"HOUSE AXE" REVIEW
The first time any axe thrower stepped into an axe throwing venue the chances are pretty good they threw a rough little hatchet that probably had a taped-up handle, chipped up edge and was certainly not the prettiest girl at the dance. But we must give credit where credit is due. The lowly “House Axe” is not going to turn any heads but they are built to take a beating from the casual thrower that is spiking it into the floor, over rotating and hitting the top or just throwing way too hard. Some of the most common “House Axes” the Estwing Campers Axe, Harbor Freight fiberglass handle hatchet and the Valley Axe Throwers Special all have their pros and cons that should be discussed.
First up is probably the most common and most infamous House Axe, the Estwing Campers Axe. A while back most everyone with access to the internet saw the video of the young lady throwing this axe and almost immediately having to duck out of the way as is came bouncing back at her face. We’re not going to overanalyze the video or the throw as that has been done plenty at this point. We will certainly point out the obvious safety concerns this axe brings to the table. An axe bouncing back at a customer is never a good thing to have happen. With an all-steel construction the potential energy stored in the steel can be an issue, and the rubber handle and rubber mats only add to the bounce back potential.
The key selling point of the Estwing Campers Axe is the all-steel construction creates a very durable hatchet. At the retail price of roughly $40, the upfront cost is a bit more for a venue owner, but they will ultimately save time and eventually money not having to replace the hatchet very often.
As far as throwing, the Estwing Campers Axe does have a thin profile and large bit that ensures easy penetration into the target with good point coverage. At a three-pound overall weight, it does weigh a lot for something that is meant to be thrown repeatedly over the course of a one-hour session. So, it may not be the best option for every thrower, but for most it will be just fine.
The second common House Axe used in venues is the Pittsburg brand fiberglass hatchet sold at Harbor Freight retailers. Much like the Estwing Campers Axe, the fiberglass handle holds a lot of potential energy and has a higher risk of bouncing back at the customer if thrown incorrectly. Comparatively, the fiberglass handle of these hatchets is even more dangerous than the solid steel hatchets, as they seem to bounce back even faster and further than the all-steel construction of the Estwing. If a customer throws too hard and it hits in the wrong way it could come back fast enough that the customer does not have time to react and cause an injury.
The Pittsburg has the advantage of being really cheap at just $8 each, so they are not going to break the budget of the venue. The fiberglass handle also can take quite a beating of over rotations, spikes and 90+MPH throws before it will break and need to be replaced. As far as throwing, it is a relativity light hatchet at just 1.25LB head and does feel good in the hand. The profile of the blade is a bit on the thick side and is definitely the thickest of the house axes we tested. Even with the thick profile it somehow sticks into target boards relatively easy however.
Another common “House Axe” and the only one on the list with a wooden handle is the Valley Axe Throwing Special. The Valley is very comparable to the Ozark Trail hatchet sold at Walmart retailers. Unlike the Estwing and the Pittsburg hatchets, the wooden handle of the Valley does not have as much potential to bounce back at the customer when thrown incorrectly. Although if it is thrown and over rotated if can still come back toward the customer, but it will certainly not be as fast and only very seldomly does it pass the 12-foot safety line of the lane.
The big drawback with the Valley hatchet is the fact that it is a wooden handle. Wood is not nearly as durable as steel or fiberglass and will eventually crack and break. Once this happens the steel of the head typically has plenty of life left in it. With some basic tools and a bit of practice, replacing the broken handle for a new one is relatively quick and easy process. At $26 retail costs with bulk discounts available, unlike the Ozark Trail that can only be bought 2 or 3 at a time, the Valley is a safe mid-price option for a “House Axe”. Typically, Valley also has replacement handles readily available as a convenience to the venue owner.
The Valley features a 1-½ LB head so it is not too light and not too heavy for most throwers. This is a hatchet that is produced overseas so the Quality Control does vary, but most of the Valley hatchets have a thin profile that can be re-sharpened many times in its life span. The wooden handle also creates a very nice feel to the thrower, as the handle is not too small nor too large for most throwers.
At the end of the day, the venue must make a decision and weigh the monetary cost versus the safety benefits when choosing their “House Axe”. Good coaching at the venue goes a long way to avoiding customer injury and prolonging the life of the “House Axe” but things can still happen. In our opinion we choose safety and the deal with replacing handles on a regular basis.
If you are looking to purchase a Valley Axe Throwers Special Visit the Axe Shoppe