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Thread: REVIEW: Husqvarna Forest Axe

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    REVIEW: Husqvarna Forest Axe


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    Review: Husqvarna Forest Axe (Part 1)

    "Rough Around the Edges"
    equivalent to a Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe at half the price



    For the past several years, Swedish chainsaw maker Husqvarna has been offering rebadged versions of Wetterlings and Hults Bruks axes and hatchets at greatly reduced prices. For the savvy axe buyer, this can represent an excellent opportunity to pick up expensive name brand Swedish axes at steep discounts. The latest offering from Husqvarna, called the Forest Axe, continues this tradition, in that it is essentially a rebadged Swedish Hultafors HY 20 Felling Axe.

    The SPECS:

    Head Weight: 2 lbs
    Steel type: Hand forged Swedish high carbon steel (composition unknown)
    Overall length: 26"
    Handle type: American Hickory
    Country of Origin: Made in Sweden by Hults Bruks\Hultafors
    Weight with sheath: 43.4 ounces (as measured on a digital postal scale)
    Weight without sheath: 42.4 ounces (as measured on a digital postal scale)
    Retail Price: $65.88

    Features

    The Forest Axe features a hand forged, high carbon Swedish steel head which weighs in at 2 lbs. The handle is 26" long and made from American Hickory. A simple, yet functional leather sheath covers the bit to keep it protected.





    HEAD PROFILE

    The bit on the Forest Axe came out of the box reasonably sharp, though not as sharp as most Gransfors Bruks and Wetterlings axes. However, the profile is very thin, so honing it to razor sharpness was easy and only took a few minutes.

    (click to enlarge)


    The cheeks are also a bit rough compared to offerings from the aforementioned axe companies, showing large grinding marks, etc. However, this didn't seem to hinder the performance of the axe, as you'll see in the field test below.

    (click to enlarge)



    Axe Comparison Shots

    As noted in the profile section, the Forest Axe replaces the older "Multi-Purpose Axe", which was manufactured by Wetterlings at the time. Here's a comparison shot of the two (Forest Axe on left):


    Profile shot (Forest Axe on left):



    Closeup of the bit profiles:



    As mentioned, the Forest Axe is essentially a rebadged Hultafors' HY 20 Felling Axe. Here's a photo of the Husqvarna (left) next to the Hultafors HY 20 (right):

    (click to enlarge)


    Profile comparison (Husqvarna on left):



    Comparison of the Husqvarna next to a Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe

    (click to enlarge)


    Profile comparison of the two (Forest Axe on right)


    Husqvarna in between the Fiskars X15 Axe (left) and the Best Made Standard Hudson Bay Axe (right)

    (click to enlarge)


    Handle/Handle Grain/Alignment/Balance

    (click to enlarge)


    The handle came from the factory with a light coat of linseed oil. It is a little thicker than the handles on Gransfors Bruks or Best Made/Council Tool axes of this size, which I initially thought would make it rather bulky and unwieldy. After using it a bit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I preferred it over the other handles. It is thick, but the way Hultafors profiles the handle makes it feel comfortable and secure in the hand.

    The direction of the handle grain on this particular model is above average, and the tightness of the grain is excellent.



    The alignment is almost perfect:



    The handle is pinned to the head with a traditional wooden wedge and reinforced with a circular metal pin-style wedge. With the exception of a small gap at the four o'clock area of the eye, the overall quality of the head/handle joint is excellent. Over the course of 6 months of regular use, the handle stayed secure and never budged.



    Using the Mors Kochanski balance test, the Forest Axe balances very well, with only a slight hint of heaviness in the bit.

    (click to enlarge)


    Last edited by RockyMtnBushcraft; 09-29-2012 at 01:11 AM.

  2. #2
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    (Part 2) FIELD TESTING

    I received this axe back in March for testing, so it was used quite extensively before writing this review. As mentioned in the "Head Profile" section, the bit came sharp, though not shaving sharp as is typical of most Gransfors Bruks axes. The quality of the steel and hardness are very similar to Gransfors axes, so getting the edge to hair-shaving sharp was easy and only took a few minutes with a diamond sharpener and stone. Hults Bruks, maker of this axe, is Sweden's oldest axe company and highly respected in Europe. For a more comprehensive history of Hults Bruks, check out Woodtrekker Blog's "A Brief History of Swedish Axe Manufacturers."

    In order to test the Forest Axe, I assembled a battery of five tests that I felt would be a good assessment for a full-size, all-purpose bushcraft axe. These include Chopping, Splitting, and Limbing as well fine carving tasks, such as making feather-sticks and carving a tent stake. I also wanted to see how well the Forest Axe would perform in comparison to the similarly-sized Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe, which literally costs twice as much as the Husqvarna. My goal was to see if the budget-priced Forest Axe could perform as well as the pricier Gransfors.

    Chopping Comparisons

    I pitted the Husqvarna against several popular axes to see how it would measure up. Each axe was chopped 30 times for the comparison.

    Forest Axe vs the Best Made Hudson Bay Axe- The competition between these two axes was a draw. The thinner bit of the Husqvarna allowed it to bite deep into the wood, while the heavier head and wider bit of the Best Made made it take out shallow, yet large pieces of wood.

    (click to enlarge)


    Forest Axe vs the previous Husqvarna Multi-Purpose Axe-
    I felt that the older Multi-Purpose Axe had a slight advantage, owing to it's heavier head. The photo doesn't convey this advantage very well, as the Multi Purpose Axe chopped as deep as the Forest Axe even though the area that I chopped had more knots. Winner- Older Husqvarna Multi-Purpose Axe
    (click to enlarge)


    Forest Axe vs the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe- The slightly heavier head (the Forest Axe weighs roughly 2 ounces more than the Gransfors), 1" longer handle and thinner bit of the Forest Axe gave it a clear chopping advantage over the Gransfors Bruks. Winner- Forest Axe

    (click to enlarge)


    FINE CARVING

    The thin bit on the Forest Axe makes it surprisingly adept at finer work. I was surprised to find that it slightly out-performed both the older Multi-Purpose Axe and the Best Made Hudson Bay when making feather-sticks, as shown in the photo below.

    (Note- the Gransfors Bruks seen in the chopping comparison was a late arrival, so it is not seen in the fine carving comparison below. But the Husqvarna did compare very favorably to the Gransfors in some last minute feather-stick tests that I performed)

    (click to enlarge)


    A tent stake carved from a dead Aspen branch, using only the Forest Axe (who says you gotta have a knife to survive in the wilderness!):

    (click to enlarge)


    SPLITTING

    My biggest concern with the Forest Axe was its ability to split logs, due to the thin profile of the head. True, it won't split with the ease of say a Fiskars X15 or a Council Tool\Best Made Hudson Bay axe, but it still split well enough to do a respectable job out in the bush.

    (click to enlarge)


    Success!



    LIMBING

    To test the Forest Axe's ability to limb a tree, I found a dead Lodgepole Pine, that had been blown over by a wind storm many years ago, and went to town. The Forest Axe performed excellently in this test.

    (click to enlarge)



    I then bucked the limbed tree into sections. Once again, the Forest Axe performed well and made this job a pleasure.

    (click to enlarge)


    Conclusion

    I really can't think of a better deal on the market right now for bushcrafters who want a high quality traditional 3/4 axe. The only similar axe I can think of in terms of "bang for the buck" is the Fiskars X15 that I reviewed back in July. While the X15 is excellent for a synthetic axe, many still prefer to use a traditional axe due to the better balance and comfort of a wooden handle. I think the Forest Axe is an excellent alternative for those traditional axe enthusiasts who prefer "wood over plastic", yet can't afford a Gransfors, Council Tool Velvicut, Best Made, or Wetterlings (Wetterlings just had a big price increase, with their Swedish Forest Axe now costing almost $120 as of this writing).



    Another positive is the quality of the steel. It's hard, yet easy to sharpen and holds an edge, very similar to the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. In fact, during my chopping tests against the Gransfors (I usually chop several more times than what's shown in my test photographs) I could detect no difference in edge-holding between the two. The edge also never chipped or rolled during 6 months of hard use, another indication of the excellent quality of the steel on this axe.

    The leather sheath was also a surprise. Initially, my impression of it was rather lackluster, knowing the high quality of Wetterlings and Gransfors sheaths. Not only has it been durable, but I actually learned to appreciate having a sheath without a strap, as you can leave it on when hammering tent stakes or tapping logs without having to worry about damaging it.

    One other thing to note is that, as of right now, this is the only way to buy a Hults Bruks axe in the US, since Hults doesn't sell directly to the US (hopefully, this will change soon!).

    In the subtitle of this review, I made the claim that the Forest Axe is a "rough around the edges" equivalent to a Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe, and I stand by that. For half the price of the Gransfors, you get a high quality, hand-forged, traditional Swedish axe that outchops the Gransfors, performs fine carving tasks just as well, and is nearly as balanced. Husqvarna seems to change manufacturers rather frequently, so if were you, I would grab one of these axes before they switch makers again.

    Cheers, Jason

    Blog- www.rockymountainbushcraft.com
    Last edited by RockyMtnBushcraft; 09-29-2012 at 01:26 AM.

  3. #3
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    Excellent review with generous detail. I bought a Husqvarna carpenters axe recently and love it.


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    Quote Originally Posted by mossyhorn View Post
    Excellent review with generous detail. I bought a Husqvarna carpenters axe recently and love it.
    Thanks mossyhorn. I haven't tried the carpenter's axe yet but it's on the list.

  5. #5
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    Nice review. I'm not into these bushcrafty axes - I had #3 GBs and sold them all. I like the comparisons you draw and then also letting potential buyers know exactly what they are getting into, and why it is a deal. Informative straight up review with lots of info. Well done.
    Axes4Life

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    Excellent review. Thanks.

    I wonder how it would compare to the Council FSS Boy's Axe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Square_peg View Post
    Excellent review. Thanks.

    I wonder how it would compare to the Council FSS Boy's Axe.
    Round 2

    Thanks for taking the time to put this review together.
    It's very well done!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Operator1975 View Post
    Nice review. I'm not into these bushcrafty axes - I had #3 GBs and sold them all. I like the comparisons you draw and then also letting potential buyers know exactly what they are getting into, and why it is a deal. Informative straight up review with lots of info. Well done.
    Thanks Operator, appreciate that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bearhunter View Post
    Round 2

    Thanks for taking the time to put this review together.
    It's very well done!
    Sqarepeg and Bear- thank you much I actually have a Council Boy's Axe FSS on the way, so I'll probably do a quick comparison. Considering that Hultafors' steel is as good as Gransfors Bruks, my money is still on the Husky, though the Council might make a better splitter.

    Cheers, Jason aka ColoradoWildMan

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    Thank you for taking time for such a informative review. I've been wondering how this would compare to a standard 3/4th axe in everyday use, I think I've got an answer.

    And I'm surprised the axe walked away unscathed from the dried pine limbs. I've taken to using a hammer here!

  11. #11
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    Nice review man, I have the older multipurpose one for about 5 years and it has been a great limber and firewood splitter.
    I also have the small husqvarna splitting axe which is great for camp as a dedicated kindling splitter.

    Great axes for the money

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazyotter View Post
    Thank you for taking time for such a informative review. I've been wondering how this would compare to a standard 3/4th axe in everyday use, I think I've got an answer.

    And I'm surprised the axe walked away unscathed from the dried pine limbs. I've taken to using a hammer here!
    Crazy, I own a few Swedish hatchets. I have never had a problem with dry pine. I don't give it a second thought.
    Maybe as you step up to the bigger axes that hit harder that changes.
    I can tell you that a GB double bit is no match for Black Locust.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RockyMtnBushcraft View Post
    Sqarepeg and Bear- thank you much I actually have a Council Boy's Axe FSS on the way, so I'll probably do a quick comparison. Considering that Hultafors' steel is as good as Gransfors Bruks, my money is still on the Husky, though the Council might make a better splitter.

    Cheers, Jason aka ColoradoWildMan
    Great review Jason,
    Look forward to the next one.
    Is this Husqvarna a Wetterlings? I picked it up so friends wouldn't abuse my GB hatchet. I had to order it. Not at all up to GB standards. My main complaint was a crooked grind. The bit made a curve like this (. Not that bad and I have it mostly straight now but still. And by the way it is a couple steps behind the GB hatchet in everything I do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garry3 View Post
    Great review Jason,
    Look forward to the next one.
    Is this Husqvarna a Wetterlings? I picked it up so friends wouldn't abuse my GB hatchet. I had to order it. Not at all up to GB standards. My main complaint was a crooked grind. The bit made a curve like this (. Not that bad and I have it mostly straight now but still. And by the way it is a couple steps behind the GB hatchet in everything I do.
    Thanks Gary. Can you post a better photo of that Husky Hatchet? Pretty sure it's a Wetterlings made version like the one I owned for a couple of years, and can be seen in this review for a comparison.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RockyMtnBushcraft View Post
    Thanks Gary. Can you post a better photo of that Husky Hatchet? Pretty sure it's a Wetterlings made version like the one I owned for a couple of years, and can be seen in this review for a comparison.
    Looks a little different.




    I purchased the Multi purpose axe at the same time. It is a nice tool that had no issues.
    Last edited by garry3; 09-30-2012 at 11:17 PM.

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    Great review for a product I need.

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    Thanks Trailbum

  18. #18
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    Yes, excellent review, thanks.
    I "need" one too, TB. Maybe two.
    Beckerhead #int((2/3)*100)
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    Quote Originally Posted by daizee View Post
    Yes, excellent review, thanks.
    I "need" one too, TB. Maybe two.
    Thanks Daizee, appreciate that.

  20. #20
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    Kind of you to offer an honest and comparative appraisal, with pictures. I'm not going to run out and buy any of these but alerting folks to value for money (all else being somewhat equal) when buying Swedish is a very nice gesture.

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