Thursday, December 1, 2011

Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe- First Impression

This is an initial review\first impression of Council Tool's long awaited Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe. I had hoped to get some outside photos but unfortunately, the weather in the mountains was just too blustery today to get it done. I plan to take this axe into the wilderness in the coming days and give it a serious workout, so look for my full review here sometime next week.

Drop Forged 5160 Steel, RC 50-54
Grade "A" Hickory Handle
Length- 24 inches (this one measured in at 22.5 inches)
Weight without sheath- 43.5 ounces (as measured on a digital postal scale)
Weight with sheath- 48.5 ounces
Price- $129.95

The axe arrived in its own box within the shipping box


The box contained the axe, sheath, booklet with some history about Council Tool and axes\maintenence tips, and a little note about the Velvicut Hudson Bay. The axe also came shipped with a rubber gasket edge guard which actually fits quite well and could be used in place of the sheath if needed in an emergency.

The first thing that suprised me is how short this axe is, roughly 22.5 inches compared to Council's advertised length of 24 inches. This gives the axe a unique feel and balance, almost like a Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe on steroids. Maybe a better comparison is that it's like the new Ray Mears Gransfors Bruks Wilderness Axe. The dimensions and head weight are very similar, so I'll be curious to see how it performs when I get it into the back country this week

The axe did indeed come with a Grade "A" hickory handle, and the grain direction, tightness of the grain and overall quality is excellent.

Though not fully visible in the photo above, the alignment is very good, though I wouldn't call it excellent. It is better than most Wetterlings' I've seen, so I think that speaks for itself.

The profile, as seen below, is excellent and looks to be optimal for both chopping and splitting (though only a live field test will truly decide this or not). Council decided to go with a traditional metal and wood wedge as opposed to their usual single aluminum wedge to hang the head, and I am glad for this.

The wood of the handle does protude out of the eye, adding extra security against having the handle come loose, another plus. I also like that the hammer poll is ground flat and polished, making it easy to pound in tent stakes, etc.

The edge was convexed at the factory, and though it came much sharper than any axe I've bought from Council before, it still isn't as sharp as Gransfors Bruks usually come (shaving sharp). The good news is that the edge is practically done, so only light file or stone work is needed to get it optimal. The axe, in it's present form, is what I would consider knife sharp, though slightly dull. 

The axe comes with a very nice brown leather belt sheath, which includes a buckle on the backside for more attachment options. I like that the leather covers the axe when snapped shut as it adds some additional weather protection.

One complaint is that the belt loops should be made wider, as they barely fit most normal sized men's belts.

Size comparison next to a Wetterling's made 25 inch long Husqvarna Multi-Purpose Axe.

Size comparison between a 26.5 inch Council Tool Standard Hudson Bay Axe (far right) and a 19.5 inch Wetterlings Large Hunting Axe (far left)


My initial impression of this axe is excellent. It looks and feels like quality, and the balance feels very good in the hand. The steel that Council uses for the Velvicut line, 5160, is quite revered in the knife community for having outstanding toughness along with good edge retention. Council feels so strongly that this axe will last that they guarantee the head for life, no kidding!

My main nitpicks are that the axe didn't come shaving sharp, a standard for Council's closest competitor Gransfors Bruks. The other issue is the size of the belt loops being slightly small on the sheath. The hickory handle could use some more cleaning up near the head-handle junction as it is a bit rough for an axe of this price, but the rest of the handle is excellent and also quite comfortable. In all fairness, Council is new to the field of high-end boutique axes, and this is a first production run, so I expect that improvements will be made over the coming weeks as they ship the next run out. Council has outstanding customer service and does read these forums, so they do take forum comments seriously when dealing with product issues.

Aside from anything else, we now have a high quality American-made bushcraft axe, and this alone is exciting. The odds were against us that this would actually come to fruition, but here it is. I want to thank all the members at Bushcraft USA and who emailed and called Council to help make this happen, and to Council Tool for being open-minded enough to actually put this idea into production. I look for forward to reviewing this axe in the field over the coming weeks and will report back with my results.

UPDATE: Check out the field review of the Velvicut Hudson Bay here

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)

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