In terms of shape and size, the AX6 is very similar to the Husqvarna and Adler Rheinland hatchets but it has a slightly longer handle that adds power and leverage without becoming unwieldy. It also has good head weight thanks to a solid, Italian-made forged steel head. If you’re looking for a great value and very versatile camping tool, this one is hard to beat.
Versatile tapered bit
Good quality, Italian-forged head
Slightly longer than most comparable rivals
Varnished finish can be a little slippery
No head guard or edge protector
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Stihl AX6 hatchet: first impressions
Another traditional-looking hatchet, the Stihl AX6 hatchet has a carbon steel head forged in Italy fitted to a chunky ash handle. It has been hafted using a standard wooden wedge, secured with an additional metal ring. The wedge was slightly off center on our test sample, though the head itself was solid, with no wiggle.
The head weighs 600g or about 1lb 5oz. It has a large, squared-off poll or butt for hammering, and a tapering wedge-shaped bit that is a versatile shape for varied cutting and chopping tasks (see our best camping axes buying guide if you need to brush up on your axing jargon). The cutting edge came sharp from the factory and the steel is of good quality. The rest of the head is painted safety orange for visibility, which also offers some protection from corrosion.
• RRP: $33 (US) / £26.75 (UK)
• Weight: 855g / 1lb 14oz
• Blade length: 11cm / 4.25in
• Overall length: 40cm / 15.5in
• Head: Forged carbon steel
• Handle: Ash
• Head guard: None
The handle is made from straight-grained ash, and our test sample had nice grain orientation. It’s about an inch longer than other hatchets in its class (such as the Husqvarna and the Adler 1919 Rheinland), which adds power but also a bit more bulk – though interestingly the overall weight matches the shorter Husqvarna hatchet, which has the same head weight. Both are hafted with ash handles too, so the weight difference is down to the fact that the Stihl’s handle is slimmer and better sculpted.
The lower section of the handle is painted safety orange for visibility, and the whole handle has been varnished. This improves weather resistance at the slight detriment of grip, since it obviously prevents the wood from absorbing palm sweat and moisture. On the other hand, it would be easy enough to sand and refinish the handle with boiled linseed oil if you prefer a more natural look and feel. There’s no lanyard hole, but again it would be easy to drill one.
The profile of the handle is very traditional, with large shoulders for added strength and heft, and a pronounced palm swell at the butt end for a secure and comfortable grip.
As a budget hatchet, this tool is supplied without a mask or guard – just a rubber edge protector primarily intended for safety in transit. We’d advise buying or making a leather head guard if you’re going to carry this in a bag or pack.
Stihl AX6 hatchet: in the field
We liked this little hatchet a lot, and on camp it proved a versatile tool. It has plenty of head weight to split small logs and chop kindling easily (see also: How to chop firewood). The cutting edge has plenty of belly for good penetration. The handle is comfortable to use despite its varnished finish.
This hatchet also outperformed most of its comparable rivals like the Husqvarna hatchet and the Adler 1919 Rheinland hatchet for trimming or snedding twigs from branches. That’s because the ash handle is about an inch longer than those models, which gives greater leverage and power whilst still being short enough for easy one-handed use.
It has the familiar head cutaway that defines the modern hatchet, and this means you can choke up on the head for finer work, say if you wanted to carve or whittle some wood. The shoulders are perhaps a bit too thick to be comfortable for smaller hands, but it would be easy enough to thin it down with a rasp and a few sanding sheets if desired.
The steel seems to be of good quality, particularly given the bargain price. It kept its edge well without chipping or rolling yet also sharpens easily. In fact, when it comes to value, we think the AX6 is pretty tough to beat. You get plenty of bang for your buck here.
An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.