When it comes to pieces of essential kit for the discriminating Bushcrafter the axe makes the list in the number two spot, just after a good knife. Over the last several years there are some brands that have become very popular. There are two problems with the “popular” brands though, high price and often limited availability. I’ve used and owned several of them over the years. While they are nice I tend to keep going back to an axe that I don’t seem to worry about because of it’s cost.
Normally I carry a boy scout hatchet when out in the woods. I love these hatchets. They are cheap, tough and good quality but are getting hard to find. They are also heavy. So three years ago I found myself looking for a mini axe that I could carry and would reduce my base weight. After looking at all the “popular” brands and choking at their cost I came across the axe you see in the pictures above.
Its the Vaughan Supersportsman’s Sub-Zero Axe and is often sold as a sounding axe for forest service or tree surgery work. This tiny little guy weighs in at a mere 1 pound. That’s 8oz for the head and 8oz for everything else. It comes with a flame treated 10″ hickory handle and a has a 2-1/4″Â cutting edge that is covered by a leather sheath. The factory edge is decent but can be made much better with less than 5 minutes on the belt sander. The handles that have come on the 3 Vaughan’s I own have been good with a nice tight, properly oriented straight grain. I’ve yet to break one but I have refinished them all. When they were received they had a clear varnish finish that got a bit slick when my hands got wet from sweat. A bit of sanding, some boiled linseed oil and a bit of beeswax took care of that problem though. I now keep one in my bushcraft kit, paddling gear and garage toolbox. I’ll probably add one to a BoB in the future.
All in all, the Vaughan is a great little axe and well worth the ~$20 investment. It cuts extremely well for it’s weight and can even be used for carving or game processing activities. I’ve found that it holds a good edge than can be honed sharp enough to shave with easily and will stay that way a through extensive use. The overall quality of the metal and temper is also good considering it is a mass production item. You would not go wrong with this purchase if for no other reason than learning just how useful a small axe can be in your kit.