My First Carving Axe

The other week I bought an axe head (€9 from hardware shop in Castelnuovo). Good steel, hand-forged, and I thought it might work as a carving axe, something I’ve been wanting for a while. So today I made a handle for it. Like so:


A while ago I cut and debarked a bit of fresh ash for the purpose, but despite having sealed the ends with emulsion paint it had developed a split. So plan B, some semi-seasoned poplar from the log pile. It’s relatively soft wood but as I wasn’t even sure the head would be suitable for one-handed use (it weighs about a kilo) making a possibly temporary prototype seemed reasonable.

I roughed out the shape with bandsaw and then drawknife, whittled it downand finally sanded. I’ll oil, wax or varnish once I’ve given it a bit longer to season in place.

The handle came out about 46cm long, which seemed about right given what I’d read on the subject (e.g. which is the best axe for carving, bushcraft, general use?). I angled the head down a little and a few degrees out of line, figuring that’d make carving easier.

img_7340I’ve already got a light hatchet (in need of grinding) which I used as a rough guide for the handle shape. I’ve also got a heavy-duty maul for log splitting, relative sizes and Sashapooch visible below. (I’ve also got quite a large machete -it isn’t really any good for carving).img_7330Not having tried this before, I decided to allow a few options for use, shaping the wood so my right hand could be comfortable in two positions and allowing for occasional 2-handed use (I do detailed tasks like writing and fine carving left-handed, anything that needs any force goes to the right hand – I’m ambivalent…).


img_7331img_7333So having assembled it (with two wooden wedges) I had to have a go. So I got hacking on the remaining piece of the poplar log. Wound up switching between the two one-handed positions and although it did feel quite heavy it was more than made up for by its effectiveness. Cut like a dream despite only having been ground & fairly roughly sharpened on a coarse stone. It being my first attempt at carving with an axe I was amazed how much control you do actually have (for an expert carving with an axe, see front room spoon carving on youtube).

Anyhow, I’m really pleased, it worked a treat. In the space of maybe just 10 mins I managed to rough out a spoon (as seen in the first pic above). Given a while longer in front of the fire with an Australian soap, whittling with a couple of Mora knives (a 120 laminated sloyd/carving and 164 crook knife) I had this – a soup sampling spoon 🙂



1 Response

  1. Soooo reminds me of my days in the hills of Cape Breton Island. We weren’t exactly roughing it, since we had 5 kids to tend (The eldest was 12.) but pret’near “back to the land”. Lots of handiwork to be done on the old house and just in general.
    When you mentioned log pile I actually get the scent of rain-damp hardwood!

    p.s. congratulations mate … really

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment