I had debated posting this article on Stormcrow Group rather than here, because it’s arguable whether a hatchet is outdoor gear or a tool. But because of how this hatchet is made, what I’ve used it for so far, and its company, I decided to post it here. It is truly an excellent tool to have around the home. Here’s why..
I got this hatchet from my girlfriend for Christmas. It was one of those items I had put on the list but did not really expect her to go about getting it, but needless to say, I was impressed when I opened it up on Christmas morning.
The hatchet comes out the box feeling stout, sturdy, and a tad rough around the edges. It’s no Gransfor Bruks, nor does it try to be. This hatchet is a tool as a hammer is a tool. Recently, axes have risen to become this mythical beast of tools. Some retail for well over $300 (ahem, Best Made Co.). Some have become too pretty and too damn expensive to use. For $45, the Hardcore Hatchet begs to be swung and knocked around. Not mounted on a wall.
Quality & Materials
I asked for the Naturalist-Curved hatchet since I tend to gravitate toward curved handled axes both for their ergonomics and aesthetic appeal. The 18″ handle, made of American Hickory, is excellent quality, not a single knot to be found. The handle is finished with some what I think is clear polyurethane. Either the handle still had sawdust on it from sanding, or some sawdust dropped on the poly while it was drying, but either way, the finish has got some grit to it. I can’t tell if that’s intended or just from making it. It can be quickly taken down with some fine grit sandpaper or left on. I just let it go since it’s winter and I’m wearing gloves when I’m using it outside anyways. By spring time, I’m guessing they’ll just be smoothed out from regular use.
It’s thick enough that it fills my hand well, giving a secure grip. It balances well and the handle shape lets you choke up or choke down on as needed.
The head is forged steel, which is pinned in place. I am not 100% certain whether the head was casted to give it its shape, with only the edge ground, or if the entire shape was grounded in. If it’s molded, Hardcore should think about incorporating their logo into the mold, rather than that sticker. The head steel is rough and unfinished, you can feel the steel’s slight imperfections. It’s not a turn off though.
The edge finish is a little rough though, but pretty damn sharp. I don’t prefer razor-sharp edges – mainly because after the first few swings, it’s no longer razor-sharp, and also because that’s just plain dangerous. However, the grind angles on both sides of the edge are not equal, which is a slight QC issue. It doesn’t affect the hatchet’s performance, but the axe enthusiast might be put off.. Though, the hatchet still chops and bangs like it’s meant to.
Speaking of which, the hammer face on the opposing side of the hatchet is pretty freaking useful. The balance is not the same as a dedicated hammer, but it still does the job well. I’ve used a few times already when taking down my tree stand and having to both cut away limbs, and pounding out rusty retaining pins.
One thing the hatchet doesn’t have is a cover or sheath for the edge. Instead, it comes with a rubber cover that stretches to cover only the edge. At first, I scoffed at it, but then realized it’s actually effective. I know on my Wetterlings, which has a leather sheath with a belt loop closure, takes far longer than slipping over a rubber cover when on the move. I do think the size of the rubber edge cover should be increased, or tabs should be molded onto the ends to help in getting it on. Especially at the bottom of the edge, I’ve come pretty close to slicing my finger open when it slips trying to pull it over the tip. They sell leather ones for $20, so paying $45 for the hatchet alone, I don’t expect this to be included.
In The Field
Like I mentioned before, I’ve used this thing for fun and for actual tasks since I got it in December. I initially wanted a hatchet because while putting up my tree stand last fall, I found I needed the power of an axe, but preferred the mobility of a bush knife. I went with my ESEE-3 over my Wetterlings Forest Axe. However, when you’re up in a tree putting up a climbing ladder and leaning back on a lineman’s belt trying to hack away at branches with a 3″ knife, it’s a recipe for disaster. Conversely, carrying an axe up while you’re doing it, swinging around near your ankles from a belt clip is equally hazardous. A hatchet is the happy place that sits between the two.
I’ve also used the hatchet on breaking up ice around the house, at the bottoms of rain gutters blocking snow melt and this stubborn sump drain I put in at the beginning of winter. Until I swapped in a 4″ outlet PVC pipe for the 2″, I was going out every morning and hacking away the ice formed at the base of it. This hatchet took it away like it was nothing, while still giving me enough precision to not chop away the pipe itself, or miss and hit the concrete foundation.
For $45, the Hardcore Hammers Naturalist Curved Hatchet is actually a steal. When you compare it to the price of production hatchets (like Estwing) found at the big box hardware store, you’re paying only a little bit extra for something hand-made in the USA. No brainer. Couple that with the fact that the hatchet is made by a company that makes some kick ass looking hammers and actually put some thought into the use mode and ergonomics, this hatchet really chops out the competition.
This isn’t a show quality piece, but it’s not ugly. It’s got character and a rough around the edge beauty to it. Don’t compare it to the fine finish of a collector’s axe (why would you even want to collect axes you won’t use?). Think Megan Fox at the end of Transformers versus Megan Fox at the beginning of Transformers.