Roselli Axes | Review by Padraig Croke
Roselli is a Finnish company that has been producing quality axes and knives for the past 40 years. The company was born, like many of the best knife companies, through a need to create something that was otherwise not available. Heimo Roselli grew up in rural Finland and started creating his own tools, perfecting his blacksmith skills and finding a balance between hardness and flexibility in his steel. He needed tools suitable for fishing, hunting and carpentry around the farm. On their website, they give a little insight into this process, but do not give too much away, in typical Finnish style; keeping their cards close to their chest.
"Heimo Roselli’s years of refining forging techniques ...which to this day is a secret kept between Heimo and his men at the Roselli workshop in Harmoinen. The Roselli steel has been independently tested many times, and is internationally recognized as the hardest steel in any modern knife - with the UHC (Ultra High Carbon) models measuring about 66 HRC."
Fast-forward to today, Roselli has established itself as a company renowned for their beautiful tools, with their puukkos and axes crafted in a traditional Finnish style. I have not had the pleasure of owning a Roselli knife (yet!) but I did have the opportunity to get to grips with their short handled axe. The first thing that struck me about Roselli’s axe range is their lack of model types. To some this could be frustrating, however, I believe this lends credence to their philosophy of creating simple tools that provide the user with a multifunctional and versatile tool. So let’s dive into the details.
The Axe Head
This carbon steel axe has a HRC of about 60 and measures 350mm all in. The head itself is very thick! One of the chunkiest I have used in an axe of this size, with about 90% of the steel being found in front of the eye rather than on the butt end. The back of the head is built with a small swell for hammering duties. The thickness and the angle of the cheeks has a double use in that it prevents the axe from getting stuck and lends to a very wide wedge for splitting. It also carries a lot of weight needed to deliver effective splitting action. This is very important, especially considering how short the handle of this axe is. I found this an interesting style that I had not used before and I found the weight to be very evenly distributed. Initially, when I saw how little material existed at the butt end, I was a little sceptical. However, this shape really works!
The profile of the axe head is also unusual with the depth of the beard. This deep beard will allow the user to really choke up, allowing you to control where the cutting edge is doing the work. The bits profile is simple and balanced, however I would prefer to have a little more blade towards the top to really allow for precision cutting. Regarding the width of the wedge, particularly when it comes to finer work, the types of carving axes I have used in the past have had much narrower wedges, and I do think the thickness here is a little bit of a hindrance for spoon carving and the likes. It wants to split! But perhaps with more time and comfortability with this axe it would make an okay carver. I do think the handle lets it down a bit when it comes to carving also… but I will address that shortly.
The handle is made from birch and provides a simple and natural grip for the hand to find towards the lower end. Personally I would prefer a very slightly longer handle, particularly when splitting slightly larger logs. Normally I would place the back of the axe handle on the log and find somewhere in between to hold it for a downwards swing. A little more length in the handle makes this task easier. However, as stated above, the weight of the head and wide wedge mean that there is not too much force needed for the axe to do its job. It’s worth noting here that Roselli does in fact have a longer handled axe than this one. So if you are looking for something to do more heavy duty tasks, then I would recommend that model.
Going into more detail regarding carving, one of the main tasks I was interested in putting this axe to was carving a spoon. I was expecting, with its compact size and heavy head, that it would do a fine job of this. I have had the pleasure of using many fine carving axes over the years, and I will admit that the Roselli is not particularly well-tuned to carving. The handle is simply too thick. I am taking a guess here in assuming that this thickness is due to the fact that the wood used is birch. Normally axe handles are made from either hickory or ash, both renowned for their flexibility and strength, as well as their ability to absorb blows. This is one of the reasons why baseball bats are made from hickory (ash before that). Birch is not so good for this. It’s not a big issue with smaller axes like this one, but as your handle gets longer and the head becomes heavier, the need for a strong flexible wood becomes more important.
The result of the thicker handle makes the hand cramp with prolonged use. Towards the bottom of the handle it narrows slightly, which works very comfortably when you are looking for power. However, further up is where you will normally find a carver holding their axe, and the Roselli swells here, resulting in a painful experience. I found my hand cramping up after a few minutes of carving. Saying that, moving even further up, behind the head it becomes comfortable again, and it’s well-suited to finer work. It’s just that swell in the middle that is unfortunate. I managed to produce a decently roughed out spoon ready for the knife in just a few minutes, but I would not like to use it for prolonged use in this manner. Splitting it will do well… carving maybe not so much.
The sheath for this axe is absolutely top quality! Made from vegetable tanned Finnish leather, it's one of the nicest sheaths for an axe on the market in my opinion. It fits really snugly and the buckle keeps the head tight and secure. On the sheath there is a loop which enables carrying it on your belt or attaching it to your pack with your compression straps a piece of cake. No need to carry an axe loop on your belt! You could also loop a carabiner through it for quick releasing from your belt or pack.
The advantage of its small size makes this axe a very compact tool. It will fit down the side of your backpack perfectly and you’ll barely realise it’s in there. In the past I have carried my Gransfors or Hultafors and sometimes the size and weight of these axes will make you second guess your decision. With the Roselli, having such a versatile and useful tool around camp take up such little space is a huge bonus.
This axe is clearly the product of years of real life on the land. There is nothing added that does not need to be there, but the features it does have are there for a reason. As the Finnish saying goes; “Ei kannata ostaar ruutia ja ammutav variksia”. I would recommend this axe for anyone looking for a top quality tool that will serve as a workhorse for general camp tasks. A beautiful tool that will only look better with age!
- Beautifully crafted and very well built, the materials used are clearly of excellent quality.
- The steel sharpens easily despite its hardness and holds a beautiful edge. The wide wedge and well-balanced weight make this axe a perfect camp tool for splitting and wood processing.
- The leather sheath is very well built and when on the belt keeps the axe snug and secure next to the body.
- The deep beard allows for good control behind the cutting edge.
- Requires a little more finesse in the blade geometry to truly work as a carving and crafting axe. The thickness of the wedge that makes it such a good splitting axe becomes a hindrance when trying to work smaller jobs.
- The shape of the handle and the swell in thickness towards the higher end makes it uncomfortable for prolonged use, particularly when carving.
Padraig Croke is an avid bushcraft and outdoor enthusiast, spoon carver and hiker. He is the co-host of The Trial by Fire Podcast, a bi-weekly podcast dedicated to all things bushcraft and outdoors. He is also an admin at the Living to Learn online community and lead designer of The Bushcraft Journal Magazine.
In the Trial by Fire Podcast, Padraig Croke and Joe Price discuss all things buscraft and outdoor. You can find all episodes on TrialByFire, and all of them are available by searching for 'The Trial by Fire Podcast' on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher. And do follow @thetrialbyfirepodcast on Instagram.
Thanks Padraig for this awesome review!