As I have mentioned before, I spend my working life guiding fishermen in the Smoky Mountains. While an axe is not a part of my everyday fishing kit, I carry one when camping in the backcountry, in my drift boat (to break up driftwood and build a quick fire at lunch), and in my Jeep when offroading.
Nothing beats a specialty axe (felling, splitting, racing) for their intended purposes. General purpose axes do a solid job at most camp tasks, but are too large for pack use and are awkward at fine tasks. A hatchet excels at splitting kindling, and can break up most firewood up to about arm thickness.
The Hultafors Bushcraft Axe falls in the grey area between a hatchet and a 3/4 axe. It has a 1lb head, and and overall length of 15″. The additional length provides more leverage, and coupled with the kind of performance you can only achieve with a hand-forged head, will throw large chips and rapidly chew through most wood you would consider for a campfire or campsite construction project.
The 15″ length is much more manageable for single handed tasks. It also is the perfect size for lashing to the side of a backpack, or stowing in a boat compartment.
The “obscure” part comes in the fact that Hultafors axes are completely unavailable in the States. I have read and heard two possible explanations for this. The first is that the lawyers at Hultafors don’t like some provision of US Liability law. The other, and more logical sounding to me comes from a gentleman at Bushcraft Canada (the major North American distributor for Hultafors) who says it is his understanding that the company is producing axes at maximum capacity. If they were to expand to America, they would be unable to meet demand in existing markets. Either way, they are contractually barred from shipping to the US.
Availability problems aside, I am determined to get one. I can go the eBay route (there are several listings from the UK). The other plan is a bit more cloak-and-dagger. I have a friend in Toronto who is willing to act as intermediary. At this point, I am looking at ordering the axe for her, and then getting her to ship it to me in Tennessee. [Ed: be sure not to lie on your Form 4473.] As far as we can tell, there is nothing barring the importation of an axe. Bushcraft can ship other axes to US addresses – even Hultafors knives; Hultafors axes are verboten.
I know that there are other good axes out there. I can probably even find a hybrid size if I keep digging. But I want the perfect woodsman’s tool to complement the Kephart knife I am making. The “forbidden fruit” aspect is inescapable. I want a Hultafors Bushcraft Axe. Stay tuned, it will be mine.