Axes

AXE TALK

Those of us who love carving axes often discuss the pros and cons of different bevel types. Most conventional axes are made with symmetrical double bevels. If well designed and properly made these are excellent for carving and some hewing. For architectural work a single bevel axe (sometimes called a broad axe) is often the best choice. In this case, the inner face of the axe should be perfectly straight in the vertical plane with no bulge at the head where the handle is fitted. A very slight lengthwise curve is found on the best examples. A hybrid axe version has asymmetrical bevels. The inner bevel is longer – at a lower angle – than the outer bevel. Broad axes and asymmetric axes are therefore right or left-handed.

The axes that we offer are made with symmetrical bevels. They are particularly good for carving for several reasons. Most important, the handles are curved slightly downwards, so that the handle lines up with the center of gravity of the heads. This gives exceptional balance, allowing you to easily swing the tool at the angle that you want to cut at. With the Svante S-31 and S-32 and the Karlsson H-166 the bevels are fairly wide and flat. When the axe enters a cut the bevel area behind the cutting edge acts as a register to keep the tool in the line of the desired cut. The Gransfors GB-01 has similar symmetrical bevels, but they are very slightly curved from buffing when they come from Sweden. Refer to the Shop Tip, which explains the easy fine tuning fix.

Asymmetric bevels are often custom-made by the owner of the tool. This can be done with a grinder, although it is much easier and safer to do with a coarse diamond stone.


Axes are generally thought of as firewood and forest tools that also had historic uses for butchering and as weapons. In many pre-industrial cultures, skilled craftsman also used axes for hewing log and timber-frame buildings, and for carving farm and household implements that were made from wood.

Although axes appear to be simple tools, there are significant differences between various styles, makers and models. When an axe is swung at the work, various forces come into play -- balance, weight, handle comfort, edge configuration and details of bevel shape are all very important.

Drew Langsner was first introduced to using axes as a shop tool when he apprenticed with Swiss cooper Ruedi Kohler in 1972. Because we use hewing techniques in many of our classes we have always been interested in finding versions that have the characteristics we are needing for various tasks. After extensive use and testing we now offer a selection of 4 hand axes that meet these requirements. These are from 3 makers, all located in Sweden.



Important Notice: Axes are among the most dangerous hand tools. Instruction is recommended and safety precautions must be followed.



All of these axes are well balanced and have a satisfying, “lively” feel during use. All come with symmetrical bevels. S-31, H-166 and GB-01 have slightly ripple surfaced handles to help with getting a good grip.


SVANTE'S BABY. When Drew first saw one of these little babies, which are hand forged by Swedish toolmaker Svante Djärv, he thought it must be intended for children. However, while teaching ladderback chairmaking in Norway, Drew had a chance to try one and was surprised to learn that the Baby Axe packs some real punch. It’s extremely easy to control due to the light, but dense head, combined with the nicely balanced handle. The blade is 3” wide; the 13-inch handle is duplicator shaped with a rippled surface for an easy grip. The axe (head with handle) weighs about 14.5 ounces. For spoon carving, light sculptural work, and camping. And this is a perfect first axe for youngsters.

S-31 Svante's baby carving axe
$128.50
TV-07 Leather guard
$22.00

SVANTE DJÄRV LITTLE VIKING AXE. We are pleased to add Svante’s little Viking axe to our carving axe selection. This handsome tool meets all expectations. It’s well balanced, the bevels are flat, and the curved blade helps with cutting. The rippled handle is good for gripping. This axe is about 3.5 ounces heavier than the Karlsson sloyd axe, with a blade that is 1-1/8” longer.
We are listing this model with symmetrical bevels. If you prefer asymmetric (long and short) bevels you can modify the inner bevel with an extra course DMT diamond stone. Tim Van Riper makes the leather guard.

S-32 Svante Djärv Little Viking axe
$228.50
TV-10

Leather guard for the Little Viking axe

$22.00

KARLSSON SLOYD AXE. When Hans Karlsson developed this model in 1990 he asked Wille Sun­dqvist to design the handle. In the current version Drew asked Hans to lengthen the blade by about 3/4” without changing the weight. Excellent for bowl carv­ers and other shop work. The bevels are flat. This is the mid-weight shop axe that we have been looking for; our most popular tool at the Country Workshops Store. An optional leather guard is available.

Forged from SS1672 alloy steel and tempered at Rockwell 55. This material is both softer and tougher than the ball bearing steel used in the Karlsson gouges.

H-166 Karlsson sloyd axe
$207.00
TV-09 Leather guard
$22.00

GRANSFORS BRUKS AXES

Gransfors Bruks axes are produced in a small Swedish axe factory, originally set up in 1910 in the Nordanstig rural district of Halsingland. Each axe is individually forged (and initialed with a hot stamp) by a master smith, then hardened and tempered to hold a keen edge. All Gransfors axes have a hickory handle, and are supplied with a leather guard. A complimentary copy of The Axe Book comes with each axe.

CARVING AXE. Wille Sundqvist – master craftsman, teacher and author of Swedish Carving Techniques, designed this contemporary version of a traditional Swedish carving axe. The Carv­ing axe fills a need for a well-balanced tool that weighs considerably more than the Karlsson Sloyd axe. An excellent tool for hewing bowls and other larger projects, including architectural work. A leather guard and The Axe Book are included.

SMALL FOREST AXE. This is the perfect single bit polled axe for light limbing in the woods, camping, splitting smallish firewood, and for cutting through cross fibers in large logs while splitting chair parts. With a touched up inner bevel (see the Shop Tip) it’s surprisingly good for hewing. The Small Forest Axe can be used single or double handed. With a hickory handle, leather guard and The Axe Book.

GB-01 Carving Axe
$180.00
GB-04 Small Forest Axe
$120.00

HEWING AXE REFINEMENTS

GRANSFORS BRUKS. Axes from Gransfors Bruks come with slightly convex bevels. This is fine for camping, firewood and forestry. But carving axes intended for shop work and hewing are far more efficient when they have a flat inner bevel. (If you are right handed, the inner bevel is on the left.) Flattening the inner bevel will improve hewing action by giving the edge a more controlled bite.

To flatten the bevel, clamp the axe on a workbench with the inner bevel facing upwards. Use a coarse 220 grit DMT diamond stone, rubbing along the length of the bevel. (Do not work perpendicular to the edge.) Begin honing the center of the bevel band– the highest area. Stay at a consistent angle. When the full width of the bevel is flat, hone with 325, 600 and 1200 grit diamonds. You are not removing the bevel or changing the angle – you’re just taking out the very slight curvature.

This is particularly helpful with the GB-01 Carving Axe. You can also do this with the GB-04 small forest axe if you’ll use it for occasional hewing.

S DJÄRV. On some Svante Djärv axes we have noticed a small gap between the handle and the bottom of the eye at the exit end of the head. Elsa Djärv tells us that Svante says it’s not a problem. ... The curved eye and rough interior sidewalls are sufficient to prevent the handle from loosening.

Axes from S Djärv have a single wooden wedge that is driven length-wise with the head. Here are two ways that you can add a secondary cross-wise wedge.

Make a wooden wedge from a piece of tough, dry hardwood – such as hickory. The wedge can be shaved at the end of a piece of wood that is long enough to grip in a shaving horse. Or you can use a band saw. We like an 8 degree enclosed angle. The sides of the wedge should be flat – not concave or convex. Secure the axe vertically in a bench vise. Use a hammer and an old chisel to open a cross-wise spilt about mid-way with the length. Put a little glue on the wedge. Hammer it home. It’s important to be careful when you start inserting the wedge, or it could break with a little piece stuck in the split. When the wedge is driven tight, saw or chisel off any remaining protrusion.

You can also use a standard steel wedge that’s generally sold for hammer handles. Available at any good hardware store. Secure the handle vertically. Place the wedge cross-wise and hammer it home. If the wedge won’t enter you can make a starting split, as described for the wooden wedge.

How To Order
Tools can be purchased three ways: Order by phone (Office hours: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Eastern Time) using your Visa/MasterCard for payment; order by mail, by clicking on Order Form (you can print the Order Form on your computer's printer, but we do not yet offer on-line ordering); direct purchase at our store and showroom.

Order Form

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E-mail:
Drew Langsner
Phone:
828-656-2280 (Daily, 9-6 Eastern time)


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