Best Bushcraft Axes 2019 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

a bushcraft axe

Fewer people in the world cut their own firewood to heat their homes today, but those who do think that they go through a lot of wood. They can cut and burn five to ten cords per year, depending on where they live. A cord is a stack of wood that is four feet wide by four feet high, and eight feet long. That’s a lot of cutting.

There are a ton of bushcraft axes on the market for the person needing to split smaller logs. We have done in-depth reviews of many of them and will give you a rundown of our favorite ten, including some pros and cons of each. Hopefully, our reviews will help you narrow down the

Rundown of Our Favorite Picks for 2019

ModelPriceWeightEditor Rating
Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe 19 Inch
Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe 19 Inch(Top Pick)

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2 lbs4.73/5
Gränsfors Bruk Hand Hatchet
Gränsfors Bruk Hand Hatchet

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2 lbs4.50/5
Estwing Sportsman's Axe - 14"
Estwing Sportsman's Axe - 14"(Best for the Money)

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2 lbs4.45/5
1844 Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe
1844 Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe

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2 lbs4.30/5
Husqvarna 13" Wooden Hatchet
Husqvarna 13" Wooden Hatchet

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2 lbs4.20/5

10 Best Bushcraft Hatchets Reviewed:

1. Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe 19 Inch – Top Pick

Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe 19 Inch

The Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe has a 19-inch hickory handle that’s securely attached to an Ovako, high-carbon, single-sided steel head. The high carbon content is what makes the steel head of this hatchet so hard. This hatchet only weighs two pounds, so it is light to carry around with you in the leather sheath that is provided.

The 19-inch blade is a little short to get a good powerful swing if felling a tree. It’s great for rough carving. It’s also a little long and weighs just enough to make using it single-handed tricky. This hatchet can be a tad heavy for you if you don’t have strong hands, but most people can use it.

We still think that this tool is the best forest axe, however. Though it isn’t perfect for any one particular job, it can do multiple things well. You never know what you’ll come upon in the forest. This tool will have you prepared for anything.

Pros
  • 19-inch hickory handle
  • High-carbon, single-sided steel head
  • Weighs two pounds
  • Leather sheath
  • Perfect for rough carving
  • Can be used by almost anyone
Cons
  • Tad heavy for one-handed use

2. Gränsfors Bruk Hand Hatchet – The Best Small Axe for Bushcraft

Gränsfors Bruk Hand Hatchet

The Gränsfors Bruk Hand Hatchet is the best small axe for bushcraft due to it only weighing 1½ pounds, and having a protective leather sheath. It is safe and comfortable to wear on your belt. It has a 9½-inch hickory handle with a 1095 carbon, single-sided steel head.

1095 carbon steel has a carbon content of 0.95%. This is what makes the steel harden and reduces the amount of wear that it will show over time. This hatchet has a short handle that makes it easy to carry, and the blade is sharp enough to cut with or against the grain of the wood. It’s harder to get good momentum going with the shorter handle, though, so expect it to take longer and be a lot of hard work, especially for large branches or small trees.

Pros
  • Weighs 1½ pounds
  • Leather sheath
  • Light enough to hang on your belt
  • 9½-inch hickory handle
  • 1095 carbon, single-sided steel head
Cons
  • Short handle
  • Takes lots of power to cut huge branches or small trees

3. Estwing Sportsman’s Axe – 14″ – Best for the Money

Estwing Sportsman's Axe - 14"

The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe – 14″ is the best budget bushcraft axe due to it being lightweight and easy to take with you. It has a 14-inch handle with a genuine leather grip and a head that’s made of hand-sharpened American steel.

The blade on this hatchet is suitable for small jobs, like splitting logs for a fire while camping, but it isn’t the hardest steel, so expect it to get dull faster than the better quality ones. It can also chip more easily.

When we got this hatchet, there were quite a few imperfections on the blade. Ours just had scratches on it, but it was enough that you wondered if it went through any sort of quality control before being shipped. We have read that others have had the same problems or worse. Some received their hatchets with bubbles or even chips in the blades.

Another thing to be aware of is the black nylon sheath that comes with it. It doesn’t fit the head very well, and it’s challenging to get on. You need to use extreme caution because it’s such a tight fit that it wouldn’t take much to slip off the blade and cut your hand.

This is a great hatchet for someone living on a budget, but don’t expect it to last as long as the better quality ones.

Pros
  • 14-inch handle
  • Genuine leather grip
  • Hand-sharpened
  • American steel
  • Black nylon sheath
Cons
  • Blade dulls quickly
  • Chips easily
  • Poorly designed sheath

4. 1844 Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe

1844 Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe

The 1844 Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe has a 19-inch hickory handle and a single-sided steel head made out of C50 carbon. The axe’s total weight is two pounds, so it’s comfortably transportable. It comes with a thick handle that you may need to adjust a little, especially if you have small hands.

This C50 isn’t the most durable grade of steel, and it’s difficult to get it sharp. Once you do get it sharp, there is a leather sheath to carry it in. The only issue with the sheath is that there is no barrier between the cutting edge and rivets. There really needs to be some sort of padding between the two metals.

Pros
  • 19-inch hickory handle
  • C50 carbon, single-sided steel head
  • Weighs two pounds
  • Leather sheath
Cons
  • Takes a lot to get sharp
  • Handle too thick
  • Nothing to protect cutting edge from rivets

5. Husqvarna 13″ Wooden Hatchet

Husqvarna 13" Wooden Hatchet

This Husqvarna Wooden Hatchet has a 13-inch wooden handle with a C50 carbon, single-sided steel head. It weighs 2.2 pounds, so it is easy to take with you into the woods.

This hatchet did the job that we needed it to, but there are a couple of areas of concern. The blade wasn’t straight. It was overground so that it had an uneven curve. The biggest concern, though, was the alignment. The eye was narrower on the top than it was on the bottom. It should be more of an oval shape. If one side is going to be smaller than the other, the top end should be the wider of the two. There were also gaps around the bottom of the eye, making the head slightly wobbly.

Pros
  • 13-inch wooden handle
  • C50 carbon, single-sided steel head
  • Weighs just over two pounds
Cons
  • Eye narrower on top than on bottom
  • Gaps around bottom of eye
  • Blade is overground (not straight)

6. Council Tool Velvicut Saddle Axe

Council Tool Velvicut Saddle Axe

The Council Tool Velvicut Saddle Axe has a 16-inch hickory handle, though it doesn’t seem to be the best. The cutting edge of this Swedish 5160 steel head axe is double-sided. One side has a 25° flat grind on it for cutting, shaving, and carving, while the other has a 32° flat grind for cutting notches, splitting logs, and other heavy jobs. It comes with a double-sided sheath to protect your blades, too.

The cutting edges are pretty dull when you first get the axe out of the box. It’s soft steel that can be tricky to sharpen yourself, so you’ll probably need to take it somewhere to get it sharpened. Due to the double-sided cutting, the head on this axe is a little heavy for the length of the handle.

Pros
  • 16-inch hickory handle
  • Swedish 5160 steel head
  • 25° flat grind for cutting, shaving, and carving
  • 32° flat grind for cutting notches, splitting, and other heavy jobs
  • Leather sheath
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Soft steel
  • Not sharp out of the box
  • Handle not premium hickory

7. Hults Bruk Torneo Compact Felling Axe

Hults Bruk Torneo Compact Felling Axe

The Hults Bruk Torneo Compact Felling Axe has a 26-inch hickory handle and weighs 2.86 pounds. The grain of the handle doesn’t run parallel to the head, but it isn’t straight either. If the grain were perpendicular to the head, it would be a stronger handle.

This axe has a hardened Swedish single-sided steel head that comes out of the box pretty dull, so be prepared to sharpen it. The quality of the blade is good for the amount you pay for it, but it isn’t meant for heavy use. Ours began to roll at the tip when we tried to use it on a big job.

We did notice a burr on the blade’s cutting edge. It sharpened up and worked fine, though, after we knocked the burr down. We have read other reviews where people have had quality control issues. You may be better off purchasing this one at a store, where you can see it, rather than online.

Pros
  • 26-inch hickory handle
  • 86 pounds
  • Swedish steel single-sided head
Cons
  • Grain alignment not straight
  • Dull out of the box
  • Not for heavy use
  • Poor quality control

8. Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe 24″

Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe 24"

This Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe has a 24-inch hickory handle with a 5160 steel, single-sided blade. It does come with a sheath to protect the cutting edge when it isn’t being used. This tool has a total weight of 2.75 pounds.

When your Council axe arrives, expect it to be pretty dull and need sharpening. The steel is soft and tricky to get a sharp edge on. You may need to consider taking the axe to a professional to get it sharpened well.

We also found the head on this axe to be on the heavy side, which can be an issue. Some of the quality control issues that others have had involve the mount being loose or wobbly. Ours was okay, but there have been plenty of problems with the mounting noted.

Pros
  • 24-inch hickory handle
  • 5160 single-sided steel blade
  • Weighs 2.75 pounds
  • Sheath
Cons
  • Needs sharpening straight out of the box
  • Tricky to sharpen
  • Soft steel
  • Heavy head
  • Mounting issues

9. Cold Steel Trail Boss Forest Axe, 27 Inch

Cold Steel Trail Boss Forest Axe, 27 Inch

The Cold Steel Trail Boss Forest Axe has a 27-inch hickory handle with a head made of drop-forged 1055 carbon steel. This axe has a single-sided cutting edge that is 4½ inches long and weighs a total of 2.70 pounds.

The Trail Boss Forest Axe is dull when you take it out of the box and will need sharpening. It also has black paint on it. If the paint wears off, the blade will rust quickly if you don’t keep it well-oiled. This steel is somewhat on the softer side, so you definitely will risk damaging the head if you try to use it on big jobs. This axe isn’t meant for heavy use and should not be your choice if you’re looking for an axe to work with every day.

This axe does what it’s supposed to do and is good quality for the money, but it doesn’t have the handle that the higher-end axes do. The grain is not straight, so you don’t get optimum strength from it. The shoulder of the handle doesn’t begin to get thicker until about two inches below the head. This leaves the handle weaker and makes it much easier to break.

Pros
  • 27-inch hickory handle
  • Drop-forged 1055 carbon steel, single-sided blade
  • 4½-inch cutting edge
  • Weighs 2.70 pounds
Cons
  • Dull out of the box
  • Blade will rust if you don’t keep it oiled
  • Shoulder on handle doesn’t start getting thicker until about two inches below head
  • Grain not straight
  • Not for heavy use

10. Columbia River Knife & Tool CRKT Birler Compact Axe

Columbia River Knife & Tool CRKT Birler Compact Axe

The Columbia River Knife & Tool CRKT Birler Compact Axe has an 11.25-inch Tennessee hickory handle and weighs in at 1.14 pounds. It has a single-sided, hot-forged, 1060 carbon steel head with a hammer finish.

The cutting edge is nowhere near sharp when you get it out of the box, but it sharpens nicely. The biggest issue we had with this axe is the handle. It isn’t seated securely into the head, leaving it to wobble, or even slide up when in use. It also has no knob at the end of the handle, which is a big deal because this handle is too small for an axe of this size. In order to get a comfortable grip, we recommend wrapping the handle before using it.

Pros
  • 25-inch Tennessee hickory handle
  • Hot-forged 1060 carbon steel head with hammer finish
  • Weighs 1.14 pounds
Cons
  • Needs sharpening
  • Small handle
  • No knob at end of handle

Buyer’s Guide

Hatchet vs. Axe

A hatchet is an axe that has a shorter handle and can be used with one hand. It can also have a head for hammering on the back of the wedge. Hatchets are useful to almost everyone.

Axes:

Pros
  • Larger and heavier heads
  • Great for big jobs
  • Faster and more efficient for large jobs
  • Safer; more apt to hit the ground than the person chopping
Cons
  • Big, bulky, and heavy to carry
  • Don’t work well on smaller logs

Hatchets:

Pros
  • Smaller and lighter, easier to carry
  • Multi-use: wedge and hammer
  • Most comfortable to use on small logs
Cons
  • Easy to hit yourself if you miss the log
  • May be damaged on tougher woods
  • Large projects take more time and energy

Parts of an Axe

Blade:

Most axe blades are made out of steel. All steel is not the same, though. The best steel will have a relatively high carbon content. It is medium-strength steel that can be sharpened to a razor-sharp point and maintain it without splitting or getting dull too fast. If steel is too hard, it will crack. If it is too soft, it will get dull quickly.

Bit:

The hatchet is shaped like a big wedge that’s made to cut with the grain of the wood.

  • Single:

A single-bit hatchet has one side of the bit that is razor-sharp to chop with. The other side of the head has a flat surface that can be used for hammering.

  • Double:

A double-sided hatchet has pointed chopping edges on both sides of the head. This not only allows you to have a second side ready to go when one gets dull, but since they’re made the same, the tool is well-balanced. This balance makes swinging it more comfortable to control, so it is more precise and efficient.

Face:

Your hatchet’s face should have a slight bulging curve, otherwise known as a convex. This helps keep the hatchet from getting stuck in the wood and makes it easier to chop frozen wood. Make sure it isn’t too big a convex, though, or it won’t be able to penetrate your wood as it should.

Eye:

The eye is where the handle is threaded into the hatchet head. Be sure it’s sturdy enough to handle heavy-duty jobs without cracking. If it’s too thin or too narrow, that point becomes weak and fragile.

Handle:

There are three things to note when looking at the handle of a hatchet.

  • Composition:

The handle should always be made out of wood. The best ones are hickory and ash since they are the strongest.

  • Grain:

The grain of the handle should run vertically, or perpendicular to the head. This will give it more strength.

  • Growth rings:

If growth rings are showing on the handle, the closer together they are, the stronger the grip will be.

Alignment:

The alignment is the way that the handle and blade are put together. There are two ways to check the alignment.

    • Place the head of the axe on the ground. The handle should be in line with your arm, and your hand should be around the handle. Looking down your arm and the handle, you should see that the cutting edge is precisely in the middle of the knob on the hatchet.
    • Stand the cutting edge of your hatchet and the handle on the ground. If the hatchet is aligned correctly, only the center of the cutting edge and the knob at the end of the handle will be touching the ground.

Balance:

Using a hatchet that is out of balance can be dangerous. You can test to see if yours is balanced by moving your hand up to the throw of the handle. That is the part by the blade, just before the head. Open one of your hands and place the throw on the palm. Keeping that hand flat, support the knob with your other hand. If the blade is perfectly, or nearly, horizontal, then it has good balance.


Our other axe articles:

–> Which ax is best-suited for carving?

–> Hults Bruk vs Gränsfors Bruk Axe: Which Brand is Better?

Conclusion

We have told you what to look for in an axe. Let’s do a quick review of our favorites. The Gränsfors are our favorites because they have incredibly sturdy handles and good quality heads, so they will last a good long while.

We believe that the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe – 14″ is the best axe for the money because it is lightweight, easily transported, and can be used for multiple purposes. As for our fourth through tenth choices, they are all excellent quality axes in their price ranges. You just need to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Lower cost means lower quality. Now all you have to do is decide which is best for your needs:

1. Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe 19 Inch – Top Pick
2. Gränsfors Bruk Hand Hatchet – The Best Small Axe for Bushcraft
3. Estwing Sportsman’s Axe – 14″ – Best for the Money
4. 1844 Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe
5. Husqvarna 13″ Wooden Hatchet
6. Council Tool Velvicut Saddle Axe
7. Hults Bruk Torneo Compact Felling Axe
8. Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe 24″
9. Cold Steel Trail Boss Forest Axe, 27 Inch
10. Columbia River Knife & Tool CRKT Birler Compact Axe

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!