When I injured my hand last month, Daphne ended up killing the majority of the first round of meat chickens, and to do so I lent her my old Fiskar’s hatchet. It was perfect for the job, having a good stainless steel head that wouldn’t rust and it ended up getting annexed for that kind of work.
Well, a hatchet is a necessity for a woodsman/forager. I almost always carry one with me on my many woodland forays. So, I needed another one. I had heard some great things about the Husqvarna line of axes and hatchets. In fact, I had heard that they are hand forged the old way, beaten on anvils, made of extremely high quality carbon steel and so sharp you can whittle with them. In fact, I had heard they are about 95% as good as the legendary Grandsfors axes, which are hand forged in Sweden. And if they are that good, then they are about 20 times better than anything else. In fact, I learned they are forged by Hults Bruks for Husqvarna. I decided to order one in and see for myself.
I got it today, and I will tell you, a whole lifetime of woods living has taught me a thing or two about telling the quality of knives and axes. The Husqvarna hatchet greatly exceeded my expectations. And I mean, very, very greatly–not a thing I say lightly. The steel was superb hand beaten quality. I suspect it is either 1055 or some other excellent high carbon, semi-soft axe steel. Axes must be forged of soft steel so they don’t shatter while chopping. The haft is carved hickory and will probably last forever. The hatchet head is set with a wooden shim and steel O ring into the haft.
It came with a serviceable leather sheath that can be rendered even more serviceable by adding a leather strap and snap.
The hatchet is hefty, weighing a hair over 2 lbs. Some would shy away from this weight, exclaiming it’s too much. But there is good weight and bad weight. This is good weight, plenty for splitting camp firewood or harvesting tough polypores off trees. Light enough to slip on my equipment belt in combination with a small knife and/or my bowie.
It is fifteen inches long, a couple inches longer than usual for a hatchet, but that extra couple inches is to allow for good energy and control of the hatchet head which is a couple ounces beefier than many mass market designs.
If you buy a Gransfors, everything will be done picture perfect. The haft looks polished, the axe head shims are perfectly squared. And you will pay three times the price. I have a Gransfors small forest axe, small and light enough to fit in my daypack easily. It was a good tool but cost about $140. The Gransfors hatchet is $120.
The Husqvarna hatchet sits perfectly true on the haft and is extremely high quality, but the “perty aint quite there”. The haft doesn’t have that polished look. The shims are not perfectly square. The haft is well sanded and smooth but lacks a polished look. Who cares!!! The axe head is mounted true and strong and the steel and wood are superb. I don’t need my woodscraft tools to look pretty. I need them to do a job, reliably, for a lifetime. And I need them to not cost so much I’m afraid to use them. Well, it’s a third the price of a Gransfors! I paid $44 from a Husqvarna dealer in the village an hour away.
If you’re looking for a hatchet or axe and you want the absolute best, get a Gransfors. If you would be happy with one that is 95% as good–which still means far better than anything else out there–that will give you a lifetime of service, and is inexpensive enough you won’t cringe at the thought of using it, look no further than the Husqvarna axes and hatchets. I suggest you get one soon because I suspect Hults Bruks will either stop producing them for Husqvarna, or that Husqvarna will realize the incredible mistake they made in offering such quality tools at this price and raise the price. Or do as many other companies have done once they develop a rep and start having them mass produced in China. So get it while it’s hot . . . and while you still can!
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Many people puzzle about how to carry a hatchet unobtrusively in the woods, and if you look around, you’ll find all kinds of ridiculous gizmos to accomplish it, such as belt hooks and leather sheaths that attach to the belt. Trouble with those is they leave the hatchet swinging all over the place. And there are even ridiculously complex shoulder holster arrangements! The shoulder holsters are just cumbersome, bizarre and they would make a backpack or messenger bag very awkward and uncomfortable. And most of these ineffectual rigs are ludicrously expensive. A couple days ago I saw a leather belt hook rig that cost some $40, and it was merely two small rings of leather, one for the belt, one for the hatchet.
The simplest way to carry a hatchet or small axe–and very effective–is just wear a gear belt and slip the haft of the hatchet in your belt. No bouncing, no movement, good support, easy to draw when you need it. I have also discovered that a hip holster for a cordless drill is a nearly perfect way to carry a hatchet. Both Kuny and DeWalt make extremely rugged small cordless drill hip holsters that are just big enough to fit a hatchet or small axe head into them. They are designed to carry a drill at an angle to balance the weight of its battery, and that angle just happens to perfectly counter balance the weight of the hatchet head with its haft. Leave a small leather sheath on the hatchet so its blade doesn’t chew through the holster in time and it’s a perfect rig for convenient belt carry in the bush.