Monday, February 21, 2011

Rockforge 1.25lb Camp Axe (Fiberglass Handle) Review

This is a review that I have had for a while, but never got around to putting it up. This is a line of axes that I keep seeing at Home Depot, although I have had trouble finding them online.

Manufacturer: Rockforge/GARDEX
Axe Head Weight: 1.25 lb
Axe Length: 14 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Fiberglass (possible with metal rod inside)
Cost: $15.00

From what I have seen online, this company sells different versions of this axe, including some with wooden handles. The reason why I got this one is because that is what I kept seeing at Home Depot, and I figured people might be wondering about them. It is a low cost hatchet and it doesn’t look too bad at first glance.

As always, I will be comparing the Rockforge 1.25lb Camp Axe to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. Here you can see them next to each other.

The handle of the Rockforge hatchet is a bit longer than that of the Wildlife Hatchet. From what I have been able to find, the specification state that it is made out of fiberglass, but it feels heavy, as if though it has some type of metal reinforcement inside. Obviously there are no grain issues, and the handle is very well aligned and secured to the head.

The head on the Rockforge hatchet is a quarter of a pound heavier than that of the Wildlife Hatchet. It came unfinished. The edge was covered by a glued on piece of paper underneath a rubber edge guard, and was in no way sharpened. Sharpening was easy to do because the metal is the softest that I have ever worked with.

Even after sharpening however, the convex of the edge is very thick. As the overall shape of the head is not bad, it can be re-profiled with a bit of filing, especially considering the softness of the metal. The rest of the head however, is in great shape and with very good proportions. Even thought he head was unfinished, it would have been worth re-profiling the edge, had the metal not been so soft. I generally don’t mind softer metals in an axe, but this is too soft for my liking.

When it came to performance, the Rockforge hatchet clearly fell behind the Wildlife Hatchet, This was not surprising considering that I only sharpened the edge rather that completely re-profiling it. The thick edge prevents good penetration in the wood when chopping.

The Rockforge hatchet did well at splitting. The extra quarter of a pound makes a clear difference. The handle however, while comfortable to hold, feels too stiff, transferring too much of the shock into the hand. That is part of the reason I think there might be some type of harder material as a core.

Overall, you are better off skipping this hatchet. It is a low cost axe, but it is not one that you can just purchase and use. It will require a good amount of work to put into working shape. If you are looking for a project axe, and are willing to put in the time, then there are much better options out there.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Premium Axe with fiberglass handle (3.5lb head; 36 inches in length), The Single Bit Axe with fiberglass handle (3.5lb head; 36 inches in length), The Boy's Axe fiberglass or wood handle(2.25lb head; 28 inches in length), and The Camp Axe with wood handle (1.25lb head; 14 inches in length).