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Victor Axe + Tool swings onto the national scene

Victor Sultana restores vintage axes and hammers.

Victor Sultana restores vintage axes and hammers.

A wide range of hand tools from Victor Axe.

Cleaning and polishing is a big part of restoration.

Not just showpieces, Victor Axes cut wood well.

“It all goes back to that thing your grandfather always used, that thing you saw him have and if he passed away, you’d go back and ask for it from your grandmother.” Victor Sultana, the sole owner and craftsman of Victor Axe + Tool, pauses. “It could be as simple as this,” he says, patting a reclaimed claw hammer adorning his workbench. “But there was a reason why he had it. It's well-made and still works like it did when he bought it.”

From small beginnings
Sultana began creating and reclaiming axes one at a time in January 2011, after he admired a particular ax and a coworker goaded him into creating one. It took one trip to the mill for a massive log and putting up a wood dryer; six months later, he was making axes. It wasn't quite that simple, but Sultana works hard and enjoys figuring things out for himself. He is informative, offering practical advice about ax selection: “You should buy a fiberglass handle for everyday use if you're a fireman or in the forestry services. On wooden handles, wood grain should run from the blade to the poll of the ax.”
Asked why he began with reclaimed ax blades, he strolls up to a stand of several hewing axes. “Ax blades today are imported. They're made of cheap steel. These ones were built to last,” he says, plopping a heavy ax head in my hand on a warm summer afternoon.
Each piece Sultana works with, from the emblematic Philips wood screw logo to the carefully constructed reclaimed axes and hammers, is braced by his marketing background, honed at his day job at Herman Miller, and coupled with classes in entrepreneurship at Grand Valley State University, from whence he graduated in 2008. A Northville native, Sultana remained in Grand Rapids after graduation and continues to embrace the local culture. A single brick and mortar store, Hunt & Gather in East Hills, carries the only physical Victor Axe + Tool display. His voice smiles while discussing the local artisans and other craftsmen he sources from -- like leather designer Jake Vroon of Harbinger Leather Design, who is currently supplying handmade leather belts for a future Victor Axe + Tool product.
Despite working in some capacity almost every moment of the day, he somehow retains an amazing amount of energy. Sultana explains how he balances his workload as a marketing specialist at Herman Miller with his business: “Victor [Axe + Tool] acts as a creative outlet for me to do even better at what I do on a daily basis. It really helps me do a better job at being specific and diligent on the tasks I have there because I get to be creative when I come home.”
Hacking into the national market
Fast forward three months from that warm June afternoon to a chilly September morning and Sultana remains humble, excited, and critically analytical all at once. The vibe in his studio is more like a general pacing on the eve of battle than a craftsman of reclaimed axes reaching a self-imposed deadline. And that’s because today, eight new Victor Axe + Tool products launch on Fab.com, the nation’s fastest growing e-commerce company, claiming 6 million unique visitors per month and selling nearly 8 million products since their launch in June 2011. Fab.com grants Sultana the freedom to focus on his craft as opposed to the “specific and diligent” tasks of the online campaigns and massive channels that must be marketed to ensure viability.
During an interview the week before the launch, Sultana indicated that Fab.com will offer eight product lines, with a stock of 60 axes in six different designs. Fab will close the sale once this particular stock is depleted. “And now I have to go home and begin to prep. It'll be a race to the finish line. I'll be working until they go live. I'm almost nervous that if it goes really well, I'll be out of stock of everything and may have to do it all over again,” he says.

Designed to live on
In addition to the Fab landing page brandishing his scratch-built namesake brand, he remains on the chopping block to meet deadlines unrelated to Fab as he retains business for custom-designed axes from the Grand Rapids area. However, as opposed to the 40-plus hours his first axe took, Sultana is now able to put out several at once over a four- to five-hour span.
These aren't outdoor enthusiast items, but “the price is about the same as what you get in the store and these are sharper,” he indicates. It echoes the tagline Sultana devised in June: Designed to Live On. It complements his 'Tried and True' partnership with Council Tools, the only remaining full-service axe manufacturer in the United States. Council Tools is manufacturing the axe heads for the new line, not to be confused with the reclaimed customs, although Sultana still adds flourishes and modifications in-house.
Sultana credits this passion for making things that endure for his ability to function on such a schedule. “It balances my life, generates learning, and with the creating, there's enjoyment. But it really goes back to that grandfather thing,” he laughs.
You can learn more about Victor and Victor Axe + Tool at victoraxe.com.
Matt Simpson Siegel is a Michigan-based writer whose work has appeared in print, film, radio, and television. He also  contributes to REVUE Magazine of West Michigan.

Photography by Adam Bird

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