One of the Christmas gifts my sister bought her husband last year was an axe named Grace from a shop called The Best Made Company located in New York. Yep, an axe and yes it has a name but no, he’s not an axe murderer nor a lumberjack. They don’t even have an operational fireplace. However “…it does look cool and it will mean I’ll have one in case of a zombie apocalypse” or so the story goes…
Anyway, she also ordered a nice canvas carry case for it (which is good in my opinion, as it will probably spend most of its time in it), but in the wrong size. As I was making a trip to New York, I brought it along with me to exchange for the correct size and at the same time check out this unique-to-New-York store and headquarters.
Hearing stories and experiencing it first hand in Florida, (and yes, I will be making a gross generalisation here), American’s tend to not to pick up on sarcasm, so a shop which a name “The Best Made Co” isn’t exactly going to be a dollar store or Poundland, nor a “Best Buy” (i.e. not expecting it to be cheap), but one that sells quality goods with the highest performance.
My friend John will attest to this (if he remembers) but a while back, I had an idea for a website and shop to only sell the best of a particular item. Who cares about offering and clouding people’s minds with endless comparisons, choices, etc. Sure, maybe provide options in terms of price points, but offer only the gold standard and not 50 other inferior products. However as one of my 3 second thoughts, it was filed away with my other ideas… So you can imagine what I was thinking when I heard of this shop!
The Best Made Company is located at 36 White St, New York (which runs East-West), between Church St and Broadway (not W Broadway, Broadway), which both run North-South. It opens from midday to 7pm, Monday to Saturday and to 6pm on Sundays.
I must say, the shop is well laid out and true to the sort of products they claim to sell – stylish yet functional. Towards the back of the shop are the work areas and studios.
To give a bit of context to the guys and gals at the shop, here is one of their videos:
I keep saying this time and time again (John, Gary et al… ), but you need to have an American accent to say the kind of profound but airy and almost meaningless hipster sentences which annotate the slow-motion footage… But hey, I’ve been criticised to not ‘appreciate design, uniqueness and style’ in the past so I wholly acknowledge that some people will really dig this video and will be definitely kitting themselves up with the latest gear from Best Made for a camping trip over the next long weekend…
I must admit that the video did bring back memories of one particular sub-zero camping trip to Lerderderg State Park in Victoria and the slow cooked lamb shanks which were served up…
Anyway, back to the shop. So after quizzing the very helpful guy at the shop, I was able to learn that all of the retail, product design, advertising, marketing duties, axe handle finishing etc. and user workshops are all coordinated out of the New York shop and headquarters. Axe head production is located in Maryland for space requirement reasons (I don’t think the neighbours would enjoy the noise of the drop-forging process either) and the axe handles are crafted in Maine from ‘single origin, alliance certified’, fine grain Appalachian hickory…
Two types of axes are crafted. The Hudson Bay, which is the smaller axe, or a ‘camping axe’ as they say, suitable for splitting firewood, kindling etc, and for felling trees up to 7 inches in diameter. Anything bigger and you probably want to upsize to the ‘Felling Axe’, which un-sarcastically is for felling large trees. You also get to be the bigger man (or woman).
The heads for both axes are drop forged out of 5160 alloy, which is then hardened to 54-56 HRC (Rockwell Hardness Rating, Scale C). This means it is roughly the same if not slightly harder than ballistic high-hardness steel armour used on infantry fighting vehicles and APC’s, but not of unusual strength for an axe head… 😛
Both the Hudson Bay and Felling axes can be purchased in an unfinished spec, that is, without any paint on the helve, or finished with a painted design. Painted axes each have their own name and the cost of such models varies. Example of names include Courage, Compassion (and to think I previously mentioned that American’s don’t get sarcasm), Grace and Fortitude to name a few (known as C.C.G.F – the four values which the company aspires to live by).
If you haven’t already guessed, the company stuck with the name ‘Best Made’ because they wanted their products to be known as the best made, best functioning and best designed. This all started with the founder Peter Buchanan-Smith who saw the need for a better axe – a tool considered by Peter and the like to be the most invaluable tool known to mankind (this claim has its merits).
A year later in 2010, Best Made starting exploring other possible areas to make better functioning or better designed products. This in turn led to the inclusion of a well designed power extension lead (which are used throughout their shop), first aid kits, clothing, storage solutions, bags and camping equipment to their catalogue.
More importantly however, they are not afraid to sell products from other suppliers if they believe they cannot better it, as evident with their collection of knives, torches (or ‘flashlights’) and books which they sell in-store and online. As all of these products are very niche, it is not uncommon for stock levels to be low or zero in periods throughout the year.
If you’re ever in New York and want to check out something a little different, consider popping down to this cool little shop. Better yet, if you’re an outdoors person or into industrial design or design in general, I would go so far as to say definitely pop in and have a chat to the people who work there and browse through their products. Looking through their line, I have no doubt that they are of a high quality and would faithfully survive many generations of use with the right care and maintenance.
Those who I spoke to definitely seemed highly passionate and knowledgeable about their brand, what they stand for, the market they are targeting and the values they hold and they seemed more than happy to talk about it. Just remember, they open after midday.
And if you ever decide to purchase one their axes, bring it home, hang it up above the mantelpiece and wonder how you will ever use it, remember that there are many ways to cut a cake. (Just don’t touch the bottom…)
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