1st and foremost John at NRO is a rockstar. Very helpful and cares about the customer. To me that goes as far as the products one sells.
So, the GB Outdoor Axe.
Let's deal with the elephant in the room. Yes, it is pricey.
...but this is a hand forged heirloom quality tool that will last many many years with proper maintenance. That means not leaving it out in the rain for a year or longer, and that means treating the handle with boiled linseed oil periodically(I also treat the handle with Obenauf's Heavy Duty LP as a finish coat on top of the periodic boiled linseed oil applications.)
I also carry a small tin of Obenaufs LP in the field when on extended trips to coat the axe head because it is carbon steel. If wet for prolonged periods just like any carbon steel tool such as a knife it can and will rust.
The mask is a quality leather, well made mask that I also treat with Obenauf's HD LP.
The axe is very light, I weighed it at 1.25lbs on my scale with the mask. The axe head has more of a wedge type angle as compared to say the GB hatchet so it splits well above its weight. I am quite impressed and to add to it's splitting capabilities it is also a phenonenal chopper. There are limitations obviously due to the size but for what it is if you are looking for a camp axe/hatchet that won't beat ya up on the packweight this is a phenomenal choice.
The attention to detail in regards to craftmanship is spot on. Then take into consideration the smith's initials are are pressed into the axe head. Reminds me of my Hilleberg tents where the maker puts their name on a tag in the tent.
This is a high level of maker accountability and a sign of quality as far as I am concerned.
...would you put your name on a sub par product?
The design of the axe and size also gives one a great deal of ability to use the axe for wood working as you can hold the axe similar to that of an ulu style knife. It will also work for game processing should that need arise.
The edge came shaving sharp so no need to do anything on my end as far as that goes. I am one who believes in stropping in the field to stay on top of my edged tools whether that be my 3v knife or my axes.
If ya do this the amount of sharpening one needs to do is minimal if any barring something unexpected happening.
Just get into a habit of when ya use a tool whether that be an axe or a knife, strop it at the end of the day before ya put it up. It only takes a few minutes and will keep ya from having to get on the stones as much.
There is a small steel collar under the head that affords a little protection in the area of overstrike should that occur.
I personally split wood in a manner in which I rest the axe head edge on the log and run the log parallel with the handle so the possibility of overstrike is minimized...
I'm not gonna get too far into this technique but it is easily researched on the web.
It also minimizes the potential for injury substantially.
In closing I am gonna simply say this is a great little axe and excels when used in a system with a folding saw and a knife.
I highly recommend it if you are willing to drop the coin.
Let's be honest, many of us have no problem paying a premium for a knife so...
If I had it to do over I would purchase it a 2nd time without hesitation and would make that purchase fron NRO.
It a worthy investment for me. I use and rely on my tools when in the wilderness for extended periods solo.
...and this is one tool I am proud to own.
Keep on keepin on folks, and most of all be well.