The problem in compiling a list of the very best axes on the market today is that it’s literally impossible to list every single one.
For the homesteader, farmer and outdoorsman, an axe is a vital piece of equipment, one that is made by countless manufacturers. Just like tractors, knives, firearms, chainsaws and tools, everyone has an opinion. Someone may like Council tool, another like the axe that was custom built by a blacksmith.
I’m apologizing up front; I don’t know your friend Bill who has made knives and axes for decades in his shop. But I have spent quite a bit of time using an axe in felling, splitting and hunting/camping tasks that I think I can list the ones I think are “the best axes.”
Before I begin, I’ll write a quick note. I am not including hatchets or tomahawks or any other “belt axe.” If you have spent any amount of time in the outdoors you probably have come to learn by now how useless a small one-hand axe is for larger tasks. In truth, there is nothing a hatchet can do, that a larger axe can’t do better.
1. Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe
Not all that long ago, Snow and Nealley produced all of their products in the US with strong hickory handles and forged heads. Around 2003, S&N shut down most of their company in Bangor, Maine, and limped along with a skeletal staff importing axe heads from China and using wood axe handles from Tennessee. I have one of their axes from this time, and to be fair it is not a bad axe at all. I use it primarily for camping tasks and hunting. In 2012, the company switched ownership to an Amish family who moved the company to Smyrna, Maine. They also switched to 100 percent American materials. Their new products are quality. In fact, they hearken back to Snow and Nealley’s earlier days.
Their Hudson Bay axe comes with a 22-24 inch hickory wood handle, and a drop forged steel head. The axe head has a narrow bit for lighter tasks and a flat poll for hammering jobs such as driving tent pegs and similar jobs. This small axe fits perfectly on a pack, does not weigh much more than a hatchet, and can be used for all sorts of wilderness tasks.
2. Council Tool Velvicut Line
Council Tool is by far one of the largest axe manufacturers in the States. One hundred percent American made, Council Tool does not build junk. One aspect that makes Council such a popular brand is they don’t sell overpriced products. In fact, most of their axes sell for around the $50-60 mark.
Council’s Velvicut Line is a step above their standard axes, which are a step above just about everyone else’s axes. There are three axes which come in their Velvicut line. The first is the Velvicut Bad Axe Boys Axe, a medium-sized axe. The next is the Velvicut Felling Axe for felling trees, and they offer a Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe that is just a tad shorter than the axe offered by Snow and Nealley.
If you want an axe that your grandchildren will use, consider Council’s Velvicut.
3. Gränsfors Bruk, any model
Made in Sweden, Gransfors is an axe company that does not merely build a good axe; they build beautiful pieces of rock solid family heirlooms in the making. They produce forest axes for most outdoor activities, as well as splitting and felling axes for heavier use.
Every single axe I have ever owned or used from them is nearly indestructible. You can also buy an “ancient Axe” from Gransfors, such as a Battle-ready tomahawk like the Native-Americans used, or a Viking axe. However, Gransfors is known primarily for their tool axes. Typically their axes cost more than almost every other axe on the market. You can pay $60 for a decent Council Tool axe, but you will most likely spend around $200 for a Gransfors. They are worth the extra coinage, as they hold an edge and have the quality that makes other axes red with envy.
Cost: Depends on the model, but plan at least $150-$300
Do you agree or disagree with this list? What axes would you add? Share your tips in the section below: