on & on about hatchets

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. 


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.


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

18 thoughts on “on & on about hatchets

    • Hi Andrea, the real test is when you put the hatchet in your hands & work some wood with it. I’ve heard good things about this smith, but have never seen his work in the flesh.

    • There’s lots of pictures once you click the country flags…the carpenters I work with have used some of these axes. I can’t stand the handles, and the eyes seem wider than necessary. The shapes of some look pretty good. But, it’s all in the wrist, so you’re best off when you can get your hands on them.

  1. I bought a “Vaughan Broad Hatchet” from Highland Hardware for around $35. It had a very slight bevel on the back side which sanded flat on my 6×48″ belt sander quite quickly. It also came with a dead-straight blade, which I decided to grind into a bit of curve, more like Peter’s. All in all, I am quite happy so far. Highland also carries the Ox-Head Broad Axe in both right and left hand models, which they _say_ is flat on one side, for around $95. Have not bought one yet.

  2. I’ve been wondering about making a hatchet handle with a slight offset , like a broadaxe handle. Guess I’d only be out some time if I didn’t like it (I’ll watch my fingers)

  3. Without a doubt, there about three or four key things any wood worker interested in per-industrial furniture or the like must have, and axe(S) notable several is a key component.

    Theres a fella from Eastern Europe that posts on ebay. His use ID is “helloantik” and every so often he posts a slew of wonderful 18th and 19th century axes and tools at fantastic prices… Ive picked up at least 10 axes from him and its propelled me greatly along in my research and reconstruction.

  4. Also, like Peter has mentioned…..talk to a blacksmith about making you an axe per your choice/design. I do some basic blacksmithing and have made a handful of my tools, from froes to axes. There are some great smiths out there that would love to take your business.

    A fella named Iron John Logan (on facebook) does some nice axes too

  5. Another aspect is that carpenters used to use a small one-sided hatchet to true up house framing when they were installing floorboards and sheathing. Often the beams, joists, and studs were rough and had high points that needed leveling. So what Peter is showing for joinery scantling was once almost universal, before the advent of sawn lumber.

  6. Hi Peter, i was interested to read your comments on the Hans Karlsson hatchet. How do you think it compares to the Stefan Ronnqvist axe?

  7. Hi Peter,
    I have a one-side bevelled side-(T)-axe made by a medieval re-enactor smith, but I am not sure if he has put the right angle on it. What angle do you use?

  8. Peter: Mark Swanson here, Patternmaker @ LNTW… do you have contact info for Stefan Ronnquist? All the invoices I have from the Smides in Tore Sweden are from 1983 and 2003… the addresses aren’t working for email or regular mail. Any help would be appreciated! PS: my exposure to the Ronnquist Viking axe was through Bill Copperthwaite and Willi Sunnquist back at the Bath Apprenticeshop in 1978 or ’79. Lived in one of Bill’s yurts for 2 years. Thanks! Mark in Camden, swanson129@msn.com

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