Husqvarna made a big impact on the axe market when it introduced its line of moderately priced, good quality axes. The hatchet has become a very popular model. You can see a review of it here.
Husqvarna does not manufacture their own axes. It typically contracts with several Swedish axe manufacturers. Until recently, one of their largest contractors was Wetterlings, which with the assistance of some other companies, gave us the above model we came to know. This year however, Husqvarna changed axe manufacturers to Hults Bruk, another Swedish company. This is reflected in the changes of the 2011 axe models. Here I will review the new Hatchet, which is sold under the number HVA 576 92 64 01.
Axe Head Weight: 1.25 lb
Axe Length: 15 inches
Axe Head Material: Undisclosed Swedish Steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Just like the last model, this one is also priced in the $40 range, making it a mid-range axe in terms of cost.
In this review I will compare the new Husqvarna hatchet to both the old model as well as the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. It should be noted that the old Husqvarna hatchet I will use in the review is of exceptional quality. It does not appear to have been made by Wetterlings at all, judging by the strike patterns. Other examples of that model that I have seen have had much more pronounced imperfections. Here are the two Husqvarna hatchets next to each other.
And for those of you who are not familiar with the old model, here is the new Husqvarna hatchet next to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet.
The handle of the Husqvarna hatchet has fairly good grain. It is comparable to what I have seen of the previous model. It is however much larger. It is over two inches longer than the old model, and significantly thicker. The handle is still very comfortable to use, but the size difference is noticeable. The difference is handle size also accounts for a weight difference between the two axes. While the head weights seem to be about the same, the extra length and thickness of the new handles makes for a heavier hatchet, coming in at 2 lb 1 oz overall, as compared to 1 lb 10 oz overall for the old model.
The head design is excellent. The overall shape and geometry is excellent. This particular design has been in use by Hults Bruk for a long time as their Agdor pattern of axes. The bit is thin, the cheeks have good curvature, and the head is fairly well balanced. The axe came somewhat sharp. If was serviceable, but no where nearly as sharp as a Gransfors Bruks. Ten minutes with the sharpening stone however gave me a shaving sharp axe. I have heard some complaints with respect to this axe that the grind of the bit did not appear to have been polished, and that you can see the grind marks. While true, this in no way effects the performance of the axe. The head is attached to the handle using a wooden wedge and a circular metal pin, and the attachment was very secure.
The hatchet came with a leather sheath. I am not a big fan of this particular design as it can slide off due to the lack of a strap going over the handle. That being said, the sheaths on the new model appear to be consistent, as opposed to the variety of sheaths used on the old model.
In terms of performance the old and new models seem to be well matched. Thirty swings with either axe gave me the results you see below. The chopping power seems to be identical. Similarly, due to the similar head geometry, the two hatchets split and carve with about the same efficiency. That being said, I had hoped for some added performance from the new model due to the extra weight.
Overall, I think we have an axe that is a worthy successor to the Husqvarna hatchet. The price has remained the same and so has the performance. I know that nostalgia will soon hit, and we’ll start reminiscing about how perfect the old model was, but the truth is that in terms of quality and design nothing has changed. This is a $40 hatchet. It will have imperfections, just like the old model. They are typically minor and can be easily fixed with some work. If you are looking for a good practical tool, then the Husqvarna axe is still a good choice. If you want a show piece, then perhaps a $40 hatchet is not the best bet. You may get lucky and end up with a perfect example, but odds are, you will not.