new (to me) Hans Karlsson 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

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19 thoughts on “new (to me) Hans Karlsson hatchet

  1. Peter, Firstly, I received the 2 braces and 2 DVD’s, thank you and I’ll get you your money tomorrow. Was this the hatchet that you mentioned to me in our last email, because it sure does sound like it. And by the sound of your email I believe that you would recommend it. My only concern is the weight and since I have never used an axe or hatchet I have nothing to reference it to. My arm strength isn’t what it was before my ALS diagnosis and neither is my grip strength which does concern me more. That would be my only reason for not getting the new Hans Karlsson hatchet first. If I choose to try a lighter one first then I was thinking about the Svante Djarv.

    As for the single/double bevel on the GB’s axes/hatchet here is information from Lee Valley who sells both.

    B. Swedish Carving Axe $179.00 The carving axe, with its design based on traditional Swedish carving techniques, is good for roughing large carvings and architectural work. It has a 4-1/2″ single-bevel face, a 14-1/2″ long handle and a 2 lb head. http://www.leevalley.com/US/Wood/page.aspx?p=20129&cat=1,41131

    and

    Grnsfors Small Carving Axe $119.00 This hand axe has a 3″ double-bevel edge, a 1 lb head, and a 10″ handle. With rounded lugs, sharply nipped shoulders and a slim blade section, the head matches the classic shape of the regular Gransfors hatchet, but the shorter, thicker handle permits a choked-up grip directly behind the cutting edge for control when shaping. http://www.leevalley.com/US/Wood/page.aspx?cat=1,130&p=64756

    I’ll let you know which way I choose to go.

    Thanks for the information on the new hatchet as I’m sure there are many people out there that are in the same boat as me but hopefully with much, much different reasons.

    Michael

    • Michael – yes, this is the hatchet I was talking about. Drew raves about the one he calls “Baby Axe” by Svante Djarv. It weighs just 14 oz, so might be what you need…
      The GB “Swedish Carving Axe” is not really a single-bevel tool. I wish companies that carry it would stop calling it that. It has bevels of 2 different lengths, and is an excellent tool – but is not a single-bevel hatchet.

  2. Peter, I have never heard what you think of the Kent pattern single-bevel hatchets and their American cousins, which seem to be pretty thick on the ground. Do you consider them serviceable for the type of work you do?

    • Absolutely serviceable…they work fine. Usually the “Kent” pattern has a cutting edge that is straight along its length. This is not my favorite, but of course it will work just fine. You’re quite correct that they are easily found in many cases. So a perfectly valid way to go.

  3. hmmm thanks for this Peter very interesting. I’d like to put a metal rule on your hatchet and hold it to the sky to see just how flat that side is. In my experience a dead flat face is a very difficult tool to use, it digs in and you can’t rock back out of the cut, exactly what is happening with Alexanders modified axe. I used to think dead flat was important for carving tools but since playing with Japanese hewing axes am tending to favour a very mild convex. The Karlsson looks a sweetie, I have never had one of his tools that did not work. Have you tried the big Svante Djarve broad axe? I used one a lot at Saterglantan and loved it. German friends that do a lot of hewing like the 17th C gransfors broad axe. Most of these are out of my budget sadly.

    • HI Robin – thanks for the note. You’re right, the “back” of my German hatchet is not flat. Along the un-beveled side of the cutting edge, the tool has a convexity that is readily seen. If the straightedge is applied from the eye to the cutting edge, (perpendicular to the cutting edge) it is nearly flat, with a little curve away from the straightedge right at the cutting edge. Does that make sense? I’ll shoot some details. No, I have never tried Svante Djarv’s large axes, Drew only carries smaller ones for spoons & bowls. And yes, out of my range too, these large hatchets. I got my Wetterlings in a trade.

  4. Those are some beautiful hatchets/axes. I have found hewing hatchets (single-bevel) at flea markets and estate sales. While they don’t have as broad a face as yours, they do sport vintage names like Plumb and Winchester. And at $8.00 for the Winchester (estate sale), it meets my hewing needs while leaving a lot of cash in my pocket for wood or other tools.

    • Brad, I have been very lucky in the hatchet department. Got some years ago when I could afford them more easily, Others I got as gifts or as a trade in kind…bottom line is keep your hatchet sharp, and lots of shapes will work.

  5. Maybe it’s just because I am so used to the feel of the GB Swedish Carving Axe, but, like Robin, I find it difficult to use a hewing hatchet that has a truly flat face. The Hans Karlsson axe looks like it would work very well. Half a pound lighter than the GB, which might be good for smaller pieces. Looks like the handle would provide a good grip too.

    • HI David, as you know, I have two needs for hewing. Lots of flat surfaces in the joinery work & for that I prefer a large, heavy single-bevel tool. I’m lucky to have one (well…more than one…) – but for the spoons, the smaller ones work well. I have several & have lusted after the GB, but thus far have put off buying one. Some day…

  6. Peter-

    Three points:

    Robin Wood discusses the “flat” surface of a hewing hatchet may be slightly convex when viewed from top to bottom from the front of the hatchet.. The blade then removes chips and does not get stuck in the hewn surface.

    I suggest that handles should have their ray plane DIRECTLY in line with the long axis of the elongated hole in the hatchet head.The more stable rays of the handle will then lie in th plane of the hatchet’s swing. The handle is subjected to fore and aft destructive force. It needs all the assistance it can get.

    To be cautious, always bonk the bottom of the hanclle down on the chopping block before commencing. Make sure there is no one anyone near the hewing plane.

    The hewing hatchet is a wondrous tool. It is entitled to care and respect.

    Jennie Alexander

    • I think I understand now, considering how Jennie phrased the geometry. If the hatchet were laid on a table, as if one were hewing the surface of the table, the top and bottom corners of the edge would rise up slightly from the table, like a very shallow gouge. This keeps the corners from digging in much like a lipped adze (but more subtly). I think the curved shape of the hatchet edge helps with this too.

      So I think we are talking about “flat” in this thread in two respects: from poll to edge, and from corner to corner.

  7. Hey Peter,

    Thanks so much for the information on this hatchet. I called up Drew and got one on order just in time for the holidays! I am using this mainly for spoons but I am slowy progressing into bowl work. Being a southpaw I was glad this is a double bevel to boot. The price is pretty nice as well. This should be a nice stretch from my True Temper camp hatchet…lol.

    Thanks for the inspiration and wonderful blog work.

    All the best,

    Joe

  8. Picking up Jennie Alexanders point about ray plane for the handle this is often repeated but rarely backed by evidence. Radial and tangential strength varies depending on timber. I do not have figures for hickory not being a native or regularly grown in the UK but for ash the tensile and compressive strength is near identical in tangential and radial planes so grain orientation makes no difference. This does vary radically in some timbers. Most commercial axe handle manufacturers slash saw their stock so the ray orientation varies yet I have never say a Gransfors haft fail.

  9. Years ago I put a handle on my hewing hatchet (Kent pattern side ax) that was similar to that shown on the HK hatchet at the beginning of this post, that is, with the curve where one grips the handle curving down. This shape is what is most commonly seen and is similar to most ax handles. I used mine this way for several years. I found that if I missed the mark slightly (easy to do when hewing), the hatchet might bounce off the wood I was hewing instead of biting in. When this happened the hatchet was difficult to hang onto and would almost rotate out of my hand if I did not have a firm grip. I noticed that at least one of Peter’s larger hewing hatchets has a handle with a reverse curve. I re-handled mine with a handle with this shape, and with a knob on the end, and find it much easier to hang onto in the event of a miss.

  10. Good blog entry. I have been on the look out for the perfect hatchet, but still am looking. I did get a Mueller Carpenters Hatchet that with a little work is pretty good for the money. The only thing that I would like to do to it is remove the claw on the back that is intended for nail pulling. It works well but how often do I really need my hatchet for pulling nails? I will have to check out the Hans Karlsson.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  11. One question. I was going to get another axe for carving hopefully for Christmas. I am debating between the Hans Karlsson and the GB Swedish Carving axe. Most it will be used for roughing out spoons, bowls, kuksas, etc. I have not handled either so any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Dave

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