Factors to Consider in Carving Axes

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by RIP Dequincy Jynxie, Dec 22, 2020.

  1. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    I have a GB carpenter's ax, which has a nice and thin profile. I have a Seven Pines Forge carving ax, which has a pretty substantial bit profile and thickness behind the edge. IIRC the Seven Pines is significantly heavier.

    I'd associate bit profile and thickness behind the edge to be the most significant factors to consider when using an ax for wood carving, however I am yet young and wet behind the ears, which leads to many questions - numbered for your convenience :)

    (in this scenario assume both axes will be used primarily for carving, that a single bevel ax is not possible at this time, that both axes have a convex grind, albeit the Seven Pines ax's edge is convenxed with a much large radius)

    (1) Is one kind of bit profile/edge generally more helpful for an axe used primarily carving small to large bowls and small to large cups?

    (2) Is one type of bit/edge more appropriate for hardwood vs softer wood?

    (3) And, finally, what about one any other reason not mentioned above, such as dealing with wood that is embedded with silica from being near the ground?

    I'm not sure how hard either bit is, but both are probably 55 HRC or greater (this is pure speculation based on what I remember learning about on BF).

    I forget what kind of steal GB uses, but I do remember it is high quality. The Seven Pine's is O1 steel, which I absolutely adore in this ax :)

    Thank you for your experience :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
  2. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Probably worth it looking into the axe put out by this figure Robin Wood with extensive background in craft working. I don't back him or promote him nor the products associated with him in any way other than that his hands-on experience is broad and he has a good grasp of this crafting history. Likely you have options nearer your home so mostly I pass on the reference for informative purposes.
    RIP Dequincy Jynxie likes this.
  3. RocketBoy


    Dec 19, 2020
    I have a Svante Djarv Little Viking carving Axe. It's my favorite carving tool. However, if I were looking for an entry-level carving axe, Robin Wood is who I'd go with. If, my Djarv Axe disappeared, I'd be looking for a Hans Karlsson carving axe to try something new.


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  4. EngrSorenson

    EngrSorenson Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    I don’t have a purpose-specific carving axe, though I’ve done quite a bit of carving with axes. My personal taste is standard bevels and standard ~1 1/4 lbs.

    for me the most important things are, in no particular order:
    • Accuracy- a combination of fatigue, longer hafts and fast swings make for bad accuracy.
    • Cut angle- ultimately your ability to improve oblique cutting angles is controlled largely by bevel angle.
    I don’t like the idea of getting too accustomed to what I can do with special-tuned carving axes- I’d rather work fundamentals and find out where the standard axe treatment’s limitations are.
  5. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    thanks guys

    this Seven Pine's axe is pretty heavy for its relatively small size, but it has a large cutting edge (this weekend I'll try and take pics, which will help the discussion, i.e. what the donkey I'm trying to express :rolleyes:), it's o1 and is super sharp...

    I just need to use the thing already! ....soon, soon kinchen ("dear child"), on a walk we shall go :)
    EngrSorenson likes this.
  6. I'mSoSharp


    Mar 8, 2011
    I use a few different hatchets for caving, I tend to like the bevel flatter on the left side as I'm right handed. Just my preference.
  7. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    I originally wanted Seven Pines to make the carving axe with only a single right sided bevel, but it wasn't in the cards

    I figure the ax thing is unfolding similarly to the knife thing; I try and bunch of different things, eventually sell or give away the remainder, and hopefully end up with half a dozen knives I use on a regular basis and a couple "safe queen" types kept close to NIB condition, but not used so much
  8. catspa


    Oct 25, 2009
    Hello HdL, and Merry Christmas (if you’re into that sort of thing). My experience with hatchet/hawk carving is limited to long narrow items like tool handles and walking sticks from green wood, and I’m scratching my head trying to picture you carving the interior of a bowl or cup with an axe. Perhaps a hoof trimming knife or sidebent scorp is the tool I’d take up for that task, or a curved gouge.

    What I know for sure, however, is that carving with a dull (as in “less than VERY sharp”) hatchet sucks. I think you’re on the right track with your geometry considerations, but if you can’t keep the perfect geometry keen, you’re in for a big disappointment.

    So here’s something strange: my favorite tool to carve with of all my hatchets is a little spike hawk with a thin bit and 14” straight handle. And my technique would be considered atrocious by most. I grip the base of the billet, push the tip down against a stump, log or workbench (if I’m I’m the shop), and choke way up on the head and “whittle” with the blade. But here’s the weird part - depending on the grain orientation, I flip the hawk around so the handle points away from me and carve. I even use a “pulling” stroke sometimes, carving upward with the blade facing me. I find the spike serves as an extra grip point for my thumb or finger(s).

    It’s just how I do it, not how you should do it. It’s probably 17 different kinds of unsafe, and you shouldn’t even be reading about it. If you’re goofy enough to try it anyway, set a box of Bandaids beside you, and have a helper dial “9-1” on the phone, with their finger on the “1”. Maybe they should close their eyes as well.

    Anyway, sharpness is my #1 consideration in a carving hatchet. Best of luck to you.

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie likes this.
  9. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    Thank you for your reply!

    how long is the edge on the hawk you mentioned?

    and the thickness of the blade/tang/stock?

    using an axe for the inside of a bowl would be a little silly, however, for large enough bowls and plates, and even some cups, a sharp axe can be useful for taking some big pieces out before changing to a more appropriate woodcraft tool to shape our the item's interior

    I still wonder how important hardness is for an effective carving axe... seems like even the softer steel (~52HRC) will perform just as well as something significantly harder (~59HRC), it just requires more touch ups as one works - but, again, significantly softer steel means significantly easier touch ups

    hardness is an important factor, but I think it's more important for working with particular kinds of wood, as opposed to edge retention (as I said, if the edge is adequate at lower HRCs), and that bit/blade profile, bevel and edge geometry are more important factors than hardness alone
  10. catspa


    Oct 25, 2009
    The edge is 3-7/8” toe to heel, with about 1/2” curve over that length. The thickness tapers but is about 1/8” at 1/2” back from the edge, slightly convex.

    I think it was hand forged on a farm in Wisconsin, initials “KRJ” are stamped in left side of blade. No idea the steel or heat treat, but a file bites. Got it rough without the spike, drilled and tapped a 1/2” tool steel punch into it, reground the edge to my taste and made a maple handle. Not much to look at, just a firewood tool.

    I don’t exactly equate sharpness with hardness. This tool is on the soft end of the steel spectrum, but I use it on green alder, Doug fir, and similar species. Pacific yew is probably the hardest wood I’ve carved with it. It takes a keen edge, and I don’t challenge it much. But as you say, I touch it up some during use.

    I don’t know much about metallurgy, but I’ve had some knives and tools that I just couldn’t get a keen edge on (using my rather primitive methods and abrasives). I think there are some steel/heat treat combinations that respond well to the way I sharpen, and others that don’t. This one does. I got lucky, or maybe just tried enough hatchets til I found one I liked.

    That’s the main advice I can offer, I guess. Try your own, try other people’s, carry a firewood billet in your trunk in case you find an axe beside the road. When you find one you like, try your best to obtain it. Use it, enjoy it, and when the mood strikes you, search for a new favorite. Make friends with other axe nuts, and keep your eyes open for new leads. You’ll end up as a happy old man, surrounded by your favorite tools, and some opinions to share with others. That’s my hope for you.

  11. RIP Dequincy Jynxie

    RIP Dequincy Jynxie Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 10, 2020
    appreciate your reflections Parker/@catspa :thumbsup:

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