The Road to a Tuatahi
I ordered my Tuatahi Work axe 3 months ago and have been waiting very patiently for it to arrive on my front door. Since becoming interested in axe reprofiling and refurbishing years ago, I have dreamed of owning a racing axe. The truth is though, I probably wouldn't use it because the wood I cut is not as clean as it should be for such a performance axe. This is when I decided that a work axe would be the better option and set my mind on this:
The Tuatahi work axes and racing axes come from the same steel and are forged in the same manner. This is the information from Tuatahi's own site:
"At Tuatahi we also forge axes suitable for use as work axes. These axes are forged from the same high quality steel as the main tuatahi racing axe, but have a thicker edge"
This means that you are getting a quality work axe made by the same hands and steel stock that produce thoroughbred race axes. This to me was a no brainer considering there are numerous other companies making axes in the $150 - $170 price range which don't have such a rich history in the axe racing sport. Here is a price example:
GB American Felling Axe: $144.60 USD
Council Tool Velvicut: $169.95
Tuatahi Work Axe: $222.00 USD
Since there were no real reviews on the internet, I promised Jo I would do a detailed review of the Tuatahi Work Axe to help other folks interested in purchasing one.
When the axe arrived, it was very well packaged. It was contained within a sturdy cardboard box filled with shredded paper. The edge had a protective plastic slip on it while the head of the axe itself was wrapped in New Zealand's finest newspaper, taped carefully and then secured in it's own cardboard box. The cardboard box itself was wrapped with 4 blue packing straps. There was no way this was going to get damaged in transit.
The Tuatahi Work Axe Head
Upon tearing the wrapping off the axe head, I was presented with a finely shaped axe smeared in a thick oil / grease. There was no rust on the head at all. When I cleaned it off I was gobsmacked. Jo at Tuatahi told me the guys were putting something special together for me and as such needed a little extra time. I was presented with a work axe that resembled their No. 1 grind which they had put a chisel grind on.
The Tuatahi Work Axe Handle
When you handle one of these axes, you will notice just how nice it is to hold. The grip swells out to a large knob which assists with holding onto the axe while it is in full swing. When compared to a regular axe handle, the others seem anaemic in comparison.
The wood does not have the shiny finish that so many companies like. Instead, it has a rougher finish with slight rasp / sanding marks on the grip. This is not uncommon for felling axes and racing axes as it assists in gripping the handle, but also helps avoid blisters. It was finished in linseed oil.
The axe handles are 78cm / 30.7" unfitted, but when fitted to the head some wood is trimmed away, meaning the over all length is 75cm / 29.5" long and together with the head the axe weighs about 2.8 kg or 6.2 lbs.
The Human Touch
Tuatahi axes are hand made. Yes, machines are used in the process, but at each stage the axe is inspected and passes from one set of hands to another. Because of this you will no doubt see some irregularities that would otherwise be absent if the process was fully automated. I only found 1 flaw and it was only obvious because the finish on the axe was so good, it had nowhere to hide.
Tuatahi Work Axe Test
I was pretty keen to get out and put the axe to the test. It's one thing to look at an axe, it's another thing entirely to swing one. I went outside to my trusty old birch chopping block.
I put a 10 inch piece on the block. It was warped and twisted and the pieces before gave my other axe serious grief. I took a swing and the Tuatahi blew straight through it. The combination of the edge, the polished finish and the weight gave it the required "oomph" to blow the wood apart. I thought it was a fluke until I did it again, and again. I was grinning like a loon I moved onto a large apple wood log.
I took 6 chops at the log. Big pieces were hanging off and chips began to fly. I was having a great time.
So who would this axe suit?
This axe is for those more practiced with axes. You need to know how to look after an axe, and, how to use one safely. You need to have good technique and be strong enough to use a 6.2 lb axe. Due to a length of 29.5 inches, one needs to be aware of what they are doing. This size may seem strang to many but it's the standard for the racing axe. The longer the handle, the higher the velocity of the head and the harder it is to control. On this weight head, the handle length makes it feel right when in use.
Final thoughts and Comments
I would like to say thankyou to the folks at Tuatahi, and especially Jo. They went above and beyond and what I bought from them will become an heirloom. I am very happy with my purchase and would not hesitate in dealing with Tuatahi again. I think when it comes to axes, a person never really knows what they are missing until they use a high quality axe. And really, when you think about it, you can't get much better than a Tuatahi.