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.
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.