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“Carving Hatchet” Design?


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I am currently working on a project for someone who likes to do a bit of wood carving, spoons probably being her favorite thing to make. In the past I’ve lent her my general purpose hatchet to split, hew, and roughly shape blanks, often from green but sometimes from seasoned wood. It does ok, but being a pretty general purpose hatchet I figured I might try making a dedicated tool for her. The stock I’m going to use is found steel with a personal significance, which means I’m limited to a starting blank of either 1.25x0.375 or the slightly larger and thinner size it started out as, with an inlaid bit. I did a test weld and it worked well, both the mild to itself and the spring to the mild. I had a few questions about designing this kind of hatchet. 
 

1. Is 1.25-1.5lbs a decent size? It seems like sometimes these hatchets are a bit heavier but she is on the smaller side as well. This would require 10” of my starting material to make it into the head, which brings me to:

 

2. Is it helpful to put a heavier pole on a hatchet like this? I want to add some extra weight and will either double up the material for the poll or weld it between the two cheeks when I do the wrap. 
 

3. Would a single or double bevel work better here? It seems like it could be nice for carving but make splitting/notch cutting kind of funny. Also not sure how intuitive it will be for someone not used to it, though she does know how to use single bevel kitchen knives so maybe some of the ideas will transfer over. 
 

4. What handle length would be good? I have blanks for this made from white oak that got blown down by a storm last spring, I should be able to go up to 16-18”, maybe longer if that would be a good idea. 
 

Any input is greatly appreciated!

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I don't know much about such things, but there was a local wood carver  named Dudley Carter.  He used a small and much modified double bit axe for roughing.  I wasn't able to find a picture of him with it, but I remember seeing one.

It was quite small (1.5 to 2 lb ? Maybe less) and not much more than a hand span long.  I remember seeing a pic of the axe.  The handle was short, not much more than 12 inches and he held it right up under the head.  One side was sharp, but not too sharp, and one side was stropped to a razor edge,  He did most of his big roughing with a felling axe and a double bit, most of his mid work was with the little double and the fine work was all chisels.

I know it's a gift, but have you asked your friend what she would like for the work she's doing?

Geoff

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"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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The only ones I've had experience with are short-handled heavy ones in Scandinavian shapes, like this one: https://www.highlandwoodworking.com/swedishcarvingaxe.aspx 

 

A single-bevel edge works well, but only in certain directions and use modes.  I use it more like a big pocketknife than a swung tool.  The weight lets you really get a good long chip by pushing down the wood, letting gravity assist the slice.  I use it to shape axe handles, not to carve as such.

 

Then I saw this one: https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/shop/tools/hand-tools/log-building-tools/axes/114551-carving-axe?item=44U1010  It was developed by spoon carvers, so there you go!  

 

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I've been interested in carving axes and such, enough that I bought the “Carving Swedish Woodenware with Jogge Sundqvist DVD” and his father's book on wood carving. I even found time to forge a few carving axes

 

1. Is 1.25-1.5lbs a decent size?

If the plan is an axe for spoons and perhaps small bowls, then yes.  A larger axe would probable be a hindrance to getting a smooth blow, especially for a small person.

 

2. Is it helpful to put a heavier pole on a hatchet like this? I want to add some extra weight and will either double up the material for the poll or weld it between the two cheeks when I do the wrap.

Not sure about this, lack the experience of comparison.


3.Would a single or double bevel work better here?

I'm not sure it matters beyond personal preference. Here's a link where it's talked about:

https://www.highlandwoodworking.com/swedishcarvingaxe.aspx  I know that elder Sundqvist book shows an off-set double bevel. Meaning the bevels were different angles.

 

4.What handle length would be good? I have blanks for this made from white oak that got blown down by a storm last spring, I should be able to go up to 16-18”, maybe longer if that would be a good idea.

No idea, but all the carving axes I've seen used have a short to medium length  

 

Oops, I didn't see Alan's post.  It's the same link to highlandwoodworking.

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Thank you all for the replies! There are a few changes to my initial plan I think it may make sense to make based on this feedback. I’m shooting for about 3” of edge probably fairly straight. I decided to double up the stock to get a bit more weight in the poll, it seems like the examples shared here have a reasonably built up one. 
 

I tested out a few on my hatchets made with my usual drift, and the handles is a bit wide to choke up for me, so I imagine holding onto it for someone with smaller hands would not be comfortable. I have a smaller drift I think should work. I’ll also shoot for a pretty short handle following the advice here. I’ve found in general that commercial axe handles are way too thick, though I guess on a little hatchet like this you want to think about a comfortable grip more than shock absorption, right?

 

5DEEFF77-6C27-4A2B-97C6-84FFB58E89F3.jpeg

Here’s the start of my preform, it’s a hair over 0.5” thick in the center, welded up from two pieces of scarp stock. It was the structural element holding on a very old bumper, I think it may actually be a bit higher carbon than usual mild steel. The bit is the piece of spring steel on the left. I just realized you can also see a Maine pattern axe in the bottom left as well, if that works out you may be seeing more of it in Show and Tell. 

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I have done a fair amount of spoon carving, but am no expert. I have used head weights from 10 oz to 2 lbs. For most of the work 2 lbs was too heavy for my liking, but it is better for splitting. The 10 oz is great for spoon work but would be small for other stuff. 
I have never carved spoons with a single bevel but have used one for carving canoe paddles. The one I have is heavier than I would like to use in a spoon, but I think a single bevel would work well. In a double bevel it would work better with less convex on the edge. The convex makes it harder to get as accurate of a cut because it has to be positioned too get past the convex to cut. 
I can’t comment on the pole from experience. 

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You could use existing hammers as a starting point.  I admit, not as much fun as doing it all your self, but you could make a set. Ball pein hammers from 2-16 oz in 2 oz increments.

 

g

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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Posted (edited)

For the weight I think I’ll end up with around 1.25 lbs which seems pretty close to a few on the market, like the Lee Valley Alan linked to. The wrap went fairly well and I got the head through all the forging this afternoon:

 

85008785-F8F5-4916-8E30-3A98A28ED1D2.jpegD979BEF7-32FE-4EF7-A6B1-8D4D3421D622.jpeg

Some cleanup on the grinder is a must for this one but I forged it out pretty wide so hopefully I can get a more “Scandinavian” look out if it. 

 

Edited by Aiden CC
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Went for a bit more of a “beard” with the profile, weight after rough grinding is 1 lb. 
 

BCC033C9-09DC-4B07-B25C-6AD14AC743EA.jpegC2FBD232-EBFE-4597-94D9-A23FD5A63C6B.jpeg
The plan is a grind with limited convexity, as was suggest by Jonathan. I have a piece of white oak picked out for the handle, which I hope to start on soon. 

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Posted (edited)

I know I'm a bit late to the party, but that is another good looking axe sir.

For reference, These guys make a  lot of different axes. The Robin Wood line is around what you are looking for.

If she gets into making bowls or dugout canoes....the Gutter adze is useful.

 

Northmen Guild

 

 

Edited by Joshua States

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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I'm with Joshua,i found this thread too late and Aiden is pretty well embarked by now.

 

Looking good there,Aiden,i think there's a good chance  it'll make a great tool!

 

It's difficult to generalize about "carving" axes,as the many jobs involving carving wood are very diverse,and the species of trees worked,And the many styles in which such work is done.

 

The only two points come to mind as more/less shared are the more pronounced radius of blade,and the more open configuration of the hang.

 

The radius issue depends on the curvaceous-ness of work performed-the more radical radius minimizes the edge contact zone,while keeping the heel and toe of the edge further/safer distance away from unintended cuts.

 

The openness of hang is often combined with a gentle sweep of handle Backwards,allowing for further controlling that issue.

 

The single-,vs double-bevel edge also has to do with the degree of curve expected to be encountered in work: Single-bevel tool is more "aggressive" (takes less energy to keep it embedded in material). However,in cutting it describes an arc going down into the material(when used bevel-up). If the radius of that part of carving allows it-great,if not the tool will dig-in jarringly.

 

So a double-bevel edge is more versatile option as capable of carving a tighter radius,or dealing with more contrariness of grain.

 

The poll on carving axes is normally moderate to non-existent,unless you're including hewing axes in general (meant for much larger work where the added mass is handy),many carving axes are poll-less.

It'd depend some of how much work is done in a horizontal plane-the extra mass of poll is often used in felling axes,say,where it balances the tool in lateral movement(takes less energy on your part to keep the blade from diving due to gravity).

When mostly chopping up and down direction an axe benefits more from it's mass concentrated in the blade,where gravity directs it like it does a radically-unbalanced dog-headed hammer.

 

But sometimes a poll is present. One of very popular carving axes is made by Svante Djarv,it has a poll (maybe in part due to the slit&drifted eye).

Robin Wood axe is essentially that ancient Rhinelander pattern,an all-purpose basic axe that evolved out of all sorts of wood-chopping chores.

 

You're doing fine,Aiden,and will figure things out as you go from this point.

For future reference,or just curiosity,you may want to check out some Djarv axes,also some by Karlsson,and the fairly recent one by Julia Kalthoff...And maybe the iconic one by Stefan Ronnqvist where all the physics are truly radicalized...

 

Kalthoff:

 

 

 

S.Djarv:

 

https://thespooncrank.com/svante-djarv/

 

Karsson:

 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/434667801522852305/

 

Ronnqvist:

 

http://www.woodlandcraftsupplies.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=9

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I set this aside for a bit, but I got around to wrapping it up last night! Thank you all for the links and advice.

 

IMG_2263.jpgIMG_2265.jpg

The handle is a piece of white oak that fell April that I cut/rough-hewed down to hatchet handle length. With how short these handles are, it was enough for the handle and the wedge. It also so happened to naturally accommodate the gentle upwards curve that @jake pogrebinskysuggested.

 

IMG_2268.jpgIMG_2269.jpg

Rough shaped and rough fit. I love the rays in this wood! I have another couple blanks plus a few rounds and may whip up a matching spoon knife with some for a handle (she already has one from me, but I think it had a bit too large of a radius for most of what she has been making).

 

IMG_2272.jpg

Here it is, hung and oiled! It cuts well and the edge held up against seasoned hickory.

 

IMG_2274.jpgIMG_2276.jpg

Hard to see exactly, but here is the edge geometry. The eye came out a little wonky, but I did my best to compensate for it in the handle.

 

 

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Each one gets better.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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Looks good!  For the record, I've never made an eye that wasn't a bit wonky. ;) you fix it with the haft, as you did.  She'll never notice. 

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Excellent job,i Really like the overall lines,and that gentle bend of the handle is sweet!

 

i'd guess that it'll prove to be a most useful tool. The radius of that blade is somewhat more moderate than majority of "carving" axes,that should give it more authority,less muscle effort needed to guide it.

 

Anyway,good going,a very fine tool there.

 

 

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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On 5/25/2022 at 5:05 AM, Alan Longmire said:

Looks good!  For the record, I've never made an eye that wasn't a bit wonky. ;) you fix it with the haft, as you did.  She'll never notice. 

That is reassuring. The weld by the eye is super tricky to get right. I also found on this and especially the wedge pattern axe that the back of the eye wants to have square corners if there's any kind of poll. Is that part of the reason some European axes have a "triangle" eye where the back is the widest part and is basically two rounded square corners with a flat section behind the poll? Obviously axes haven't been folded most places for a while, perhaps it's a holdover from when they were?

 

IMG_2331.jpg

I had a bit of extra time, so I decided to whip up a quick spoon knife. Here are the materials, a piece of oak, old leaf spring, and some pitch. It ended up being a very quick project, though I may have made the handle a bit too small.

 

IMG_2350.jpgIMG_2352.jpg

I decided to try out eyelets on the sheath in place of stitching. It was mostly to make a the seam harder to cut, but it also ended up being quite a bit faster. Also my first time setting a snap, I may have to use these more often, it's pretty satisfying once you get one put together and it's a lot faster to do than a buckle. 

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1 hour ago, Aiden CC said:

Is that part of the reason some European axes have a "triangle" eye where the back is the widest part and is basically two rounded square corners with a flat section behind the poll?

 

Yep!  

 

I like the hook knife.  And I use copper rivets on axe sheaths for the same reason.  

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