Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marble’s Belt Axe No 9 Review

Continuing my pursuit of quality tools with reasonable price tags, I decided to test out the Marble’s Belt Axe No 9.

Marble’s; made in China
Axe Head Weight: Estimated to just under 1 lb. I have not been able to find exact specifications.
Axe Length: 14.5 inches
Axe Head Material: Forged Carbon Steel, 50-52 Rockwell hardness.
Handle Material: Unknown wood
Cost: It can be purchased at most places online for under $30.00.

In this review I will be comparing the hatchet to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. The reason for the comparison is that they have similar specifications in terms of length and weight, and someone looking for a low cost replacement will most likely be looking for a replacement for the Wildlife Hatchet. The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is a well known and reviewed tool which has a lot of well earned respect in the bushcraft community.

So, I got the axe and I must say, I was very disappointed when I took it out of the box. The head looked too small, the handle looked too narrow, and all around, it did not measure up to the hatchets I was accustomed to seeing.

After the initial disappointment wore off, I took a closer look. I noticed that the edge of the blade was rather wavy, although it was reasonably sharp, at least much sharper than the Trail Boss, which I reviewed earlier. I spent about half an hour sharpening it and taking out the waives from the edge.

Here you can see the Marble’s Belt Axe No 9 next to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet.

The handle is half an inch longer than that of the Wildlife Hatchet, but it is much thinner. I have large hands, so I like a thicker handle.

The grain of the handle is pretty straight, but it is very wide grain meaning that the material is weaker.

I was not able to find the exact weight of the head, but knowing that the head of the Wildlife Hatchet is about 1 lb, the one of the Marble’s Hatchet feels just a bit lighter. The head is attached using a metal wedge which is inserted in the handle.

The head also looks smaller than that of the Wildlife hatchet, although the eye is smaller as well, and it is not nearly as concaved as the Wildlife Hatchet in the middle of the head.

After the preliminary look over, I took the hatchet out for a more thorough test.

The more I used it, the more I liked it. After being sharpened, the performance of the hatchet was exceptional when it came to both carving and chopping. In virtually all tests I did, it was able to either outperform or keep up with the Wildlife Hatchet, to my great surprise.

After an hour or so of use however, I encountered a huge problem. The metal wedge which secures the handle to the head started to come loose, and the head started sliding off the handle. This is certainly unacceptable as it poses a serious danger to the user.

When I got back, I took apart the axe, and put it back together using Gorilla Glue epoxy. That fixed the problem without much work.

The sheath is actually a good design and keeps the axe head well protected. It was however very dry when I got it. It required a lot of oil to get it back into shape.

Because of the head attachment problem however, and the waives on the cutting edge (even though they were easy to remove), I can not recommend this hatchet for anything other than a project. If you wish to put in some work into your axe, then this may very well be the right one for you, especially for under $30. If however you need a tool that you can take out of the box and use, I can not recommend this hatchet. The axe head seems to perform very well, and the grind is very good, but overall, the tool needs work before use.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Mini Belt Axe (10.75 inches in length), and The Hunter's Axe (14.25 inches in length). Head weight for either axe is unknown at this time.