by Rob Kay
Literature (and really life) has scads of iconic couples and couplings. Just off of the top of my head I can think of love & marriage, soup & salad, Batman & Robin and for those of a certain generation, Lucy & Ethel.
The list goes on.
A lesser known duo that became obvious for me over the last few months was the Condor Woodworker Axe and Mechanix Gloves. These two entities were made for each other and I’ll tell you why.
Condor Woodworker Axe
I’ve been interested in reviewing an axe that could be used both for camping and home for quite a while. Over the years I’ve examined so called “camping” axes which were fine for light work around the campsite but were generally deficient for home use. They simply weren’t substantial enough.
The Condor Woodworker Axe looked like a good bet from the get-go because the handle was perhaps three or four inches longer than the typical “camper” models but not so big that it would be a hassle to lug around the wilderness.
There are a lot of manufacturers who make affordable, mid-tier products that you might get at places such as Home Depot or Sears but I was intrigued by the Condor’s history. Based in El Salvador, Condor Tool & Knife traces its roots back to 1787, when its parent company, the venerable GEBR WEYESBERG COMPANY was founded in Solingen, Germany. Known for quality swords, military knives, agricultural tools and household cutlery, they set up operations in Santa Ana, El Salvador in 1964.
The plant in El Salvador was managed by Germans and had the benefit of Stand der Technik der deutschen Industrie (state of the art) German manufacturing facilities. To ensure quality, local employees were sent to Solingen for training. In the 1980’s the operation was sold to local investors. Currently it is one of the world’s largest machete and shovel manufacturers where it churns out tools and knives for both local North American and European customers.
With an 18” hickory handle and an a 1.5 lb head, the Condor Woodworker is a sturdy product. I liked the handle’s grain orientation and the straight handle design, which worked well for me with both one and two hands.
The Condor Woodworker comes with a quality, snap style leather sheath.
Although the name suggests carpentry or carving the axe head is engineered for general use. It’s really suitable as an all purpose tool. Most of the tasks I put it through were chopping duties but it can handle splitting as well. At 1.5 lb, the head would seem to be a little large for the size of this tool but it felt ergonomically correct and controllable. The head is attached using a wooden wedge and a circular metal pin which worked just fine.
I used it mostly to clear land which included everything from chopping small stands halekoa to some incredibly dense “signature trees” 6-10” in diameter. I was very impressed and in all honesty I don’t think the average person would notice a difference between this product and a more expensive European import.
Prior to acquiring the axe I had read that some reviewers thought the diameter of the handle to be too large. I was concerned that it simply wouldn’t work for my medium sized hands. In truth it was a bit on the hefty side but not nearly as big as I had anticipated. I found it comfortable and ergonomically sound.
I wouldn’t put this brand in same league as the fine European lines but I certainly wouldn’t shortchange it either.
Given the price, quality and capability of this product to handle any light to middle weight chore at home or on a camping trip, at around $50 it offers excellent value.
Mechanix Wear gloves were first introduced at the 1991 Daytona 500 specifically for the protection of professional race teams. Nearly 25 years later, the company has come out with a plethora of products for any number of industries. I first ran into them at SHOT, where the focus is firearms and outdoors. When I knew that I was going to be reviewing a product for Condor it only made sense to acquire some gloves that would be appropriate for the axe review.
But what to get that would work wielding an axe, clearing land and possibly even shooting?
I started by visiting the Mechanix Wear website which has a dizzying display of products. I got a bit too dazzled by the multitude of gloves.
Fortunately they also have “hotline” for customer service, which is what I opted for after checking out the site. The woman on the other end of the line had two suggestions—the Original .05mm Covert ($27.95 MSRP) and the heavier duty Material4x Original ($29.95).
The Covert is technically a tactical glove with the emphasis on dexterity and protection. The 0.5mm palm and fingers feature a form-fitting finger design to reduce “bunching” and allows for control in the field or at the range. I was a little surprised that the tech support would recommend this glove for using an axe and clearing brush—possibly even cactus. It seemed a bit thin but I held my judgement.
The other glove recommended for this task, the Material4X, is one of their original products. It features a durable synthetic leather with better abrasion and tear resistance than standard synthetic gloves. Unlike leather it’s completely machine washable. Compared to the Covert model it’s sturdier, offering more protection from cactus spines and lava rock which I knew I was sure to encounter.
Putting the gloves to work
Handling an axe by definition means keeping precise control of a very sharp implement. One slip can have very unpleasant results. Ideally, the unencumbered hand is the best but without gloves you’re sure to get nicked—or worse.
I found both gloves offered a tactile grip because of a synthetic leather type material stitched into the palm. However, it was here is where the Covert really shined. In addition to the non-slip grip it provided excellent dexterity so that it was possibly to use the axe one handed with confidence.
Fit was perfect. (In my case medium). Both gloves feature adjustable Velcro wrist straps to take up any slack. The gloves were very soft and comfortable. The synthetic leather has all the protective qualities of “real” leather without being adversely effected by water.
In addition to hefting axe, I was able to handle all manner of plant and mineral substances on the mountainside include cactus and razor-sharp lava rock. The gloves did a great job of keeping hands safe from the elements.
After using both pair for over a month I’ve come to the conclusion that the Covert model is preferable if you’re exclusively using the axe. The dexterity it offers is fantastic. The Material4x Original will do a fine job if you’re occasionally swinging the axe but it’s more robust and if most of your time is going to be spent clearing land it will do a better job protecting you from sharp objects.
What I did while testing the axe was to put the Covert on my right hand (which I favor) and the Material4x on the left for grabbing whatever I’ve been whacking away at. It may be impractical to order to two different gloves for one job but it worked like a charm for me.
So far after a month’s testing—nearly every day these gloves have proven to be durable and tough. I love them.
Combined with the Condor axe, this is a formidable combo.
Mechanix Gloves are available at any of the O’Reilly Auto Parts outlets on at Walmart on Keeaumoku Street. You can also get them on Amazon where they are a few dollars less expensive.
Photos courtesy of Rob Kay
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