Reggie Shaw, a left-handed blog reader, (he doesn’t read left-handed blogs…but is left-handed…oh, forget it)

sent a note that this right-handed J R Fuchs hatchet is for auction on ebay. I already have 2, and don’t have the money to get in a bidding war…but someone will get the best hatchet going. Lose that godawful red paint, and it looks ready to go.

here’s the link. maybe one of you?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/J-F-R-FUCHS-CANNSTAT-GERMANY-TIMBERFRAMERS-HEWING-AXE-/291191647602?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43cc5fed72

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/

I bought a new hatchet a  few weeks ago….this lightweight model from Hans Karlsson. In the US, Hans’ tools come from Country Workshops, the school where I am sometimes student, sometimes instructor. see www.countryworkshops.org

Hans Karlsson hatchet

Hans Karlsson hatchet

I used it some just to test it out. I bought it as a spoon-and-bowl-carving axe. It’s quite nice for that. Karlsson’s tools are extremely well-made. Drew Langsner tells me it weighs 24 1/2 oz, and is 15″ long overall. Blade length is about 4 1/2″.

A few more shots of it:

blade length & curvature

blade length & curvature

The handle on this one is ash, some are listed in the Country Workshops’ site as birch. Hardwood either way I guess. This one has a tooled surface, along the idea of some of the Wetterlings and Gransfors Bruks axes. It’s not a hand-made handle of course…but not smooth.  Here’s the text Drew wrote about it for the Country Workshops brochure

“The axe (head with handle) was designed by Wille Sundqvist. Overall length is about 14-inches. Bevels are symmetrical and flat; there no need to touch up the inner bevel. The balance is excellent and it has a lively feel during use.”

Note that the bevels on this axe are flat, unlike the Gransfors Bruks axes, which have slightly convex bevels. This axe really is ready to go when you unwrap it.

hatchet eye

hatchet eye

new hatchet from Country Workshops

new hatchet from Country Workshops

The hatchet is listed at $172.25 in the Country Workshops brochure…write to Drew if you need one. It’s a fine tool…

Now – going back to the most-common axe question I get – where does one get a single-bevel hatchet like the one I use in joinery work? Answser – I don’t know. Many tell me GB makes one, but I have only seen their single-bevel axe listed as a heavy, (about 7 lbs.) tool. As far as I know, their hatchets for hewing are double-bevels. Oxhead makes one, I have never tried it. I am dis-inlcined.
BUT – you can hew flat surfaces with a double-bevel axe/hatchet. The single-bevel tool is better, but the double-bevel will work. Here’s a video Chris Schwarz shot of me showing a few options, a large Wetterlings I got from Lie-Nielsen, another older Hans Karlsson, my standard German one, and a modified one by Alexander. (along with plodding old-timey music!)

Here’s Chris’ post about it, with comments. http://blog.lostartpress.com/2012/07/23/peter-follansbee-on-hatchets/

UPDATE – Ha! Shows you what I know. Highland Hardware lists a Gransfors Bruks broad axe, righty & lefty, that weigh 3lbs, cutting edge 7″ – very similar to what my favorite axe is. The GB axe is over $300. So you have to mean it…  here’s the #s from Highland Gransfors Bruks # 4823. Model 1900

Whew. I’m just back from a week of riving, hewing, planing & carving as seven students & I made oak boxes from a log at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, ME. Also one wicked croquet game, followed by an incredible juggling demo. It was a good week. 

CFC


The students quickly learned the benefits of hewing, mostly once they realized that it meant less planing.

Who knew new hew


Which brings us again to hatchets.

Pretty much the number one question I get is where can I get a hatchet like the one in the book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree. http://www.lostartpress.com/Default.asp 

my everyday hewing hatchet

Well….I don’t know. So a couple weeks ago, Chris Schwarz was visiting my shop & we shot a short piece about how you can use several different configurations of hatchet to remove excess stock. Here’s Chris’ video

 

 

This prompted some discussion in the Lost Art Press blog…some offering that the Gransfors Bruks company makes a single-bevel hatchet, which they call the Swedish Carving Axe. BUT my memory of that hatchet is that it’s not really a single-bevel hatchet. It’s designed in part by Wille Sundqvist, a great inspiration to many of us; but Wille doesn’t make flat stuff like what I use in joinery. My suspicion was confirmed, it is a double-bevel hatchet with bevels of different lengths. Hhere is the description from GB (thanks to Joe Olivas for chasing this down & sending it to me)

“Gränsfors Large Swedish Carving Axe
The Gränsfors Large Swedish Carving Axe is used for woodworking and shaping wood. The axe has been developed in collaboration with master craftsmen Wille Sundqvist and Onni Linnanheimo, with inspiration from old designs. The Large Swedish Carving Axe has a relatively long, curved cutting edge which is double-sided as standard. The axe is also available as a special order with the edge ground specifically for right-handed or left-handed carving. The right-handed Swedish Carving Axe has a broader, straight rather than convex, bevel face on the left side of the edge, if the axe is held in the right hand, and a shorter, straight bevel face on the right side of the edge. The left-handed Swedish Carving Axe is the same but in reverse. The broader, straighter face, on the side nearer the wood, provides excellent support when carving. The handle has an uneven surface, giving good friction for a firm grip.”

I like their tools, but it’s not a single-bevel hatchet. Further, Drew Langsner points out on the Country Workshops page that the GB carving axe needs some work on the bevels for accurate hewing. http://countryworkshops.org/Axes.html This fits with the GB description above in which they talk of special orders with one long bevel and one short bevel, both of which are straight, not convex.

(Drew’s choice of words is “flat” not straight. It took me a minute to know what GB was talking about.)

The point of the video Chris & I shot was to offer that you don’t absolutely have to have a single-bevel hatchet to prep stock for joinery. It makes things easier, but you can do it with a double-bevel hatchet too.

I have several hatchets. The large, German ones I like best for joinery stuff, i.e. making flat boards.

hewing

The small double-bevel ones I mostly use in spoon carving, but they can serve to hew flat faces too.

it can be done

The large Wetterlings I got from Lie-Nielsen is also for hewing, but when I have a lot of stock to remove. (I don’t find it on their website, but it’s in their showroom…write to ask about it http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?cat=558 )

Wetterlings from Lie-Nielsen

 

 

If you have only one hatchet it might be best to get a medium-sized double-bevel hatchet like the Hans Karlsson one Country Workshops now carries. I use mine all the time…Then keep looking for a single-bevel one.

 

Some are interested in the small Stanley hatchets that Jennie Alexander modified by grinding the “back” face down to a single-bevel. Maybe we’ll hear from JA on how that was done…here’s the tool:

JA modified hatchet

JA modified hatchet

 

I know there’s a single-bevel hatchet made by Ox-head. I have never used it, but saw it one time & it seemed a bit off to me. It looked like it had a secondary bevel on the flat side, but not big enough to actually be a bevel, just large enough to keep it from working like a single-bevel hatchet. Does anyone use one of these? I’d like to hear from you if you do. Send me one to try & I’ll send it back to you…

a recent post about the hewing hatchets is here: 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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