Finally managed to get around to picking up some new gear to test. I almost bought a couple of the SOG hawks which I’ve done a little hands on with and liked, but I’ve been eyeballing the CRKT Woods Kangee for some time now. For the price (About $41) it’s an impressive piece of gear. It is heavier than the SOG hawks and feels excellent in the hand. Let’s run down the first impressions.
Field expedient replaceable handle. The primary reason I like hawk designs over most hatchet designs is the ease of replacing the handle in the field. Yes, you can carve a fancy handle to match A Gransfors Bruks but it will take quite a bit of time. Also, there is a small amount of extra time involved fitting the head and pinning it with a wedge. (I have done this in the field and it’s not difficult, but does take some extra work and if you don’t do it well, the head lands in a patch of poison ivy 30 feet away). Comparatively, you can strip a limb and narrow it down with a knife (Or the head of the hawk, which is VERY comfortable to use on its own) and slide it onto the new handle with a few tweaks. That being said, yes, the better designed hatchet/axe handles are more comfortable and the angles and bends can give them a little more power and control. So that is the trade off. Everyone
has to decide which is more important to them. If I’m planning on building a small log cabin, I’d prefer a larger dedicated axe. But just something to keep strapped to my pack for small shelter building or to tear a stump apart to get to some fat wood or even to dig a root out of the ground, the hawk form just has a bit more flexibility.
Hawk vs Axe. We touched on the hawk vs axe above, but to expand, I like dedicated tools that perform best for some functions. So in my van when “Car” camping, or setting up a base-camp I always have a full sized axe available for big chopping tasks. But when I head out on the trail, I don’t want to lug too much weight with me, so I like smaller more multipurpose tools. This is the primary reason I decided to try out the Kangee. It’s a bit heavier than most of the hawks out there but still lighter than a full sized ax. The heavier head gives it an advantage over most hawks when chopping. The longer handle also gives it a comfortable 2 handed chopping grip. It also fits well on a pack hung through a carabineer. The Kangee has a spike on the rear rather than the typical hammer. I was split 50/50 on whether to get the Chogan model with the hammer or the Kangee with the spike. So I sat down and decided what exactly am going to do with it in the woods? The hammer is nice for pounding tent stakes, or pressing some dirt in to level a cook stove, but those are tasks that can be accomplished easily with just a piece of wood. The spike however is useful for tearing apart wood (To reach fat wood, or if you REALLY need the sustenance, grabbing some grubs) or ripping apart a troublesome knot. It also works great for digging, (Using it in the frozen ground was excellent. Could breach ice and frozen dirt far better than a stake). It works kind of like a mini mattock. So having used many hatchets with hammer backs over the years, I decided to go with the spike. Glad I did. The spike is a great shape for tearing stuff apart. Fat enough, with a good bevel on the edges. It REALLY digs in. (One cautionary note, the Kangee does NOT come with a sheath or holster. There are some aftermarket kits for it though. I am in process of building a leather “Bungee” cover for it. I’ll post that project when it is completed.
One thing that did disappoint me was the edge. I’ve been a big fan of CRKT for many years, every knife I’ve ever received from them was shaving sharp right out of the box. When the Kangee arrived, the first thing I noticed was the bevel was off, (about a 30% difference on one end of the blade, and about 10% on the other. There was a huge overgrind on one side that left a very large bur along the top 1.5 inches of the blade. It literally would not cut paper out of the box. I had to do some work on the blade. Took about 10 minutes to clear the bur and re-profile the edge so that it was somewhat even on the cutting surface. This is not a problem for me, I’ve done it on many blades, but if you’ve never worked an edge like this, it could be difficult to get an edge and if you aren’t a big knife guy/gal, you could use this out of the box and not be able to cut anything with it. I spent a little more time tonight fixing the edge. It’ll shave but it’s still slightly off. Most of the fit and finish of the head was outstanding, the hickory handle is fully functional and long enough to get a really full swing out of it even with both hands. But the quality control on the blade edge bugged me. I have seen online that this has been an issue on many of the Kangee and Chogan hawks. Again, it’s not difficult to fix, but it is a little disappointing on a tool coming from CRKT. I will contact them about this and let you know what I hear. They have been a good company to deal with in the past, so I’m sure they will handle this well.
Price, this is what blows me away. The cost for this hawk ranges from $39 to $50, I paid $42 for mine through Knifeworks.com. There are a lot of high quality hatchets out there like the Gransfors Bruks, which are outstanding tools. But for the price, this is really a tremendous bargain. Will this last as long as a Gransfors? Maybe, maybe not, but at 1/3rd the cost, you could purchase 3 of these, and if by any chance one finally wears out some
time in the next millennia, you can pull out the new one and keep on truckin and STILL have a spare waiting in wings. I do like high quality stuff, but I will absolutely jump on something that come close. Only time will tell if the quality is good enough for a lifetime. But from
initial testing, and what I’ve seen from others. The quality is outstanding. Don’t get me wrong, I like high quality stuff. I REALLY want a Gransfors axe someday, but in the meantime, it’s hard to justify spending that much money on a single tool, when I could get something like this and have enough left over to get another high quality knife or tool.
After spending some heavy cutting time with it, I do have to say it chops like a dream, but being heavier it does wear on you a bit more. That heavier head does its job very well.