Timber framers know this tool. If you’ve tried an axe for chopping joints for log buildings or post-and-beam construction and it didn’t work out well, it was probably because you had something else in hand. Only the squared edge of a carpenter’s axe will chop a truly flat surface.
The carpenter’s axe is more finishing tool than chopping tool, forged with a thinner blade and longer bevel so the craftsman wielding it can pare shavings from the face of the workpiece or chop the waste from open mortises. For vertical cuts across the grain, you’ll probably prefer a mallet and chisel or a crosscut saw. If the grain is straight and clear, this axe does clean work when chopping out waste wood. The hardened poll of the axe is ground flat for hammering but works better for tapping framing joints together than for driving nails.
For controlled work up close, when roughing out a billet of wood for a new handle or a small squared post, the axe was designed to allow a grip almost above the center of the cutting edge. Holding the axe just below the head lets you pare fine shavings instead of swinging and chopping. Keeping the edge of the axe straight when sharpening preserves the tool’s ability to create flat surfaces. You’ll need good whetstones to maintain the narrow bevel and keep the cutting edge in working shape.
This hand-forged axe from Gransfors Bruks Axe Forge of Sweden lacks paint or unnecessary polishing but shows the marks of hand craftsmanship without any need to cover up flaws. You’ll find the initials of a Gransfors Bruks smith set in the axe head. Through the company website, you’ll even be able to match the mark to the man who made the axe.
For a hand-forged axe designed to meet the needs of the hunter and outdoorsman, see the Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe.
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