Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Council Tool "Broad Hatchet"

Council Tool's new "Broad Hatchet" harkens back to the days of Colonial America, when talented craftsman built tall-masted sailing ships by hand, and determined settlers toiled to erect log cabin homes in the wild untamed American wilderness.

Broad axes were an important tool in colonial times, useful for cutting notches in logs as well as rough hewing beams for use in ships and log cabins. Council decided to revive this classic axe design, which they call the "Broad Hatchet", and which was also known as a Shipbuilder's Axe or Carpenter's Axe in it's day. Council asked us to take a look at the Broad Hatchet and post a review, so here goes......

Broad Hatchet SPECS:

Head Weight: 2.75 lbs
Overall Length: Listed as 28" on Council website, our review model measured in at roughly 27.25"
Handle type: American Hickory
Weight with sheath: 3 lbs, 13 oz (as measured on a digital postal scale)
Weight without sheath: 3 lbs, 10 oz (as measured on a digital postal scale)
Country of origin: Made in North Carolina, USA by Council Tool
Steel type: Drop Forged 1060 Tool Steel
Price: $59.95 (USD)


The Broad Hatchet as it came in the shipping box:

(click to enlarge)

My first impression was "This thing definitely ain't a hatchet!." In fact, with the 2 3/4 pound head and 27 1/4" long handle, it feels more like a heavy 3/4 axe.

The grain direction, grain quality and alignment on the handle are excellent:

The handle is hung with a traditional wooden wedge and metal pin, and is cut off flush with the top of the axe head.

The edge profile was not very well done. It was thick and uneven, and ended up requiring almost an hour of profile work on a belt sander (using a coarse grit) to get it to where it could be used properly. On a positive note, once the profile work was finished, the Broad Hatchet took a very sharp edge, and the steel seemed harder than most other Council axes I've used.

Another issue was the top of the handle close to where it joins the head. It was rough and unfinished to the point that several splinters peeled off the wood while handling it. The photo below wasn't quite able to capture the extent of this roughness, but you can see the area where a channel formed after a large splinter came out.

(click to enlarge)

The sheath that came with the Broad Hatchet is exceptionally well done. It's attractive, sturdy, and functional. I thought the Sam Browne studs, used in place of buttons to secure the straps, were a great idea.


After the UPS driver dropped off the Broad Hatchet and I got my first peek at it, I started having romantic notions of building my own log cabin. I had never used an axe like this before, and the retro appeal was undeniable.  

(click to enlarge)

Sadly, the Broad Hatchet never made it through the first field test, which was to chop a notch in a log, as though preparing it for log cabin construction. On the third swing, the handle became noticeably loose, to the point where I didn't feel safe using it anymore, and decided to end the test.

The Broad Hatchet was received the night before the chopping test. It should not have dried out in the few days it took to ship it from North Carolina to Colorado, so I have to chalk it up to poor quality control. I've also had loosening issues with three Standard Council Tool Hudson Bay axes and a Council Jersey Axe in the past couple of years, where the handles loosened within days or weeks after receiving them, so I can't say this is something new I've seen from Council. Maybe they are over-drying the handles prior to assembly? It's hard to say, but hopefully they will take note of this issue and address it soon.


Though the Broad Hatchet has undeniable retro appeal and a really spiffy sheath, there are just too many quality control issues to give it my recommendation. For the $60.00 asking price, I think Council could do better.

2 out of 5 Stars (Not Recommended)

For more info, visit

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mora of Sweden releases new "Black Carbon" Bushcraft Knife

Following the recent release of their line of heavy duty "Robust" knives over the summer, Mora has released another interesting model, called the "Black Carbon" Bushcraft knife. The Black Carbon is essentially a Mora Bushcraft Force knife, but with a thicker 1/8" thick carbon steel blade, a squared-off spine (for striking firesteels and scraping tinder), and a black Tungsten DLC Coating for rust resistance.

Based on its specs, the Black Carbon looks to be the most exciting piece of kit Mora has offered since it released the FireKnife earlier this year.

I've stated in previous reviews that my favorite overall knife is the Mora Bushcraft Force model. As much as I like the Bushcraft Force, I've still pined for a slightly thicker blade, along with a squared-off spine. Although the Black Carbon has everything I've been asking for, I'm still hoping that Mora will release Sandvik stainless versions of these heavy duty knives. On the bright side, these high carbon steel blades can be used to strike flint or quartz to ignite char-tinder, unlike the Sandvik models.

The street price on the Black Carbon looks to be between $36-$40, so it's a slight increase over the standard Mora Bushcraft models. For a Mora knife, that's a bit expensive, but considering its superior cutting performance, durability and comfort, I'd say the Black Carbon is still a bargain compared to most knife companies' offerings.

Thanks to Ben's Backwoods, we should be receiving a new Black Carbon later this week. We will post a quick impression review and comparison photos as soon as it arrives, so check back frequently!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

List of upcoming articles and reviews/commentary- October 21st, 2012 UPDATE

October 21st, 2012 UPDATE

Dear readers,

Well, it was a wild and crazy summer. Wildfires everywhere, evacuation standbys, both of our blogging laptops dying, you name it. I'm happy to report that life is becoming sane once again. I'm working hard to catch up after all of the down time we've had, and look forward to posting lots of fresh (and hopefully) interesting material for you. I would like to thank those of you who've stuck around through the "Wild Summer of 2012!"

I'd also like to take this opportunity to clarify some things about our site. We've received comments and private emails asking why we don't have more articles about "Bow Drills" and such. The answer is that there are a million bushcraft blogs with these types of postings.

We try to be different, and as you'll see by the material posted in the coming months, we try to find subject matter that hasn't been covered before or has had very little coverage. Plus, many times we like to show a different angle on the subjects we cover.

We haven't been posting a lot of wilderness survival and bushcrafting material only because of our committment to completing our "Made in the USA" gear project, which consists of over 50 different product reviews. It is something I believe very deeply in, and I'm proud to note that our "Made in the USA Gear" tab is now the second most popular tab on the site.

Rocky Mountain Bushcraft is also one of the only sites that posts a wide range of outdoor consumer gear and axe reviews from a bushcrafter's perspective. Yes, there are some excellent blogs out there that post bushcraft-oriented gear and axe reviews, some of which I read and enjoy very much. But I believe that our site has the largest, and growing, array of indepth reviews from this perspective.

One of the positive outcomes of our review efforts is that large outdoor companies like Danner, Outdoor Research, Leatherman, Gerber Gear and Therm-A-Rest are starting to take note of bushcrafters as a burgeoning consumer force. Many of these companies have shared our reviews on their websites and social media, a first for anything with "bushcraft" in the title. If you click on the links in those companies' names, it leads to reviews they've shared on their social media/websites if you're curious and want to check them out. I'm very proud of this accomplishment, and I hope it leads to more products that specifically cater to the bushcraft community.

Even though our "Made in the USA" project has taken a large bite out of the time we've had to post bushcraft-related material, we've still spent lots of time in the field, experimenting and taking photos for unique, upcoming wilderness articles. We hope you'll continue to visit the site, and look forward to sharing our adventures with you.


Rocky Mountain Bushcraft


Next reviews- Gregory Denali 105 Expedition Backpack, Wetterlings Forester's Fine Axe, Hultafors Classic Line axes and Felling axes, Casio Protek 2500T Titanium Altimeter Watch, Barco-Kelly Axes review and field tests, Ontario Blackbird SK-5 Survival Knife Field Review, Kodiak Canvas Tent, Open Country Cookware, etc.

SPECIAL- A visit to Kelty Backpacks' Boulder Colorado Headquarters to get fitted with a new multi-day pack (will have lots of photos!)

Next Articles- "Made in the USA! Outdoor/Bushcraft Gear" (yes, it's still coming, sorry for the delay!), "An Introduction to Mother Nature's Magical Fire Tinder" and many more.

Upcoming Articles

How to split large logs with just a hatchet and self-made wooden wedges 

How  to make a Swedish Fire Torch (for cooking and heat)

"Made in the USA" Wilderness Gear Article

Carbon vs Stainless Mora Knives

Wilderness First Aid Tips (many more!)
North American Fatwood Varieties

Ultra-Lite Bushcrafting

Rocky Mountain Tree Identification

Wilderness Survival Tips

How to Sharpen an Axe

Axe Use and Safety (more to come!)

Edged Tool Reviews

Leatherman Squirt PS4
Helko of Germany Outdoor/Camp Hatchet Field Review
Fiskars X5 Mini-Hatchet
Ontario RD Hawk Quick Review
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife
Coghlan's Regular and Mini-Sierra Saws
Gerber EZ Out Folding Knife
Mora "Beaver Cut" Survival Kit

Made in the USA Wilderness Gear

Too many to list!

Other Outdoor Gear 
 Kelty Red Cloud 5600 Backpack
SOL Escape Bivvy
Outdoor Research Furio Gore-Tex Shell Jacket
Outdoor Research Stormcell Waterproof Gore-Tex Gloves
Marmot Eos 1p Ultra-lite backpacking Tent
Hennessy Expedition A-sym Backpacking Hammock
Vasque Taku GTX Ultra-lite hiking/backpacking boots
Cabela's Goretex Clothing

Rocky Mountain Bushcraft has just passed 29,000 page views in just 5 months, so thank you all for continuing to visit our site!  

Also, PLEASE MAKE SURE to "Follow by Email" at the top right of the page, join us on Twitter, or sign up as Google follower if you haven't already done so (thanks!). Our Facebook page has had some issues but should be working soon. 

We also love to hear comments-- please show us your love if you like what you read!


Jason, Dave and Leah

Axes, don't you just love'em ?


Boot Testing!

We were waterproof testing some boots last Spring for a review, and when Dave took the first photo I couldn't resist hamming it up for the camera.......

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kids, don't try this at home! Fiskars X15 Destruction Test

After watching this video, you might be thinking "Hey, these guys are destroying a perfectly good axe!" But you have to admit, it's fun and interesting to see what kind of abuse it can take. There are actually five different videos, and they are worth checking out as well.

VietNormbo X15 Destruction Test

Saturday, October 13, 2012

REVIEW: The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet- Finely crafted by Elves hiding in Sweden

In JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings," the Elves were reputed to be the finest smiths on Middle Earth. Their finely crafted swords and armor were highly regarded and sought after by men and dwarves alike. Some of the Elven pieces even had magical qualities, like Bilbo Baggin's sword "Sting," which glowed when Orcs came near.

Somehow, the axes made by Gransfors-Bruks in Sweden give me this same impression, as if the Shire of Halsingland where Gransfors is located was really Rivendell, where Elves live and forge their magical axes and hatchets.

This impression is reinforced by the fact that each Gransfors' axe is individually forged by hand, using methods and techniques not widely used since the mid-1800s. Every step of the production process is meticulously scrutinized, and each smith must stand behind his work.

Once the smith has completed his forging and is satisfied with the quality of his axe, he then stamps the head with his initials beside the company's crown logo, as a mark of Gransfors' high standards.

"MM" (Matthias Mattsson) forged the hatchet used in this review. Could Matthias really be an Elf?

The genius of Gransfors is that they were ahead of the curve back in 1989 when they recognized that axes would be used in the future by a small niche group, composed mainly of recreational campers, homesteaders, bushcrafters, hunters and firewood cutters.

Gransfors was also incredibly keen in that they studied the best features of classic American axes, and then incorporated those features into their axe designs. Things like the quality and hardness of the steel, adding "ears" to the sides of the head (to add extra surface area for the wooden handle to grip onto), leaving additional wood over the eye to ensure that the handle won't come off easily, etc. All of these features add up to an axe that is so good, it's become the gold standard by which all other axes are judged.

Check out this video of Gransfors Bruks CEO and head "Elf" Gabriel Branby explaining how Gransfors axes were developed:

Before going any further, I would like to thank Ben Piersma of Ben's Backwoods for providing the Wildlife Hatchet used in this review. Ben has a great selection of axes and bushcraft supplies, so please check out his online store.


Head Weight: 1 lb
Steel type: Hand forged Swedish high carbon steel (composition unknown)
Overall length: 13.5"
Cutting Surface: 3"
Handle type: American Hickory
Country of Origin: Made in Sweden
Weight with sheath: 23.4 ounces (as measured on a digital postal scale) 
Weight without sheath: 21.6 ounces (as measured on a digital postal scale)
Warranty: 20 Years against manufacturer's defect 
Retail Price: $111.00


The Wildlife Hatchet features a one pound, hand forged high carbon steel head. It has an overall length of 13.5", with a 3" wide cutting surface. The handle is made from Grade "A" American Hickory, and is finished with linseed oil and a coating of beeswax. The sheath is attractive and well made, and also covers the top of the head, which helps to protect the wood that protrudes from the eye area.

The sheath also allows for belt-carry, as shown in the photo below:

As mentioned, Gransfors usually leaves a generous amount of wood protruding above the eye of the head when the axe is hung. A metal pin is then driven into it, which helps to spread the wood apart above the eye. This ensures that the head won't come off easily, even under the worst of circumstances.

(click to enlarge)

The alignment on this hatchet is excellent, and typical of many Gransfors axes I've seen:

The direction of the handle grain is very good, and the tightness of the grain is about average:

The profile of the Wildlife Hatchet is one of the thinnest in production hatchets, which makes it an excellent wood carver and chopper. This is better illustrated when shown next to a similar offering by Swedish rival Wetterlings:

(click to enlarge)

Gransfors Bruks' axes and hatchets are consistently some of the most balanced production axes on the market, which makes them a joy to use:

(click to enlarge)

Each Gransfors' axe comes with its own "Axe Book", which contains great tips on how to use and maintain your axe, along with a history of Gransfors, including photos of the "Elves" at work.

(click to enlarge)

Comparison Photos

Wildlife Hatchet next to it's synthetic arch-rival, the Fiskars X7:

(click to enlarge)

Gransfors (on left) next to a re-branded Wetterlings Wildlife Hatchet (sold by Husqvarna at the time):

(click to enlarge)


I received the Wildlife Hatchet back in May, and to be honest, once I started using it, I didn't want to pick up any other hatchets. The ergonomics, precision, balance and performance are really second to none. The shape of the handle is very comfortable. The fit and finish is impeccable, including the beeswax coating, which ensures that it is grippy, yet smooth enough to use all day without blisters.

The steel that is used is among the best in the world of production axes. I've restored a lot of vintage American axes, which usually have steel of the highest quality, and the Gransfors' steel is every bit as good. The steel in this axe is tough, yet hard enough to take a razor-sharp edge, one that easily rivals the sharpest of knives. Even though the steel is hard, it sharpens easily, and holds its edge superbly.

Gransfors' axes are also the only production axes I've seen that consistently come with razor sharp edges right from the factory. The Wildlife Hatchet used in this review is no exception, in that it could dry-shave right out of the box.

Having had five months to play with this hatchet at my wilderness base camp, I put together a diverse and rigorous test battery to see if it could live up to its reputation.

Felling and Splitting

To see how well the Wildlife Hatchet could fell a tree and then split a section into kindling, I found a dead Aspen tree that was about 5" in diameter and chopped it down. I then bucked a log out of the tree and split it into kindling-sized pieces.

This test is good survival practice for winter trekking in snowy Rocky Mountain forests. Often, the only accessible dry wood is from dead-standing trees that jut out from the snowpack, and having a tool that can reliably process them into firewood is important in a survival situation.

 (click to enlarge)

The Wildlife Hatchet proved to be exceptional for the job. It's very accurate to swing while felling, and the thin bit cuts out a clean notch quickly. It's not the greatest at splitting, especially when compared to many thicker profiled hatchets, but it still gets the job done reliably.

(click to enlarge)

Limbing a tree

To see how well the Wildlife Hatchet could limb branches, I found a dead Douglas Fir tree that had been blown over by a wind storm. I then limbed it and bucked it into sections. The Wildlife Hatchet did a great job, just as it did in the felling and splitting test.

(click to enlarge)

3-Way Chop-off

The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet vs the Fiskars X7 Hatchet and Wetterlings Wildlife Hatchet

I decided to pit the Gransfors Wildlife hatchet against two of its most popular competitors- The Fiskars X7 Hatchet and the Wetterlings Wildlife Hatchet.  

I reviewed the Fiskars X7 last year, and made the bold statement that it was a "Gransfors killer" at a fraction of the price. I still stand by this statement, if you factor in price as the only objective. This review, however, revealed many positive aspects of the Gransfors that price just can't figure into, as you'll see when we delve deeper into the field performance tests.

Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet vs the Wetterlings Wildlife Hatchet, 30 Chops each into a dead Aspen log- The thinner profile of the Gransfors clearly bit deeper into the wood. Winner- Gransfors Bruks

(click to enlarge)

Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet vs the Fiskars X7 Hatchet- I decided to conduct three different chopping comparisons between the Gransfors and the X7. Each test involved 30 chops each into a seasoned Ponderosa or Lodgepole Pine log. I wanted to make absolutely sure that the outcome would be accurate, so the axe that won two out of the three tests would be crowned the winner.

First Comparison- The Fiskars was the clear winner in this test. As has been my experience in the past, the X7 just powers through wood like no other production hatchet I've ever seen.

(click to enlarge)

Second Comparison- The second test was a bit more interesting. On this dead Lodgepole Pine, the test was pretty much a draw. The difference with this log is that it was more straight-grained than the Ponderosa logs used in the other two tests, plus, it was elevated off the ground, allowing a standing position for chopping (for the others I was kneeling).

 (click to enlarge)
Third Comparison- In the final test, the X7 proved to be the better chopper, with a result similar to the first test.

 (click to enlarge)

Even though the X7 chops consistently better, the Gransfors Bruk's supreme balance and comfort makes it easier to use during long days of firewood processing. In fact, I often chose the Gransfors over my X7 when I needed to process kindling at my wilderness base camp this summer. I still love the X7 (and find it more comfortable than many traditional hatchets) but it just doesn't compare to the overall feel of the Wildlife Hatchet.

Fine Carving Tasks

The Wildlife Hatchet turned out to be the best fine carving hatchet this author has ever laid hands on. It easily carves off the finest slivers of wood, feathers phenomenally, and slices with the finesse of a fine bushcraft knife.

Below is a feather-stick comparison between the Gransfors Wildlife Hatchet, Fiskars X7, and the Wetterlings Wildlife Hatchet. The Gransfors clearly dominated this test.

 (click to enlarge)

A small tent stake carved entirely with the Wildlife Hatchet. I could not have done a finer job with a Mora knife.

 (click to enlarge)

  The stake was then pounded into the ground with the poll.
 (click to enlarge)


Prior to this review, I had never spent any significant time bushcrafting with a Gransfors Bruks axe. I've tried them in the past and was always impressed, but not to the point where I could justify spending the extra money to buy one. After completing this review, I have to say that I've changed my mind -- I now believe that Gransfors's axes are definitely worth the premium they charge.

When you consider that many popular survival knives such as Fallknivens, the Ontario Blackbird, and ESEE Knives cost more than the hand-forged Wildlife Hatchet, it doesn't seem so expensive after all.

In fact, the Wildlife Hatchet performs better than most survival knives I've used, whether it's to create feathersticks, shape large pieces of wood, chopping, or even fine carving. The only thing the Wildlife Hatchet lacks is a point. Simply carrying a small folding knife solves this problem if the need arises.

Having mentioned the practical advantages, the aesthetic appeal is what might be the biggest attraction for me. There really is a sense of Old World craftsmanship with the Wildlife Hatchet.

Whether it's the linseed oil and beeswax coated handle, the leftover forge scale, replete with the smith's hammer marks and stamped initials, or the fine leather sheath, each part of this axe exemplifies quality. Heck, I'd bet that if Frodo Baggins carried a hatchet during one of his Lord of the Rings' adventures, it might even be similar to the Gransfors' Wildlife Hatchet.

So if you're looking for the best production hatchet money can buy, with attention to quality and detail that's hard to find these days, look no further than the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. You won't even have to go on a journey to the Elven lands of Rivendell to find one. Just visit Gransfors Bruks' website at

5 out of 5 Stars
(Highly recommended )

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About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, a blog that features articles, news stories, outdoor tips and product reviews written from a bushcraft and wilderness survival perspective. Schwartz is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America. He has also written for the The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Be careful with your Linseed Oil!

Most longtime axe-enthusiasts and woodworkers know about the dangers of leaving linseed oil-soaked rags in confined spaces. I wanted to post this for newcomers who might be using linseed oil to maintain or restore axe handles.

ABC News- Linseed Oil and Spontaneous Combustion

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Get 5% off of your purchases at veteran-owned US Elite Gear with promo code "ROCKY5"

Dear readers,

US Elite Gear, a veteran-owned and operated company and GSA contractor, is now offering 5% off of webstore purchases to readers of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. Just type "ROCKY5" in the promo code box during checkout.

US Elite Gear is geared towards military clients, but they also have lots of cool stuff like Kelty Backpacks, Arc'teryx jackets, Danner boots, and sleeping bags like the Kelty VariCom I just reviewed, as well as Wiggy's US-made sleeping bags.

Steve Keefer, the CEO of US Elite, is an Army veteran and an all around nice guy. Steve reads and enjoys our reviews and wanted to offer readers something in return for supporting this site. Thanks to him for making this offer available.

(click below to go directly to their webstore)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Vintage axe garage sale find and restoration

I was at a garage sale recently and found these gems hiding in a dark corner of the seller's garage:

The double-bit is a top-of-the-line 3.2 Pound Mann "KnotKlipper" Western Double-Bit, and was probably made sometime in the 1930s to early 1940s. Except for a chip out of the one side of the bit, the overall head was in excellent condition. I was rather shocked to see how it turned out after restoring it (check out the restoration pics below).

The pulaski is a 3.3 pound Kelly Works True Temper Flint Edge, stamped "C.S.F.S.", which stands for Colorado State Forest Service. My guess is that it was made in the 1950s, and was used by the CSFS until more recent times, based on the condition of the handle.

The rusty axe head labeled "Lakeside" is actually a vintage Montgomery Wards axe head, and is similar in design to the Kelly axes of the day. I plan to to restore this head at a later date and give it to a friend.


The CSFS Pulaski cleaned up nicely. I reseated the head on the handle, removed the rust with naval jelly, and oiled the head. I also reprofiled the edge with a belt sander. The steel on this axe is really outstanding, as it took an edge as sharp as my best Mora knives. I also like the natural patina that's formed over most of the head.

The Mann KnotKlipper was the real shocker of the bunch. After several scrub-downs with a brass wire brush and naval jelly, it looks almost like a brand new axe head. The temper lines are also nice and clear.

I'm also amazed at the balance of this axe. Even though it has a 3.2 pound head with a 36" long handle, it feels light in the hand. My only conundrum is whether to keep it the way it is as a historical piece, or to re-handle it and use it the way it was intended to be used. Decisions decisions! If you haven't tried a good double-bit axe you're really missing out!