Seven decades is a long time. When it refers to a company's existence, it is very uncommon. When it refers to the continuous production of a single invention, it is almost unparalleled. In 1941, Frederick Ehrsam wasn't thinking seventy years down the road. He was simply trying to design a tool that would replace the unbalanced, bulky and often unsafe machete used by professionals in the forestry, agricultural and horticulture fields to clear brush and cut trails, and his innovative Woodman's Pal did just that. It even caught the eye of the military and was issued to soldiers from World War II all the way up to Desert Storm.
The Woodman's Pal is a tool designed to be more versatile and safer than a machete.
Today, the Woodman's Pal remains virtually unchanged since its inception and is used by foresters, hikers, hunters and just about anybody that has a need for a portable tool to clear unwanted vegetation. Although machining, such as blanking the steel on a 150-ton press, is a necessary part of the process, each Woodman's Pal is individually hand-crafted during the 23 stages of production. Employees of Pro Tool Industries, the family-owned and operated business just outside of Boyertown, PA that manufactures the Woodman's Pal, think of themselves more as artists than production workers and the company motto, "Do It Right", emphasizes their commitment to workmanship and quality.
The handle is shaped from a single piece of American hardwood and hand-lacquered.
The cold-rolled steel blade is hand-sharpened to a razor-sharp, double-convex edge.
The Woodman's Pal is available in several different lengths and handle configurations. The one that I received for review was the Model 481. Referred to as the "Classic" model, the 16 ½-inch (overall length), 23-ounce version is their most popular. The 10 ½-inch high carbon steel blade is 1/8 inch thick, hardened to Rockwell C47. A nylon wrist strap secures the tool if the user loses their grip on the 6-inch hardwood ash handle. When not in use, it can be kept safe but close at hand in the nylon sheath complete with belt loop.
There is no doubt, the Woodman's Pal is a handsome tool, but performance means more to me than looks. I tested it on a patch of "brush" that consisted of everything from vines to saplings. The nearly 1 ½ pound weight of the Woodman's Pal left little doubt that it was designed to withstand the rigors of removing brush, but the well-designed handle ensured a comfortable hold. I grabbed a small sapling, bent it slightly, positioned the hooked blade of the tool at the base, gave a quick pull and the blade sliced through with minimal effort.
I then turned the Woodman's Pal over and used the long blade and a short, swift swinging motion to clear a section of vines, briars and other grassy vegetation. It took a little while to figure out how much speed was needed and what angle worked best, but the Woodman's Pal did its job once I got past the learning curve. I then focused my attention on a larger target, a tree with about a 2-inch diameter. The first swing sliced almost halfway through the tree and two more swings finished it off.
All together, it took me about 10 minutes to level a 10 ft. by 10 ft. area of brush and saplings. Eliminating brush is never easy no matter what method you use, but the Woodman's Pal effectively did the job at hand and without a great deal of effort. Even after shredding through the woody vegetation and a few impacts with unseen rocks, the tool came out unscathed. The portability, durability and versatility of the Woodman's Pal make it a great tool for clearing a path to a tree stand, cutting limbs out of shooting lanes or constructing a natural ground blind without all the noise and game-scaring fumes of a gas-powered trimmer or chainsaw.
The unique hooked blade on the Woodman's Pal remained razor-sharp
even after ripping through woody vegetation.
The secret to the longevity of the Woodman's Pal is really no secret. It is proudly made in the U.S.A by the craftsmen at Pro Tool Industries who understand satisfied customers and repeat business come from providing quality products, made of the finest materials, with uncompromising attention to detail and backing them up with a 100% lifetime guarantee.
Further information on any of the Woodman's Pal models can be obtained by visiting www.protoolindustries.net . The Model 481 lists for $107.90 with the nylon sheath, which is a small price to pay for a tool that will last a lifetime.
Larry R. Beckett Jr. is a full time freelance writer, photographer and videographer. His greatest joy is spending time fishing, hunting and hiking with his wife and son. Larry discovered his enthusiasm for the outdoors at a young age and devotes much of his time trying to instill that same enthusiasm in future generations.