Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: April 4, 2022 On the Record

On the Record: South Portland axe maker Brant & Cochran forges ahead in niche market

Mark Ferguson holding an axe, with a worker in the background, at the factory. File Photo / Jim Neuger Mark Ferguson, president and co-founder of Brant & Cochran, a South Portland maker of axes.

Mark Ferguson is the president and co-founder of Brant & Cochran LLC, a small South Portland-based axe maker named for his grandfather’s tool-supply business in Detroit that operated after World War II until the 1970s. Mainebiz caught up with the Ohio native at Brant & Cochran’s factory near Bug Light Park as workers were heating, hammering and shaping axe blades.

Mainebiz: What did you do before starting Brant & Cochran in 2015?

Mark Ferguson: I owned and ran several B2B businesses in the trucking and logistics software world. My favorite part of working in those businesses was interacting with the customers. This led to wanting to start a direct-to-consumer business like Brant & Cochran.

MB: Why axe making?

MF: Sounds crazy, right? My brother Steve was looking for an axe for his godson who was going to forestry school and couldn’t find one made in the U.S., let alone Maine. That’s just not right. As people who grew up camping and canoeing, my brother, our partner Barry Worthing and I knew the importance of having a good axe. It’s an essential tool. Also being history nerds, we were captivated by the rich history of axe making in Maine. There were a half dozen axe companies operating in Oakland before 1950; we wanted to continue that story.

MB: How did you fund your startup costs?

MF: Our initial machinery was purchased with the funds from a successful crowdfunding campaign. The remainder was funded by the dollars and sweat (and some tears) of Steve, Barry and me.

MB: What’s your annual production volume, and who and where are your retail and wholesale customers?

MF: We are producing about 1,200 to 1,300 axes per year right now. Sales are about 70% direct to consumers through our website and events and 30% wholesale. Our customers range from professional arborists and lumberjacks to outdoor enthusiasts, camp and homeowners, and even folks hanging our axes on their walls as pieces of art. Brant & Cochran axes can be found in the hands of people here in Maine and every state in the U.S., throughout Canada, across Europe and as far away as Australia.

MB: How big — or small — is this niche you’re in?

MF: Hard to tell. There is no ‘premium axe’ category in any economic data we can find. We know that imports of premium Swedish axes have been increasing into the U.S. We know that there is an ‘axe junkie’ Facebook group with more than 46,000 members. We know that the outdoor gear market is exploding. And we have had a substantial backlog of orders ever since shipping our first axe in 2018. All we can infer from this is that the market is large enough for us and that it is growing.

MB: How long does it take to make an axe?

MF: We always say too long! While we do use machines like a hydraulic press and power hammer, there is still a lot of hand-crafting each axe. From steel billet to putting the axe in a shipping box probably takes four to five hours.

MB: What if any supply-chain issues have you had during the pandemic?

MF: We were able to stockpile steel, hickory axe handles and sheath leather, so no problem there. What we ran into, and are still having problems with, is getting replacement parts for our machines. Thankfully, our head blacksmith/machinist Gabriel McNeill is a wizard and can ‘MacGyver’ solutions to keep us up and running.

MB: What’s next in terms of growth and expansion?

MF: We are at the ‘go big or go home’ point with our business. We are working with the Maine Small Business Development Centers and the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership to advise us on how to dramatically expand our production capabilities. This means more machines, more blacksmiths, a bigger shop and a more efficient axe-making process. The trick will be to scale while maintaining the quality that led Field & Stream magazine to name our Allagash Cruiser one of the four best axes being made in the world right now.

Sign up for Enews


April 6, 2022

Great company feature! Congrats to you guys. I have two already and a third ordered. All mine are users but boy do they chop. Keep up the great work!

Order a PDF