Overseas demand for sharp axe firm
A boutique Wairarapa axe firm is chopping out a prime niche in the world of competitive wood sports.
Tuatahi Racing Axes and Saws exports 90 per cent of its high-end axes and saws - mainly to Europe and North America - from its Masterton factory.
The firm makes all the products by hand, with the custom "racing" axes and saws particular favourites of competitive woodsmen. A family operated business, Tuatahi employs seven staff.
Office manager Jo Fawcett said her father, Eddie Fawcett, started a saw doctor business in the late 1960s.
He was a competitive axeman himself and was often called upon by other competitors to sharpen their gear, she said.
"Back then the axes were not good quality, there were a lot of problems with them.
"And someone just said: why don't you try making them yourself; and basically it went from there."
These days the company produces two separate lines of gear.
In its competition-based "racing" line, axes range in cost between $350-$620 and saws between $1500-$2000.
The other line of working axes sell for $295 and work saws cost between $375-$500.
The work products are favoured by forestry workers in the United States where they are not allowed to clear trails with power tools.
Tuatahi imported bulk steel from Europe and sourced the wood for the axe handles from the US, Mrs Fawcett said.
"The steel is our own recipe if you like.
"We play around with the chemical composition quite a bit and have it made to our own specifications."
Mrs Fawcett's brother, Grant Fawcett, who is in charge of the forging work, has competed in woodchopping and sawing events since 1987, travelling to the US and Europe for competition and training.
With that knowledge he is able to help other competitors to customise their equipment.
There were almost endless possibilities when choosing axe widths, grinds, edges, shapes and handles, he said.
"Basically, however you want it, we can do it."
Tuatahi had never had to actively market its products but that was slowly changing, Mrs Fawcett said.
Over the past six years it had launched a website and Grant now travelled to Europe each year to meet potential clients.
"We don't really sit still, we change a lot - almost reinvent ourselves," she said.
"We're always looking to see if we can design axes better, produce them better, it's all about how we can improve."
Annual turnover is now approaching $1 million.
Mr Fawcett said "meeting people" was crucial.
"A website is all well and good but you can't beat meeting people face to face.
"That's how they get to know and trust you."
The Dominion Post