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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.