Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hultafors/Hults Bruk Agdor Axe HY 10-0,9 SV Review

In this review I will take a look at an axe that is not available in the US, but many of you have probably heard about. I thought people might be interested to see how it compares to some better known models. Of course this model is widely available in Europe, so this review might have more practical value to European readers. I hope you enjoy it. It certainly took me forever to try to get one of these axes shipped to the US.

Hultafors/Hults Bruk
Axe Head Weight: 2 lb (900g)
Axe Length: 26 inches (650mm)
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $52.00

First, a bit of background. This axe is actually made by Hults Bruk, a well known manufacturer of axes, with a history spanning back for centuries. Relatively recently Hults Bruk was purchased by Hultafors, a manufacturer of striking tools. Even though now technically part of Hultafors, Hults Bruk still controls the production of the axes. That is why you will see both the Hults Bruk and Hultafors stamps on each axe head. Hultafors now produces two lines of axes. One of them is the Agdor line, of which this axe is representative. They also have a newer line, which they call their “classic” line. The classic line closely resembles the Gransfors Bruks axes to which we have become accustomed.

The axe is moderately priced. Unfortunately, the shipping to the US can get very expensive. On top of that, I was able to find only one store in Germany that was willing to ship this particular model to the US. It took many months and prolific use of Google Translate.

In this review I will compare the Hultafors/Hults Bruk Agdor axe to the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. Here you can see the two axes next to each other.

The handle of the Hultafors Agdor axe is just a little bit longer than that of the Scandinavian Forest Axe. In all other respects they are virtually identical. The grain orientation is very good. The Hultafors handle is not as well finished as that on the Gransfors Bruks, but the differences are minor. For example, the area around the lanyard hole is not as well sanded as it is on the Gransfors Bruks.

The head of the Hultafors Agdor axe is specified as being the same weight as that of the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe head, but it seems to be a bit heavier. The whole axe measured at 2lb 12oz, while the Scandinavian Forest Axe measured at 2lb 8oz. That is because the Scandinavian Forest Axe actually has a head that weighs closer to 1.75 lb rather than the advertised 2 lb. The head is attached to the handle using a wooden wedge and a round metal pin. The attachment is very good; although the part of the handle protruding from the top has not been well finished. That is why it looks uneven in the picture.

The grind of the Hultafors Agdor head is as close to perfect as I have seen on an axe. The bit is nice and thin, although it is just marginally thicker than that of the Gransfors Bruks. The cheeks are smooth and continuous, and unlike on the Gransfors Bruks, there is no abrupt transition when they near the eye. I have seen pictures of some other Hultafors Agdor axes, which had cheeks that were not as smooth, so some examples might need some sanding. The metal appears to be very hard judging by how hard it was to file. The hardness seems to be similar to the Gransfors Bruks axe. I prefer axes that are a bit softer, but the edge did not get damaged during use.

So, is this the perfect axe head? Well, it’s close, but not exactly. The only problem I was able to find was that the balance is not perfect. The poll is a bit too light. As you can see from the picture, the bit hangs a little low when the axe is balanced. The average user will not be able to tell a difference during use, but ideally the poll should be a little heavier.

In terms of performance, I was not able to detect any difference between the Hultafors/Hults Bruk Agdor axe and the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. I think the slightly thicker bit balanced out the slightly higher weight of the Hultafors axe. Theoretically, the Hultafors axe should have an advantage when it comes to splitting because of the head geometry, but with axes this size, it is hard to detect that difference unless you are splitting wood that is larger than anything you are likely to use in the woods.

The axe does not have a sheath of any sort.

Overall, this axe is a bargain. It is a shame that they are not sold in the US. At less than half the price of a comparable Granfors Bruks axe, it gives great value for the money. Some minor sanding and a touching up of the edge with a sharpening stone gives you an amazingly well performing tool. During testing, it did not lag behind the Grasfors Bruks axe in any way. I personally think that the head of the Hultafors Agdor axe has much better proportions than that of the Gransfros Bruks one. Had the balance been a little bit better, this would have been as close to my ideal axe as I have been able to find so far.

This manufacturer makes a number of other axes appropriate for bushcraft from both the Agdor and Classic lines.