Friday, December 3, 2010

Estwing Sportsman’s Axe E24A Review

I decided to do a review on this hatchet because I know that Estwing axes have become rather popular, and they are widely available at hardware stores. I wanted to see how they stack up to some of the other axes I have been testing. Estwing makes two hatchets that look very similar. One is the model E24A, which I am reviewing here, and the other is the smaller E14A.

Manufacturer: Estwing Manufacturing Company
Axe Head Weight: Unknown (The whole hatchet weighs 1.6lb)
Axe Length: 13 inches
Axe Head Material: 1055 carbon steel
Handle Material: Steel with leather cover
Cost: $35.00

Estwing axes are not cheap, but are what I would consider mid range in terms of price. They are good looking axes, but I have never been a huge fan. In the interest of providing a complete picture of the products that are on the market, I though I would give this one an honest try.

As with all of my other hatchet reviews, I will be comparing the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. The Wildlife Hatchet has been the measuring stick for all other hatchets for a number of years.

Here you can see the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe E24A next to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet.

The handle on the Estwing hatchet is about 0.5 inches shorter than that of the Wildlife Hatchet, making it about 13 inches overall. There is no grain to speak of because the handle is metal, wrapped in leather washers. The hatchet is the only Estwing axe with such a leather grip; all others have a plastic covering. The head and the handle are one solid piece of metal, and seem to have been made as a single unit.

Estwing has done a lot of research in minimizing the shock transmitted through the handle, but even so, the metal handle transmits a lot more force to the hand, than a wooden one. On the flip side, the handle is much more durable. There is very little you can do to destroy one of these axes. The added strength unfortunately brings about added weight. It is hard to specify the weight of the head because it is a separate unit, but for the same amount of weight, one can get a heavier head if the handle was made out of wood.

The head of the Estwing hatchet is very interesting. Because it has no eye, the shape is unlike any other axe. The cheeks of the axe are very thin when compared to the Wildlife Hatchet, forming a concave shape all the way to the poll. The bit, or cutting edge convex however, has been left very thick. The design is hard to explain. Thinning out the edge is technically possible, but because it is so thick, it is not a practical option. It will take weeks of continuous work to file down the convex of the edge.

When it came to testing the hatchet, I spent some time getting it paper-cutting sharp. It wasn’t bad out of the box, but it did need some work. The performance was nothing to brag about. It was clearly out performed by the Wildlife Hatchet. The bit of the Estwing hatchet is so thick, that no matter how sharp you get it, it will still have a hard time penetrating into the wood. It is a shame that the designers had not provided a better edge, because considering how thin the rest of the head is, it might have made for a well performing axe. As it is however, the Wildlife Hatchet, as well as many others, leave it in the dust.

Needless to say, the thick edge makes carving an unpleasant task. The hatchet has a hard time biting into the wood, and at moderately shallow angles, glances off the wood. Also, the thin, metal part of the handle right next to the head makes it nearly impossible to choke up on the axe when carving. You would have to wrap something around that part of the handle in order to be able to do it.

The thin head also makes splitting an interesting task. Since the edge is thick, small wood splits easily as soon as the bit penetrates it. If the wood is thicker however, or more stubborn, you start to get problems. Once the bit is in the wood, the rest of the head is so thin that it adds very little to the splitting. The head then becomes very likely to get stuck.

The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe comes with an excellent leather sheath. It covers the whole head very securely, and has a belt attachment point. The one I got was very dry, but the quality is very high. It is a much more complex design than that of the Wildlife Hatchet.

Overall, I can not justify buying this tool. Considering the price, the performance falls way short. For five dollars more you can buy a Husqvarna Hatchet which will outperform it all day long. It is an interesting and sturdy design. If you plan on doing some work that would be very destructive to an axe, this may be the one for you, but as a general woodman’s tool, it leaves a lot to be desired.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Sportsman's Axe E14A (11.5 inches in length), The Campers Axe E44A (16 inches in length), and The Campers Axe E45A (24 inches in length).