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)

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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)


  1. At a glance that looks like one mighty fine axe but after your review and field test by cutting a simple notch in a log forlog cabin construction I wouldnt buy and think Council could do better too, loose handles are never good, looks good though thanks for a comprehensive review.

  2. I think the main issue with heads coming loose with Council is that they cut the haft flush with the head. They need to leave 1/4" or so sticking out the top so they get more expansion to better secure it.

    Or if they are intent on cutting it flush they atleast need to soak the head in linseed oil to avoid it drying out to the point it shrinks enough to come loose. Either way though something needs to change like you mentioned.

    Axenuts probably won't mind as much on these since we'll fix the problem ourselves, but most of their buyers probably don't want to fix it, and they shouldn't have to when buying a new product.

    Thanks for the honest review Jason. I was looking forward to seeing the performance so the loose head was a bummer for me as well.

  3. Thanks for the comment Outdoor. Yeah, leaving some wood peaking over the top like on Swedish and Vintage American axes is always a good idea, but in this case, I think it was just poorly hung or the handle was too dry. I've been testing some US-Made Barco-Kelly axes that are cut flush with the top, and none have loosening problems so far. And yes, it was a bummer because I was looking forward to "sharpening up" my log-cabin skills!

  4. I had my eye on this one for a while now. But I won't be an early adpopter thanks to your review. Not sure if it would be a everydazy user but it would be fun to use on that perfect log to hew.
    Anyway thanks for the review.... 
    Barco did you say Barco I'm eyeballing some of their stuff Western Double yum yum..

  5. Thanks for the comment Wood Burner. Unfortunately, Barco stopped making the Western Double Bit in the USA after the die wore out. Their Michigan Cruiser and Full-Size Double Bits are still made in the USA, however. I'm testing the Cruiser right now and it's a really nice axe for the money.

    As for Disqus, yeah, I just switched, but turned off the 2012 version because it was full of bugs. Your comment posted fine, so hopefully you want have anymore issues. If you do, shoot me an email and I'll try and figure it out.

    Cheers, Jason

  6. As for the Broad Hatchet being an everyday user, I'd pass on it, even if the handle was tight. It's a very unbalanced axe (no fault of the Council, it's just the old design) and is good for a very specific task.