I have been wanting to take a closer look at the Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe since it came out, but due to lack of funds have not been able to do so until now. Fortunately, the kind people at Omaha Knife informed me that they now carry the full line of Council Tool axes and asked me if I would like to review one of them. Of course, the Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe was my choice. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not paid for this axe. It was loaned to me from their display collection.
Just so you guys know, Omaha Knife continues to offer a discount for readers of this blog. The discount now extends to all items in the store. Just enter the code “Wood Trekker” to get your discount.
So, on to the axe.
Manufacturer: Council Tool
Axe Head Weight: 1.75 lb (the head is listed as weighing 2 lb, but it’s almost certainly closer to 1.75 lb)
Axe Length: 22.5 inches as measured; 24 inches as listed
Axe Head Material: 5160 steel; RC 50-54
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $130.00 although it can be found for less online
This axe is designed to compete with other top of the line axes, in particular Gransfors Bruks. The corresponding price is accordingly high, similar to Gransfors Bruks. The one I was provided with was taken as a random sample from a box of shipped axes, so I was interested to see how it compares to it’s closest rival, the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. Here you can see the two side by side.
The handle of the Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe in terms of length falls between the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axes and the Small Forest Axe. It is 22.5 inches, making it an inch and a half longer than the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe and two and a half inches shorter than the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. Council Tool lists the handle as being 24 inches, but just like with all of their other axes, that is the length of the handle before the head is hung. Several inches are usually removed during that process. For this particular head the handle seems to be a good length. I prefer a longer handle (around 26 inches), but if you are comfortable swinging a Small Forest Axe, this one will fit you just fine. As with other Council Tool axe handles, this one is thin. I usually like that, but here I found the handle to be a little too thin near the eye for the width of the handle. What I mean is that i would like it to be a bit more oval and less flattened. The grain of the handle was good, at least as good as that of my Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. It does contain some heart wood. There is a lot of talk about whether than matters or not, but I leave that for you to decide. (Council Tool left; Gransfors Bruks right)
Council Tool describes the head as being about 2 lb. I think that is an overestimation of the head weight, just like with the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. With the Scandinavian Forest Axe, I have actually weighed the head, and it is 1.75 lb. The head of the Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe seems to be about the same weight. It is hard to tell exactly without removing the handle, but it is probably under 2 lb, closer to 1.75 lb. Even though it was mounted on a shorter handle, it felt like a good fit, creating a well balanced, usable axe.
In terms of design, Council Tool and Gransfors Bruks took different approaches. If you look at the bit geometry, the Council Tool head is slightly thinner immediately behind the bit. It then continuously expands until it reaches the eye. The Gransfors Bruks head on the other hand uses concave cheeks shortly after the bit until the eye is reached. The immediate differences between the designs are not apparent when using the two axes. People have put forward different theories on whether the concavity of the Gransfors Bruks cheeks helps prevent binding and whether it on the other hand limits its splitting ability. Judging the differences becomes even more difficult because the two heads differ in overall design as well. I was not able to detect any difference during non strenuous use.
The two heads are attached using the exact same method, a wooden wedge with a metal pin. The handle of the Council Tool axe protrudes over the eye just like that of the Gransfors Bruks.
The Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe is well balanced lengthwise, but despite Council Tool putting a heavier poll on it, the axe is still bit heavy, a feature hard to avoid with the Hudson Bay design.
The tests that I have done with this axe are relatively light, since it is not mine. That being said, it performed quite well. Like I said before, I prefer a longer handle, but this one was not uncomfortable. For a small backpacking axe, you can swing it quite well. I like the long cutting edge of the axe. The added cutting area made it easier for me when performing tasks from chopping to carving. The Hudson Bay pattern is also good for choking up on the handle when carving, although because of the smaller eye, you have a higher risk of the head loosening up.
The Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe comes with a very robust leather sheath. The axe slides into it, and it completely encloses the head. It can also be slid onto a belt. I personally prefer a smaller, simpler sheath, like that of the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe, but I know many have complained about how they would like a more solid sheath. If you are one of those people, then this sheath might be the one for you.
So, is the Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe worth the money. From what I have seen, the answer is yes. I think it is a very good competitor to the other top of the line bushcraft axes. In terms of size and weight it can be easily transported within a backpack, and can accomplish a wide range of tasks. If you have been looking for something heavier than the Small Forest Axe, but easier to fit in a pack than the Scandinavian Forest Axe, this model might be one to fit that role.
Once again, a big thank you to Omaha Knife for providing me with a sample of this axe.