Everybody Should Have One: Estwing Axes Edition

IMG_2243An axe is one of the most useful tools a person can own. It’s a hammer, a rescue tool, an occasional weapon, and a construction tool. It’s the indispensable friend of the fire-builder and the firefighter, and every home (rural, urban or suburban) should have one.

You won’t need to ride out Hurricane Katrina to appreciate the ancient utility of the axe. When a windstorm knocked out our power and downed a 60′ cedar across our street, my long-handled Estwing topped and limbed it in a jiffy. We were able to open our own street to traffic, without waiting days for the roads department to rescue us.

When it comes to axes, there’s nothing obscure or exotic about Estwings. They’re just solidly built and cheap enough that just about anyone can afford one.

Wooden-handled axes have been around for thousands of years, and even the most exclusive modern designs differ little from Iron Age prototypes. Traditional axes have some issues, however. Wooden axe handles can dry out and splinter over time, and dry wood can shrink and loosen the axe head. A wooden axe handle can even break if you hit it wrong.

Estwing solved all those problems by forging the head and shaft from a single piece of 1055 carbon steel.

 

Image Courtesy Estwing Mfg. Company

Their leather-handled Sportsman’s Axe is a backwoods classic, and the stacked leather washers (think Ka-Bar handle) absorb some of the shock.

This maintenance-free and nearly unbreakable design isn’t without its drawbacks, because steel handles still transmit more impact shock than wooden handles do. The convex grind of an Estwing edge has been criticized as a bit too thick for optimal chopping. These are valid criticisms, but this isn’t a professional’s axe.

A professional might use a $150 Gransfors Bruks, or a $100 Hultafors. The $30 to $50 Estwing is an axe for everybody else.

comments

  1. jwm says:

    I live in the city now but I started life on a farm. I have moved around the country quite a bit and lived rural and city. I have been thru bad storms, snowed in, more than 1 tornado and the 89 Loma prieata quake in California. In the garage of my urban town house is amongst other tools ax and hatchet, pry bar, shovel and mattock.

    Being prepared ain’t just for boy scouts.

  2. Matt in FL says:

    My hammers have always been Estwing, but for an axe I prefer the feel of wood.

  3. ChuckN says:

    A few years ago Estwing replaced the rubber handles with a type of
    fiberglass. The fiberglass can be rubbed off with use. I know a lot of
    carpenters who ended up with fiberglass embedded in their hands
    before they choose a different brand. Obviously not a problem if you
    wear gloves though.

    1. Aharon says:

      Chuck,

      I don’t know what was going on three years ago, however, I just called and spoke with Estwing. They said that their handles are not using a form of fiberglass. To quote the product description:

      Nylon Vinyl Shock Reduction Grip®
      “Estwing’s Camper’s Axe is forged in one piece steel with exclusive Shock Reduction Grip®, and it comes with an embossed leather sheath.”

      I’m not a material’s guy so technically I’m not really sure if categorically nylon vinyl isn’t associated with fiberglass.

      1. ChuckN says:

        Chemically they are very different However, depending
        on the creation process nylon vinyl can have very
        similar physical characteristics to fiberglass. They can
        also be layered or mixed to decrease weight and increase water/chemical resistance. So it may have been nylon all along or they may also have changed the material/
        bonding process a little bit in the last 5-6 years.

        I had a framing hammer with the new handle and it just chewed my hand up. I have, and still use, an older one
        with a solid rubber or hard vinyl handle without issue.

  4. BLAMMO says:

    +1

    One of the first tools I bought when I moved in to my first house was a 20 oz. Estwing claw hammer. (I wish I had gotten a 16 oz. but I used to think more was always better before I learned that I was doing more work than was necessary.) A few years later, I got their axe with the sheath and I hang it on my belt whenever I’m doing almost any yard work at all. Having it handy is the key. If I left it in the garage, I would probably almost never use it and the task would just be put off. Maybe, permanently.

  5. Azimuth says:

    The Estwing ax will cut wood, but I will offer this real world warning.
    I have never seen a wood-handled ax jump out of someones hands as fast as an Estwing will, if you hit at a glancing blow(miss hit)what you’re chopping. Hence, I won’t work around anyone who is swinging an Estwing. Hit a log behind the blade, and the twang you’ll feel in your elbow will be…most unsettling. WTF? will be the next words out of your mouth. As in WHO THE F**K designed this?

    Is its design modern and subtly minimalist, yes. Is it thin and easily stow-able, yes and yes. Is it the best tool for chopping wood? Not in my book,…or in my tool shed. That Estwing is the only recognizable all-metal ax, should tell you all you need to know. It’s just hard to improve on 10,000 years of ax R&D.

    1. Aharon says:

      Very interesting comment to consider. Thanks.

    2. WCR says:

      An Estwing should be one of the later (but not last, there are plenty of much worse wooden-handled axes out there too) axes chosen for a daily-driver, but one of the first axes chosen for a bug-out/emergency kit. It’s not the most pleasant axe to use (though honestly, in 20 or so years of swinging an Estwing camp axe, I’ve never once been bothered by the issues you’re citing. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but apparently they don’t bother my 50-year-old elbows that much), but you can be guaranteed that come hell or high water, it’ll keep on cutting.

  6. Ralph says:

    That Eastwing is my traveling companion and bedside buddy. I’ve used it while camping. While it’s only a pretty good utility hatchet, it the scariest PDW in my arsenal.

    1. Aharon says:

      I think you should buy the Cold Steel Chinese War/Great Sword. It’s really scary.

  7. Ryan Finn says:

    Spot on Chris. The long handled Estwing has been my constant companion at home and in the woods since I moved to Big Sky country. I’ve even used it as a spatula to flip burgers over the fire!

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Everybody Should Have One: Estwing Axes Edition

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