The Gransfors Ray Mears Wilderness Axe is a new and exclusive collaboration between Ray and the Swedish company Gransfors Bruks. After many years of designing, testing and refining, Ray and the Woodlore team are extremely excited to unveil this brand new signature model:
Upon its release in December 2010, Ray sat down with us for an interview on this new axe, answering questions on its design, purpose and benefits over other models available today:
The Woodlore Team: What were your main goals when you set out to design your own axe?
Ray Mears: I thought long and hard about whether there was a need to design a new axe; I was asked to do so elsewhere a long time ago, and at first I thought there wasn’t. But I’ve thought very hard about it for a long time, and I felt there was something that could be done.
A good axe needs a combination of many features, but most importantly, it needs the right weight balanced with the right length of handle. There will always be a compromise between a small, portable hatchet and a large axe more suitable for felling; the Small Forest Axe is great, but it is lacking in weight and length for good splitting and chopping. I wanted an axe that was a little bit longer, better to swing with two hands, with a heavier head.
Why did you choose Gransfors to produce it?
I think Gransfors make extremely good axes; the steel they use is of a very high standard. Their axe heads are that bit harder than others, which means they take a fabulous edge with a sharpening stone that holds; there’s no need to sharpen them frequently. They also fit the head very well to the helve.
How far back does your relationship with Gransfors go?
I don’t know… I bought my first Gransfors axe in Stockholm, sometime in the early 90’s. They weren’t that well known in the UK at that point; they are now, which is fantastic.
How long has the design process taken?
A lifetime. Over the years I’ve used axes for very small work right up to large tasks, and from this I’ve been able to build up a great in-depth knowledge of using different axes, and I’ve used that knowledge to design this axe. It’s a mix between the Gransfors Scandinavian Axe and the Small Forest Axe, but there is real magic in it; anyone who uses it will see and feel the magic quality of weight and length – it makes it a very special axe.
So what’s special about the design of the head?
It’s been designed to give real bite. The weight of the head combined with its size makes it a little more potent to use – you can split wood with it one minute and then use it for carving the next.
And what’s special about the handle?
The length is different, which is critical to the functionality of the axe. The handle is long enough, and the head heavy enough, so that the head is doing all the work. This means that your muscles can instead focus on guiding the axe, making it a much safer axe to use. The length of the helve, in balance with the weight of the head, is designed to give perfect balance.
For many years you’ve heralded the Small Forest Axe as the number one choice for Bushcraft. How does the Wilderness Axe compare?
It’s important to get the right corrolation between the axe head and handle length. But it’s paramount to base your choice of axe on the experience of the person using the axe. You should never choose an axe simply because it’s been recommended. A smaller person with a weaker wrist may need a smaller, lighter axe, while someone of a larger build will need a larger axe… When you’re on the trail, your axe has to be small and light enough to carry with you, but man enough to do the jobs it’s needed for. The Small Forest Axe is the perfect starting place; further afield, the Wilderness Axe will fit the bill a little better. The Wilderness Axe is like a ‘Small Forest Axe Plus’ – it lets you do the bigger jobs more easily.
What would you say are the ideal uses of this axe?
Anything you have to be able to do in the woods – felling trees, chopping dead trees that have blocked a portage trail, splitting, carving, fashioning a canoe paddle – but it does require expertise to use it well and these things take a long time to learn.
Can it be used one-handed?
Yes; it’s designed to be used one- or two-handed, but it depends on the size of person using it and their knowledge and experience.
What would you recommend when it comes to looking after your axe?
The same as always – a good file and a stone to sharpen it, keep the head oiled occasionally to prevent rusting, and a spot of linseed oil on the handle to help preserve it. The best thing you could do though is to come on a course to learn how to use it properly. I don’t want to sound as though I’m selling, but a week spent learning how to use an axe is a very worthwhile investment.
Just to say that I love this axe. It’s so sleek, so sexy and goddamn it chops that wood good.
Just a quick question though – I was wondering how long it would take to learn how to craft a good quality axe with no previous experience? How long do you think it would take me to be able to craft one unsupervised?
I LOVE AXES.
Okay although i love this axe, its taught me a lot last night, i ended up in hospital with 8 stitches and a fair amount of blood loss, Doc said it was one of the cleanest cuts he’s ever seen (goes to show how much i look after my tools). The axe cut through the top of my hand, luckily only hitting muscle and not tendon, ten days and i should be back to daily bushcraft. The axe is still brilliant and last nights incident reminded me that even experienced axe users can have accidents.
Ray YOUR A GENIUS. this axe is brilliant. It looks great, feels great and works a treat. Best axe i have ever seen, used and heard of.
i see alot of people talking about the high price i do some hobby blacksmithing and i can tell u this it is a massive amount of work hand working any metal with alot of steps most done over days not hours or minutes and the skills to do this take years to master this is the reason for the high price tag just remember a cheap tool is just that a cheap tool
hi just an overview on all the comments…….. I am a farrier/blacksmith and been making edge tools for years and i could make an axe for less but not much less when it comes to time!! and at the end of the day time is money and there is a lot of tinkering that goes into these things!!!!!
Its worth paying for good tools…… in the long run!!
so money really is no object when it comes to quality.
BUT……. on the other hand there are lots of LOST SOULS out there and ARMCHAIR bushcrafters by the sounds of it because…………
Your all ment to be****** bushcrafters****** well start thinking out side the box!!!!! when i was an apprentice i had NO money and was for ever tweeking tools that didnt feel right, like for instance grinding them down to make them lighter and more slender or for all you bushcrafters why dont you make your own LONGER!!! handles or shorter!!!! you dont need to spend spend spend!!!!
I have made and picked up along the way many tool that dont feel right and tinkered with them and they all have given me something back in lots of ways but most of all experience and knowledge in how to make things work.
So why dont you all find a old well made axe head from a boot fair thats a bit too big and give it a good grind up to your size and weight and polish and sharpen, then make a handle like rays….. even copy it from the pics and see how you get on xxxx
Hi, I’ve noticed a fair bit of complaint about the price of this axe, and in an world full of ever increasing shoddy junk from china I guess I can see why. For those upset about the cost I chalenge you to try making an axe sometime. I cant do it for this price, and I doubt many other can.
I have used axes for many years and I know that quality is an important factor with edged tools. Cheap axes, knives and billhooks can do the job, but they are never great to use. Retaining a good edge, balance, nice weight and feel are factors that matter the more a tool is used, it is a pleasure factor.
Of course this axe is more money than some (it has to be!) it is hand forged and a high quality item. It looks excellent value for money to me and I look forward to it being back in stock.
I reckon if you’re going to spend £95, buy a cheaper axe and spend the rest on a course learning how to use it. Much better than being an armchair bushcrafter with a full moneybag.
Well, maybe it doesn´t look any different to some, but to me it certainly does, and I’m sure its characteristics will be most notizable with the axe in use rather than from a picture.
Bushcraft kit might not be expensive, if you do not mind it not working when you most need it. But for a piece of kit hand crafted by swedish masters, that is both extremely functional and pleasant to the eye, I will certainly pay twice or three times as much. Its not Ray’s name that rises the price, its the technique used to forge it.
Thanks a lot Ray and Woodlore team.
I think this axe is over priced and looks no different from the forrest axe.
Ill stick with my Hultafurs forrest axe thanks.
Funny isn’t it how expensive bushcraft gear is and when you add a name to it [Ray Mears] the price rises again.
No thanks Ray.
sorry, I meant looks so beautiful, not “so easily”.
This axe is often being compared with the small forest axe, as this was “the number one choice for Bushcraft” before the production of the wilderness axe. But being as heavy as the Scandinavian axe, and with a handle closer in length to this one than to the small forest axe, where does this axe differ from the scandinavian? both can be packed almost as easily, and will weigh you down by the same amount. However I must say it looks functional and just so easily. I certainly agree with price tag as it is unique to have an axe forged in this way, plus if you know how to look after it it will last you a lifetime.
ciao scusate non parlo inglese. volevo fare delle domande tecniche allo staff di Ray ancor meglio a RAY in persona ma non credo cio sia possibile. Volevo sapere cosa ne pensavate del coltello Wilkinson Sword CSK185 che reputazione a come lama e impiego sul campo? E vero che fu disegnato da Ray? ciao a tutti spero in una vostra risposta
Dear all, i think that most people will agree that with all kit the price has to match performance, this bushcrafting game isnt cheap because of the amount of gear needed,for most of us a week away in the woods requires a4X4 or packhorse,! im soory, im still learning and i need more than a swiss army knife and ball of twine, with these two axes, you have to ask youself is there £40 of improvements between the “wilderness & the small forest”axe, I think most of us couldnt tell the difference, and so NO, its not worth the money or maybe your one of the lucky ones and money doesnt matter??.
Please do NOT listen to this guy. If you buy an axe you intent to use for the next 20 years, make the right choice. This axe has a special weight to the head making it ‘bite’ more for felling and chopping. If that money saved me time and effort while chopping, then it’s well worth it. Besides this axe is more comparable to the Scandinavian forest axe then the small forest axe (look at the handle lengths and head weights) which costs more. That being said why are some people so cheap about buying a QUALITY item.The 20 year warranty for the head is really worth something to me as well.
Hi Guys the axe looks good nice long handle on it but as someone pointed out earlier its the price £95 is way too steep but the fact ray has his logo and company name there doesnt justify that price.
It looks really nice but why the high price?
Hi there Frank, good question. It all comes down to the way this axe is produced; we’ve added some more information to the product description that should hopefully explain things: Ray Mears Wilderness Axe product description
I could not agree with that last comment more. Knowing how to use an axe and spending time working with it under tuition is worth its weight. I’m now much more confident with my axe work and see what a truly great axe can achieve. Could not recommend the Camp craft course highly enough.
As yet I don’t see were the Wilderness axe would fit in for me. I will reserve judgement until I learn more about it or see one. The Small Forest Axe is a fantastic camp axe but does lack a little for felling (that said it will do it), but makes up for it in its pack size. The Scandinavian Axe I see as a better felling axe (although it’s a limbing/snedding axe) given the extra weight and helve length. I’m not sure yet where the Wilderness Axe fits in. Any others opinions I would welcome. I have limited experience with the whole range of Axe’s available and the use, so would welcome others thoughts.
I just looks the way a great hand tool should look, elegant, balanced and strong…
looks really nice. though sadly wont be buying one as i have inherited my lady’s late fathers green wood working tools which did include three axes and more froes and bill hooks that one can through a stick at.