Even before the Joint Stool book came out, and certainly since then, the number one question I get is where can I get a hatchet for joinery? What do I need, etc.

If you can stand some more about hewing hatchets, here goes. Last time I discussed a few ideas about how to use both single-bevel and double-bevel hatchets for joiner’s work. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/new-to-me-hans-karlsson-hatchet/

 

While it’s true you can make either work, the single-bevel hatchet is ideally suited for hewing stock prior to planing it.  Joseph Moxon’s  Mechanick Exercises (1683) wrote:

“its use is to Hew the Irregularities off such pieces of Stuff which maybe sooner Hewn than Sawn. When the Edge is downwards, and the Handle towards you, the right side of its Edge must be Ground to a Bevil…”

Here’s my everyday hewing hatchet.

 

Fuchs hatchet

Fuchs hatchet

I was a bit vague last time about its configuration, and Robin Wood chimed in, helping to clarify some stuff. The back of the hatchet I often have called the “flat back” but it ain’t that at all. So I shot some views illustrating how it’s shaped. Think of it as a very large, very shallow, in-cannel gouge. Here is a straightedge held along cutting edge on the “back” i.e. the side w no bevel:

straightedge on hatchet's "back"

straightedge on hatchet’s “back”

The benefit of this shape is readily apparent when you try to use one that is NOT shaped like this. Then the tool digs into the wood, and here it scoops the chips out. I next put the straightedge perpendicular to the cutting edge, to show relief in that direction as well. Some of this is the shape of the tool, some is exacerbated by honing:

the other way

the other way

I have another hatchet, same maker, JFR Fuchs, Cannstat, Germany, c. early 1930s. This one has a cranked eye, to keep your knuckles safe when hewing. This leans the handle away from the plane of action, without having to make a bent handle. I use this one particularly when hewing wide panels. Here the back of the hatchet is sitting flat on the board, and the handle is lifted off:

the "other" Fuchs hatchet

the “other” Fuchs hatchet

The shape of the back of the head is about the same as the previous.

OTEHR FUCHS W STRAIGHTEDGE

OTHER FUCHS OTHER STRAIGHTEDGE

BUT – you ain’t gonna find one of these hatchets in the wild. I doubt it anyway. Nobody gets rid of them. Mostly. When I recently discussed these tools with Drew Langsner, he said “probably the best hatchets ever made” or words to that effect. A strong & un-provable statement, but it gets the point across that these are mighty fine tools.

One type of hatchet you will find readily in the UK and US is the so-called Kent pattern hatchets. (A hairy-handed gent, who ran amok in Kent…)  This one weighs about 3 1/2 lbs, about the same as the Fuchs…

Kent hatchet

Kent hatchet

Similar shape:

Kent w straightedge

Kent w straightedge

 

KENT W STRAIGHTEDGE

Nice thing about these hatchets – you can find them. They aren’t expensive. They can work. and they are reversible for lefties. Knock the handle out, and put one in from the other end. Often the cutting edge is straight. I prefer a curve to the cutting edge. So do others, I didn’t do the alteration on this one.

Here’s an earlier post about some of the same tools:

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/the-hatchet/

A question I get quite often is about the hatchets I use in preparing stock for joined furniture. There’s a new article in the Oct 2011 Popular Woodworking Magazine, “The Best Oak Money Can’t Buy” in which I outline some of the steps in splitting and riving oak boards. In most cases, after splitting the stock out, there is some hewing done with a hatchet.

 

hewing stance

I’ll show some shots of the 2 principal hatchets I use, and discuss why they are good ones. Then I’ll tell you I don’t know where to get them.  These are hewing hatchets, joiners’ hatchets, side hatchets…they have lots of names. Broad hatchet might be another one. Main feature is a single bevel, I’m right-handed, the single bevel is on my right when I use the hatchet.

 

This one is my everyday hewing hatchet, made in Germany before 1933. A couple years back I wrote about it on the bodgers forum http://www.bodgers.org.uk/bb/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=424&hilit=Fuchs&start=15#p4074  and got a note that outlined part of the firm’s history, citing a move from Cannstatt to Stuttgart in 1933. The hatchet weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. and is about 7 ¾” along its cutting edge. The edge is curved, and the back of the hatchet is slightly dished; to help in stock removal. This dishing of the back is usually only seen when you put a straightedge along the back of the cutting edge. The handle of this hatchet is in line with the eye. Here’s the view showing the shape of the head:

Here’s another from the same makers; this one has an eye that is canted from the plane of the hatchet’s flat face. This gets your handle moved outward, in essence keeping your knuckles from getting skinned. If you have a hatchet whose eye is in line with the head, you can always make a steam-bent handle to achieve the same idea. This one is 3 lbs 4 oz; a tiny bit lighter than the previous one. Cutting edge is 7” long.

this next view shows the angle of the handle to the head.

 

here’s one more, that I don’t have the specs for, it’s Jennie’s long-time favorite. Same firm, same story – pre-1933 Germany.

 

So all of these are oldies; but not too long ago there were excellent German hatchets still being sold in the US. Alexander bought this one at Woodcraft back in the late 1970s, early 80s. I had one too, but gave mine to an apprentice c. 1990. I haven’t been able to find out who made this one, it’s marked FWB with a stag on it. It weighs 2 lbs, 8 oz and its cutting edge is about 5 ¼” – it’s an excellent hatchet.

here’s the profile view of this one:

There – now you know what Alexander & I think is a good hatchet. Later, I will show you some that JA has modified from double-bevel axes to effectively come up with a hewing hatchet that works.

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