Well I’ve been a chicken with my head cut off the past couple weeks.
Constantly juggling custom kuksa orders - carving the axe handles for the axes I forged with Matt - editing photos from the forging, and the Northeast PA meet. Also it was my birthday two weeks ago, and Jess’ birthday a couple days ago.
I guess busy is better than no busy.
So I chopped up another custom kuksa order. (Oversized 2-hole style) While doing so the handle on the Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe felt kinda funny. What do you know?? The handle broke where I thought it would.
Im just about 100% sure that this was their fault, but I dont believe in sending an axe back just because of a funny handle. I’ll know more when I inspect the eye for any irregular shapes that couldve caused a splinter. The cost of shipping both ways, just for a new helve… Not my style. (Even if they covered the costs)
Plus it’s just more practice for when Matt gets those viking axe heads cleaned up and ready for me to whittle handles for them.
I also wanted to modify GB’s design. It doesn’t make sheering cuts the way it should. I have to lift the helve 3-6 inches to get the right cutting action and it’s akward to carve that way. Plus it feels like I have to carve towards myself which isn’t something I like doing with an axe very much.
I’m not going to lie… I’ve been dying for this handle to finally break. I noticed a small stress crack when it arrived over a year ago. Where the bottom of the eye meets the neck of the axe. It looked like it started to mushroom out in that spot, and that’s where the crack was.
I also have the feeling that this was cut from a milled/straight board. The wood sheared off perfectly straight down, a naturally curved handle would not do that.
[I know it sounds like I’m bashing GB, I am not. I am quite fond of their tools and philosphy] Plus, a hand carved handle like I make take some time, and finding a tree that grows exactly in that position would be hard to replicate on their assembly line style of forging. This axe is $150-200 and the complete the head in one heat if I remember correctly. To add another couple of hours into the build time would push this over $400 bucks easily. It’s a fine axe indeed, and worthy of a more flavourful and efficient helve.
Crack Kills….. handles that is!
Here is where it broke off.
So I finished the rest of the kuksa like this.
Also I could’ve left the handle. That part of the axe was still pefect. Infact I stood on it and hopped on it just to see. But for some odd reason I’ve had this appetite for destruction. I cut it off.. I should’ve filmed a video… I’m sure it would’ve made a lot of the fellas here gasp…. I’ll save it for a spoon knife handle or something later. I save all broken handles, they are always recyclable.
Someone must’ve had a couple drinks at the power hammer… 8 )
The edge of the axe is a little more on the left side. Which ends up working out for me since I reprofiled this edge to be flatter on the left.
You can see where the wood was splintered and forced into where this eye was split.
My new helve. It’s been seasoned since last April when I harvested it.
Almost finished. Now to set it to dry out a little more. Then I can start fitting the eye.
Anyways, thought I’d share. You don’t see too many Gransfors rehandles because they have some fine quality control. Also their guarentee is so good that most of the time they’ll ship you a handle. I love carving my own, so I didn’t mind. Besides… hickory is boring!
Forgot to add these to the group. I like seeing the axe head by itself. KS is an artist.
PART II - Couple of days later.
The Skeggox gods would be proud today.
After Oil. Look at the grain.. it’s almost holographic.
Before Oil [opposite side]
After Oil [opposite side]
Did a quick test… this axe is worth three times the value to me now. A proper helve can really make or break a tool. Their helve I thought was great.. but as I have heard from some carving people overseas I stay in touch with… this was not the way the axe was designed. It was designed in mind to have a sweeping handle to enhance the sheering cuts.
This is a carving axe. Some people will argue… and I can bet they don’t carve.
I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about the knob at the end of the handle.
So a couple of things I’ve noticed:
-With shorter handled axes it’s really an advantage to have something you can really fit into your palm. It sort of rotates in your hand sort of like the humerus bone in your shoulder. Ball and socket in a way. So you can really motor into cuts one handed like a champ.
-It helps stop your hand.
-Also if you were to use this two handed to fell a small tree or whatever.. it helps there too. (Not an optimal axe for the job but I’ve done it)
-Most importantly - The knob on the end also helps to balance the axe which I feel is really important.
Sure it looks like a million bucks, but this isn’t about looks. It’s about performance and functionality.
I call the Gransfors a viking axe because well… both of these axes here were designed after the same artifact found in a 10th century shipwreck. Except the GB was taken the next step further by a smith and Wille Sundqvist.
Oh my lands!!! PITH! RUN AWAY!!…. RUN AWAY!!! “You’re not allowed to have pith in axe helves” they say… I say go fly a kite.
I haven’t had a problem yet. What is ironic is all the fancy $40 super grade A hickory milled handles seem to bust. But I haven’t busted one of my own carved bent handles. All helves break, don’t get me wrong.
But I’m seeing more strength in the handles I’ve been making and experimenting with than all of the other fancy, perfectly straight dream grain hickory do fail from time to time.
I’m also playing a little devils advocate… a little coke vs pepsi I guess you can say. Hickory is great, but all these things that give people anxiety and sleep loss….
-whatever ultimate rules.
They don’t really matter. Most people that feel that strongly barely take the axe mask off to play and have fun with their axes.
More important things to worry about are balance of the steel bit, is that aligned where you want it. Does she shoot straight?
If you’re carving your own handle, by the time you get to the final stages of eye fitting… you’ll really understand why balance matters, and what each pitch of the head does.
Most people look down the axe handle and make sure the bit is aligned well. But there is a lot more going on than that.
On the otherhand one can get used to a crooked axe head and stil make it work well. I have a bunch of those axes too. Some are crooked on purpose like broad axes. Some even have eyes that are off kilter insted of having a steam bent handle.
They’re just tools, they’re millions of years old and bottom of the line is, it either works or it doesn’t work.
If you guys need any tips doing this feel free to ask. I’m still learning everytime I make a new one. So get out there try something new and have fun.
[I know… my brain is strange]
So the moral of the story is… you have to know the rules to break them.
What I really want to say is…
BOO HICKORY BOO! Birch makes a perfect helve with plenty of strength.