There’s something intensely romantic about axes. Perhaps it’s that they have an ancient quality, having existed alongside humans for much of our history — they’ve been carried all over the world, used and depended on, for a long, long time. I’ve always thought of the axe as something that you’d really need in your arsenal, if you subsisted with only a small collection of manufactured tools. As far as woodworking is concerned, they predate many other hand tools and have long fulfilled the purposes of many newer, more specialized tools. Axes are versatile, simple, elegant, and timeless.
They’re something I can’t stop myself from looking at and picking up at the flea market, moreso than most other hand tools.
During our Timber Framing Workshop (see the workshop slideshow), Tom Cundiff toted along his Gransfors Bruks Hunters Axe, and once and for all I could finally try out a hand forged axe from the infamous Swedish company, instead of just ogling it on a computer screen. It instantly felt good in the hand, and it grew on me even more throughout the week. After using it during our workshop, I didn’t think it possible to see it go away with Tom, and I bit the bullet and got one for myself.
Gransfors Bruks Hunters Axe Review
Why a Hunters Axe? It seems strange to buy a Hunters Axe with no intention of using it to dress animals in the field, with its rounded poll specifically designed for carefully skinning animals. I use it for timber framing and general carpentry/woodworking. Even in these applications, it works really nicely. Here’s why I like it so much.
Firstly, the balance is lovely. The head of the axe is very lightweight (surprisingly so the first time I picked it up), and the overall weight of the axe feels great in the hand. Unlike other axes, it doesn’t feel like a heavy weight at the top of a stick — it feels very nicely balanced, not top heavy at all.
The bit of the axe is nicely rounded, not straight as seen on a Carpenters Axe. It’s a small head, and well, I just really like the overall shape. I’m not an axe expert, and I can’t dissect the design to the tiniest detail — I’m just going to say what I like about it. It’s great for wasting tenons, and a heck of a lot of fun to use like a chisel (when properly sharpened), paring thin layers of wood with ease. The Hunters Axe became my primary tool for making tenons, to the point where I wasn’t using a chisel at all to remove wood. The smooth poll feels nice in the hand in this application, too, almost ergonomic with its round shape when you push the blade across the grain.
Another thing about that blade? Sharp. Very sharp. And it’s got a beautiful, long-lasting edge that holds up even to hardwood over long periods of time. The profile is different from other cheapish flea market axes I’ve used — much thinner, and nicer to sharpen and maintain.
The Hunters Axe has a great textured handle at the bottom end, ensuring greater grip with sweaty (or bloody) hands. Additionally, the handle is a perfect length for swinging with one or two hands. It feels great to swing big strokes, or choke up and swing shorter strokes with finer precision.
An Axe to Last
Overall, it’s a beautiful, well-made, and downright fun axe. It feels great, performs extremely well, and it’s sure to last for many, many years. I often find excuses to use it, just so that I can get a swing in with it. It takes me back to the days when people used axes for a living, and depended on these simple tools for their livelihood, or even their survival. Well, I think I’ll survive even if I didn’t have this one, but it makes work all the more pleasurable.
How does it compare to other axes in the Granfsors line? I really cannot say, having only used this and the Scandinavian Forest Axe (which I also dearly enjoy). Is it “better” than anything else they offer? Again, I don’t have the fortune of living anywhere near a shop that sells them, so I don’t know. I probably will never know, as this one cost a pretty penny. Couldn’t another axe have done basically the same thing, for these woodworking applications? Well, sure — the Small Forest Axe is similar in shape and size, and costs significantly less. But as I became very familiar with the Hunters Axe in our workshop, I was not willing to take a chance with another model that I was not already comfortable with.