Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

An ultralight small forest axe? Hardly, but to my way of thinking, every ounce that I carry has to pay its way, and the weight that a good axe adds to my overall pack weight is well worth the effort. I got my Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe from Ben’s Backwoods and have been using it for several months. It is as razor sharp now as it was the day that I got it.

Gränsfors Bruks is a small Swedish family operated company formed in 1902. Ever since it was founded the company has been making axes and crowbars of the finest quality. The smiths at Gränsfors Bruk are famous for their skill. The axes and the production of axes at Gränsfors Bruks today are based on the following five fundamental principles:

  1. An axe becomes as good as its smith. There has to be a craftsman behind every single axe.
  2. Unnecessary stoning, grinding, epoxy fixing, painting, and other cosmetics are eliminated. This is good for the environment, inside and outside the factory.
  3. More sensible production demands less natural resources at the same time as the quality and durability of the axe increases. Also, increased durability will decrease the total consumption of natural resources and decrease waste.
  4. We have an unlimited responsibility for Total Quality. Working conditions, product quality and concern for nature are some parts of the Total; humanity and ethics are as important.
  5. High level of knowledge of a product will increase its value.

Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Weighing in at 2lb 2.5oz, the Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe (SFA) is definitely not like any of my other light weight, multi-tasking backpacking equipment that’s for sure. However, I guarantee that you will use a heck of a lot more energy to split your firewood without an axe than you ever would by carrying an axe. It can also be used as a backup knife and hammer if required.  A good axe, a well balanced, sharp, hand-crafted axe, is actually a delight to use and carry. Hand forged axes are also typically much lighter than their mass-produced drop forged counterparts. Not to mention the SFA is a truly beautiful piece of craftsmanship, made by experienced axe-smiths.

  • Head weight 24 oz.
  • Face width 3.25″
  • Hickory handle soaked in linseed oil
  • Handle length 19″
  • Comes with “The Axe Book” (.pdf link)
  • Split grain leather sheath
  • 20-Year guarantee

Each axe head is individually hand forged by professional axe-smiths. They take great care in the forging process of each axe so that the finished piece requires no grinding, smoothing, or painting to eliminate imperfections. The smiths at Gränsfors Bruks have nothing to hide and are extremely proud of their craft. So much so, that when they are happy with their work and have accepted the final axe, they mark the head with their initials beside the company’s GBA crown stamp. The initials ‘KS’ indicate that my axe was hand forged by Kjell-Åke Sjölund.

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Each axe comes with a copy of “The Axe Book” which not only gives care and maintenance information, but also a history of the Gränsfors Bruks company (from 1910), anatomy of the axe, a guide to cutting and storing firewood, limbing logs, making a fire (indoors and in the field), axe throwing, and even making logs for log cabins.

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

The axe head is firmly attached to the handle by use of a wide wooden wedge as seen in the photograph above.  The wooden wedge is then held in place by a smaller three-legged steel wedge that is hammered in at an angle across the wooden wedge.  I’ve been using my SFA for common camping tasks like splitting logs and cutting firewood for quite some time, as you can tell by the wear marks in the photos, but there is absolutely no wobble or give in the head or handle. The quality and attention to detail is evident at every turn.

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

One of my favorite things about the SFA is the hickory handle. It’s almost perfectly shaped to fit my hand and is superbly balanced against the weight of the head. It’s soaked/treated using linseed oil and then wiped clean so that it doesn’t feel greasy.  Unlike varnished or lacquered handles, this one won’t cause you to lose your grip or get blisters on your hands from repeated heavy use.

I’ve found that the length of the handle allows for pretty powerful chopping, but is still not too long to fit into a backpack or be strapped to the outside of my pack without sticking out.  You can actually attach the axe to your belt by tucking the leather sheath’s retaining strap underneath your belt and securing the snapper, but I still prefer to carry it in or outside my pack.

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

After taking such great care to make a beautiful and highly functional axe, Gränsfors Bruks make sure that it lasts for as long as possible by providing a nicely fitting leather sheath.  The sheath has a strap that wraps around the back of the axe poll and snaps closed to keep it securely in place.  The leather used for my axe’s sheath was definitely of high grade, but I noticed it was rather dry, or at least drier than I thought it should be.  So I gave mine a few coats of neutral colored shoe polish using a clean cloth and that seemed to soak in to the leather and make it much more supple.

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

There is a lanyard hole on the end of the hickory handle that you could thread a cord or thin leather strap through if desired. I haven’t bothered to do that yet because I really haven’t found the need for a lanyard on an axe, but it’s nice to have the option.

I had read many wonderful reviews of the SFA and was somewhat worried that the hype would set my expectations too high or spoil my experience with this little axe. I’m happy to say that the reviews were absolutely spot on in every way. This is a superbly well made axe that will easily last you a lifetime if you look after it. It’s the type of gear that can be handed down to future generations and continue to perform as well as the day it was bought.

If you’re looking for a small camping or backpacking axe that will be the last one you ever need to buy, then the Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe (SFA) is definitely a contender.  If you have this axe and would like to share your experience or opinions, please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and paid for it using their own funds.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s a lovely looking axe and I wish I could justify one. Your description of it will be helpful to anyone who needs an axe, but it was this that caught my eye.

    “An ultralight small forest axe?”

    Back in the late Sixties I read a bushcraft guide which had been written in 1919. Several pages were devoted to an argument between the author, who favoured a proper axe, and his friend who preferred a hatchet. There is nothing new. Sadly, I cannot remember the author or the book’s title.

  • http://pig-monkey.com/ Pig Monkey

    I have a Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet for lightweight backpack travel. It’s great! Only weighs about 11 oz and keeps me in plenty of firewood. I think that Nessmuk would be proud of it.

    I’ve been coveting a Small Forest Axe for a while, too. The longer handle would be better than the Mini for larger tasks, like shelter building.

  • http://www.cejcamping.com/ Marc

    Great post and review! That’s a great looking axe, and you can’t beat purchasing a piece of gear that is hand crafted with so much attention and pride.

    We often carry a hatchet, but I agree with you, that a SFA would make the cutting work a lot easier. That weight isn’t too bad, especially if you have other gear that is lightweight so you don’t over do it. I think this would be great to have when I take my family car camping too. Or just when we have a fire in the back yard.

    Looks like another piece of equipment was just added to the wish list!

  • Simon

    Its kinda nice to see more and more Swedish made gear out there. The Frost Mora have gotten quite famous now, hope to see more of our Swedish gear getting famous in the outdoor/bushcraft community.

    (I’m from Sweden btw.) (^-^)

  • LongBow

    Great little axe. Recently spent a few days with various hawks and my SFA in the wilderness. The SFA was the star of the chopping and fire prep. The GB out shined 2 big name hawks that cost more but were nowhere near as effective as choppers and edge retention/resharpening was great. 

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I agree that the SFA is superb quality and almost the perfect size. I enjoy taking mine with me on trips with my kids and cub scouts, it helps them learn to appreciate and respect it.

  • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

    Simon, the Mora is one of my favorite knives. In fact I think I have several posts on here that feature it. Gotta love the Swedish cutlery.

  • Andrew Downie

    I have been remiss in learning more about axes and hatchets outside of the ones I use for light splitting around the house (a gerber camp axe and a couple big-box store axes).  So, needless to say I could use some education.

    I was just looking at the swedish and bavarian axes available at Garrett Wade but decided I needed more knowledge before I blindly made a purchase, so this was a great tickler to get me reading and I found the reference to the axe book particularly helpful.  Once again your post adds value :)

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks Andy! There are also some really good videos on YouTube about axes for backpacking, check out the ones by Ray Mears :-) As I said, it’s not a lightweight piece of gear but I do love having it with me on trips when I’m less concerned about UL weight limits.

  • Andrew Downie

    I have been remiss in learning more about axes and hatchets outside of the ones I use for light splitting around the house (a gerber camp axe and a couple big-box store axes).  So, needless to say I could use some education.

    I was just looking at the swedish and bavarian axes available at Garrett Wade but decided I needed more knowledge before I blindly made a purchase, so this was a great tickler to get me reading and I found the reference to the axe book particularly helpful.  Once again your post adds value :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks Andy! There are also some really good videos on YouTube about axes for backpacking, check out the ones by Ray Mears :-) As I said, it’s not a lightweight piece of gear but I do love having it with me on trips when I’m less concerned about UL weight limits.

  • Dylan Braun

    I used my gf sma on a serios camping trip. now the head is rusted and nicked what do i do

    • http://twitter.com/lok_bot loki

      polish off the rust and apply a light coating of oil. Or you could build a patina by wrapping the axe head with a cloth soaked in vinager.

  • WesternBushcraft

    Your axes have a reddish/yellow coloration to them, is that surface rust or forging finish?

  • Gilles Gauthier

    just came across this blog. i actually just bought a gb sfa axe yesterday. i’m quite pleased with it. great quality. the only thing i noticed was that the metal spike in the top wasn’t flush, no big deal though. i also have a variety of mora knives. can’t go wrong for the price. i’ve put a couple of them through rigorous use (a 2 week canoe trip on the missinaibi river in ontario) and they held up well. they were the cheaper models too.

  • Suthirat

    I am looking for handle length 13″