The Husqvarna Hatchet–An Incredible Woodsman’s Bargain

The quality of this hand-forged hatchet, made by Gransfors for Husqy, just cannot be beat--especially for $40!

The quality of this hand-forged hatchet, made by Hults Bruks for Husqy, just cannot be beat–especially for $40!

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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A hatchet and small knife are perfect combination of bushcraft tools, and of reasonable weight.  A cordless drill belt holder--for a mere $15--makes a perfect hatchet holster.

A hatchet and small knife are perfect combination of bushcraft tools, and of reasonable weight. A cordless drill belt holder–for a mere $15–makes a perfect hatchet holster.

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.

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10 Comments

10 thoughts on “The Husqvarna Hatchet–An Incredible Woodsman’s Bargain

  1. Thanks for the insight and tips.. I’m looking for a good hatchet to carry so your insight helps.

    What type profile does yours have?
    I’m surprised that you didn’t go for a Hudson Bay style head. Or rather wouldn’t prefer it to other styles as I’ve heard so much about the Hudson Bay pattern head.

    Again thanks for sharing your insight ands the tips especially for carrying a hatchet.

    • I tend to have a philosophy toward gear that it needs to be good but not so costly one is afraid to use it, and many of the high dollar tools that are very popular in the bushcraft world may indeed be a hair better than some other items but that slight increase in quality is not justified by the huge markup in price. (And, honestly, often times they are no better, they are just ridiculous and costly fads, like the infatuation with the Ray Mears knife, a rather ordinary knife made of ordinary O1 steel, a knife worth about $50 in a fair market which is marked up to over $600 because Ray Mears puts his name to it.) The Husqvarna hatchet is almost exactly like the high quality Gransfors for half the price. The broad beard of the Hudson Bay hatchet and axe may be slightly more useful, but I doubt it. When I need a hatchet, I need it for chopping kindling, or hacking bracket mushrooms off trees, or breaking bones of big game, that sort of thing. It needs to be light and nimble. At least one very pricey maker of the Hudson Bay, Best Made Tools, states they are made from 5160 steel. That’s just a good but common steel that you’re likely to find in any number of axes, hatchets and knifes for a fraction of the $255 Best Made charges. No need to pay four or five times the price of the Husqvarna hatchet (especially when it’s actually made by Gransfors). I also want my tools to be light. There’s no point in carrying unnecessary weight.

      Though, in truth, I find the bushcrafting world to be very faddish. Honestly, they can be as bad as fashionable women with shoe collections. Many bushcrafters don’t live in the bush. They don’t really understand real day-to-day living with the land. So they are seeking top quality gear with a high “cool factor”, or worse, a “tacticool factor”. They want to outdo their friends in the awesome tool department. With little to no day-to-day experience, they imagine that a slight difference in shape or length of blade or haft or hilt will make that hair edge difference between survival and not. As a man who has spent 17 years living in the bayous, and more than that in Alaskan bush, and now currently resides in the Nova Scotia northwoods, I can assure you, it won’t. All those years I lived in the Bayous I had a Kabar knife I inherited from my grandfather and a cheap hatchet I bought at Woolworthfor $10. I used that same hatchet and knife in Alaska and did just fine. The bottom line si really that for most bushcrafters, their tools are just cool toys to try to Gryllisesque it up. But what really matters is not the tool, it’s the skill you possess and how you use it. I can say with confidence that a bushman of 10,000 years ago, using obsidian knives, flint axes and atlatls, knew a great deal more about bushcraft than any of us, and that had nothing to do with their tools.

      The bottom line is that what you know, and how you use what you know, is what matters. Living in the bush is not a battle or contest against Nature. It is a journey that can and should be done gently. The right tools help, but skill is infinitely more important. Tools are almost nothing beside it.

  2. Thanks again for your insight. I read your cutting tools post as well, good article.

    I don’t have the experience you have, I’ve only been out here a few months. With all of a folding 6″ folding saw and basically a pen knife on my multi tool to do any and all cutting.

    I’m finding myself now needing tools the more I get into woodcrafting things.
    I found just what you stated when it comes to current “bushcrafting” recommendations on various cutting tools. Hence I’m looking to what woodsman used of the past. I really don’t know were the term “bushcraft” or “bushman” came from. Seems all are now using it. I think of Bushcrafting as possibly an Australian term. Since they refer to “the bush” or being out in “the bush”. State side, I still camp in the woods. And personally use the term woodsman and woodman as well as Woodcraft. Bushcrafting from what I’ve seen is this survival type whatever camping.

    I did look for the Husqvarna, but couldn’t find it locally, not find the exact one I think your referring to.
    I did take a look at a couple Estwings and a Fiskars mal axe (for splitting). I couldn’t find the Fiskars you had. They only had the mal axe.
    I noticed the Estwings weren’t consistent in their axe edge grind. Meaning some were partially sharp while others had noticeable flaws in the metal. The Fiskars, though not the type I was looking for, was deadly sharp. Huge difference in the sharpness from Estwing and Fiskars, which really surprised me since Estwing is suppose to be a nice ace/hatchet maker.
    I’m a little leery of the Fiskars hollow handle on these new axes of theirs. And the head mount. If the handle goes it goes and theirs no replacement that I’m aware of.

    Again thanks for sharing and responding.

  3. James is right, it’s definitely made by Hults Bruk. Either way you did a great review and it’s a fantastic product at that price point.

  4. Bob

    If you pick up this hatchet and hold it in your hands and swing it, the shape of the handle works against you and it wants to slip out. The handle it HORRIBLE. Sure it is cheap and keeps a good edge, but its dangerous to use. The head is way too heavy for a small hatchet and the handle needs to be replaced.

    I am tempted to just rehang mine with a better handle. Most people that have this hatchet are all giddy by its price and don’t want to admit that the handle is a horrible design.

    • I’m sorry, Bob, I cannot agree with you on this. Cost does not always reflect quality and we have used it for years to process kindling for the woodstove, butcher chickens, collect chaga and birch bracket, and much, much more. Never a problem with it. No chipping, rarely dulls. The weight is good for a small hatchet though I would like to see it a little lighter or the haft made six inches longer to make it more like a small forest axe. My wife and daughters use it as much as me, and it has become the workhorse hatchet around our very large homestead. We like it so much we have also bought the Husqy full sized axe. Generally, these tools are an incredible bang for the buck. Not perfect but really good for the money, and you can also carve and fit a different haft to the heads.

  5. chase

    From what I’ve been reading in the Amazon reviews and pics they’re posting of the ones customers have recieved, it’s pretty much a crap shoot as to the quality of the hatchet you’ll receive. At least ordering online.

    Some get a great one, others a good one, while still others a bad one. Or mix there of.
    Handle is great, grind is bad, grind is good, handle is bad, or both are bad.

    That said, more good ones are recieved than bad. As one mentioned, it seems to be a quality control issue.

    As for slippage, i would think you could simply add a wrap to it. They make wraps now for just about every size handle out there. People swear by them. There’s a couple different kinds but I’ve seen good reviews on both types.

    Since first reading this post, i ended up with a Fisk hatchet. Very sharp to begin with, but chips easily. And hammering the butt of the head quickly mushrooms it. I took the first one back and the second lasted the six months i was up in the hills without the need to sharpen it. I split quit a bit of wood with it. Built my A-Frame with it and other “furniture” if you will as well with it. But the second one still mushroomed on the butt of the head hitting it to split hard woods.

    I still want to try this one out. There’s nothing like having the right tool when you need it. And one that keeps an edge without needing to be sharpened every five minutes.

    • I read somewhere that the first run of the Husqy hatchets and axes was by far the best. Apparently, they were actually made in Sweden with good quality control. But after the first run, manufacturing was sent elsewhere and the quality became sub par. We got a first run hatchet and full sized axe and have been very happy with them. I would make changes to them. As Bob noted above, the hatchet head is a little too heavy, IMO, but other companies also make beefy hatchet heads. I imagine it depends on their intended use. I have a Gransfors hatchet now and the Husqy has been relegated to being the beater to use around the homestead, along with a Fiskars hatchet.

      That Fiskar’s hatchet holds up pretty well. But the steel is very hard which does make it prone to small chips if you hit something hard. For a hatchet, this isn’t too big a deal. The steel has the same problems one sees in the Fallkniven F1, S1 and A1 knives–too hard, ergo likely to chip. But the chips tend to be quite small.

      I am pretty sure the Scandinavians do their steel this way to make it more resistant to rusting. The north is a very wet place summer and winter. Nova Scotia is much like that, too, and it’s nice not to have to worry about rust which is the main enemy of any steel tool around here. To avoid chips, one just has to use certain sensible precautions, i.e., split wood only on a base such a stump or fallen log. Naturally, the back of the Fiskars hatchets and axes are not meant for hammering, that is a weakness of the design, but on the other hand, use that handle the way it’s meant and it’s nearly indestructible. I’ve even run over mine with the tractor and it’s no worse for wear.

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