Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Gear Review: Husqvarna General Purpose Axe

I've been using an old family axes for years now. They are all well worn and pretty beat up due to the use of 3 generations of users. I can remember chopping up kindling as a kid with my Grandfather's roofing hatchet. He was a thrifty man, so when it broke he paid a neighbor to weld it back up for a 6 pack of beer. Cheap beer.

The axes were all in pretty poor shape, and the smaller Shapleigh axe was tucked in my dad's tool box when I inherited it. I cracked the larger axe handle years ago and just taped it up years ago as well. With my new skills research, I've learned how to re-haft or re-handle an axe of any type, including mauls. These are a few axes from the scout troop I volunteer with. I bought quality handles and spent several hours per unit learning how to do it right. Cleaning them up takes time as well.

 These are 2 high quality, low cost scout axes that have been in use by the scouts for a few decades. You can see the years of abuse they endured. It took a lot of work to get them back in shape.
After installing new Seymour Hickory handles. The top Axe is my turn of the century Shapleigh axe. It's in great shape now. It's a good size for smaller tasks and light chopping, but too heavy to strap to your backpack and slog to the field. Thus begins my quest to acquire a more suitable axe for backpacking and bushcraft. After much research and some budget constraints, I knew I wanted a Swedish steel axe similar to a small forest axe. Many European military units use similar axes so I knew they are very reliable. It had to have a Hickory handle as well.

There were many contenders out there but the best value seemed to the the Husqvarna. You needed to do a little rework to the edge, and the cover isn't the best, but it's made by one of the oldest axe makers in Sweden, Hults Bruks.

Upon arrival, I spent some time putting a shaving sharp edge on the axe. I re linseed oiled it up a few times and set it aside for an upcoming scout camp out. I was able to use it to split some smaller logs and make some feather sticks for practice. It was just what I wanted. Lightweight, perfect length for my arms and well built.

Fast forward a month and my son and I are in the woods during the winter and we are relying on our kit to keep us warm and fed. I'm really glad I had the right tools to split the gnarly muscle wood and cedar for the cold, rainy weather. You do have to be careful though, the small head allows the wood to split unevenly and you can hang the handle in the split regularly. It's caused some damage on my handle. Not enough to worry about, but enough that it's showing some splinters at the neck.

The profile is very sharp, which keeps the weight down, but makes the head stick pretty often in stringy or soft wood. It's aces at splitting dry hard woods.

Pictured after felling and splitting a couple dead white pine trees.

It's now my favorite axe. I use it on every non scouting camp out and for clearing brush or working wood when I need to take off more than a knife will allow. It keeps a shaving sharp edge onger than my knife does. Even after chopping down 2 15" x 40' white pines and limbing them. All it required for bringing the edge back to shaving was 10-15 strokes on the leather strop with yellow compound. 

With 6 months of good use behind me, I can say that this has been one of my better investments. The head is still 100% solid on the haft, the edge is still perfect, and the finish is still rough. Can't ask for anything more in a medium cost backpacking/general purpose axe.

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