If you know me at all, you know I love axes. Most of my past experience has been with your average, everyday axes that everyone comes across. Then, I got a Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Ax. The performance was WAY beyond anything that I had used before. But, that still doesn’t mean that it is optimum.
While the Gransfors is shaving sharp, and easy to keep that way, the head geometry is not necessarily the best for the hard woods you find here in Michigan. So, I have been on a quest for a different head shape. One more made for “American Wood” if you will. Enter the Snow & Nealley Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe. With an 18″ handle, it is very close in size to the GB SFA. I had no hopes of this axe coming as “ready to use” as the GB, but I was assured by a very famous knifemaker that this axe could be made into the axe I want it to be More on that later………
So, this is a little review on the S&N and a little comparison to the GB.
Here is a picture of the S&N.
Compared side by side with the GB.
The handle grain on the S&N was not the best I have ever seen. But, it was not off enough to really complain about.
Actually, it is not even as bad as it looks in the above photo. As you can tell in the next couple, it “sways” a little towards the end, and the rest of the handle is really rather quite straight.
Here is a head profile comparison between the two:
Side profile comparison:
Finally….on to the use comparison.
Keep in mind that my “use” comparison is based on the “not optimally sharp” edge that the S&N came with. I did not want to alter it before sending it off for modification.
Here are my impressions:
- The S&N edge is very slight convex, and then the head goes into a v-grind shape.
- Compared to the GB, the S&N hits the wood like a ton of bricks, even with a slightly shorter handle. It is indeed a “different” tool for different work.
- On hardwood (I was using Ash) the S&N had much further penetration. This wood was difficult to get through with the GB, but much easier with the S&N. However, due to the v-grind shaped head of the S&N and the deep penetration, it tended to stick.
- Because the S&N hits harder, it is more useful as a hammer (for wooden stakes and tent pegs, of course).
- Splitting: The S&N definitely ruled here. It split hard wood much easier in all sizes, both hitting and batoning. I believe this is due to the head shape again. The GB is so thin that as you approach the eye, the metal is actually concave, and it doesn’t work as a “wedge” very well.
Other things to note:
- I don’t like the lacquered handle of the S&N as much as the linseed oil soak GB handle.
So, now the S&N is being sent off to have a competition grind put on it. One that will hopefully take care of the balance issues, the sticking issue, and of course it should also shave hair. I will report back when I get it back.
So which one would I chose for my woods bumming axe??? They are definitely two “different” tools, and there is quite a difference in feel between the two. For the wood I like to work with, the area I am in, I have to say that hands down I will pick the S&N. Even without sending it off to have it re-ground, I feel that I would be able to blend and convex the primary bevel on this axe and greatly improve its performance. But, this axe seems to be better at doing the things I do better.
Now, if I am traveling to really northern Canada, where the woods begin to change to softer spruces and pines, I might consider switching. But, I am really impressed with the S&N.
I am really looking forward to getting this back from re-grind, and I will definitely post more pictures then.