Whilst you may not have heard of a Tuatahi axe I imagine most folk that read my blog will be familiar with the sport of axe racing, if not this is what it looks like.
Those are no ordinary axes, they are racing axes, set up with edges at very acute angles between 13 and 18 degrees, bear in mind that a razor is generally around 11 degrees and you’ll get the picture. I always fancied a go with one of these but then do I want to spend £400 on something that would have virtually no other use, ever? and no self respecting axe racer is going to let anyone else have a play with their axes. Anyway after years of coveting these tools I finally took the plunge and ordered myself a Tuatahi kingi work axe. This comes out of the same forge as the other axes but is ground to a slightly thicker profile. Thinner grinds penetrate deeply in soft wood but if they hit a knot or tough wood the edge would roll or chip. A thicker grind is more appropriate for a work axe. Two months after ordering the axe was ready and I shelled out a mighty 525.30 New Zealand $ (£297) to cover the axe and shipping to the UK. A month later after paying £65 import duty the axe arrived just in time for Xmas, a present from me to me 🙂
There is a bit of me that thinks it is absolutely crazy to spend £360 on an axe but heck I just wanted to see if a £360 axe was significantly better than say one of my old Elwell axes or if there was anything extra special about it. Ooooh exciting, wrapped up in kiwi newspaper.
It’s hard to convey just how big this beast is, here it is with a mora 106 carving knife alongside.
The head is rough forged then every surface except the wings is ground. This is the way most axes were treated until the current aesthetic favouring a forged finish was spearheaded by Gransfors in the 1980’s.
Of course as soon as it was out of the box I took it outside and laid in to a big sycamore log. Yes it works! it cuts deep and 5 minutes of work in fairly clean but reasonably hard wood left no mark in terms of edge roll or chip. I’ll post back here when I have done a bunch more work with the axe but I am sure it will do what I want to with it it nicely. Mostly I imagine roughing out bowl blanks from clean relatively soft timber. The handle form really does not suit me at all, maybe I should have bought the head and handled it myself but then again it is interesting to see what they put on them and I can change it easily.
This will give an impression of just how chunky the axe is.
Is it worth £360? well worth is all about supply and demand and perceived value. I know that the processes of forging, hardening, tempering and grinding this axe and putting a handle on it could all be done and a profit made with a much lower retail price but it’s a small niche market. There are very few folk making racing axes and it’s a specialist market that would need any new manufacturer to put a lot of time and money in to marketing to break in to. Tuatahi are a nice family company that have been refining these tools for 30 years and like the best toolmakers they are also tool users competing in axe racing themselves. So to me yes the axe, or at least all that care and knowledge that went in to it, was worth £360
One last thing remained to be done, a sharp axe will not stay sharp long without a good sheath so out came the leather, rivets, poppers and dye. Now my beauty is safe and will still be razor sharp when I next fetch it out to work.