Tops Knives’ Full Tang Hatchet Backs up a Beautiful Design with Hard-Hitting Power
There are hatchets and then there is the Ucon Hawk Hatchet. This superbly constructed chopping tool designed by Leo Espinoza at Tops Knives is a masterpiece of both functionality and a display piece of absolute beauty.
Sporting a full tang and a unique handle that provides a sturdy grip for both powerful chops as well as more precision cuts and shaving, the Hawk is an all-around valuable piece of outdoor gear.
“Sporting a full tang and a unique handle … the Hawk is an all-around valuable piece of outdoor gear. ”
But looks are one thing and positive results in the field are another. So, how would this new addition into the world of handheld choppers stand up to the rigors of hardcore use in the backwoods? The answers follow as I took this tool on the road and into Mother Nature’s backyard to see for myself if the Hawk spreads its wings and flies or falls flat onto the hard, cold earth!
My sample came secured in bubble wrap and sealed within a thick poly bag. Right out of the box I knew this was no off-the-shelf blister-carded tool. The weight itself was impressive. Not overly heavy to offer a struggle to handle or light enough to indicate an inferior quality item, it was just right.
This lone preliminary indication was nearly enough to convince me that this hatchet meant business and should have no issues performing the tasks it was meant to do.
But that was not all. As I opened the opaque bag, the most prominent feature jumped out at me—its handle. The uniquely shaped handle, when lifted, actually felt like two distinct handles within one.
The lower portion was thicker than the upper portion and provided a somewhat rounded grip. I simulated a chopping motion and the balance, weight, and power all felt right.
As I gripped farther upward on the shaft, the chopping feel was replaced with a more controlled security of the tool. Its nearly 5-inch blade felt like an extension of my own hand, and I could foresee some finer cuts and shavings in my testing future.
“…the handle itself is a thing of beauty.”
It must be said that the handle itself is a thing of beauty. The layering and beveling is top notch, as is the use of color, weight distribution, and gripping girth and stability.
The handles, as indicated by Tops Knives, are made from a new material that mixes layers of G10 and rubber to provide a maximum grip. Two drilled holes are present at the bottom of the handle for the addition of a paracord loop to wrap around your wrist or to hang the tool when not in use.
The Blade of the Hawk
Finally, the ax blade itself, from the sharpened, clean edge to the simple ridged butt to the tang shaft, all exhibited a solid heaviness that appears, at least by just viewing alone, to be no problem for whatever stands in its way. Will that be true? That answer will be found in the results of my tests.
The blade of the Hawk was delivered to me with a two-piece leather sheath. One section safely covered the blade in its entirety, while the other was an easy-to-use belt loop dangler. The black leather was both rich and thick, indicating this sheath combo would last for years.
The snap closure was solid. It didn’t slip once and locked the sheath firmly in place over the blade. I put pressure against the snap to test its staying power and was impressed that it took a significant amount of force to pop the snap and open the sheath. That is security I really like. Double reinforced stitching was present and further strengthened the already durable leather duo.
A Chopping Good Time
A hatchet’s primary use, no surprise to many, is to chop wood. If it can’t do this efficiently and effectively, then its value as a tool to keep in your pack or gear kit is basically non-existent.
I started with a few saplings, probably averaging 3 to 5 inches in diameter. While a person is meant to use an ax while standing, a hatchet is best used in a squatting or semi-kneeling position when chopping down immature trees.
Often, if a person is standing and swinging a hatchet downward, their body is leaning over and susceptible to injury due to the hatchet ricocheting off the curved trunk and hitting the chopper’s lower leg or foot.
Squatting on one knee, with your free hand gripping the tree well above the cutting area, is one of the better ways to take down the sapling safely. With my hand gripping the lower portion of the Hawk’s handle I swung deep into the tender tree.
The hatchet penetrated at least three-quarters of the way into the tree, and with one strike to the opposite side, it was felled. Barely any resistance was felt with the two strikes. Other saplings with lesser diameters than the first fell with one solid strike. Did it do the job to secure shelter structure material? Without a doubt.
“…this was no off-the-shelf blister-carded tool.”
Splitting dried pieces of wood for kindling was also a task the Hawk needed to perform. Essentially, a hatchet of any kind had to be able to process wood for all the stages of fire-building: chopping larger pieces down to a workable size, reducing the pieces to usable kindling size, and finally shaving some of the wood into a nest of tinder.
The blade of the Tops Knives Hawk dug deep into the end of the mini log. With just one or two downward strikes of the hatchet with the attached log, the piece of wood split easily in two. The two then became four, and my pile began to build.
Aside from chopping down saplings and splitting small logs for a fire, there are other uses for a hatchet that needed to be implemented with the Ucon Hawk. I had some shelter stakes from an emergency survival shelter kit and decided to try them out in my own building shelter scenario.
The stakes were smaller compared to those in a traditional tent set, but that shouldn’t stop the hatchet from becoming a hammer when shelter must go up. The Ucon did get the job done but with some effort, only because of the relatively small back end of the tool, and when combined with small stakes, some striking misses did occur.
Precision On The Piece Of Timber
If this tool had one negative, albeit a minor one, it would be the design of the hammer end. It is quite small in striking area. The ridged design does help to grip once the end finds its mark, but it does take a bit of concentration and precision to get firm strikes consistently.
However, when compared to the versatility of this tool as a whole, the point is a minor one and I do understand the entire design would be less streamlined and less balanced if a larger hammer were initially designed and constructed.
Shaved tinder is a necessity that most outdoorsman, survivalists, and campers need. Without dry tinder, fires can’t be started, resulting in cold nights, uncooked food, and visits from nature’s curious creatures and critters.
With the aforementioned handle design in which choking up on the handle would provide a firm and precise cut, I took a 5-inch branch and proceeded to shave a pile of tinder. The Tops Knives Hawk with its innovatively designed handle offered controlled precision on the piece of timber.
Within no time a pile of shaved wood was ready to accept a spark. Not unlike a cleaver delicately slicing mushroom into useful bits, the Ucon Hawk emulated the motion, movement, and control of its culinary cousin.
Fit for Your Pack
Although this tool would easily be displayed on a mantle or a shelf in the owner’s man cave and, no doubt, attract a lot of attention, it definitely needs to be added to your gear bag for use during your travels throughout the outdoors.
It looks great, but looks only go so far, and in the case of the Ucon Hawk, its functionality takes over when it’s time to get down to business. As mentioned, the only shortcomings I could observe during my time with the hatchet was, first, the limited surface area of the backend hammer; and second, and of course far less of a problem, the shame I had from dirtying up such a finely crafted piece of outdoor gear.
Its exquisite design was only outshined by its ability to do the job it was intended to do: hack through materials without yielding and without depreciating its quality with every powerful strike.
The TOPS Ucon Hawk’s Impressive Profile
Overall Length: 15.0”
Blade Length: 4.87”
Cutting Edge: 4.87”
Thickness of Blade: 0.25”
Steel in Blade: 1095 RC 56-58
Blade Finish: Tumble finish
Handle Material: Black Canvas Micarta – Black/Orange SureTouch G10
Knife Weight: 31.1 oz
Weight w/ Sheath: 35.6 oz
Sheath Material: Black leather
Sheath Clip: Belt loop
Designer: Leo Espinoza
P.O. Box 86
Ucon, ID 83454 USA