Thursday, February 9, 2012

Woodmans Pal Military Review

Woodmans Pal 284 Military Premium Review

Yes, I am here to review that sickle machete axe brush hook thingamabob we have all seen in the back of every trade and outdoor magazine in existence in the last 40+ years.  Many... many years ago growing up, I was generally tasked with all manner of acreage maintenance.  “Pa Pandemic” had invested in an old yard sale machete at some point which proved completely indispensable on our aceage, however I had seen and wanted one of the Woodman's Pals. My thought was that it would greatly reduce the pain and effort of weekends of property maintenance and potentially condense that time so I could do more productive teen related activities.  Finally as a young teen I saved up enough of my hard earned cash to buy the basic Woodmand’s Pal without even a sheath. Yeah I was a strange redneck of a kid, but dad thought tools were always a good investment.  So it was at that point my experience first started with Woodman’s Pal Classic long, long ago.

The Woodman’s Pal made a lot of bold claims and for that matter still does such as "One of the finest outdoor tools available... You will wonder what you did without it." The funny thing though as a 13 year old, often gullible to marketing hype, was that the Woodman Pal was freaking awesome performing better than advertised. It became my near constant back field companion. Fast forward years as I left for college and my faithful companion was either lost or stolen on a camping trip.
Somewhere in current day American, the property of chateau Pandemic needed a little clean up from invading plant life and of course I took the opportunity to pick up a replacement of my once valued Woodman’s Pal.  This time around I went with the Woodman’s Pal Model 284 Military Premium model with the Leather sheath and companion sharpening stone.

The Woodman’s Pal is first and foremost designed as a durable high quality tool with fit and finish exceeding the expectations of a tool focused on such a task. The Classic model features a hardwood handle, and my new Military Premium version is handled with very comfortable grippy stacked leather washers which provides improved all temperature comfort.  Although the Classic handle design was very comfortable, I prefer the comfort and ergonomics  of the Military model’s handle.  The finish is a highly durable resin bonded fluorocarbon coating which, from my experience, is highly durable and prevents corrosion on the non-ground services.
The Woodman’s Pal “feels” like an extension of your arm.  The reason for this great feel and balance is the original design testing which revealed a tool extending from the hand about the length of a forearm feels the most comfortable and natural. Another design goal was to assure the line of balance ran from the handle to the sickle edge which provides more momentum and accurate control of the blade during the cutting stroke. These design details allow the Woodman’s Pal to deliver a more powerful ut less fatiguing swing and handier shorter size.
For a working tool, the sheath is very high quality and should last easily many lifetimes of hard use. As you can see in the photo, the workmanship is excellent and the sheath safely and securely retains the Woodman's Pal with a blade snap and handle snaps.
As noted, the Classic and Military models handles vary plus the military model also includes a steel handguard and extended wrist guard which, from previous experience, is an appreciated feature. The ⅛” thick SAE1075 cold rolled spring steel blade edge is not flat ground, but actually a slight concave axe head profile with convex ground edge.  This double profile and 47 Rockwell hardened blade maximizes both durability and cutting power even in sub-zero temperatures without chipping. Weight of the blade design was pushed forward to enhance cutting abilities further. The end result of all that blade, edge and design tweaking is a tool that will cut up to 1-1/2” diameter softwoods in one good whack and will out-cut all but the largest machetes.

There is an often forgotten notch about half on the non-cutting edge added in 1941 as a hand stop for a support hand when the Woodman’s Pal was used as a backup shovel for digging. If you are gardening or wanting to clear a fire ring area, this is a convenient feature and function. One of the more handy features is the sharp sickle hock which allows you to grab and drag vines, undergrowth, or briers and if needed quickly cut them at the ground level.  I found this feature also convenient for harvesting vegetables at the ground level in the garden.  Many people wonder why the end of the Woodman’s Pal is blunt, as logically it would seem the edge should extend to the end of the blade.  Again from experience I can tell you that blunted edge saved me more toes than I can remember and reducing deflective injuries was the reason for providing a blunted edge. If we switch over from great all around tool to a survival situation, your primary goal is remaining healthy and safe.  A serious injury in the back woods or survival situation from a glancing or deflection cut, could cost you your life and I think this is an important and practical feature which sets the Woodman’s Pal apart. 
You have quite a few choices with the Woodman’s Pal models.  All the models are available with your choice of green canvas, nylon or leather (natural or treated) sheaths with or without an accessory stone and the price varies with each option.  I sprung for the treated leather sheath with the stone for a simple and durable kit.  Because of the design you will not be speed drawing from these sheaths. The sheaths are designed as convenient carry methods and tool protectors, but still provide reasonably quick access to the tool when needed.
The size, weight, design, and great cutting edge all provide the functions you would expect, however it is that curved sickle edge that really makes the Woodman’s Pal significantly faster and more comfortably efficient than a machete or camp axe.  Being able to grab, cut, and pull cuttings and branches as you work with the sickle prevents you from having to bend your butt over and handle the debris by hand every ten seconds.  
Pictured - test chops on a 3.5"-4"
cottonwood tree that was encroaching
into my yard.
The edge holding is excellent and, both from previous and current experience, only needs a touch up after a very long heavy day of use and abuse.  Testing the military version included both light and heavy swings at soft and hard woods around the home and in cleaning up invading plants, thorny briers, and trees from adjacent lots.  There were no surprises with the abilities and performance of the tool.  It works as I remember and as advertised.
The sickle hook can also be
used to shave and strip bark.

As a 100% made in America, tool the Woodman’s Pal is one of those tools I think everyone should have for yard work, tree trimming, gardening, camping, and survival if needed.  The tool is definitely not designed as a defensive tool, however if pressed into that situation, it would certainly do the job both defensively and as a deterant. It is one of those all purpose tools which I again have found indispensably efficient and one that does reduce cutting chore time-lines so I can get back to something more entertaining.


  • 16 ½” overall length
  • 5” Military style soft leather grip with steel knuckle guard
  • 1/8” thick x 10 1/2“ high carbon SAE1075 cold rolled spring steel
  • Blade Hardened to Rockwell C47
  • Weight: 25 oz
  • MSRP Military Premium Model $99.95
  • MSRP Classic to Military Price Range $67.95-$99.95
  • 100% Made in the USA

Woodman’s Pal

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