Category Archives: Axes

Les Stroud’s Wetterlings Bushman Axe

Wetterlings Bushman Axe by Les Stroud

The Bushman Axe By Les Stroud

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ve probably heard of Survivorman Les Stroud. As a well respected member of the outdoor, survival, and bushcraft communities it’s safe to say he knows his stuff. That’s pretty evident in the design of the Wetterlings Bushman Axe he helped create.

According to Les:

“The Bushman by Survivorman Les Stroud is unique as it is both an axe and a hammer. The wedge shaped head ensures extreme splitting power. The long, broad blade is good for felling or carving. The neck is a distinct hammer and good for driving pegs. A notch for your fingers makes it easy to be very detailed and get nice cuts when doing precision work. The handle is long enough to be a two-hand axe for wood splitting and felling.”

In other words, Stroud created this axe to be a jack of all trades in the back country. And for that purpose, it’s probably your best bet. Keep reading to learn more.

Wetterlings

Since the late eighteen hundreds Wetterlings has been forging quality hand-made axes in Sweden. Today there are few companies still doing it, but two of them are Gransfors Bruks and S.A. Wetterlings. These are among the oldest most reputable firms around, producing some of the finest axes and hand tools money can buy. Unsurprisingly, they’re owned by the same person. Some consider Wetterlings axes to be more affordable Gransfors products. For the most part that’s true. However, the Bushman Axe pushes the boundaries of quality between these two companies.

Wetterlings Bushman Axe

Although Wetterlings may be considered a step below Gransfors, their products shouldn’t be second guessed. Wetterlings axes are every bit as durable and functional as a Gransfors axe. It’s details, features, fit, and finish that separate the two. In a Gransfors axe you’ll be paying for a tighter grain in the handle, perhaps a more luxurious wood treatment too. Comparing the two it’s fairly clear which one cost more money. Yet, they both chop wood… and they chop it well. Nevertheless Wetterlings stands behind their products with a lifetime warranty.

Head

Stroud and Wetterlings chose a rather unconventional design for the head of the axe but not without reason. In order to cover all facets of axe work in the bush, compromises must be made. The result was an axe that looks and feels different from others, but performs anything you need it to.

Profile

For the head, this necessitated a few interesting features. First and foremost the axe cheeks create a larger, wider wedge than usual for splitting tasks. A wider edge tents to force material apart rather than slicing it. This benefits splitting but not cutting. While the Bushman is a very good lightweight splitter, it’s also not bad at cutting either. The almost completely flat bit excels in cutting rounded stock, which is pretty much anything you’ll find in the woods.

Power

Weighing in at 1.6 pounds, the heft of the head is enough to keep up with most dedicated choppers when combined with the Bushman’s handle length. A significant amount of this weight can be attributed to the polished hammer poll. An uncommon feature in axes that allows you to crush and smash to your hearts content. Driving tent stakes seems to be the most common use for it, which is something it does very well. Be careful however while striking rock or steel, as these hard materials can both deform your axe, or worse send dangerous shrapnel flying through the air.

Steel

The pronounced curve of the blade where the head meets the handle allows you to choke up all the way on the axe for extreme precision. Fine carving tasks are a breeze with the Bushman… especially with a polished edge. The common misconception that an axe doesn’t need to be sharp couldn’t be further from the truth. A sharp axe is a safe axe. Dull axes are prone to dangerously ricochet and cause you to exert more effort than necessary.

Also If you plan to use your axe for carving, a quality edge is of the utmost importance. Fortunately Wetterlings uses quality Swedish high carbon steel hardened to about 57-58 HRC on the Rockwell scale. Combined with the perfect heat treatment; the Bushman will accept a beautiful edge without difficulty and keep it for a very long time.

Handle

Ergonomically the Bushman’s handle is straighter and simpler than most. It’s also balanced very far towards the head which may be confusing to some. In order to succeed at splitting the head had to be heavier than usual, causing the balance issues. Nevertheless it performs admirably regardless of the balance or handle shape. Once accustomed to it, the handle is surprisingly comfortable. At 22 inches its compact enough to fit in a pack and combined with the beefier head, powerful enough to keep up with a much larger axe.

The finish on the handle is nothing fancy, but the alignment is perfect and grain structure just above average. This ensures your axe will swing true without failing prematurely. It’s made of American Hickory for strength and comes with a lanyard hole at the bottom of the handle. In terms of length, it’s just about the maximum for effective carving without sacrificing firepower. Another example of Stroud’s intent to create a jack of all trades backcountry tool.

Final Thoughts on the Wetterlings Bushman Axe

All things considered, the Les Stroud’s Wetterlings Bushman Axe is a fantastic piece of kit. If you’re looking for an axe to accomplish anything you might encounter, this is it. However, it’s unfortunately a little on the pricier side. A fair trade off for some because of its capability. But for the money, others may choose the fancier Gransfors instead.

Ultimately it still presents a great cost to utility ratio, and even better power to size. If you’re looking around for a forest axe, I encourage you to give it a try.

Thoughts? Questions? Considerations? Concerns? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


Specifications

Wetterlings Bushman Axe by Les Stroud


  • Length: 22 inches
  • Head Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Overall Weight: 37.6 ounces
  • Steel: hand-forged Swedish high carbon steel
  • Hardness: 57-58 HRC
  • Handle: Hickory

Estwing Hatchet

Sportsman’s Axe

Overview

Few products inspire the nostalgia of a forged Estwing striking tool. Proudly produced on American soil since 1932, it’s not uncommon to hear a construction worker tell you a few stories of that old Estwing hammer that’s been on his tool belt for 20 years. Often times, it was his father’s before his. Estwing’s most popular products are their one-piece forged tools like the Sportsman’s Axe.

estwing-hatchet_stock_03

Construction

Forged of 1055 carbon steel, this axe offers superior edge retention, toughness, and durability. For this reason 1055 is a very popular choice for Japanese katana swords. However, 1055 offers poor corrosion resistance even among carbon steels. Beyond extremely tough steel the Sportsman’s Axe is a one piece forged construction. Therefore nearly indestructible whether used as a hammer, prybar, or throwing axe.

Availability

One of my favorite characteristics of the Sportsman’s Axe is it’s availability. Find it at most hardware stores for less than half the price of comparable axes. Although there are “better” axes available, its hard to beat the sheer functionality of such an affordable tool. For that reason it deserves recognition among beginners and experienced outdoorsmen.

Ergonomics

Because Estwing has been developing their shock resistance for over 75 years this axe is a joy to swing. The shock resistance mechanics of this axe and an Estwing hammer are the same. Such characteristics are a big reason why carpenters choose an Estwing hammer to swing all day, every day. However the classic leather handle is beautiful; it is outmatched by the more modern fiberglass grip available on some models in terms of durability in shock resistance. While some may prefer a thinner blade profile or thicker neck to choke up on for finer carving tasks, the durability and weight savings of its thinner one-piece construction are a fair trade-off. That being said, it retains superb balance for an all-steel tool.

Gransfors Bruks Forest Axes

Overview

The rhythmic pounding of hammer and steel has been echoing from the village of Gränsfors for over 100 years. This small forge nestled in northern Hälsingland, Sweden churns out some of the finest working tools in the world; all with only about 30 employees. In order to reach this level of quality, all Gränsfors axes are made by hand.

gransfors, gransfors bruks,


“An axe is only as good as the accumulated skills of the people who forge, grind and attach the handle to the axe. All our axes are made by human hand. And all these people deserve great respect and recognition for their professional expertise. Our company would be nothing without them.”

Gränsfors backs up this statement by stamping each finished axe head with its maker’s mark upon completion.


Construction

Steel

gransfors-construction_stock_02

The steel used in these axes is a secret proprietary blend of Swedish steel. A closely guarded secret sought after by enthusiasts and competitors alike. Although the exact make-up remains unknown, the characteristics of the finished product speak for themselves. Each head is hardened to about 57 HRC on the rockwell scale. While neither too hard nor too soft, this is considered the upper limit of simple filing and sharpening. Although the blade will accept a beautiful edge with minimal effort, it can withstand incredible abuse. Fortunately, it comes shaving sharp out of the box. Caution is warranted however as it may slice through layers of skin on accident, even after a hard day of limbing and chopping.

Head

gransfors-construction_stock_01

True to its name, these axes are most at home performing light forestry tasks. Categorized as a “limbing” or “snelling” axe by Gränsfors themselves, the head is shaped with a narrow profile. ideal for removing most limbs in one effortless swing. While this thin blade is specialized for light bush work and carving tasks, it is not very well suited for heavy splitting. It can be done, and makes short work of small logs, but should not be used for splitting large timbers. The lightweight head is sufficient enough to fell medium sized trees, yet small enough to carve a spoon. Once sharpened, each head is dipped in water repellant and rust-proofing oil.

Handle

gransfors-construction_stock_03

Gränsfors Bruks’ handles have been designed by Hans Erik Persson to adapt old traditions for modern use. Each handle is made from hickory for its strength, flexibility, and long parallel fibers. The grain structure is aligned perfectly within the handle to ensure longevity and shock absorption.

All wood is dried before turning to ensure the handle will not shrink further and come loose from the head. Furthermore each piece is soaked in hot linseed oil after fitting, then treated with beeswax to repel oil, water, and dirt. Ergonomically the axe performs like an extension of your arm. Each subtle curve chosen to maximize both comfort and utility. It is an absolute joy to swing this axe.


Small Forest Axe

gransfors-smallforestaxe_stock_05
  • Length (with handle): 19 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Steel: Unknown Swedish steel, 57 HRC Rockwell

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Scandinavian Forest Axe

gransfors-scandinavian_stock_01
  • Length (with handle): 25 inches
  • Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Steel: Unknown Swedish steel, 57 HRC Rockwell