The axeman cometh: 5 questions for Walt Gray
Walt Gray is the business development manager for Waccamaw Lake-based Council Tool, a manufacturer of hatchets, axes and hand tools. The company recently received some international recognition by providing the hatchet of choice for World Axe Throwing League Champion Ryan Smit this year as well as 2019. Ryan is a big fan. Here’s what he had to say about his axe, the Flying Fox (cool name):
“It didn’t surprise me that a Council Tool found its way into the more colorful part of a target this weekend to take the World Championship for the second year in a row. This Flying Fox is one of my top choices for throwing, easy to modify, tough to break, and no-frills solid. I first ever threw one of these in early October, and have made it my go-to axe, pulling in three more of them in the last month for backup and experimentation and it was breaking records quickly as time went on. I have to give props to you guys and the creator of the Flying Fox for taking the time to do it right and keep it that way!”
We asked Walt to tell us a bit about himself and Council Tool.
Tell us about yourself.
I joined Council Tool about two months ago. I am a fifth generation descendant of our founder, John Pickett Council, and cousin of our president, John M. Council. I grew up in Whiteville, and after 10 years in Raleigh, was happy to return home and join the tool company. Like most guys from southeastern North Carolina, I enjoy outdoor activities. Hunting in the fall and winter, fishing in the spring and summer, and taking advantage of all that N.C. offers from the mountains to the coast.”
Tell us about Council Tool.
The Council Tool Co. is a manufacturer of non-powdered striking tools, located in Lake Waccamaw since 1886. We are 100% made in the U.S. and [have between 45-50] employees. Customers we serve include the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense, industrial contractors, premium axe enthusiasts, the firefighting and forceable entry industry, and the growing axe-throwing community — to name a few. We make tools that in many cases are used to save lives — these tools are used for [wildfire] fighting and by the U.S. military. In short, we make tools for the “art of work.
What’s new at the company?
We recently invested in a handle-turning operation and now employ two full-time employees to turn our own hickory handles for many of the products we make. This is critical for our ability to reliably and consistently supply top-quality hickory handles.
How do you give back to the community?
Council Tool emphasizes the importance of community involvement. We participate with the Columbus County Jobs Foundation, and are active with Southeastern Community College. Many of our employees are community leaders and serve as volunteer firemen and coaches with local youth teams.
What inspires you these days?
We are living through one of the most stressful times in recent history. The American ingenuity that we’ve all witnessed over the past nine months is truly inspiring. Operation Warp Speed, the response by American pharmaceutical companies, especially Pfizer and Moderna, to COVID-19, and the dedication of Council Tool employees to continue manufacturing tools despite the many challenges 2020 has presented is a daily reminder that the American Spirit continues to thrive.
Eastern or western barbecue?
“I’m open-minded as long as it includes vinegar.”