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The Mini Hatchet

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Hacked, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    Over the past few years along with my appreciation for axes I've developed a bit of an obsession with tiny axes/hatchets. These axes are referred to by many names Bag Axe, Trappers Hatchet, Pocket Axe, Sportsman's Axe, Sounding Hatchet, Mini Hatchet, Small Hatchet, Belt Axe, Child's Axe, Kitchen Hatchet, and even Salesman's Sample Axes though I find that in most cases that is not their true intention.

    My obsession began with my desire to have a lightweight tool that could chop and split wood on trips into the mountains where a heavier axe just couldn't be justified. I'm not a fan of heavy thick camp knives and I tried a light machete but found it wasn't worth its weight. That's when I ran into a passage that I'm sure many are familiar with.

    Kephart's Colclesser Tomahawk

    Woodcraft (p.32):
    "Among my most valued possessions is a tiny Colclesser tomahawk, of 8-ounce head and 2-1/2 inch bit, which, with hickory handle and home-made sheath, weighs only three-quarters of a pound. I seldom go anywhere in the woods (unless in marching order with a heavier axe) without this little trick. It is all that is needed to put up a satisfactory shelter wherever there is hemlock or balsam, or bark that will peel, while for other services I use it oftener that I do my jackknife"


    I found mention of Kepharts tiny 8 oz hatchet in various places around the web, however the best illustration that I could find was of a catalog image. Well after some digging I was able to come up with the below images. Most of the following were pulled from an auction of a Colclesser Brothers 12 oz Tomahawk.

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    Not having the means to drop the coin on a GB Mini, and realizing that getting my hands on a Colclesser was a pipe dream I picked up a Vaughn Sub Zero Sportsman's Axe. When I got it the head was covered in thick blue powder coat and the edge resembled that of a well used cold chisel. After some quality time with sandpaper and files I was able to find a nicely performing mini hatchet weighing only 13 oz with sheath.

    A quick Feather Stick I made with my little hatchet.
    [​IMG]

    And some fine shavings just to test out how it did with finer work after being put to use.
    [​IMG]

    Here is a hardwood limb that I went through with the mini. it is somewhere in the 3-4" range. The hatchet made surprisingly quick work of it given it's size and weight.
    [​IMG]

    I was using my mini hatchet to limb some branches that I had trimmed from an overhanging tree in my yard. In process I was sinking the bit of my hatchet into a pear wood log that I had picked up for use in my fire pit. I noticed that it was starting to open a split in the log with very little effort. A wooden wedge would make quick work of competing this split.
    [​IMG]


    Here is another small hatchet that was kindly gifted to me. The head on this one comes in at 14 oz. I actually took the time to document the hafting process on this one. First up was some clean up and re-profiling work on the head.
    [​IMG]

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    Then it was time for the haft, an 18" hatchet handle from house handle that I never liked on the head it was originally fit to.
    [​IMG]

    I thinned out the handle significantly and began to fit it to the eye.
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    Like many I test fit multiple times getting the handle into the eye a little further each time. In this case I was lucky to have part of the old haft to use as a drift.
    [​IMG]

    Almost seated
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    Last fit before the finishing work begins.
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    Sanded and a little BLO applied.
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    Finished, I still need to get some in use pictures.
    [​IMG]

    A couple of links of interest.

    Karesuandokniven Unna Aksu

    Old Jimbo

    As I said it has become a bit of an obsession for me and so I have yet another tiny little hatchet head in route to my house. This one is an older vintage Vaughn head since the vintage ones were said to be of better quality, time will tell. The plan is to put it on a slightly longer haft to help with head velocity, but not too long as to keep it packable. I also have hopes to pick up an old Craftsman version of the Vaughan. Unfortunately it seems that the fine sellers on eBay believe these hatchets to be much more rare and valuable than they really are.

    If you've read this far through my thread then I assume you have at least some interest in these little hatchets. Please feel free to share your thoughts, pictures, and videos. I plan to update this thread with use pictures, future projects, and comparisons.
     
    Miller '72 likes this.
  2. 300Six

    300Six

    Aug 29, 2013
    You are a busy boy! Nice to see folks reusing old handles and resurrecting classic tools rather than forking over a pile of cash on a brand new hatchet/axe largely to make a fashion statement.
     
  3. robertacabin

    robertacabin

    148
    Dec 6, 2011
    Good info and thanks for sharing pics. Never observed an original colclesser hatchet. Keep up the nice work!
     
  4. LG&M

    LG&M

    Dec 19, 2005
    Very nice.
    Do you find the smaller hatchets chop better then say a good 7-8" blade?
    Do you have a CS trail hawk? Wandering how it compared.
    I was surprised at how small the Vaungh is when I saw one.
     
  5. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    I don't own a lot of larger blades because I simply just don't care for them. In my experience a 6-7 blade wouldn't come anywhere near a little hatchet in its ability to chop. That is not to say that these things are felling axes, but neither is a camp knife. An axe is designed to chop, and split. The weight is better distributed for these tasks, and the blade profile designed for it. That said a light folding saw, medium sized camp knife, and baton will accomplish much of the same so like many things it comes down to preference.

    As for the trail hawk I have never had the chance to try one. They look like a lot of fun, and certainly seem to be effective. I wouldn't compare one to my Vaughan however since they are twice the weight at 23.6 oz vs 12 oz for the Vaughan Sportsman's Axe. I like the idea of the lighter head and longer handle used on tomahawks like the trail hawk. That's why I'm setting up my next mini on a 14" handle. I'm hoping to increase the leverage/velocity of the head to help make up for lose in momentum due to its low weight while still keeping it very packable and lightweight.
     
  6. scrteened porch

    scrteened porch Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 19, 2012
    I have the Vaughan, and a tru-test the same size that I bought in the '70s, and a Kentucky/Fort Meigs about the same weight. I like them because they're light and compact, they chop surprisingly well, and they look like toys, so people aren't scared of them.
    I like the poll on that Colclesser though. Thanks for the pictures of a real one.
     
  7. the possum

    the possum

    Jul 31, 2002
    I have one of the Craftsman versions, and mine had a much thicker edge than what your Vaughn looks like in the pictures. It took some time to get it in shape. I like playin' with the little thing though- it's handy to take along on walks in the woods when I don't think I'll really need a serious axe/chopper, but still end up using it for little stuff.

    [​IMG]

    The eye is quite small, though. I wish it was a little bigger, like the small Norlund "tomahawk" (Hudson Bay) patterns, so it could take a more substantial handle. I recently saw a vintage Marbles pocket axe- the kind with an eye that looks like they were made by drilling 3 holes rather than forging an oval with a drift. I never realized how odd their geometry was because of the eye.
     
  8. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    For a tomahawk-like option with a roughly 12oz head (350g or 12.35oz) and 23.5" handle check out the Rinaldi "Calabria" hand axe. Has a 3.25" wide bit. :thumbup:
     
  9. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    I remember you making the handle for that little Craftsman. Being Osage I don't think you have to worry about durability. Folks often worry about the eye on the axes like the Vaughan and older Craftsman version but I haven't seen any evidence to suggest that the size and strength of the handle connection isn't sufficient for such a small tool. A little larger would be nice but too much would ruin the nice profile of the head IMOIMO similar to the marbles you mentioned. The Vaughan came with a really nice high centerline profile so the cheeks are thicker in the center than some of the photos let on. I did have to spend some time like you thinning out the bit giving it a nice convex transition into the cheeks. The work really paid off in the end though.

    That's a neat looking tool though 12 oz is the total weight for the Vaughan. I believe the head weight is actually 8 oz. You really have to hold one of these things to appreciate how small they are. I will try to get some pictures with common items for reference as well as a rule.

    Here's a photo with the Vaughan below two normal sized hatchets for reference. And you can see the handle that eventually made it onto the 14 oz head as well.

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    *Update* Here's a better picture with the Vaughan sitting ontop of a Kelly Hatchet and Mann Edge boys axe.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  10. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Yeah that is pretty tiny! With the handle the Rinaldi is 18oz.
     
  11. the possum

    the possum

    Jul 31, 2002
    :D Yeah, I've probably posted pictures of it half a dozen times now. It's so cute I can't help showin' it off.

    Looks like you've got a pretty nice lineup there- a size to handle any task. About the only thing "missing" from my battery is a boy's axe, but I did find a pretty nice boy's axe handle by chance recently. One of these days I'll come across a head to put on it.

    Another option in this category might be a "mouse hawk" sized tomahawk. Most I've seen are about a pound total, with a 12 oz head. I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to grind a few ounces off it if desired.
     
  12. Larry from Bend

    Larry from Bend

    120
    Jan 5, 2007
    I enjoy small hatchets, also. I've had this tiny Craftsman since it was new. Don't know the weight but it's pretty small. It's excellent steel.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    Larry,

    Good to hear you enjoy yours. Do you happen to recall around about when you picked it up? Also did you need to do a good amount of work to the bit to get it into working condition? Thanks for sharing.
     
  14. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    [​IMG]

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    So I picked up an older Vaughan which were said to have been better quality. The fit and finish is better, and the steel is at least as good as the modern version, plus the stamp is a nice touch but the profile on the cheeks IMO is not as nice as the present day version. Also pictured is a Marbles camp axe made by Condor Knife and Tool and the no name 14oz head.
     
  15. markv

    markv

    Sep 8, 2004
    i was going to suggest
    Old Jimbo
    lots of good stuff in his blog/site
    the Craftsman and Subzero are on my radar but i have never run across one, been looking for years on fleabay and everywhere else

    buzz
     
  16. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    Yup Old Jimbo has some good information. I should have clarified when I posted the link to his blog entry that the Vaughan in my original post is very different from the ones that he writes about. I was actually hesitant in ordering one because of the amount of work he states that was needed to put into his own to get it to a useful state. While I had to basically file the bit as a whole on my own I did not have to rework the cheeks like he did. After picking up the vintage Vaughan Sportsman's Axe posted above I think I would recommend going with the current version for being the easiest to find and to get into working order. The steel is surprisingly hard so it is still quite a bit of work with just hand tools, faster with power tools I'm sure. Once you have a nice edge and smooth transition into the cheeks you should find you have a well working pocket axe. The Vaughan is easy enough to find, look around and you should be able to pick one up for well under $30 shipped to your door. I wish I could find a local store that carried them as obviously hand picked would be ideal.

    In the near future I should have the chance to compare my little hatchet to the GB Mini Hatchet. I look forward to seeing how they compare.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  17. Larry from Bend

    Larry from Bend

    120
    Jan 5, 2007
    Folks got it for me around 1957-58. Mom wrote Larry-1959 on the handle. The bit had a few small nicks from my chiidhood, but it worked up easily and it is sharper than I can get my Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet. The eye is pretty small and I'd hate to break the handle so I go easy with it.
     
  18. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    Thanks Larry, as funny as it may seem its interesting to get an idea of when these were made/sold. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
     
  19. Insipid Moniker

    Insipid Moniker

    Feb 28, 2011
    Watch out, your prejudice is showing. ;)

    Cool thread. I quite enjoy seeing how much you can do with a smaller, lighter tool. I like to have a hatchet with me when camping but for longer hikes weight is always a concern.
     
  20. Hacked

    Hacked

    941
    Jun 1, 2010
    [​IMG]

    Vaughan reprofiling work completed, shown with lip balm for size reference and potentially its new handle.

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    A little progress on the handle. I'm still not quite sure if I will be happy with how it turns out, time will tell.

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    I also picked up this Craftsman shown next to my first Vaughan from the OP. The profile on this head is as good as any I've seen, which is surprising given its size. The picture really doesn't do it justice. This one has a flat pole and seems to be different than the seemingly more common Craftsmans with slightly rounded poles.

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    It's not in too bad of shape either.
     

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