[photos via wood and metal]
That there is the perfect object. It's completely functional, it's the latest evolution from a history of progressively better objects that have been around since man's earliest days, and it's freaking beautiful. It's the two-pound Velvicut Premium Hudson Bay Axe, and it's made using that perfect blend of high-tech machines and an experienced craftsman's handwork.
While I'm suspicious of outdoor tools that are pretty--when you're working outdoors, hardcore functionality is everything and aesthetics don't mean a damn thing--this one is made by Council Tool, lending it some instant cred. The North-Carolina-based manufacturer has been producing quality tools since 1886, and I dig that the company president who narrates the making-of video has the same name as the company.
In the vid you see a 90-year-old eye-punching machine, the brutal, no-margin-for-error drop forging process in action, and you learn something cool about Council's ideology: They retain and retrain. Even as they upgraded their tooling, they kept the guys who used to do the rough grinding by hand and trained them to program the machine that took the task over, rather than letting the machine replace them altogether. "There's no substitute for experience here," says Council.
Rocky Mountain Bushcraft has an in-depth review of the tool here, and they explain what makes this axe—a "boutique axe"—different than others:
Due to the rise in popularity of homesteading, bushcraft and wilderness survival, the axe appears to be making a comeback after decades of obscurity following the invention of the chainsaw. This has influenced longtime makers to introduce the concept of "boutique axes" or axes that are assembled by hand with a high level of fit and finish so that the axe needs no work before using.
Prior to the boutique concept, a person would have to hand select their own axe and then spend several hours with a file, sharpening stones and linseed oil to make the axe head and wooden handle ready for use. All that's changed today. If one can muster up the dough then one can have a finished axe that is "turnkey," to borrow a term used in the automobile world. Though costing 4-5 times what a cheaply built Chinese-made axe costs, the advantage is that persons without years of experience can buy an axe that is expertly tweaked, finished and ready for use.
"These tools are designed to last for generations," writes Council Tool, "and if you take care of them, they will."