Friday, January 13, 2012

Condor Woodworker Axe 2012 Prototype Review

As you know from my past posts, I have very mixed feelings about products made by Condor Tool & Knife. The company genuinely seems to care about their products, and closely follows consumer feedback, but at least when it comes to their axes, they have in the past fallen short. It appears that their dedication is paying off, as I ended up being quite happy with their new design.

I was fortunate enough to be offered one of their early prototypes for their 2012 Small Axe model (it now appears to be for sale under the name Woodworker axe). As you may remember, it is the axe I had strapped to my pack during the snow storm a few months back.

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I have now done a fair amount of testing with the axe, and while my review was a bit delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, I figured I would give you my honest impressions.

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Specifications:
Manufacturer:
Condor Tool & Knife
Axe Head Weight: Approximately 1.5 lb. The overall weight of the axe is 1 lb 14.7 oz. The current catalog lists the overall weight as 2.1 lb, with a 1.5 lb head.
Axe Length: 17 inches. The production model is listed as having 18 inch handle.
Axe Head Material: Carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $55.00

a (23)

Assuming that this is in fact being sold as the Woodworker axe, the price is quite reasonable. It is not cheap, but is comparable with other mid range axes.  

In terms of performance, I decided to compare the Condor axe to the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. The reason I did that is because of the similar head weight, and the fact that both axes fit somewhere between a hatchet and a boy’s axe. That being said however, the Condor axe is much closer to a hatchet than the Gransors Bruks Small Forest Axe. The handle is two to three inches shorter, which makes a big difference to the way you would use a small axe like this one. While you can still use two hands on the Condor axe, it is much better suited for single hand use.

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a (9)

The grain orientation on the handle was very good. It is a straight handle design, but I don’t want you to get the impression that they just put a simple stick on the axe head. The handle has gone through significant testing, and it is reflected in the design. There are many fluctuations in thickness and shape along the length of the handle, and I found it surprisingly comfortable to use. Typically, I find axes with a 1.5 lb head to be too uncomfortable to use with one hand, but thanks to the handle design, the axe felt very comfortable and controllable.

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The design of the head is also interesting. When viewed from the top, you can see that it is well designed. The cheeks are properly ground, and the convex of the bit is good for an all around axe. The bit and the head overall are a little thicker than the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, so it will favor splitting tasks over chopping ones, but it is a good overall design. The head is attached using a wooden wedge and a circular metal pin.

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When we look at it from the side however, the axe comes across as looking more like a shigling, or carving hatchet than a felling axe. That being said however, I did not find any draw backs to the design. The bit has a slight curvature, and the design of the head makes it easy to choke up on the axe. In my opinion the top part of the bit has slightly too much curvature, but I assume that is a grinding defect more than a design issue. While the general shape might resemble a carving or hewing hatchet, the bit is ground like an all purpose axe.

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Overall, I am very impressed by this little axe. I have to admit, when I first saw it, I did not expect much. It looked like just another hewing hatchet. After a closer look however, it is clear that it is a well thought out design, that is in fact crated to serve as an all around axe. The performance reflected that. I would not hesitate to take this axe into the woods again. 

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