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Archive | Tomahawks Hatchets and Axes

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


It isn’t hard to find an axe at the hardware store but finding one worth owning is another story. There are lots of tools that look like axes but much of the nuance of what makes an axe good has been lost. You can still get great axes but they tend to cost a fortune. Is the Cold Steel Trail Boss an a bargain pack axe for the budget woodsman or is it just cheap?

Specs:

Head weight: 2.5 lbs

Total weight: 2.77 lbs

Overall length: 23″

Steel: Forged 1055

Observations from Use:

The Trail Boss is probably a bit of an odd duck to the axe purist. I have seen its head referred to as a Hudson Bay pattern but it really has more in common with German designs thanks to its larger, fan shaped bit. Its 23″ handle has some shaping but it is mostly straight overall, likely to save cost. It really is a mish-mash of design elements but… it works really, really well.

It is always best to be able to inspect an axe in person when purchasing but I bought this one on Amazon per the rules for this series of reviews. The hang is quite good – straight, tight, with wood pushed out, filling the eye. The handle is quite good too with good grain orientation, no heart wood, run out, etc. I have been able to handle several of these and they have all been quite good.

The Trail Boss carries very light for an axe this size. It is large enough and heavy enough for light felling (especially when used with a compact saw of some kind) and compact enough to lash easily to most overnight or larger bags. This would be an extremely handy tool for packing into a winter camp.

The bit has nice thin cheeks which is surprising on an inexpensive axe. The head comes with only a courtesy edge that you will need to finish when the axe arrives but once you do, you will be treated to an axe that bites deep thanks to the efficient shape of its cutting bit. It also splits surprisingly well for a compact axe and splitting is likely the most important thing you will ask of a camp axe. This attention to head geometry is what makes an axe work and what is largely missing from most hardware store axes.

I am not exactly breaking the news that this is a great budget axe so there is already a solid after-market for this axe. That means that if you want an axe mask (bit cover) or sheath, you can easily find them and they aren’t expensive either.

There are still a few things I would change and most of them have to do with the haft. The are of the haft above the flared butt is where users are likely to grip the Trail Boss most often. This area has been left slightly square which can easily be fixed with a rasp or belt sander. It’s odd but also not that uncomfortable. The haft also comes with a lacquer finish. Boiled linseed oil would be preferable as lacquer finishes cause blisters on bare hands but this too is easily fixed… I still haven’t “fixed” mine because it works and I wear gloves.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The Cold Steel Trail Boss is certainly a BARGAIN. It shows, in its design, an understanding of what makes an axe functional. It won’t have the camp cache of a swedish axe but it also won’t set you back nearly as much and will perform nearly as well. It is functional as delivered and the knowledgeable axeman can really transform it into something special.

I am probably going to buy another one.

I use Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives (and axes) were purchased by me, from Amazon:

Cold Steel Trail Boss


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

The above article contains affiliate links.

Flagrant Beard – Flagrant Templar Tomahawk

Flagrant Beard’s latest creation, the Flagrant Templar Tomahawk, is now available to pre-order. It was created in collaboration with Exit Edgeworks and will start shipping earl next year.

The Flagrant Templar is a full tang construction tomahawk as opposed to a friction fit steel head on a wood haft. It is ground from 1/4″ thick 1095HC steel with Black or Tan micarta slab handles that span the entire haft to allow for a variety of grips. The head has a 2.63″ cutting edge with a sharpened beard and an interesting reverse-tanto, knife-like spike. The Flagrant Templar is 12.75″ in overall length.

FlagrantBeard.com

Frontier Axe & Tool

I have a confession to make. I like axes, hatchets, and tomahawks (maybe too much) and I am fortunate to live in a place that lets me put them to good use. I even started an Instagram feed (@thedailyaxe) that shares pictures of them which is how I cope with my vice. It is also how I came across Frontier Axe & Tool.

Frontier Axe & Tool sells axes, hatchets, and tomahawks. There are tons of shops selling new axes and tons selling restored vintage axes but Frontier Axe & Tool sells both. Their site has a variety of restored vintage American axes right along side a line of quality, USA-made, newly manufactured axes.

Those new axes, hatchets, and tomahawks are pretty unique and worth a look. The heads are hand forged by H&B Forge. Then Frontier Axe & Tool hangs each one with their own handles, sharpens them, and fits them with a leather axe mask. The quality appears to be excellent. They even go so far as to coat the leather masks with multiple coats of Sno-Seal. The prices on these axes are lower than their high quality imported counterparts and you are getting some solid value for the price considering the included leather mask and hand worked hafts.

Check out Frontier Axe & Tool.

Flat Face Knives Brewhawks

You’ve seen tomahawks with hammer poles and you’ve seen them with spikes. Flat Face Knives makes tomahawks with something even more useful on the opposite side from the cutting bit… a bottle opener. The Brewhawk is a hand forged tomahawk with a very traditional appearance until you notice the bottle opener.

Flat Face Knives makes these in various sizes and they are most easily available directly from the maker on Instagram. You can also check out their work at Arizona Custom Knives.

H&B Forge and Pine Fire GOShawk

Traditional, hand forged tomahawks haven’t changed much over the years but there is new tomahawk available that manages to teach the old workhorse some new tricks. The GOShawk is the result of a collaboration between Michael Herdson at Pine Fire and H&B Forge. It can do everything that a typical hammer pole tomahawk can do but it also boasts a few features that set it apart.

The GOShawk has a .85 pound hammer pole head on 23″ haft. A longer haft can be used to balance a heavier tomahawk head and adds speed to the swing. The head on the GOShawk a mid-weight compared to most tomahawks and when placed on a long handle, it should hit very hard.

In addition to the typical cutting edge, the GOShawk also features a utility edge on the lower edge of the bit. This edge can be used for scraping a ferro rod, tinder preparation, or other tasks that you might not want to risk damage or dulling to your main cutting edge. It also has a relief cut behind the bit that allows the user to get their hand behind the cutting for fine work and makes the head more comfortable to hold when it is off the haft.

Finally, the GOShawk also features a 3/8″ divet that can be used as a bow drill socket. The socket is usually the hardest part of a bow drill set to manufacture in the woods so having one with you, can be a great advantage if you have the skills to use a bow drill.

Check out the GOShawk at H&B Forge.

RMJ Tactical Little Bird 2017

It’s Little Bird season! If you follow the work of RMJ Tactical, you know what I am talking about.

Photo Credit: Rob Orlando

RMJ Tactical’s Little Bird Tomahawk is their way of saying thank you to their customers. It is basically a one-off design that they sell at dealer cost. They are made in limited numbers and often sell out quickly. They have released a Little Bird in 3 of the last 4 years (2014, 2015, and now 2017).

The Little Bird 2017 was just released today and it is limited to about 90 pieces. It sells at $320 including free shipping. This is a considerable discount versus something like an RMJ Jenny Wren which is very similar is size and construction to this latest Little Bird.

This tomahawk is basically an ourdoorsy version of the Jenny Wren. It is nearly identical in size to the venerable Jenny Wren, features a hammer pole, and a false edge on top specifically designed for scraping. It is laser cut and machined from 1/4″ thick 80CRV2 steel and has machined G-10 scales. Like all RMJ Tactical tomahawks, it comes with one of their excellent sheaths with MOC Straps (Low).

These were released at Noon, Eastern time so the clock is ticking. Act fast if you want one.

Little Bird 2017 at RMJ Tactical

Model

Little Bird 2017

Length:

11.75”

Head:

Forward edge: 3.8”

Forward edge to hammer: 4.9”

Steel:

1/4” oversized thickness 80CRV2

Finish:

Tungsten Cerakote

Handle:

Full tang handle design.

G-10 3D machined handle scales.

Handle Color(s):

Black

Hardness:

56-58 HRC

Weight:

24 oz w/o scabbard

30 oz w/ scabbard

Sheath:

Bottom-eject Kydex scabbard with Low Ride MOC Straps (Belt carry) included.

HHA LFT01 Desert

Hardcore Hardware Australia’s LFT01 Tomahawk is now available in a striking, all desert brown color scheme. The G-10 handle scales are brown. The D2 tool steel is coated brown. The kydex sheath is brown. This is one good looking tomahawk!

HHA LFT01 DT 1 HHA LFT01 DT 2

Grizzly Outdoors Gransfors Bruks SFA Sheath

Nothing about Gransfors Bruks is inexpensive and that includes the various aftermarket items that you might want to go with your axe. Most of the axe masks that you find are very well crafted and beautiful to look at but very expensive. They are also usually made of leather which certainly works but a hard axe mask/bit cover can be a nice safety item on sharp axe that is carried in a pack. That is why I was so happy to come across Grizzly Outdoors. They offer an axe mask for the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe that is molded from kydex and costs only $15. In that world of Gransfors Bruks, that is a bargain of the highest degree.

Check out Grizzly Outdoors.

gransfors bruks blade cover

LeValley Outdoors

The state of hardware store axes is really dreadful. A typical hardware store axe has a poor quality metal head that is sand cast into a single, inefficient shape with a poor heat treat and a handle that promotes blisters rather than preventing them. There really isn’t much that these axes get right which leads many people to look overseas for their axes. Manufacturers like Wetterlings and Gransfors Bruks make wonderful tools but they are often expensive, they may not be well suited to American hard woods, and their available patterns are somewhat limited.

The lack of quality options leaves the savy axe user to seek out and rehabilitate old US made axes. However, not everyone has the time, know-how, desire, or work bench space to rehab their own axes. Thankfully there are people like Jon LeValley of LeValley Outdoors who are doing their best to restore these old, used axes to usefulness.

straight-handled-collins-legitimus-michigan-pattern-4.gif

LeValley Outdoors offers a staggering variety of axes that have been cleaned, inspected, re-profiled, sharpened, and properly hung on a new handle that is hand finished with linseed oil and beeswax. They have hatchets with several lengths of handles, boy’s axes, full size single bit axes, cruiser size double bits, full size double bits, and other useful patterns like Pulaskis and broad axes. They have axes from many of the great American makers like Collins, Kelly, Plumb, True Temper, Norlund, and more along with some very nice European makers.

The axes range quite a bit in price based on their condition and desirability but all them come ready to work with a fresh edge and handle. The majority of them are priced for those who plan to use them rather than collectors. It is possible to purchase a top quality tool for half of what you might pay for a new European import.

levalley outdoors unmarked boys axes

For instance, if you are looking for a great general purpose camping/hiking axe, LeValley Outdoors sells unmarked boy’s axes for $60. Vintage unmarked axes are often the best deals on the market because they were usually made by a manufacturer that you would recognize but came with a paper label that has worn off or were made without a mark to be sold in a large department store. Much of an axe’s collector’s value is based on the maker’s marks and since these axes lack marks, they can be sold without regard to collector’s value. The prices are even more reasonable when you consider that any over $25 ships free.

If you are in the market for an axe that is actually worth a darn, check out LeValley Outdoors.

Wilderness Ironworks – Wilderness Axe

Some people are surprised to find that there are still people forging fine axes, one at a time, the old fashioned way, right here in the USA. One such place is Wilderness Ironworks.

Wilderness Ironworks Wilderness Axe

Their new pack axe, the Wilderness Axe, is quite unique in its size and shape. It has a bit shape that is very reminiscent of a carpenters axe with its more straight cutting edge and undercut bit for fine work. It’s size (7″ head, 4.5″ bit, 18″ haft) is similar to one of my favorites, the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe except the Wilderness Axe weighs about 3/4 of a pound less at 2 1/4 pounds. That is quite light for an axe of this size.

Everything about this axe is hand crafted. Wilderness Ironworks forges the heads and hand carves the hafts. The result is a very attractive axe.

Check out the Wilderness Axe at Wilderness Ironworks.

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