Quality. Efficiency. Durability.
These three words are the best way to summarize the Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe. This cutting tool is where art meets craftsmanship. It is truly a stunning axe.
First, let’s talk about what this axe can do. What I liked best about the Small Forest Axe was the versatility. Although it’s on the smaller side at roughly 19 inches, it has a lot of striking power. While you won’t be able to fell anything large, it definitely has potential to take down smaller trees. It was also a total rock star at limbing.
This thing was such a pleasure at carving. You may think the 19 inch handle would be cumbersome but never once did it get in the way. It was so good at carving and making feather sticks that it will probably be used more than my knife.
The only cutting-related task this axe wasn’t very good at was splitting. I’ve tried it on many small and medium sized logs and was not blown away with the performance. For smaller logs, it was ok but the Helko Rheinland Hatchet was definitely a better splitter.
To be fair, a lot of people may look at the Small Forest Axe and wonder if they need something that fits somewhere between a hatchet and a mid-sized axe such as the Gransfrors Bruk Scandinavian Forest Axe. After using the Rheinland Hatchet from Helko, I really preferred the overall usability of the slightly larger Small Forest Axe and would rather use this any day of the week.
The main reason is the extra few inches of handle length. Because of the longer handle, there’s more striking power compared to that of a hatchet. Although the Small Forest Axe wasn’t great at splitting, it was an A+ student for virtually every other task.
For the axe head, the cutting edge is about 3 1/4 inches. The measurement of the cutting edge isn’t what’s interesting, though. The real winner here is the design of the head. It is truly magnificent. I’ll never know the of engineering that went into the design, but one thing for sure is this is an extremely efficient cutter.
Sharpness. Wow! This axe is sharp. If you remember the review about the Helko Rheinland Hatchet we did, one of my few complaints was it could have been a little sharper out of the box. The same was not true for this Granfors Bruk as it was extremely sharp and needed no fine tuning.
Another great thing about the head is the axe lip (or lug). This is the piece of curved metal on the head that points towards the user’s grip. This feature combined with the securement method produced a rock solid head that ain’t coming off any time soon.
Regarding head securement, the wood that sticks of the axe eye is slightly flared . This is an indication a high amount of pressure was being exerted on the head, thus, keeping it securely seated. For safety purposes, this is the kind of stuff you want to know. The last thing you want is for an axe head to unexpectedly pop off like a rocket because it’ll mangle any human flesh it comes into contact with.
For the securement, there’s a wooden wedge that’s driven into the handle but no small steel wedge that’s commonly used on other axes. Once upon a time, Gransfors Bruk used a metal wedge plus the wooden wedge but in an effort to be more environmental, it seems the company has cut back on using metal wedges. A simple browsing of the their lineup will show quite a few models that don’t have metal wedges anymore. According to the company the lack of metal wedge isn’t a big deal. Either way, I’m very satisfied with the way the head is mounted.
For the handle, it’s exceptional quality and also adds to the securement. According to Gransfors Bruk, the handles are dried prior to being applied. This is important because if a manufacturer were to apply an axe head to a non-dried handle, it could become loose and dislodged, causing an unsafe environment for the user.
The grain of the handle is also well-thought out. You can see the craftsmen of Gransfors Bruk are true artisans because they really made sure the grain of the wood was in the proper direction to ensure maximum strength.
For sheaths, Gransfors Bruk hit it out of the park. This is one of the best smelling leathers you’ll ever find. The fit and feel are virtually perfect and it comes on and off with the greatest of ease. According to the nifty little book that came with the axe, you can even attach the sheath on your belt for carrying purposes.
Sadly, though, there are plans to get a kydex sheath to minimize exposure to moisture. Since the axe is made of high carbon steel, it has a higher potential to rust. What exactly that steel is remains a mystery as Gransfors Bruk does not publicly communicate this.
For those who don’t know, there are two letters on each axe head that comes from Gransfors Bruk. These are the initials of the person who made the axe. It’s a neat touch and something that demonstrates true pride in what one does for a living. The axe I received had “CS” stamped on it.
For complaints, I only have one. The handle seems to be a bit on the narrow side. For me, this is only personal preference as I like larger handles. Don’t let that be a turn off because you and you alone should be the judge of what’s comfortable for you.
While the handle is far from uncomfortable, there’s a little bit of an edge on the belly of the handle starting with the axe head and stopping in front of where your hand(s) would be. I’m not completely sure about this design.
When you’re gripping the axe for carving work, the slight edge rests on the inside of the interphalangeal joints. These joints are the first set of joints beyond the knuckles that are closest to your palm; or, the second set of joints away from the tips of your fingers.
Although carving wasn’t very comfortable, that slight edge gave me a little more control when making feather sticks and practicing my notches. Other people may have different results. Since a lot of Swedish design revolves around ergonomics, I’m a little confused about the handle but I’m still satisfied with it.
The Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe is truly an exceptional cutting tool and one I’ll be very proud of for years to come. It’s one of those tools you can’t wait to pass down to your kids someday.
Whoever Mr. “CS” is, I’d like to personally thank him for a job well done. You are truly a master craftsman.
Gransfors Bruk Small Axe Specs:
Length: 19 inches.
Cutting Edge: 3 1/4
Total Weight: 2 pounds.
Lightweight and compact enough to carry in a ruck sack.
Very, very sharp.
Handle could be a little thicker.
Not the best splitter.