Wednesday, December 4, 2013

REVIEW: Fiskars' 28" Chopping Axe-- New, improved and ALL Black?



When I reviewed the Fiskars X15 Axe last year, I gave it a glowing review, but mentioned how much I pined for the option of a 28" version over the X15's shorter 23.5" handle. While the X15's shorter handle is great for packing into the bush, a longer handle definitely makes wood processing easier during long days of chopping while camping or working on the homestead.

Fiskars had previously sold a 28" long "Pro Chopping Axe," but decided to discontinue it around the time they introduced the X15, leaving a bit of a void in Fiskars's product line.

The previous incarnation of the Chopping Axe-- the Fiskars "Pro Chopping Axe," which featured a wider, European-style axe head:



After nearly two years of waiting, Fiskars' fans can finally rejoice! Fiskars has just released a 28" version of the X15, called the "Fiskars Chopping Axe."

The SPECS:

  • Head Weight-2.31lbs, Overall Weight- 3lbs 8oz (as measured on a digital postal scale)
  • Balance and power-to-weight ratio increases swing speed to multiply power, much like an aluminum baseball bat
  • Proprietary blade-grinding technique provides a sharper edge for better contact and cleaner cuts
  • Hardened, drop forged medium-carbon steel blade 
  • Low-friction blade coating powers through wood and prevents head from getting stuck
  • Inseparable PermaHead™ insert-molded head will not loosen and prevents overstrike breakage
  • Shock-absorbing DuraFrame™ handle is lightweight yet stronger than steel to prevent overstrike damage
  • Designed/Manufactured in Billnäs, Finland
  • Includes blade guard
  • Warrranty- Lifetime

FEATURES

The biggest surprise with the new Chopping Axe is that instead of Fiskars' traditional black and orange color scheme (like on the X15), it is ALL black. I wrote in our previous "Battle of the Compact Bushcraft Axes" article that the Fiskars' designed Gerber Camp Axe II reminded me of something that Luke Skywalker might have used in Star Wars. If that's the case, then the solid ebony black Chopping Axe must have been built specifically for Darth Vader. Have the evil Sith Lords returned, this time wielding Fiskars Chopping Axes instead of light sabers?

My hunch is that Fiskars is trying to cash in on the popularity of the tactical craze in choosing the Chopping Axe's color scheme. I have no problem with tactical colors if that's what you're into, but for an axe designed primarily for homeowners and campers, it seems to be a bit of an odd move on Fiskars' part.

As mentioned, the Chopping Axe is basically just a longer handled version of the X15 with a new paint job. Here is a side by side comparison of the two (Chopping Axe on left, X15 on right):


One minor change Fiskars made on the Chopping Axe is a revision of the lower handle section. Whereas the Fiskars X7 HatchetGerber Camp Axe and X15 Axe all have a rubberized lower handle, the Chopping Axe ditches this feature for a smooth plastic handle with traction grooves.


FIELD TESTING

To field test the Chopping Axe, I wanted to focus mainly on the performance of the longer handle, since it is virtually identical to the X15 we reviewed last year. I already covered many of the unchanged features in that review, so I won't rehash all the details. Instead, I'll concentrate on how the Chopping Axe performs with the additional handle length over the X15.


Chopping

Prior to this test, I had expected the Chopping Axe to perform slightly better than the X15, but was surprised to find that it absolutely trounced the X15 after 30 chops into a dead Lodgepole Pine (Chopping Axe on right):

(click to enlarge)

Considering that the shorter-handled X15 proved to be the baddest chopper in its size range in our previous review, this makes the new Chopping Axe an absolute wood destroyer. In fact, the Chopping Axe was hitting the wood so hard that it made a loud "thud!" upon impact, sending large chips flying in a wide area around the v-notch. The extra 4.5" in handle length makes that much of a difference.

Splitting

Similar to the way it performed in the chopping test, the Chopping Axe proved to be a ferocious splitter. For the splitting test, I grabbed the log that was bucked out of the dead Lodgepole Pine during the chopping test. Note how large the log is next to the Chopping Axe-- this won't be an easy job:
(click to enlarge)

The first strike hits the log so hard that a chunk is knocked out of it:


Second swing:

Success! The Chopping Axe easily reduced this healthy sized log into a nice pile of split pieces:

Impression of the Revised Handle

What's the verdict on the Chopping Axe's revised lower handle section?-- I dig it. The lack of a rubber section allows for a slightly smoother transition as you swing the axe when compared to the tackier rubber coated section on the X15. The grooves carved into the handle are deep enough to improve grip, yet shallow enough to be comfortable when your hand runs along them.

CONCLUSION

In spite of the Chopping Axe's unconventional looking "Tacticool\Darth Vader" appearance, it performed brilliantly in both our chopping and splitting tests. In fact, I would say that functionally, this axe is everything I'd hoped for in a longer-handled version of the existing king of budget axes-- the X15.

Even the appearance of the Chopping Axe grew on me after using it a few times, as the black finish on the head began to dull and fade after splitting a log with it. This faded appearance made it look a little closer to the rest of Fiskars' line, and not so "tacticool." Even so, I'd still like to see this axe produced with the attractive and slightly more mainstream colors that are used on the current X15 Axe.

I also enjoyed the revised handle. The grooved plastic is easier to slide your hand over than rubber, and it still provides the necessary traction.

Overall, I think the Chopping Axe is an incredible value, much like its predecessor the X15. With its 4.5" longer handle, the Chopping Axe is an absolute powerhouse that has be experienced to be truly appreciated. Yes, the "black rifle" paint job might turn off some consumers, but if you're looking for the hottest performing 3/4 Axe on the market, look no further, the Chopping Axe is most definitely it.

4.5 out of 5 Stars 
(Recommended for Campers, Homesteaders and Evil Sith Lords)

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 @ hotmail.com (without spaces)

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