with the head hanging over the bench. The torque from the filing works the head loose. I have had this happen to me on axes I have just rehandled. That is why a belt grinder is a good idea.

    Paul.
     
  25. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb Guide

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    That's an interesting bit sam. I actually don't have any clamps so the axe was hand held when I was filing. In fact I did most of the filing one handed because my other hand was holding the axe. Doesn't mean that didn't loosen the head but it shouldn't have been very heavily torqued by my filing.
     
  26. samthedog

    samthedog Guide

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    Perhaps you can try pinning the head. Lay the head flat and use a bench drill do drill a 6 - 8mm hole. Use the same sized pin and tap it in. This not only stops the head from flying off if it gets too loose but it stops tight heads from loosening so quickly by preventing lossening through torque.

    Paul.
     
  27. bensbackwoods

    bensbackwoods Scout

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    You may want to tap the head on tighter..add another small wedge and soak the eye in linseed oil....there is also a product called swell lock I have used that soaks into the wood and swells it...furniture makers use it and I got a bottle at a local hardware.

    Another possible source for axes is Stubai of austria...sounds like they may even forge some of the oxhead axes in their factory if I got my story right...the price seemed to be better on them..
     
  28. Aguineapig

    Aguineapig Scout

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    Do you know of a source for those axes?
     

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