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.
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.
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.