Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe Review

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rg598

Native
For this review I want to take a look at an axe, manufactured by a company, with a history spanning back to the golden age of axe manufacturing, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe.



Specifications:
Manufacturer: Snow & Nealley
Axe Head Weight: 1.75 lb
Axe Length: 24 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $65.00



The Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe is a mid size axe, at a mid range price. It is large enough to do some serious work, but at the same time is small enough to be easily carried in a backpack. In terms of size, it falls right between the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe and the Scandinavian Forest Axe.

In this review, I will try to compare the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe to both the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe and the Scandinavian Forest Axe. Below you can see the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe next to the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe.




Here you can see it next to the Small Forest Axe as well.



The Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe has an excellent handle. It comes in at 24 inches, an inch shorter than the Scandinavian Forest axe, and 4 inches longer than the Small Forest Axe. It has a great shape, and is very comfortable. It is one of the best handle designs I have seen. The grain of the one I got was good, although not perfect, and it did contain some hard wood.



The head of the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe has positive and negative aspects. In the picture below, you can see it next to the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. You will notice how smooth the transition is between the bit and the eye. This is exactly what I like to see in an axe head. This axe gets it exactly right. It does not have the abrupt transition and concavity that you see in the Gransfors Bruks. This creates less impediments for the wood, improving splitting performance. On the other hand, the bit itself is much thicker than I like. It is not horrible, and is clearly a design characteristic, bit the thicker bit impedes the chopping performance. (There was paint on the top portion of the head, which I sanded off)



The head is attached to the handle with a metal wedge, and it held securely during testing. The bit is longer than that of the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe.



The balance of the axe is fairly good. The bit is heavier than the poll, so you see it leaning down a bit, but overall, it is not bad. This is important as it increases control of the axe during a swing.



The axe comes with a beautiful leather sheath, although it seems to be a bit too small for the head.

The axe needed some sharpening when it arrived. I sharpened it, but did not change the grind prior to testing.

When it came to chopping, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe was significantly outperformed by the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe.



In fact, it was also outperformed by the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, and axe with a lighter head ans shorter handle. This is clearly a result of the thicker bit.



Like I mentioned before, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe shines when it comes to splitting. The thick bit, combined with good head geometry, makes it an excellent splitter.

Performance characteristics aside however, I had some serious issues with this axe. It is one of the most poorly finished axes that I have ever seen. The head of the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe had a series of defects, which while not significantly impeding to the performance, show a very low (non existent) level of quality control.

To begin with, the eye is not aligned. It is aligned on the top section of the head, but on the bottom, it is closer to one wall than the other. This results in the head being at a slight angle to the handle. This is not an issue with the hanging process, but rather the head has been improperly made.



On top of that, the head looks as if though a tractor has passed over it. It is skewed in every possible direction. It more closely resembles a trapezoid than a rectangle.




Unfortunately, these are defects that can not be fixed with filing or grinding. They are also not something that a reasonable person can miss during the inspection process. Clearly, there is no quality control being utilized here. The axe is still technically usable, and it did not effect the testing in a significant way, but these are issues that should not exist with a $65 axe. I e-mailed Snow & Nealley, but I have not received a response from them.

The truth is that if you grind down the cutting edge and re-profile it, this axe can be an excellent tool. The lack of quality control however worries me a lot, and prevents me from recommending this manufacturer to any one else.

As far as I know, the manufacturer produces additional bushcraft appropriate axes: The Young Camper’s Belt Axe (1.25 lb head; 15 inches in length), The Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe (1.75 lb head; 18 inches in length), The “Our Best” 28" Axe (2.25lb head; 28 inches in length), The “Our Best” 30" Axe (3.5lb head; 30 inches in length) and The “Our Best” Double Bit Axe (3.25 lb head; 36 inches in length).
 

leon-1

Mod
Mod
I have seen the same defects in Snow & Nealley axes. I do still own one though and I much prefer using one of these to either a small forest or a Scandinavian forest axe. The axe mask is not an issue as I just make my own and the grind of the axe doesn't take long to sort out at all.
 

demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
4,194
205
-------------
So what your saying is that it outperforms its closest rival but doesn't look quite as square on the end you don't use for anything other than tapping wooden felling wedges in with?

Shucks.
 

luckylee

On a new Journey
Aug 24, 2010
2,412
0
birmingham
So what your saying is that it outperforms its closest rival but doesn't look quite as square on the end you don't use for anything other than tapping wooden felling wedges in with?

Shucks.
When i read the post, i didn't get that he said that it out performs, its closest rival, quite the opposite, he said that, and i quote, " The truth is that if you grind down the cutting edge and re-profile it, this axe can be an excellent tool. The lack of quality control however worries me a lot, and prevents me from recommending this manufacturer to any one else. "
i think that he done a fair review of this axe, like he has done on some others, i don't think that he is biased in any way, and all i think he is doing is trying to show people what these axe's are about so that you don't have to buy them, and then be disappointed.
love the review mate, and keep up the good work.
lee.
 

rg598

Native
Yeah, I'm not sure where you are getting all that. Doesn't look like you actually read my review. As you can see from the comparisons, it is outperformed by both the Small Forest Axe and the Scandinavian Forest Axe. I quote:

"When it came to chopping, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe was significantly outperformed by the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe."
"In fact, it was also outperformed by the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, and axe with a lighter head ans shorter handle. This is clearly a result of the thicker bit."


Maybe I'm missing your point. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that you didn;t actually read my post.
 

demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
4,194
205
-------------
Yeah, I'm not sure where you are getting all that. Doesn't look like you actually read my review. As you can see from the comparisons, it is outperformed by both the Small Forest Axe and the Scandinavian Forest Axe. I quote:

"When it came to chopping, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe was significantly outperformed by the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe."
"In fact, it was also outperformed by the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, and axe with a lighter head ans shorter handle. This is clearly a result of the thicker bit."


Maybe I'm missing your point. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that you didn;t actually read my post.
My fault. I just got it the wrong way round so I can see your point.
 

canoe

New Member
Jan 14, 2011
6
0
camden, NY, USA
A few comments from another New Yorker. Excellent review. I have seen some excellent Snow and Nealey axes and some not so good ones. In all fairness the price in todays money is excellent and I expect most of the axe production goes to the home owner or car camper. The not so good ones will probably work fine. The S & N axe is geared more for splitting than felling and the grind is OK for that. With a little time the grind can be changed to perform as good as the GB. Although not mentioned I do not care for the finish they use on the Hickory. I much perfer the GB oil finish. This is also a quick fix. All in all with a little time you can have an axe as good as the GB. I guess being on this side of the pond helps in that I can look for the right axe before I buy. As an aside, I was just notified today that my Lee Reeves Nessmuck is on the way. I went with the Hickory handle as it was probably what the original had. Now to find a good Nessmuck knife.
 

palace

Forager
Mar 4, 2011
225
0
NW London England
I have had for about 18 months a modified Snow & Neally Hudson Bay Camp axe by Brian Andrews of Off the Map Outfitters AKA The Backyard Bushman. Unfortunately I understand that he has ceased modifying Snow & Neally axes as their quality control has deteriorated to unacceptable...

I attach a link that shows how the Pembscot Bay is modified the Hudson Bay has the same head but longer handle

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/s...oto-Essay?highlight=high performance hand axe

This is a brilliant axe I even found a friend using it in preference to his GB small forest.
 
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Xunil

Settler
Jan 21, 2006
671
3
52
North East UK
www.bladesmith.co.uk
INteresting review.

I looked at the S&N axes a couple of months ago in Canada and put one very firmly on my wish list for the next time I am over there. This was largely based on my uncle's, which I re-edged for him when he bought it. The result of an hour or so with hand tools or a few minutes with a belt grinder were a very, very serious working axe.

I still intend getting one when I'm next over in Canada, but I will select it from stock myself which makes all the difference in the world.

On balance, GB and other manufacturers are not without QA issues at times. Maybe this was a particularly bad example, maybe not.

Based on my uncle's S&N, I'll be snagging one for sure.