Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Zippo's 4-in-1 Woodsman Axe- Not recommended

As some of you may recall, I included Zippo Outdoor's 4-in-1 Woodsman in our 2013 Summer Outdoor Retailer Edged Tools Report last year. The concept is quite interesting, in that the Woodsman easily converts from an axe into a bow saw and vice-versa. When Zippo offered to send us a test sample last month, I accepted the offer, being curious to see how well the Woodsman would work in the real world.

(photo credit: Chuck Carrig)

After receiving the Woodsman, I took it out into the bush for testing. Since the target audience for the Woodsman is mainly recreational campers, I devised a common camping task for it-- saw off a dead pine branch using the Woodsman's saw, and then chop it into kindling with the Woodsman's axe.

The first test went well enough. The Woodsman's saw blade sawed through the pine branch quite efficiently. In fact, it worked so well that it compared favorably with the Swedish Bahco Bow Saw blades that I typically use.

I then converted the Woodsman back into an axe and used it to chop the branch into kindling, using a deadfall tree as a chopping surface. That is where the trouble began.......

The Woodsman's axe bit chopped well, and seemed to easily section the branch into kindling. However, after chopping up about 80% of the branch, I heard a strange noise and looked down at the handle. Lo and behold, the plastic handle had broken all the way through:

This is the small pile of kindling that was made from the pine branch with the Woodsman, leading to its early demise:


Though the Woodsman is a great concept, it's quite apparent that the quality of construction and materials is not up to par, even for typical camping chores. I did nothing out of the ordinary when testing the Woodsman. In fact, I was less hard on it than any other axe I've tested here at Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, since I was testing it for light camp use rather than for survival or bushcraft use.

The type of plastic used in the Woodsman reminds me of the cheap plastic I've seen in toy guns. Had Zippo used a fiberglass-reinforced polymer, a stronger material which is used on FiskarsSOG and other quality synthetic-handled axes, hatchets and tomahawks, I think the outcome would have been different.

This is too bad, since both the axe and saw work well and come in a convenient, all in one system. I did get a chance to speak directly with Zippo at SHOT Show 2014 and informed them of the handle breakage. They assured me that they are taking this matter very seriously, and would look into it as soon as possible. 

1 out of 5 Stars (Not Recommended)

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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