Who makes those firefighting tools?


Council Tool Company
William Spears and Richard Robinson at Council Tool. Photo: Mike Spencer

Do you ever wonder where that Pulaski that you carried for that 16-hour shift came from? Many of them are made by the Council Tool Company in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. Council has contracts with many government agencies, including the federal government’s General Services Administration, to supply tools to their wildland firefighters.

Here are some excerpts from an interesting article at starnewsonline.com about the company.

Made in America – every bit of it. And in Lake Waccamaw, N.C.

And by the same Columbus County family for 125 years.

Council Tool Co. doesn’t make what most would consider sexy products. But they are sexy enough to have appeared on national television – namely, on an episode of the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels”, “The History of the Ax.”

Customers W.S. Darley and Forestry Suppliers go back to 1940, and Monroe Hardware of Morrisville goes back to the 1920s, Pickett said.

But other Council customers and markets have changed over the decades.

During 20 of the 30 years John Council has been at the plant, “we were in what we call the hardware business. We made a product that ended up in a retail hardware setting.”

Council tools wildfire products

Ten to 15 years ago, retail was 60 percent to 70 percent of Council Tool’s revenue, John said, and now it’s less than 5 percent.

Today, nearly half of its products are for fire-fighting and law-enforcement uses.

The company will design and manufacture tools under its own brand, but a big part of the business has been making products that are branded by other companies.

“We make stuff for Fortune 500 companies, for small companies that would equip a fire truck, or for companies that sell to the military, into that kind of world,” John said. “And they know the exact the specifications, what they want, and they expect us to be discreet.

The company needs to keep a low profile, Margo said. No tours, no visitors, they emphasized. And, they don’t sell the axes from their plant.

“It’s one of the reasons we’re here and that includes visibility and being discreet about who we make things for,” Pickett said.

There’s nothing discreet, however, about how the products are used.

The axes and forced-entry tools aren’t light, but they still are carried by the firefighter.

Most of Council’s products are made for the American market, but export “is a small but growing aspect of what we do,” Margo said. “We tend to export wildland fire fighting tools, and there is demand for that all over the globe. We shipped to 17 foreign companies.”

Some European companies have been producing and marketing axes to the high-end American market. Now Council has gotten into that game.

“We’re coming out with these premium lines of tools,” Margo said. “We have the first one almost ready to ship – a 4-pound Dayton that is known as a workhorse,” she said, referring to an engraved ax on the table next to a special carrying box.

Velvicut Axe
Velvicut Premium Axe

The ax is made from an existing pattern but with special alloy and a special handle – a throwback to something you might have bought in the ‘20s.

It’s trademarked Velvicut, and costs $169.95.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

8 thoughts on “Who makes those firefighting tools?”

  1. I see that Council is making a Pulaski with a fiberglass handle. I am curious if anyone has extensive experience using wildland fire tools with fiberglass handles. What about the weight, balance, resistance to breaking, grip, flammability?

    1. Hey bill,

      I have used both wood and fiberglass handles in my fire tech class, I really don’t like the fiberglass handles my self because the weight and balance seem a bit off to me. Some people in class love them saying that they are perfect in weight and balance. In class we haven’t broken any of the fiberglass handles yet. I hope this helps a little.


  2. Here in Florida, nearly all the fire rakes and flaps used by the Division of Forestry as made in-house at the Forestry Station I’m assigned to

  3. Bill I can’t speak for other state agencies, but I know the rakes and flaps we produce, cost a few dollars cheaper than the ones made in factories and shipped by freight, ours generally get sent to the requesting district by a daisy chain of vehicles, unless we get to meet up with the ordering district at the training center

  4. We have been using fiber handle tools for the last couple years. Overall we have had great success with them. We switched over to fiber handles do to the frequent head break offs do to inferior wood. To date we have had no issues with any of the pulaski’s, shovels, or Pro Hoe tools we use with fiberglass handles. However for our falling axe’s we have went to Estwing’s rubber shock isolated steel handles.

  5. Functional items are beautiful as they conform to the purposes for which they are made. Consider books–the materials and their construction so that the reader can hold, manipulate, enjoy, and store. And then consider a well made axe–its function made from the finest alloy, forged for durability throught its long life and fitted with a handle made of a choice wood seasoned for delivering the blow–a complex beauty of material adapted to function developed through a long purpose-driven history arriving now in the “Velvicut Premium Axe.” Here form and function are fused in aesthetic perfection.
    In the history of their creation function and beauty are joined in books, so why not in beautifully made axes.
    As a lover of books, I also have a practical beautiful work, a “Velvicut Premium Axe,” perfected by Council Tool in “form and function.”

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