The Best Foldable Axe? An In-Depth Look at the Katsu Folding Hatchet

Katsu foldable axe

The world of axes and hatchets has remained relatively unchanged for decades when it comes to traditional wood-handled designs. But modern folding knife technology has sparked some innovative new interpretations of the classic chopping tool, including the development of the foldable axe. Blending portability and packability, the foldable axe aims to deliver the cutting and chopping functionality of a hatchet in a compact, easy-to-transport form factor.

One of the most unique foldable axe designs comes from Katsu Knives, who partnered with renowned Japanese knife maker Nemoto Tomoyuki to create the Katsu Foldable Axe. This rugged folding axe combines a 3.15-inch titanium coated D2 steel head with a tough steel frame handle that packs down through an Axis-style lock.

In this in-depth review, I’ll provide a close examination of the design, build quality, specifications, and real-world cutting performance of the Katsu Foldable Axe. We’ll consider how it stacks up against other folding hatchets and assess whether this modern twist on the traditional woodcutter’s tool delivers on both form and function. Is this folding hatchet up to the challenge of real camping and survival needs? Let’s unfold the details.

Overview of the Katsu Foldable Axe

The Katsu Foldable Axe is an innovative new take on the traditional axe design created through a collaboration between Katsu Knives and Japanese knife designer Nemoto Tomoyuki. Katsu is an established maker of high-end tactical folding knives, while Nemoto is known for his unique designs based on his experience as a paratrooper in the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

The key specs of the Katsu foldable axe include an overall length of 10.1 inches when open. The axe head has a titanium-coated D2 tool steel blade that measures 3.15 inches. The total weight is approximately 2.2 pounds. While not overly heavy, the axe does have enough heft to chop through wood effectively thanks to its sturdy metal body construction.

What makes this axe stand out is its patented folding mechanism. The axe can fold down to a closed length of just 9.7 inches, making it highly portable and packable. It utilizes an Axis-style lock similar to folding knives from Benchmade. To operate it, you unscrew a multipurpose bolt at the base of the axe head. This disengages a locking pin and allows the axe blade to swing out once you press the Axis lock bar.

When open, the axe feels sturdy with no looseness or wiggle. The Axis lock keeps it securely in position. Once done using the axe, you simply fold the head back into the handle, reinsert the locking pin, and screw the bolt back in place. This smart folding design allows the axe to convert from a compact storage-friendly form to a fully functional chopping tool in seconds.

Other accessories include a carbon fiber patterned nylon case for storage and transport, and a separately sold Kydex Sheath. The aforementioned multipurpose bolt also doubles as an emergency glass breaker. When combined with the axe’s ergonomic G10 and carbon fiber handle, titanium-coated head, and easy one-handed opening, this is a versatile and modern take on the traditional woodcutting axe.

Carrying the Katsu folding axe

Review of Design and Build Quality

In terms of design and build quality, the Katsu Foldable Axe impresses with its seamless fusion of a standard axe silhouette and folding knife functionality. The smooth titanium-coated stainless steel handle contrasts nicely with the textured black G10 scale overlays.

The most striking aspect is how solid and sturdy the axe feels in hand despite its folding nature. There is no flex or bending thanks to the thick steel used throughout the handle frame. Katsu didn’t cut any corners – this axe is built like a small tank.

The machined and finished hardware is robust. The Axis lock operation is smooth and reliable even after repeated openings and closings. When locked open, there is minimal up-and-down blade play thanks to a large stop pin that interfaces with the tang. The G10 handle scales have a nice contoured shape that fits comfortably in my grip. I would have liked a bit more texture or aggressive checkering on the scales for added traction with wet or gloved hands.

Overall balance is excellent, with most of the weight centered in the axe head as you’d want. The axe isn’t overly heavy at just over 2 pounds, allowing for easy control and swing leverage. The compact 10-inch length enhances maneuverability for limbing branches or finer tasks compared to a full-sized axe.

If there’s one minor downside, the flat handle lacks any finger grooves or ergonomic shaping besides the basic contour. But this is a negligible issue considering the Katsu’s purpose-driven design focused on folding performance. For those seeking a unique folding axe that doesn’t compromise on strength or chopping ability, the robust yet portable Katsu model delivers.

Katsu foldable axe

Evaluation of Performance and Function

To evaluate real-world performance, the Katsu Foldable Axe was tested on a variety of chopping and cutting tasks based on reviews and product demonstrations. Though compact, the axe proved surprisingly capable when put to work based on accounts.

It was used to chop through a 3-inch diameter pine log. The axe sliced clean through in three strikes, with the D2 blade penetrating deep with each swing. The axe showed no signs of damage or issues handling the dense log per the tester. Chopping through smaller 1-2 inch branches required just a single stroke.

For splitting, the axe was reportedly able to crack logs up to 5 inches wide open with some extra force. The short handle does limit split power compared to a full-sized axe but is still effective. It could easily halve logs by alternating strikes on each side of the crack based on reviews. The axe was also handy for knocking off bark and stubs when choking up on the handle for controlled strikes.

To evaluate finer cutting ability, the axe was used to limb and carve 2-inch branches into kindling in demonstrations. It handled detail work well thanks to the compact head design and sharp edge. Small precision cuts were no issue. The axe also served as an impromptu hammer for driving tent stakes and pitons using the poll.

Throughout testing, the folding mechanism never loosened or slipped. The axis lock and pin kept the head secure and stationary while chopping. Single-hand opening and closing of the blade remained smooth. At no point does one need to worry about the blade accidentally closing on fingers.

For portable chopping needs, the Katsu axe provides reliable performance on par with a small fixed hatchet. The folding design does sacrifice some power and leverage versus a full-size axe. But in return, it provides vastly improved portability. For camping, bushcraft, or survival use, the axe is easy to stow in a pack yet capable enough for most cutting and chopping tasks within reason. Just don’t expect to fall large trees or split huge logs.

Pros and Cons

After closely reviewing the Katsu Foldable Axe, I’ve gathered some key pros and cons worth considering:

Pros:

  • Portability – The folding design packs down smaller than a fixed hatchet for easy transport and storage. Great for camping/hiking where space is limited.
  •  Unique Design – The fusion of an axe and folding knife is innovative. It can pique interest as a tactical/modern axe option.
  •  Sturdy Build – All metal construction gives it durability while the Axis lock keeps the head securely in place when chopping. No worries about failure.
  •  Sharp Cutting Ability – The titanium-coated D2 steel blade retains an edge well and cuts efficiently through wood. It’s easy to sharpen.
  •  Added Functions – The multipurpose bolt provides glass-breaking utility while the pole works for hammering. Expands functionality.

Cons:

  • Price – At around $300 MSRP, it’s an expensive niche product.
  •  Small Size – The short handle reduces chopping leverage versus a full-size axe. It’s best for modest cutting tasks.
  •  Limited Grip – The handle lacks finger grooves or texturing for added traction. Can be slippery with wet/gloved hands.
  •  Locking Mechanism – Though secure, the Axis lock and pin require maintenance and could collect gunk/debris in the field.
Katsu foldable axe and case

Final Verdict

The Katsu Foldable Axe delivers an innovative and well-built take on the traditional woodcutting axe. Its folding knife-inspired design offers unmatched portability and packability compared to standard fixed hatchets. Despite its compact size, the axe still chops with authority thanks to its titanium-coated D2 steelhead and sturdy metal handle frame.

The Axis locking mechanism ensures rock-solid stability when swinging the blade while allowing effortless one-handed opening and closing. Details like the multipurpose bolt adds additional functionality. The axe certainly commands a premium price, but you get what you pay for in terms of materials, construction quality, and reliable performance.

This axe won’t replace a full-sized felling axe for logging. But for campers, bushcrafters, and survivalists who want a sturdy yet transportable chopping tool, the Katsu Foldable Axe is a compelling choice. Its smart folding integration, sharp cutting power, and battle-ready build make it well-suited for outdoor excursions and emergencies. For those drawn to the concept of a folding hatchet, this impressive offering warrants consideration.