As you can see in the image above, the Farson Hatchet is little bit different than more traditional hatchets. The first thing you probably noticed is the wraparound blade that gives the hatchet not just one, but two cutting sides. The inspiration for the Hatchet design is actually quite primitive, but one that up-and-coming Fremont Knives hopes will be a success. According to the knifemaker, the idea behind the Hatchet and its smaller cousin the Farson Blade—picture the Hatchet without the handle—came from an ancient stone knife they found in the Great Red Desert near Farson, Wyoming. Like the stone, the Farson Blade could be used to chop, cut, slice, and skin animals as an all-purpose utility tool. Unlike modern knives where the point of grip is below the blade itself, the Farson Blade can be gripped right behind the blade. Because the Blade lacked a handle, the knife was small and lightweight while still retaining a full-sized blade.
Of course, some people wanted a handle anyway and Fremont Knives released the Hatchet to oblige. While I remained somewhat ambivalent about the original Farson Blade, the Hatchet definitely piqued my interest. Fremont Knives was kind enough to send me a review sample and I fooled around with it for a few weeks. If nothing else, the area around my house looks a lot more pruned.
Here are the specs:
- Overall blade length: 6″
- P/N 100-003
- Coating: Titanium Nitride
- Length: 9.5″
- Width: 3.0″
- Cutting edge length: 5.5″
- Sheath: Nylon with PP insert
- Weight: 9.6 oz
- Material: 1095 carbon steel
- Thickness: .250″
- Retail price: $79
- Street price: around $50
The Farson is constructed out of 1095 carbon steel, which is a pretty decent material by all accounts. I have a few knives and other tools in 1095 and I’ve learned by now that it’s a very, very hard steel. That makes it perfect for hatchets, which take more of a pounding than most other bladed tools. On longer knives, the quality of 1095 is usually subject to how well it’s been heat treated. A bad 1095 blade is actually fairly brittle and I’ve seen one shatter firsthand. It just goes to show that knives, like all tools, can be only mistreated so much before they give out.
There is no such problem with the Farson Hatchet. Instead, the blade is impressively tough and cuts like a charm. I received the Hatchet in ready-to-shave condition, and while it is a little bit duller now, the difference is hardly noticeable. I find myself especially liking the design of the blade itself, which was made with several purposes in mind. A pointed corner on one end allows the user to make fine cuts while the longer edges make nice, sweeping slices. Unfortunately, the Farson Hatchet lacks the weight needed to make it an adequate hatchet. Contrary to its name, the Farson Hatchet may not be technically called a hatchet, since it lacks a hammerhead on the backside, making it more of a hand ax. If you’re attempting to use it to perform duties around camp that normally require an axe, the Farson Hatchet is a bit lacking in both size and strength. Be prepared to use a bit of muscle.
I’ve never touched the original Farson Blade, but I’m pretty grateful that the hatchet version comes with a handle. The good news about the Hatchet is that you can grip the tool by either the paracord-wrapped handle, or you can grip the knife just behind the blade. The bad news is that you probably will not ever use any other grip besides the handle.
The design for the Farson series is similar to the traditional ulu knife, an tool originally used by the Inuits to chop veggies, skin game, and even to help build igloos. The ulu knife has a flat cutting blade instead of the sharp stabbing knife of the similar, yet horribly ineffective “push daggers.” Due to the homogenization of blade shapes in the knife world, both these designs are now rarely seen outside of films and the occasional specialty product.
The reason behind this is because it is awkward to hold, uncomfortable, and limited in the ways you can use it. Even with paracord wrap, holding the Farson Hatchet behind the blade does not feel good. Although some would argue that you would have more control over the blade, I found that in some instances you have less, especially when chopping hard material like wood. Using this method for woodwork is self-defeating. You are more or less “punching” the wood instead of making precise chops. The fact that the blade wraps around to the head of the hatchet makes any rigorous work somewhat dangerous as well.
On the other hand, it does make light kitchen work seem cooler.
The handle, however, is perfectly adequate for what it does. It is wrapped in paracord, which I generally don’t prefer when materials such as Micarta, G10, or heck, even wood and antler are available. There are a number of advantages that paracord has over more traditional handle materials, like the fact that you literally have rope whenever you need it, but that does not cover up for the fact that paracord will always be inferior in a number of aspects as well. It will never be as durable, water-resistant, or comfortable—no matter how much resin you layer over it.
If you do want to ignore the handle and use the Farson Hatchet like an ulu, be my guest. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The sheath that goes with the Farson Hatchet is a flap of nylon. It’s cheap, effective at keeping the steel dry, and it doesn’t break easily. It’s hard to go wrong with unadorned nylon if you’re on a budget.
Practicality and conclusion
Based on my experience with the Farson Hatchet, I have surmised that I will probably never buy the original Farson Blade. However, the Hatchet itself is useful for a number of chores around the camp. For some tasks, like chewing up wood for a fire or skinning small game, the Farson actually works better than an all-purpose camp knife. It is also extremely light and small, so you can fit it just about anywhere. Above all, the Farson Hatchet is an experiment in design, which is unique in modern bushcraft knives. The inclusion of the handle is what really makes the Farson Hatchet viable, however, as now you can switch between the grip you like best.
Some may also criticize the Farson Hatchet for its Chinese construction, but I found that the overall quality of the tool is top-notch. Regardless of whatever else it may be, the Farson Hatchet is a well-crafted hunk of steel.
Images by Daniel Xu