Author Topic: Axes & Hatchets, Cheap vs. quality, is the savings worth it ?  (Read 290 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 ?   
In youth we learn,   with age we understand.

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!" 
Hunter S, Thompson

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...
Proverbs 27:17    "As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend"

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.


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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.
The more I understand, the less I know. Pretty soon I'll understand everything, and know nothing.