Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Collins Hunter’s Axe Review

One of the most successful axes in bushcraft has become the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. One of the reasons for its success is that is it light weight (1.5lb head) and relatively short (20 inch handle), making it easy to carry in a ruck sack. For some reason however, there are very few competitive options out there from other manufacturers in this category axe. Here, I want to take a look at the Collins Hunter’s Axe because it is close to the specifications of the Small Forest Axe, and comes at a much lower price.

Manufacturer: Truper Herramientas (bought out Collins Axe in 2004)
Axe Head Weight: 1.75 lb
Axe Length: 18 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $11.00

Obviously, this is a very cheap product. As such, I would expect wide variation in quality control of the tool. Still, for $11.00, it is well worth a look.

Here I will be comparing the Collins Hunter’s Axe to the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, since that would be the axe one would most likely look to replace with this cheaper alternative. Here you can see the two axes next to each other.

The handle on the Collins Hunter’s Axe is clearly shorter by about two inches, but is a bit thicker. I found the handle to be too short to comfortably use the axe with two hands. I would say that 20 inches is the minimum I would need for a small axe. This is just a personal preference.

The handle grain of the Collins Hunter’s Axe is just horrible. It is actually, completely horizontal. Compare it below to that of the Gransfors Bruks (left). In the Gransofrs Bruks it is nearly vertical, as it should be, while in the Collins it is horizontal, the worse possible grain alignment for an axe handle.

Quite honestly, until now, I was sure that such a bad axe handle did not actually exist, but was just something people drew for demonstration purposes in books. I guess I was wrong, because here is one of them. Grain like this takes away all of the strength from the handle.

The head of the Collins Hunter’s Axe is heavier than the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe by a quarter pound. It is attached to the handle using the common method of a wooden wedge and a round metal peg. The attachment seems very secure.

The grind of the Collins Hunter’s Axe is very wide. While the head itself is not that much thicker than that of the Small Forest Axe, the convex of the cutting edge is much, much thicker. In fact, it is not convexed at all, but rather just flat ground. Needles to say, the axe was not sharp. It would be very difficult to work with a grind this thick, because even if the axe was sharp, it would have a very hard time penetrating into wood because of the thickness. In order to make this head usable for anything other than splitting, it would have to be completely re-ground, all the way back to the eye. Considering the rest of the quality of the axe, such a task would be a waste of time.

Another major problem with the axe is the head itself. I do not mean the grind which I mentioned above, but rather the fact that this axe seems to have been made by a blind man who hates his job. If you look in the picture below, you will see that the eye of the head is not aligned at all. It is off to one side. You can see that on the left there is less metal than on the right side of the eye. This is not an optical illusion, someone in fact failed to center the hole. This makes an axe very dangerous and likely to fail when used. I will not even bother talking about balance of the axe.

The axe comes with no sheath.

As you know from the rest of my reviews, I strongly believe that low cost tools can be put to good use, and are often worth putting a bit of time and effort in order to turn them into great tools. The Collins Hunter’s Axe is not one of those tools. In fact, it is so bad that I will not even bother taking it out into the woods for testing. I would not use this axe even if you paid me.

I am sure that there is variation in the product, and that I might have gotten a particularly bad example, but the fact that such a low quality tool will be allowed off the production line, demonstrates that this company does not care in any way about its product.

It is sad to see what has happened to a once great axe manufacturer.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Commander Single Bit Axe (3.5lb head; 36 inches in length), The Boy's Axe (2.25lb head; 28 inches in length), and The Camper's/Scout Axe (1.25lb head; 14 inches in length).