Last December, we had the opportunity to review Survivorman Les Stroud's cool new Bushman Axe manufactured by one of our favorite axe companies-- Wetterlings of Sweden.
Concerned by this news, I took our Bushman review axe out again for another chopping session. Sure enough, the edge rolled on the top of the bit after chopping through a dead Ponderosa Pine:
Normally, we have many months to put an axe through it's paces, but with the Les Stroud axe, we were trying to get the review up in a narrow time frame in order to coincide with its consumer release. This meant a rather brief chopping session in comparison to what we normally do. Unfortunately, this edge issue slipped under our radar until we started hearing about the problem from other sources.
Sadly, these problems seem to be appearing on other Wetterlings products as well, mainly due to heat-treat issues like those affecting the Les Stroud axe. One of our readers, fellow bushcraft blogger OutdoorEnvy, recently had a major failure on his Wetterlings Large Hunting Axe, in which a section of the heel broke cleanly off while chopping.
OutdoorEnvy's broken Wetterlings Axe
After hearing about these issues, I decided to search through the forums at Bushcraft USA and Bladeforums.com to see if this problem was more widespread. What I found was that this was even more prevalent than I initially thought:
Bushcraft USA: "Broken Wetterlings Axe"
Bladeforums.com: "Wetterlings Axe Woes"
Bushcraft USA: "Wetterlings Edge Rolled" (several posters mention this same problem)
Bladeforums.com: "Wetterlings axe fail...."
AR15.com: "I had two Wetterlings fail within 3 times of use"
Since I am a huge fan of Wetterlings axes, I was very disturbed by my findings. Luckily for me, I obtained this information just prior to SHOT Show 2013 (which I attended), and was able to arrange a meeting with Wetterlings' CEO Julia Kalthoff. Upon hearing the information I presented to her, Julia seemed very concerned, and she asked me to bring the Les Stroud Bushman Axe (with the rolled edge) to the show so that she could inspect it.
Julia inspecting the Les Stroud Bushman Axe we reviewed
Julia seemed very concerned about Wetterlings quality control issues, and wanted the axe buying community to know that Wetterlings is backing up all of their axes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer's defects.
She said that if someone has a problem, they should contact the retailer they bought the axe from to get it replaced.
Julia did indicate that they've had to train new workers in order to replace retiring workers since she took over, and that this might have affected quality control, but she said that everything is improving, and she is working diligently to address these problems. After almost four years of these issues, the proof will obviously have to be more than just promises though.
This doesn't appear endemic to all their axes, only a minority of them, so if you have one that works well, keep it and enjoy it- they are some of the best axes out there (in this author's humble opinion).
I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of us in the bushcraft community love Wetterlings axes and hope that these issues will be resolved soon.
Have you had an issue with a Wetterlings Axe that was purchased since 2009? Leave a comment below.
About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com (without spaces)