Swedish Axe Models Compared: Gransfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors; Wetterlings Alternatives

Wetterlings. Gränsfors Bruk. Hults Bruk. Hultafors. Husqvarna. Somehow Sweden has managed to carve out a place for itself as the world’s preeminent axe maker — hand-forged axes known for their distinctive style and legendary for their balance and quality, pounded into existence in some of the oldest forges on earth.

Wetterlings played a major role in earning this reputation for Swedish axes. Then, on March 10, 2017 a splash emanating in Sandvik Sweden sent ripples speeding across the Internet, stirring up shock and sadness in axe and bushcrafting forums the world over: The Wetterlings Axe Forge announced it would discontinue the Wetterlings line, a line dating all the way back to 1880:

Wetterlings, by striking a balance between price and performance, had become a favorite in the United States. With its disappearance, which Swedish axe models should you now be looking at? How can you know, at a glance, which Swedish Axe makers have models in a given size? How do they all compare?

In this article, we’ll compare the Swedish axe models by size — Gränsfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors, Husqvarna — and show which ones make good Wetterlings alternatives.

READ FIRST:  I chose to list these axes from smallest to largest. For categories, I use the discontinued Wetterlings models. Find the axe that describes what you’re looking for then refer to the chart to see the matching models from Gränsfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors, and Husqvarna. You may want to look at A Note about the Charts and A Bit of Background on Swedish Axes at the end of the article to understand the charts better.

Wetterlings Mini Hatchet Alternatives

The Wetterlings Mini Hatchet is not the same as the “Buddy” Compact Hatchet below. It’s smaller. The Mini is a limited edition, tiny hatchet Wetterlings sent to a few dealers. It fits in the same under-a-pound class as the Gränsfors Bruk “Mini”, the Vaughan Sub-Zero Sportsman’s Axe / Sounding Axe, and Kephart’s Colclesser Tomahawk.

Here are the original specs for the Mini Hatchet:

Total Length: 10″ (26 cm)
Edge Length: 2.25″ (5 cm)
Head Weight: ~9 oz (< 255 g)
Total Weight: 13 oz (370 g)

Here are the alternatives for the Wetterlings Mini Hatchet:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Weight:
Series:
10″ (26 cm)
2.5″ (6 cm)
~8 oz (~225 g)
12 oz (350 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Small/Mini Hatchet #410

*The Gränsfors Bruk Small Hatchet is better known as the Mini. Most folks get wide-eyed when they discover that the Mini costs about the same as some of Gränsors Bruk’s full-sized felling axes. Why? The suspicion is that the price reflects how difficult it is to hand-forge such a precise, tiny head.

Wetterlings Compact Hatchet Alternatives

aka Wetterlings Belt Hatchet

The Wetterlings “Buddy” Compact Hatchet #104 featured a stubby handle with the same 1.2 lb head they put on their regular hatchet. They designed this hatchet for carving, light-duty splitting, and limbing — an alternative to a large knife.

Here are the original specs for the Compact Hatchet:

Total Length: 10″ (26 cm)
Edge Length: 2.75″ (7 cm)
Head Weight: 1.2 lbs (550 g)
Total Weight: 1.5 lbs (700 g)

Here are the alternatives for the Wetterlings Compact Hatchet:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
9.5″ (24 cm)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.3 lbs (600 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Hand Hatchet #413
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
9.5″ (24 cm)
3″ (7.5 cm)
1 lb (500 g)
Premium
Hults Bruk Jonaker
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
9.5″ (24 cm)
3″ (7.5 cm)
1 lb (500 g)
Premium
Hultafors Mini Trekking Axe

Wetterlings Wilderness Hatchet Alternatives

a.k.a Wetterlings Camp Hatchet, Wetterling Wildlife Axe, Wetterlings Expedition Hatchet

The Wetterlings Wilderness Hatchet #106 featured the same head as the Wetterlings Compact Hatchet but with an extra 3″ in handle length to give a bit more power in chopping and splitting.

Here are the original specs for the Wilderness Hatchet:

Total Length: 13″ (32 cm)
Edge Length: 2.75″ (7 cm)
Head Weight: 1.2 lbs (550 g)
Total Weight: 1.6 lbs (750 g)

Here are the alternatives for the Wetterlings Wilderness Hatchet:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
13.5″ (34 cm)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.3 lbs (600 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Wildlife Hatchet #415
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
14.5″ (37 cm)
2.5″ (6 cm)
1 lb (500 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Outdoor Axe #425

Wetterlings Hunter’s Hatchet Alternatives

aka Wetterlings Small Hunting Axe 16H

While the Wetterlings Compact Hatchet and Wilderness Hatchet were designed for carving and light-duty splitting, the Wetterlings Hunter’s Hatchet #115 featured a slightly longer handle and heavier head to improve its capabilities for shelter/fire building and dressing game.

Here are the original specs for the Hunter’s Hatchet:

Total Length: 16″ (40 cm)
Edge Length: 3.25″ (8 cm)
Head Weight: 1.5 lbs (700 g)
Total Weight: 2.2 lbs (1 kg)

Here are the alternatives for the Wetterlings Hunter’s Hatchet:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
47 cm (18.5″)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.5 lbs (700 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Hunter
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
16″ (40 cm)
3″ (7.5 cm)
1 lb (500 g)
Premium
Hults Bruk Almike
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
15″ (38 cm)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.2 lbs (550 g)
Standard
Hults Bruk Tarnaby
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
15″ (38 cm)
3″ (7.5 cm)
1 lb (500 g)
Premium
Hultafors Classic Trekking Axe
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
15″ (38 cm)
?
1.3 lbs (600 g)
Standard/Agdor
Agdor Small Trekking Axe 840025
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
17.5″ (44 cm)
?
1.75 lbs (800 g)
Standard/Agdor
Agdor Trekking Axe 840066
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
15″ (38 cm)**
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.3 lbs (600 g)
n/a
Husqvarna Hatchet

*The Gränsfors Bruk Hunter’s Axe is the only true hunter’s axe listed here. It features a soft, rounded poll to assist in tough skinning jobs.

**Husqvarna calls this their 13″ hatchet, but that’s the handle length to the bottom of the head. Length is usually measured to the top of the head.

Wetterlings Outdoor Axe Alternatives

aka Wetterlings Bushcraft Axe, Wetterlings Large Hunter’s/Hunting Axe, Wetterlings Backcountry Axe

Wetterlings produced the Outdoor Axe #118 as a compact, two-handed axe capable of fitting in a backpack (hence its one-time name Backcountry Axe) but equally capable of chopping and felling smaller trees — the size you might use for shelter building and firewood. As a result, this axe quickly became a sweetheart for bushcrafters, hence its most famous name: the Wetterlings Bushcraft Axe. In Wetterlings’ own words from the original literature, “It is recommended when living the traditional life in the woods, where forest, wood, axe and fire are intertwined.”

Here are the original specs for the Wetterlings Outdoor Axe:

Total Length: 19.25″ (49 cm)
Edge Length: 3.25″ (8 cm)
Head Weight: 1.5 lbs (700 g)
Total Weight: 2.4 lbs (1.1 kg)

Here are the alternatives for the Wetterlings Outdoor Axe:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
49 cm (19.25″)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.5 lbs (700 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe #420
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
20″ (50 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
1.75 lbs (800 g)
Premium
Hults Bruk Aneby
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
20″ (50 cm)
3.75″ (10 cm)
1.75 lbs (800 g)
Premium
Hults Bruk Tibro Carpenter
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
24″ (60 cm)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.5 lbs (700 g)
Premium
Hults Bruk Akka
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
20″ (50 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
1.75 lbs (800 g)
Standard
Hults Bruk Salen
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
20″ (50 cm)
3.25″ (8 cm)
1.85 lbs (850 g)
Premium
Hultafors Classic Hunting Axe
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
50 cm (20″)
?
2 lbs (900 g)
Standard/Agdor
Agdor Large Trekking Axe 840086
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
20″ (50 cm)
4″ (10.5 cm)
2.2 lbs (1 kg)
n/a
Husqvarna Carpenter

Note: Though Hults Bruk makes four axes in this range, none exactly match the Outdoor axe. The three with similar handle lengths have heavier heads. The one with the same head weight has a 4″ longer handle.

Wetterlings Hudson Bay Axe Alternatives

The Wetterlings Hudson Bay Axe #180 was the only full-sized felling axe in their lineup when Wetterlings ceased producing their own axe line. All of the axes below this point had been discontinued.

I can only conjecture why. My first guess says that the Hudson Bay Axe struck a balance between the two types of felling axes Wetterlings had been producing previously: Scandinavian-style axes designed for softer wood and American-style axes with heavier heads and longer handles designed for taking on American hardwoods. The Hudson Bay Axe is shorter like a Scandinavian axe but has a heavier head in the Hudson Bay pattern like an American axe.

I find it interesting that the handle is shorter than even the Scandinavian Axe. So we could just as easily guess that Wetterlings was aiming for a compact, robust felling axe along the lines of the Outdoor Axe.

Regardless, I think it is worth noting that no other axe manufacturer followed Wetterlings’ lead on this one.

Here are the original specs for the Wetterlings Hudson Bay Axe:

Total Length: 24″ (60 cm)
Edge Length: 3.75″ (10 cm)
Head Weight: 2.5 lbs (1.15 kg)
Total Weight: 3.25 lbs (1.5 kg)

Wetterlings Scandinavian Forest Axe Alternatives

aka Swedish Forest Axe 26H

Wetterlings designed the Scandinavian Forest Axe #121 as their standard felling axe. It featured an average-length handle and an average head weight, just the right size for most jobs. The name implies that Wetterlings intended these axes for the softer wood typical of Scandinavia.

Here are the original specs for the Scandinavian Forest Axe:

Total Length: 26″ (66 cm)
Edge Length: 3.25″ (8 cm)
Head Weight: 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Total Weight: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)

Here are the alternatives for the Wetterlings Scandinavian Forest Axe:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
25″ (64 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
2 lbs (900 g)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk Scandinavian Forest Axe #430
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
26″ (66 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
1.75 lbs (800 g)
Premium
Hults Bruk Kisa
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
28″ (71 cm)
3.75″ (10 cm)
2.25 lbs (1 kg)
Standard
Hults Bruk Kalix
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
26″ (66 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
1.75 lbs (800 g)
Standard
Hults Bruk Torneo
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
25.5″ (65 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
1.85 lbs (850 g)
Premium
Hultafors Classic Felling Axe
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
25.5″ (65 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
1.85 lbs (850 g)
Standard/Agdor
Hultafors Agdor Felling Axe HY-20
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
25.5″ (65 cm)
3.5″ (9 cm)
2 lbs (900 g)
n/a
Husqvarna Traditional Axe

Note: Though Hults Bruk makes three axes in this range, none exactly match the Scandinavian Forest axe. The two with similar handle lengths have lighter heads. The one with the same head weight has a 2″ longer handle.

Wetterlings Appalachian Forest Axe Alternatives

aka American Forest Axe #124

Wetterlings came out with the Appalachian Forest Axe #120 to meet the demands of the United States’ Eastern forests — large hardwood trees. This kind of work demanded the longest handle and the heaviest head Wetterlings produced.

Here are the original specs for the Appalachian Forest Axe:

Total Length: 32″ (81 cm)
Edge Length: 3.75″ (10 cm)
Head Weight: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)
Total Weight: 5 lbs (2.3 kg)

Here are the alternatives for the Appalachian Forest Axe:

Gränsfors Bruk Hults Bruk Hultafors Husqvarna
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
32″ (81 cm)*
4.5″ (11.5 cm)
3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)
n/a
Gransfors Bruk American Felling Axe #434
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
32″ (81 cm)
4.875″ (12.5 cm)
3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)
Premium
Hults Bruk American Felling Axe
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
32″ (81 cm)
4.35″ (11 cm)
3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)
Standard
Hults Bruk Atran
Length:
Edge:
Head:
Series:
varies
varies
varies
Standard/Agdor
Hultafors Agdor Felling Axe HY-10

*The Gränsfors American Felling Axe has three handle options:

  • 32″ curved handle (81 cm): model #434-1
  • 35.5″ curved handle (90 cm): model #434-2
  • 31.5″ straight handle (80 cm): model #434-3

**Hultafors has five variants of this model:

  • 26″ (65 cm) handle with 1.76 lbs (800 g) head
  • 26″ (65 cm) handle with 2 lbs (900 g) head
  • 28″ (70 cm) handle with 2.2 lbs (1 kg) head
  • 28″ (70 cm) handle with 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) head
  • 32″ (80 cm) handle with 3.25 lbs (1.5 kg) head

A Note about the Charts — Gränsfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors, and Husqvarna Comparisons

All Wetterlings axes featured straight-grained American hickory handles and hand-forged Swedish steel heads, always just rough enough to let you know it was a hand-crafted item but polished and honed to a fine edge where it mattered most — heirloom-quality axes that could last generations if cared for properly.

The list of recommendations above assumes that you’re seeking a similar-quality axe: Swedish hand-forged with an American hickory handle. These range in price from the premium Gränsfors Bruk and Hults Bruk axes to the budget-minded Husqvarna.

The best way to group the Swedish axe models, in my mind, is by size from smallest to largest. Further, I decided to use the discontinued Wetterlings models as the categories. Each section presents a Wetterlings model along with a description of its size and intended use. From there, you can see equivalent Swedish axe models from other Swedish axe brands.

Hults Bruk and Hultafors both have two lines, a premium line and a standard line. These are noted in the charts.

The specs should be pretty close, but please don’t take them as authoritative. None of the axe makers provide complete specs, especially Hultafors and Husqvara. As a result, I had to fill in the gaps where I could from (sometimes imperfect) research. Also, some specs were listed in metric and others in US customary so there may be minor conversion/rounding errors.

I decided to drop the “total weight” from the charts. It became obvious that some manufacturers included the sheath in the weight and others didn’t, ruining this comparison. If you want a sense of the weight, I left it in the Wetterlings specs. It should be similar for the other axes.

The key comparison indicators are handle length and head weight. I group them as closely as I can, but I don’t guarantee that every axe in a category matches perfectly. You’ll see some obvious differences in the specs. Less obvious are the subtle differences in head and handle geometry that can make a big difference in performance.

In other words, these charts help you zone in on the Swedish axes available to you in a given size range. It’s assumed that you’ll then do your homework to ensure a given axe will actually fit your needs.

A Bit of Background on Swedish Axe Makers: Gränsfors Bruk, Hults Bruk, Hultafors, Husqvarna, and Wetterlings

It’s worth understanding a little about these Swedish axes and the Swedish axe makers.

It might strike you as odd that so many Swedish axe forges exist. And that’s where things get interesting …

Sweden’s axe forges have operated for well over a century, at times numbering in the dozens. But with the advent of chainsaws and cheap Chinese alternatives, only the three biggest forges managed to survive … and just barely: Gränsfors Bruk*, Hults Bruk, and Wetterlings, all of which have roots extending into the 1800s and earlier.

These forges survived by shifting their focus to quality, fit, and finish: premium hand-forged tools that, together with the advent of web stores, online communities, and bushcrafting as a distinct practice, found a new market ready to embrace them.

Gränsfors Bruk’s CEO acquired Wetterlings in 2007 but the lines remained separate … until now. As you’ve just learned, the Wetterlings forge now produces Gränsfors Bruk axes.

Hults Bruk has been making axes since 1691. While opinions vary, most would say that a Hults Bruk axe compares favorably with a Gränsfors Bruk axe — the premier Swedish axes.

Where do Hultafors and Husqvarna fit in? The Hultafors Group acquired Hults Bruk in 1992. At that time, Hults Bruk axes were not available in the United States.

In 2015 Hultafors announced it would start selling Hults Bruk axes in the United States for the first time, introducing two new lines exclusively for the American market — a “premium” and a “standard” line — seemingly to take advantage of the hand-forged bushcraft axe craze (see the news release).

Husqvarna doesn’t make any axes itself. Rather, it contracts out to the existing Swedish axe forges, primarily Hults Bruk (but Wetterlings also, once upon a time).

In case this point escaped you, in the charts above, every axe is produced in the Hults Bruk forge except the Gränsfors Bruk axes, which are produced in the Gränsfors Bruk and Wetterlings forges. Got it?

Sources: Gränsfors Bruk History, Hults Bruk History, Hultafors History, and Wetterlings History. It’s also worth taking a look at Woodtrekker’s history of Swedish axe manufacturers, though some of his dates disagree with the dates provided by the axe manufacturers themselvs.

*Bruk, apparently, means “works” in the sense of a manufacturing facility; so Gränsfors Bruk is literally the plant in Gränsfors or, more familiar to English-speaking ears, Gränsfors Manufacturing. And while you see a lot of people call the company Gränsfors Bruks, the company refers to itself as Gränsfors Bruk.

Where Do I Buy a Swedish Axe?

You can find almost every one of these axes on Amazon, mostly sold by small mom-and-pop stores that list their inventory there. Many online forestry, bushcraft, and knife suppliers carry the Swedish lines. DLT Trading carries Hults Bruk Axes, and from time to time has them re-worked by Bark River Knives with speed grinds and polished heads — true top-shelf axes. If you buy from DLT, use this coupon for $5 off.