The Hultafors Åby Forest Axe is a forest and bushcraft axe that is easy to carry on a backpack but still delivers a punch! I tested it for two years. Watch the review!
- Weight: 1091 grams
- Size: 61 cm
- Price: Around € 150,00
This review starts in the Spring of 2018. At the Scandinavian Outdoor award Jury meeting in Kleinwalsertal, Austria – and just before the Outdoor Tradeshow – Hultafors sent in the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe. We played with it for a day and we thought it is an outstanding product. This resulted in the Hardware Award for this Swedish axe maker. But one day is a test, not a review so a couple of weeks later a brand new Åby Forest Axe arrived at my home. It’s been with me on every trip that needed a campfire. After almost two years I think I have enough experience to make a decent review on this axe.
Weight and size
The Hultafors Åby Forest Axe has an axehead that weights 700 grams and an handle that measures 61 cm. In total I weighted the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe at 1091 grams on my precise scale. The axe comes in a nice box and has a good leather sheet that protects the sharp edge of the axe. And you and me or the backpack during transport of the axe.
The axehead is made from Swedish steel at Hults Bruk. Hults Bruk is the name of the village where the Hultafors axes are made in de Hults Bruk forge. In the year that I started the review, me and my family passed the forge – dating back to 1697! – on our way back home. Since I am a journalist I am curious and bold enough to stop at the factory to see how the axe that I am reviewing is made. And although it was holiday there too, they welcomed me very friendly and all four of us got the tour.
In the video you are able to see how the axe is made. If you ever have the change: visit a working commercial forge. The noise, the smell. Man and machine working perfectly together as a well choreographed ballet. It will make you understand that forging is a craft and that these axes are more expensive than the ones that pop out of a fully automated ‘factory’.
At home I have quite a few axes. It started a long time ago with a regular cheapie from the hardware DIY store. The kind of axe that does a job but doesn’t do anything well except being cheap. My knowledge of axes changed when I visited on holiday a Scandinavian Outdoor shop and I was introduced to the axes of Gränsfors Bruk. I bought the small Gränsfors Wildlife Hatchet and since that day I am hooked on handcrafted axes.
After that one I bought an Gränsfors Splitting Axe and for my last birthday I got a Wetterlings Splitting axe from my daughters and wife. The last one is not for sale anymore since Wetterlings is owned bij Gränsfors Bruk nowadays and they produce Gränsfors axes. So I have some reference to relate to in reviewing the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe. Åby is the name of the village where a lot of the people who work at Hults Bruk live. Åby is pronounced as Ohbuu and translates in ‘town near the river’. Just that you know.
In the two years that I have been using the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe, I’ve done a lot of stuff with it. Because of the relative light axehead I did not expect the axe to be a really good axe for felling trees. But the axe has proven me wrong. In Sweden – on holiday again – I chopped some small Birch trees for spoon making – more on this later – and at the Jannesland Campsite I was allowed by the Dutch owner to fell a nice big tree that had to go anyway.
It took me about 15 minutes to fell the 40 cm stem. See the video! The punch that is delivered by the combination of 700 grams Swedish steel axehead and the 61 cm American Hickory linseed oil treated handle is more than capable. This was for me the first time that I felled a tree that big and it is an experience I think everybody should have. But only after permission or on your own land!
Chopping and splitting
So I felled a tree, but that is not what I use an axe for normally. In The Netherlands we are not allowed to cut anything in a forrest that is still living and even with fallen dead wood you often need permission. On the places that I have permission or on holidays in the Nordics I use an axe to chop wood that has fallen to the ground already. Mostly wood that we need for starting a campfire. And in this the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe is superduper too.
The length of the axe is fine if I need to split wooden blocks up to about 20 cm in diameter. I can make these blocks also with the Åby but usual I do this with a saw. A foldable handsaw or the Nordic Pocket Saw that I reviewed earlier. Using the axe as a ‘knive’ to make smaller pieces of wood that are needed to start a fire is easy too. I grab the axe at the handel just under the axehead and then splitting hairlike pieces of wood is no problem. The same with making wood feathers as a fire starter or making points to sticks. The last one is needed for building shelters, a roasting jack or to make spears to do a javelin competition with the kids. Or spear a fish… Not in The Netherlands!
Cutting and chiseling
What I do like about the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe is the shape of the axehead and the handle. The head is slim and the cutting edge is quite straight. Because of this the head is useable as a chisel too. Changing the round branche shape in to a flat shape as a basis for a spoon is easy.
But the best thing for working with the axe is the finger notch below the head. I can get a good grip on the head because of this and work very precise and safe. For creating the spoon I don’t really need a knife except for the part that holds the fluid, then I use my Morakniv Carving Hook knife. That the notch of the axehead protects the fingers is positive for the safety too.
The rear of the axehead is flat with slight round edges. Thanks to the weight and the long handle it has proven to be practical whenever I needed to hammer a wedge in log. And also on the campsite with pitching tents. Be careful thought with aluminium pegs: the impact of the axehead is quite severe.
For me as a small guy (1.69 meter) most axe handles are very beefy. The one on the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe is thin and the ergonomic shape is very comfortable. The fact that it widens at the lower end, prevents that the axe might slip out of my hands. But with the gloves I use – Crud – this is almost impossible. Top tip: At the end the handel has a hole. Use it to attach a piece of rope to the end of the handle. I use it on most of my axes and it helps slipping too
The axehead is – as mentioned above already – made from Swedish steel. Hultafors does not state the hardness (Rockwell) of the head. In practice I have noticed that is pretty hard and that the Åby holds it’s sharpness really well. But in due time every edge will get blunt and then sharpening is necessary.
With the review axe came a Hultafors Grinding Stone and the Hultafors Trekker Little Helper (TLH). The last one is a piece of leather that is usable to sit on or to start fire on so that I can transport this to a bigger pile of wood. I used the TLH as a platform on my upper-leg to sharpen the axe on. This prevents the axe cutting me by accident and protects my pants. It has a little leather rope so I can tie it around my leg to secure it.
The Grinding Stone is a Puck type stone. It has a diameter of 75 mm, has a 180 grid on one side and 600 on the other. It has a half-circular opening in the middle around the puck. My fingers fit in this opening and that is good for the grip and also prevents the fingers getting in contact with the cutting edge.
The sharpening of the Åby Forest Axe is pretty easy with both accessories. The alloy of the axe is hard but sharpening friendly. If you want to learn more on this: watch the video I made on Sharpening an axe.
In the two years that I have been using the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe it has become the other favorite axe. I still love my small Gränsfors Wildlife Hatchet but with growing experience I tend to grab and use the Åby more and more. The Åby Forest Axe is the perfect mix between a small hatchet with a light axehead and a bigger, heavier axe for serious felling and chopping. It is comfortable, precise, easy to sharpen, well balanced and very multifunctional. The price is around € 150,00 – it varies quite a bit on the web – and that is a fine price and therefore I rate the Hultafors Åby Forest Axe at 9.3 point out of 10 total.
- Hultafors: www.hultafors.com
- Hults Bruk: www.hultsbruk1697.se