Axe Work


I’ve been roughing out a couple walnut bowls, which means plenty of fun axe work.  One of the more challenging aspects is shaping the end grain area S curve; the bowl will be convex as it leaves the bottom, then return in a concave area beneath the handles.  Essentially, I handle this in three steps:  Hew away the bulk of material in one convex arc from bottom to handle, hollow beneath the handle across the grain with an adze, then hew again with the axe down to the newly created hollow.  You can see these same stages in the series of three photos below, but on an oval bowl that features that returning curve all the way around.


I have hewn a roughly convex surface all around the bowl from the bottom perimeter to the lower edge of the rim.


With the adze, I’ve created a hollow beneath the rim all around.


And here, I’m in the process of merging the convex portion with the new hollow.


Of course, all of this is much more fun with a sharp axe.  It may sound boring, but the ability to get your tools properly sharpened can transform your carving experience and the final product.

Tim Manney

One guy that eat, drinks, and breathes all things related to tool design and sharpening is Tim Manney. I experienced this first-hand in some of the conversations Tim and I enjoyed in Plymouth. Tim has put a lot of time, thought, and unique experience into developing practical sharpening methods that work and don’t require expensive fancy equipment, and I noticed that he’s going to share his skills and ideas with folks at at an upcoming Plymouth CRAFT class in November. Looks like PC has redesigned the website and it looks great. Check out Tim’s class here, as well as other upcoming classes with Peter Follansbee and Amelia Poole.


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6 Responses to Axe Work

  1. Amy says:

    I’m thinking a turtle carving ought be in your future. The fourth picture down looks to be a lovely beginning. ‘Course, I’m especially partial to turtles…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. James Kuhn says:

    David…’Axe Work’. A subject near and dear to a lot of us. I find working with an Axe/Adze is very cathartic. I’ve never used the Adze to contour the S-Curve transition for the hand holds. I usually use a Gouge for that area, but I’m making smaller bowls. I suspect for larger bowls, judicious use of the Adze will make quick work of it. Are you ‘hand striking’ with the Adze or using a Maul? I suppose both. Maybe I’ll get a larger piece of wood and give it a try. Knowing me, I’ll have to be very careful not to overdo it.




  3. James Kuhn says:

    Thanks, Dave! J.


  4. wurzelgummage says:

    Does the axe you’re using have an equal bevel, and I’m also wondering why a carving axe has a turned up nose. Is it to reduce the head weight and still maintain a long cutting edge ?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      No, it has a longer bevel on the left and a shorter, steeper bevel on the right. I’ve been using it for many years, so it’s what I’m used to. The GB carving axe I use, if I remember correctly, was designed based on input to GB from Wille Sunquist years ago. The curved cutting edge creates more of a slicing cut and is part of what gives the appearance of a turned up nose. To me, the fact that the nose is forward gives me more visibility without the rest of the bit in the way behind it. Not sure if that is what Wille was thinking, but I like it.


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