Friday, December 10, 2010

Graintex Single Bit Camp Axe CA1754 (Wood Handle) Review

This is yet another cheap hatchet that I have been testing. I think this one is well worth a look.

Graintex Inc.
Axe Head Weight: 1.25 lb
Axe Length: 14 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $10.00

This is clearly a very low cost hatchet. As such, quality control is something to keep in mind. Like with all my other axes, I bough this one online, so I get a random selection from the available examples of the tool.

As with all my other hatchet reviews, I will be comparing the Graintex Hatchet to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet, so as to give a well know point of reference.

Here you can see the Graintex Single Bit Camp Axe next to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet.

The Graintex hatchet handle is exactly 14 inches, which makes it a bit longer than that of the Wildlife Hatchet, which comes in closer to 13.5 inches. The handle is very comfortable and well finished.

The grain of the handle (left) is good, although not perfect. For a hatchet, the quality is more than sufficient.

The head of the Graintex hatchet is 1.25lb, quarter of a pound heavier than that of the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. It is attached to the handle using some type of fiberglass epoxy. I am not sure if any wedges were used, but the head appears to be securely attached. During use, there was no movement or loosening. The hardness of the metal is unknown, but appears to be fairly hard based on how it responded to filing.

The grind of the head is amazing. It is as close to perfect as I can think of. The edge and the cheeks are thin, and the transition from one part of the head to another is very smooth, without any abrupt changes in angle. In contrast, notice how concave the head of the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is. The abrupt transition between the blade and the area around the eye creates unwanted friction when the blade is going through the wood. The axe was dull when I got it. It can be sharpened with just a sharpening stone, but I used a 200 grit file for a few seconds, just to get the job done faster. I finished it with a sharpening stone to get the edge paper-cutting sharp.

The performance of the Graintex Camp Axe/Hatchet is amazing. In fact it was doing so well, that wanted to document some of the testing in a more scientific way, so you can better see.

In the picture below, you can see the hatchet when it comes to splitting. The smooth, continuous geometry of the head lets it go through the wood without a problem. It is clearly not a splitting axe, so the performance should be judged accordingly, but unlike the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet it does not have any of the binding problems.

It easily outperformed the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet with respect to chopping. That is probably mostly due to the additional quarter pound on the Graintex Camp Axe head, the the thinness of the edge might also be playing a role in this. In the picture you can see the result after 50 swings with each hatchet. The wood is oak.

The Wildlife Hatchet has a slight advantage when it comes to carving. It is able to bite into the wood at a slightly shallower angle. I am not sure what accounts for that difference.

The hatchet does not have a full sheath, but rather uses just a rubber cover for the edge. Just like all such covers, it protects the edge well, but will most likely fall off in your bag.

All things considered, the Graintex Single Bit Camp Axe/Hatchet is amazing. For $10 you get performance that is hard to find in the majority of hatchets currently on the market. It has no problem keeping up with the Gransfors Bruks in terms of performance, and it does it for one tenth of the price. I could not find anything wrong with the tool. It is likely that because of the low cost the quality controls are a bit loose. There will probably be examples of the hatchet out there with misaligned handles and other defects, but the one I randomly selected, was as close to perfect as I could expect. I am truly impressed by this hatchet, and I strongly recommend it.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Boy’s Axe BA 1756 (2.25 lb head, 28 inches in length), The Single Bit Axe SA 1634 (3.5 lb head, 36 inches in length), and The Double Bit Axe DA 1654 (3.5 lb head, 36 inches in length).