Author Topic: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?  (Read 990 times)

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Offline Moe M.

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 When I was much younger there wasn't much question of quality when you went out to buy a hatchet or axe, most on the market before big box stores were found in your local hardware store,  most were American or Canadian made with a few European axes thrown in the mix.
 Names like Plumb, Stanley, Norlund, or Craftsman were the most common usually found brands among others, and you could almost always be assured of getting a quality made tool,  today people don't use hand tools like they used to,  most wouldn't know a quality hatchet of axe anyway.
 Looking through Ace hardware, Lowe's, Home Depot or Walmart you'll see some brand names you might recognize like True Temper or Collin's for instance,  but if you check closely you'll find they were likely made in China, south America, or Mexico,  and when you go to use them you'll understand why they cost you only $12.00 for a hatchet or $30.00 for a full sized axe,  first off they are dull from the factory, most are cast instead of forged, have poorly shaped heads and eyes, and few have any heat treatment, in use they won't keep a good edge, they chip, and the edges roll.
 The last one I bought from Ace Hardware is a Collin's 1-1/4# on 14" handle that I paid about $14.00 for three years ago,  It's made in Mexico and is in my opinion little better than a boat anchor,  but it's serviceable for it's intended use,  which is chopping kindling at our back yard fire pit, were I the only one using it I'd have a better hatchet there but I'm not and it isn't.

 In my opinion paying the price for a high quality hatchet or axe,  or for a restored vintage American made axe, or for investing the cost and time involved in finding and restoring a vintage piece is worth the investment,  some may disagree, but that's their choice.
 I've also found that even some middle of the road axes and hatches suck as the huskies, Snow and Nealey, and a few others aren't the highest quality they could be,  some users might think that money wise it's more practical to put up with $12.00 junk axes than to put out a hundred or more dollars in a good quality axe.

What say you ?   
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Offline randyt

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2017, 11:03:32 AM »
I think it's worth paying the money or the time for a quality axe. My best finds have been at flea markets and such for a older usa made axes. Although I did come across a wetterlings
hatchet for 20 dollars. There was two but I didn't think much of it or I would have bought the other and passed it on. I would like to buy a hults bruk or some such but the money seems to steep for me because a kelly, plumb or norlund etc does the job for me.  For chopping roots and such a modern cheap axe is probably best.

Offline Quenchcrack

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2017, 11:21:02 AM »
If I was making a living with an Axe, I would buy the best German or Swedish axe..  If I am just making kindling and occasionally limbing a tree, I can get by with a Council Tool Axe.  I do own several CT axes and an GB axe.  I favor the GB.
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Offline madmax

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2017, 11:36:46 AM »
I started out in adulthood bushcraft with inexpensive tools that worked.  My knives and axes either were too hard or too soft.  I thought it was my poor sharpening technique.  I accumulated more knowledge and suddenly was bringing the old dead found at garage sales back to life.  The I popped for a used GB hatchet.  Then a  Wetterlings  axe,  custom knives, and good stones.  I am careful with them and my old cheapos have been passed to my wife who doesn't differentiate between a hatchet for carving and one for chopping at roots in the mountains.  (She does like my little GB when carving when she can get it).

I sometimes grab on of those Ace or Lowes hatchets when convenient.  Is the price difference between those and my good ones worth it?    Yup.  It is to me.
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving pretty with a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways in a cloud of smoke, thouroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, Wow! What a ride!" 
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Offline OutdoorEnvy

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2017, 06:57:17 PM »
I agree Moe but only from a distant observation as I have no first hand knowledge of that actual time frame.  I would say the safe bet today for getting quality and going easy on your wallet is Council Tool.  But you can't walk in most hardware stores and find that brand.  I'm not sure why that is.  Maybe keeping the numbers smaller by not being in the bigger stores keeps quality good by not taking shortcuts to keep up with their high volume demands.  Either way though with the internet today there's no reason someone at any age can't order a Council Tool axe at a good price and know they are getting an axe they can count on.  But that's the easy route...fixing up the old ones is the fun route and my personal preference...
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Offline upthecreek

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2017, 07:40:20 PM »
I figure most axes bought today don't need to be all that good. Most high dollar ones will never kiss wood. I'm lucky to swing one fairly regular. I appreciate a good quality chopper and I have several. My TT boys axe I just fixed was like swinging a knife as I was chopping on a great big pine that fell in the yard this past weekend. I was cutting soft wood but it was one swing every time through 3 inch limbs. I'm not sure where or how far I would need to drive if I set out to find an axe as good right now. Probably couldn't find one in at least 50 miles. Cheap tools is for folks that don't use them that much and that is a big market. (harbor freight). You can't lament it. The market drives what's available. I got a Helko and another Wetterling 3 pounder on the way. I'll check Lowes this weekend and see what they have that interest me.

 :chopwood:

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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2017, 12:35:55 PM »
I agree with 90% of what's been said about paying for "quality" axes which never get used much.  Like buying a Corvette when all you needed was a Prius, just to say you owned a Corvette.  :-\

When looking for your best bang for the buck, don't overlook Tramontina. Their axes/hatchets are as good as their machetes. You get way more than you pay for.
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Offline upnorth

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2017, 01:37:56 PM »
I have no special wisdom or skills with an axe, I'm just an ordinary Joe schmoe. But I like them, and like to use them when I can....with due care. I have a mix of high enders and plain Jane utilitarian. I tend to take the utilitarian Fiskars when the wife and I are having an evening fire out at the lake. I take the fancy ones out for personal alone time. A quality axe enhances the pleasure I receive, when I wish for personal outdoor time.....B.T.W., I actually enjoy using my various Fiskars axes/hatchets. And I have noticed a serious rise in the cost of my Swedish axes, so I'm glad that I bought them a ways back. The prices of the higher end stuff seems to keep increasing, whereas the more utilitarian, but useful, lines seem to maintain their price point. Which is part for their reason for existence I believe.

Offline wsdstan

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2017, 01:47:06 PM »
I like high quality tools whether I use them or not.  First, if I do use them, they work pretty well.  Second, if I want to, I can sell it. 

There is an intangible satisfaction to owning quality knives and axes.  Not for being able to say that you own one but just having it in case you ever really need it.  It is the same with firearms.  I would rather have one high quality rifle than ten poorly made rifles. 
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Online wolfy

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2017, 04:15:13 PM »
Quality only stings once.  :chopwood:
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Offline upthecreek

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2017, 07:58:22 PM »
I'll add as I haven't posted much lately and this theme is dear to me...

I have wide range of axes. Not too many "cheap" ones. I try to avoid "cheap" in most all things I spend money on. Value comes in things that work well and last. "cheap" will often do at least one of the two but seldom both. I have only one hobby and it happens to be axes. I have broadened my collecting and am trying to get specimens from all over the world. It is not easy nor cheap. I can say that I do not own an axe that is in usable condition that I have not chopped with. Regardless of what I've invested in it. They are tools and tools are meant to be used. That how I approach it. I like nothing better than chopping down my smoking chips for the grill with a axe from some wheres far far away. In most cases someone has used it before me. I like that feeling.
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Offline Reallybigmonkey1

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2017, 09:45:07 PM »
I'm a middle ground guy but cheap is OK if you know what to look for.  I have two Council tool axes and I love them.  Middle ground.  I also have a Condor double bit camp axe. Middle ground and I love it.  I recently discovered that Marbles has a few wooden haft axes made in El Salvador.  I bought an 18 inch Marbles 704 for  $23.99 and it is literally the best pack axe I've ever used.  Rumor has it that axe is made in the same factory where the Imacasa stuff is made.
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2017, 10:10:54 PM »
IMO, of you want quality, find an old (I mean OLD) ax with old steel and refurbish it.  I own 4 axes. One is a $30 True Temper. Another one was a gift. The third is a "youth" ax I use for kindling/camping and have had for about 30 years, and the fourth was a head found in my shop when I bought the place.  My favorites are in reverse order. I don't have any money other than new handles invested in my "collection", and I've been processing 4-6 cords of wood per year for 17 years with them.
There's a difference between 'cheap' and 'inexpensive'. 
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Offline Homesteader

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2017, 12:16:49 PM »
I feel safer with a quality axe. I've worked with junk axes that quickly go dull enough to glance off a tree. That's a scary situation when you have to jump out of the way of your own axe. You don't generally have to worry about the head flying off a quality axe either. Also I think if you spend $150 on an axe you are less likely to misuse it and are more careful about what you are swinging at.  See that? A quality axe can even make you smarter. Raise your hand if you don't need to be smarter.     :)

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Online wolfy

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2017, 05:08:32 PM »
 :shrug:.......<Is that raising them high enough?  :rofl:
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Offline Homesteader

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2017, 05:21:01 PM »
:shrug:.......<Is that raising them high enough?  :rofl:

Sure, if you got arthritis that's pretty good. :P
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #16 on: August 17, 2017, 05:47:27 PM »
:shrug:.......<Is that raising them high enough?  :rofl:

 :lol: :lol: :lol: :doh:
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #17 on: August 17, 2017, 05:51:16 PM »
I feel safer with a quality axe. I've worked with junk axes that quickly go dull enough to glance off a tree. That's a scary situation when you have to jump out of the way of your own axe. You don't generally have to worry about the head flying off a quality axe either. Also I think if you spend $150 on an axe you are less likely to misuse it and are more careful about what you are swinging at.  See that? A quality axe can even make you smarter. Raise your hand if you don't need to be smarter.     :)
Just my 2-cents, but putting a new haft on a vintage head accomplishes 2 things: 1) you have good steel that won't dull or chip, and 2) after cleaning up the head, and finessing the handle into place, you have enough emotional investment to take care of how you use the thing. Also, if you hang the head yourself (provided you know what you're doing) you don't worry about it "flying off".  ;)
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Online wolfy

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #18 on: August 17, 2017, 07:41:59 PM »
:shrug:.......<Is that raising them high enough?  :rofl:

Sure, if you got arthritis that's pretty good. :P
I knew you were going to be trouble from the first day you posted in 'Introductons.' :doh:

Keep it up! :lol: :cheers:

BTW, I have had rotator-cuff surgery on both shoulders AND arthritis, so that truly IS about as high as I can raise my arms. ;D
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 07:53:24 PM by wolfy »
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Offline Homesteader

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #19 on: August 17, 2017, 08:14:29 PM »
Old Philosopher, I agree 100%. A good quality tool doesn't have to cost you a lot of money.

and...

@ Wolfy,
You sound like you're in fine shape! But I know what you mean. I just completed 3 months therapy for both shoulders and elbows. I'm not always in pain though and when I am it's only because I'm awake.

We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.   - THOMAS JEFFERSON

Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #20 on: August 17, 2017, 08:53:05 PM »
Old Philosopher, I agree 100%. A good quality tool doesn't have to cost you a lot of money.

and...

@ Wolfy,
You sound like you're in fine shape! But I know what you mean. I just completed 3 months therapy for both shoulders and elbows. I'm not always in pain though and when I am it's only because I'm awake.
Join the club. Shoulder surgery on rt shoulder twice, now the left one in out of whack.  It takes both arms to hold my cordless drill above me head for more than 30 sec at a time.   :-\
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Offline imnukensc

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #21 on: August 17, 2017, 08:59:46 PM »
I'm not even going to bother getting into all my health issues, but so far you guys are making me feel pretty damn good!
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Offline Punty

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Re: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?
« Reply #22 on: September 29, 2017, 08:10:08 AM »
  There are some half decent inexpensive axes out there...some of the import scout type axes, Estwings make some very serviceable axes.

  I think everyone needs to have a good, serviceable cheap axe or two so you don't have to give your know nothing buddies "the look" when they ask to use your axe.

  So "yes", inexpensive axes are worth the money if you're just getting started, and then later so you don't have to explain to your buddies why the two things they can't touch are your wife or your axe, and not necessarily in that order.
If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.
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