When craftsmen of today try to recreate the work of previous generations, there’s a good chance they’ll just end up wondering how those old-timers did that. Modern tools were designed for modern materials and often don’t fare well on traditional challenges. The Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe is one of the old secrets you probably wouldn’t consider, but it works amazingly well.
One of the first steps in a simple traditional project — like making a bread bowl the old way, out of green wood — is to round up the outer shape of the block. The Swedish Carving Axe makes that work short and simple. Wille Sundqvist and Onni Linnanheimo designed this sculptor’s axe based on the tools used in the Swedish wood carving trade. The wide flare of the 4-1/3-inch cutting edge rises above the head of the axe, and the slightly curved 14-inch-long American hickory handle lifts the knuckles clear of the work surface. Chopping with the two-pound carving axe requires a short curved stroke with a shearing action. In most types of wood, it’s possible to make large changes very quickly with this tool — and in awkward hands, the mistakes are equally large. Study some of the old techniques before tackling anything important. Gransfors Bruks includes a manual on axe craft with every product.
Handles are a sore point with me, since many wooden tool handles today are not the best quality. From Gransfors Bruks, expect good handles that fit. The wood will be lightly rubbed with linseed oil and beeswax, not lacquer that hides flaws in the wood.
The smiths of Gransfors Bruks are not pressured to produce high quantities of ordinary tools. Instead, these artisans are expected to take their time and do things right. There are no touch-up tricks involved. If it’s Gransfors Bruks it has to be right, and when the smith is satisfied that the axe meets his standards, he punches his initials in the axehead. You’ll be able to tell who made this axe — the company publishes a list.
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