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‘A Hatchet Job’: Fiskars 14” Hatchet
I set out to write a simple review of my new Fiskars 14” hatchet, but recent reviews and comments here at TTAK made me think more about the concept of the progression of a tiered approach of tools to their intended uses. Why was David battoning trees with a $200+ custom knife? Why did Clay batton his Kershaw Leek folder to death? I suppose that it is a valid test for strength in a review, useful in an emergency, but not really the best use of the tool. If this was a TTAG article we would all follow the progression where a handgun gets you to a rifle and rifle to something crew served and belt fed. So too with edged tools; folder, fixed blade, hatchet, axe, and … well a chain saw! Selecting the right tool for job just makes life easier and prevents readers from grinding their teeth!
Earlier this month I spent time backpacking in the Sierras, so I brought along my new hatchet as a lightweight means of providing firewood. Good job too as, despite the drought here in California, it rained all week and the temps fell to freezing up at 7,000ft. At 1lb 7oz it’s easy to carry and this puppy will outperform any fixed blade at any price, for just $25! I’m not saying it replaces a big knife, just more useful for its task at hand. I also brought my TTAK prize Schrade 3.5” fixed blade and a SOF Flash 1 to help with the smaller camp tasks (food prep with a hatchet is a little too Ray Mears for my blood).
Camping by the lake, fishing for wild trout, enjoying the quite of land and the stunning scenery is what life is all about. Chopping wood and getting smoke in your eyes sitting round a good fire is the cherry on top. In the cold and wet that comes with some effort, so finding plenty of dead wood, cutting it to length and splitting it to expose the dry core takes a decent axe and some effort. A big camp axe is ideal, but a hatchet will do assuming the wood is reasonable in size (the rangers here suggest using wood no bigger than your wrist, as the heavy logs should be left in place to decompose to allow the nutrients to return to the soil).
The Fiskars comes pretty sharp from the factory and like all the Fiskars range has a thin profile face that lends itself to chopping. The new 14” model is very similar to their X7 hatchet and as far as I can tell only varies in the color and texture of the handle (the X7 has the orange grip). The fiber reinforced composite handle won’t win prizes for traditional good looks, but it is lightweight, grippy, wicked choppy and pretty much indestructible. That exaggerated flair to the base really helps keep a hold of it too and there is also a lanyard hole if you need additional safety, as hatchets have a habit of bouncing out of control in tired hands.
I have several Fiskars axes and previously used a Gerber (by Fiskars) mini-hatchet when camping. It is pretty much the same head but with a shortened handle (9” overall). The extra length of the 14” model completely transforms the axe, making it far more powerful and safer to use. The short handle of the Gerber needed forcing and often over-rotated in the hand, threatening knees, shins and toes! The head runs through the handle and ends in a solid pommel which doubles as a crude hammer, but more importantly for a hatchet, it allows the axe to be stuck with a hefty branch limb when splitting larger wood or tapped more precisely for kindling (‘appropriate battoning’). Keeping a sharp edge to the axe really improves its versatility and performance. The Fiskars will also act as an effective edge to shape and whittle improvised tools like stakes and pokey sticks. The steel holds an edge well, but I have damaged my other axes by hitting stones or nails, make sure you use a chopping block and be careful splitting construction lumber.
Overall the hatchet proved its worth. We stayed warm and dry-ish and had a fantastic week in the wilds. For me, carrying the Fiskars 14” hatchet seemed like a real step up from the Gerber or a large fixed blade and it allowed me to keep a good fire with considerably less effort. More than that it was fun, the keen edge and the lightweight handle and overall balance made chopping a real blast. Though when we returned to the car I ditched the back pack and got out my full size camp axe, which took splitting wood to a “whole ‘nuther level”, no loyalty heh, but that really is the point – fit for purpose. I sure wasn’t going to carry the heavy camp axe in my backpack, not least because of all the other fishing, camping and shooting gear, plus food, and the basic load of beer and whisky!