Post Updated: 26 Feb 2023
If you’re looking for the best quality axe or hatchet, chances are you’ve heard of brands such as Gransfors Bruk or Helko Werk. They produce some fine axes and have a great heritage – the kind of axes that will last a lifetime.
Can axes or hatchets made in the USA stand up to these European heavyweights? What magical powers do these brands possess that make them the best of the best?
Granted, a hand-forged heirloom piece of craftsmanship from one of those Swedish or German axe manufacturers is a desirable tool, but it’s just a sharp piece of steel attached to a stick, right?
Related Article: What is the best axe brand?
Surely the mighty USA can produce axes that can match those guys offerings? Hell… even surpass them!
In this article we’ll take a look at some of the best axes available in the USA, made in the USA. Maybe this will convince some of you to stop giving your money to the Swedes and invest in our own economy!!! (No more politics, I promise)
DEAL OF THE DAY: Free USA Flag!
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Best axes made in the USA
For high quality American made axes, Snow & Nealley and Council Tool offer the best traditionally crafted cutting tools that can rival Swedish masters such as Gransfors Bruk and Hults Bruk.
There are also some newer brands that offer modern axes and hatchets in the tactical niche that are really worth mentioning – if that’s your thing.
1. Snow & Nealley
Born in the logging boom of the 1860s, shaped by the demands of consumers and professionals in the 20th century, Snow & Nealley has been re-established as an American company dedicated to small-batch quality.
There was a stage in S&N’s history where they out-sourced parts of their manufacturing to Asia – which didn’t go down too well with customers. Their quality suffered as a result, losing them the respect of previously satisfied users of their products.
This disastrous strategy was quickly abandoned and today Snow & Nealley axes are 100% forged, tempered, and assembled in the USA using all American materials.
“Built in Maine. At work around the world.”
Their new line of axes are super traditional with high-carbon steel heads, American hickory handles, and great balance and feel. They look sensational and really deliver when put to work. The lacquered handle is my one bugbear – I prefer an oiled finish, but each to their own.
“…I insist on US made products, my S&N axe makes me feel proud every time I use it…”
A Snow & Nealley axe is a must for all us axe-wielding patriots out there. Their craftsmanship is second to none and stands up against the best axes available today – worldwide.
I’ve added a few links below to get you acquainted with these awesome home-grown axes. Here are a few of their best axes available on Amazon:
- Small axe: Snow & Nealley Outdoorsmans Belt Axe
- Medium axe: Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe
- Large axe: Snow and Nealley 3.5 lbs. Single Bit Axe
2. Council Tool
Employing over 100 people in their factory in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, Council Tool have been operating as a family run company since 1886. They pride themselves in provided high quality products using the finest American steel and American hickory in their axe production. They also offer modern fiberglass handles in a few of their axes.
Council Tool provide an array of axes, hatchets, mauls and wedges to suit any situation and offer a premium axe line known as their Velvicut series. These are made with 5160 grade steel to maximise durability and are buffed to a highly polished finish resulting a stunning looking collection.
“…not as pretty as a Gransfors, but what it lacks in looks, it makes up for with functionality…”
I love the traditional style of their pack axes, they are rugged, hardy and perfect for everyday chopping and limbing, and keep an edge well.
After some research on the quality of the final product, I noticed that they CAN be a bit hit-and-miss with quite a few customers dissatisfied with the finishing such as forging markings and improper hanging of the head/too many shims etc.
But overall, overwhelming positivity from most customers. I personally like the fact the handles come unfinished so you can apply whatever finish you prefer without having to strip off the factory coating first.
Related Article: Best Axe Handle Finish – Tung Oil or Boiled Linseed Oil?
Check out some of their range of axes via the links below on Amazon:
- Small axe: Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe
- Medium axe: Council Tool 2.0 Lb Hudson Bay Camp Axe
- Large axe: Council Tool Velvicut Premium American Felling Axe
The old manufacturing town of Rockford Illinois has been the base of operations for Estwing for over 90 years. A well-respected producer of all manner of tools for outdoorsmen who happen to produce some of the toughest axes on the planet!
“The choice of outdoorsmen everywhere”
The design of an Estwing axe is unmistakeable – forged from a single piece of steel into the distinctive Estwing shape complete with natural leather and lacquered handle. It’s certainly not the prettiest axe we’ve seen, actually it’s pretty damn ugly!
But Estwing aren’t competing with the Swedish master craftsmen from Gransfors or Hults, and producing large felling axes aint their thing. What they do is manufacture invincible camping axes that do what they’re designed to do.
Here’s the downside: For me, the factory coating doesn’t feel good – it’s too glossy. Like many others I prefer to sand this off the grip with some fine sandpaper and apply some Neatsfoot oil to preserve the leather. This makes it far more comfortable and will avoid the inevitable chipping of the lacquer during use.
But the durability and relatively inexpensive pricing compared to other axes in the same bracket makes an Estwing axe a no-brainer… Just stop it with the sticky labels Estwing! No need. Estwing provide a range of tools depending on your specific needs. Take a look at their campers axes on Amazon:
- Small axe: Estwing Sportsman’s 12″ Camping Hatchet
- Medium axe: Estwing Camper’s Axe – 16″ Hatchet
- Large axe: Estwing Camper’s Axe – 26″ Wood Splitting Tool
CRKT (Columbia River Knife and Tool) was founded in 1994 in Oregon. Known for their tactical knives and tomahawks, they’ve enjoyed huge popularity in recent years with their contemporary design and clever marketing.
You won’t find many traditional axes for felling or splitting in the CRKT catalogue, and it’s a shame they’ve discontinued their little pack axe – I loved that one. However, if you’re looking for a small compact hatchet or tomahawk you’ll do far worse than CRKT.
I know there are a lot of ‘real’ axe users out there who kind off scoff at CRKT axes, dismissing them as some kind of hip-and-trendy, all style and no substance brand. But their compact axes such as the Jenny Wren pictured above are great fun!
“CRKT tactical tomahawks are definitely NOT toys!”
We’re not going to be felling trees or splitting big rounds in two with these things… but as a compact cutting tool for camping and bushcraft, they can handle limbing, kindling, chopping and slicing with ease – they’re the real deal… on a small scale.
Here are links to a few of their best axes available on Amazon now:
- Small axe: CRKT Jenny Wren Compact Axe
- Medium axe: CRKT Birler Compact Pack Axe
- Tactical axe: CRKT Kangee Tomahawk
This was just a quick post on some quality USA-made axes that are worth considering. For a tough working axe I’d go with Snow & Neally or Council Tool – they have some really high quality cutting tools that rival the some of the best in the world.
Indestructible camp and worksite hatchets are what Estwing do best, and for a lightweight camping tool, CRKT compact axes are great fun.
Let me know what you think in the comments below – Maybe I’ve neglected to mention your preferred USA made axe?