Today in the News: Our Etsy store is doing a nice amount of business. I’ve decided to offer all Sharpened Axe readers a discount code in case you see anything you like. When it asks for a coupon code, simply enter my name (Mike Oscar Hotel) and you will receive 15% off of everything in our store. Click “shop” above to take a look at our goods.
What do you know about me? You know that I (generally) refuse to spend large amounts of money on axes. Why? I’m broke. Why else? Because I really believe that if you find the right axe, there’s no need to spend $70+ (have you seen the axes that go for $200+?) on a tool only to be afraid to beat the crap out of it. Tools are meant to be used, folks. If you want a tool to admire, you might just be the tool that the tools admire.
It seems that the price for a “good” axe has gone through the roof. It used to be that you could go go the local hardware store and get a decent axe for a decent price. Most hardware store axes now have bulky handles, cheaply made heads, poor balance…..the litany expands.
I’ve seen the obsession in the bushcraft community with axes by Gransfors and Wetterlings. While I believe that they are both good tools, I also believe that the price doesn’t fit into most budgets in these hard economic times. I have to say that I don’t really consider myself a “bushcrafter” after much examination of the word. I’m just a guy that likes homesteading, outdoor work and living honestly. These things might prohibit me from fully understanding the lust for the aforementioned tools.
But you want a Swedish Axe. I capitalize “Swedish Axe” because the Swedes, God love ‘em, deserve that type of respect when it comes to axe making. You simply cannot take that away from them. Instead of spending $70-$270 on a “hip” brand (which ARE good, from my understanding) Spend $36.00 and buy two (count ‘em two) of these Swedish log-lovers:
They are available at www.sportsmansguide.com. I loved the one that I got and gave it to my grandmother as a kindling axe because I think she deserves quality and the axe she was using had a half-handle and a cracked eye. I’m still rather worried that she might chop off a digit with this baby.
Why buy two? Each axe in this lot is different. You may get a good one or a bad one. If you get two good ones, hang onto them for a bit. As you can see, they’re on back order right now. Be patient. Wait until they’re unavailable again. Then go to one of those forums and find the thread on how awesome these axes are and make a post saying there’s one on eBay. Put one of yours on eBay. With the blood in the wiener water, you’re likely to sell one and make enough so that you got your other one for free.
This will, of course, lead you to banishment at the hands of the bushcraftintheusa.com overlords because they aren’t making any money on the deal. Double win!
But you want a name brand axe. There’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your grandpa had a Snow & Nealley and you want to carry on that tradition. I’ve taken close to 15 axe heads out of my late grandfather’s garage and almost all of them are S&N heads. I can say that when I’m carrying an axe, it is an (antique) Snow & Nealley. Notice that I stress antique. If you look for new S&N axes on the open market, they start around $50.00. That $50.00 buys you an axe that was “Made in Maine”. From a legal standpoint, yes, they are assembled in Maine, but the heads are actually made in China and the handles are shipped in from Texas. To be truthful, I don’t have an issue with all of that. What I do have an issue with is the price tag that comes with the axe. The company has heritage, but the axes do not. I’m not going to pay anyone for nostalgia. Are these axes $70.00 axes? No. Would I gladly fork out in the $30.00 range for one? Absolutely. But it isn’t like that anymore.
There are solutions to such problems. Scan eBay or Etsy and you can find name brand axes that are antique and generally better quality. If you’re really ambitious, you can just buy an older head and haft it yourself. If I had money to spend on a project, I’d spend it on old axe heads. In most cases, you know what you’re getting. Look for names like Plumb, Collins, Ames, S&N, KATCO, Spiller and the like. It doesn’t need to have a name on it to be a good axe. My favorite camp axe was purchased at Big Lots for $9.00. It is as sharp as you want. I put it on a Gransfors haft that I found at a yard sale for $2.00. It has no name. Big deal. I can shave with it.
If you click the link above that says “shop”, you can see that we almost always have a few axe heads on sale. All affordable, as well.
In a quick eBay search for “vintage axe”, here are some gems that I found:
All of these were affordable:
Last, but certainly not least, would be and axe by Council Tool. Council Tool has been in business for a very long time. In terms of axes made in the U.S.A., they are the last game in town. Others may claim it, but on Council can hold to it. Council’s prices are affordable and their product is good. By buying an axe from Council Tool, you are keeping Americans employed.
From their website:
Our beginnings and the “Four Beliefs”
It all began with one person…John Pickett Council. In 1886, he founded the business that still bears his family’s name. Since then, hundreds of committed, talented Council employees have followed in his footsteps and carried on his legacy.
Times have changed. Manufacturing methods have changed. And equipment has been modernized. But some things have remained constant. Shortly after founding the company, Mr. Council wrote down a simple set of beliefs he felt were necessary for success. The people who work for Council Tool today still follow these four beliefs:
1. Manufacture a quality product.
2. Offer value by being an innovative and progressive manufacturer.
3. Be straightforward and honest in your dealings.
4. Be a good corporate citizen.
That’s a beautiful mission statement. It’s a good product. In my humble opinion, we shouldn’t spend out money on tools made overseas. We should spend our money on our own shores as much as possible.
So, as you can see, there are lots of different options out there without spending an absurd amount of cash. It may require some work, but, if you can drive a car, shouldn’t you know how to change the oil? Putting a new haft on an old head is very similar. It may seem technical, but it is not.
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.