Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tool-roll: Svante Djarv Small Viking Axe

Yesterday I received my Svante Djarv Small Viking Axe from the Woodsmith Store. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but wanted to give my first impressions of it.

Here's the description from the Woodsmith Store:
The Svante Djarv Little Viking Axe is a very useable everyday axe for green wood working made by respected Swedish tool maker Svante Djarv.
These axes are made in very small quantities.
The bit has two equal bevels ground to 30 degrees with distinct shoulders, a long curved bit which extends above the heads eye and the position of the cutting edge in relation to the handle make this a very efficient axe producing a very natural slicing action.
The medium weight head at 800gms has a cutting edge of 140mm, (5 1/2").
The curved ribbed handle in Swedish elm is 340mm (13 1/2") long and very comfortable in the hand with a good grip. As was traditional only a well seasoned wooden wedge is used to fix the head to the handle.
Up until now I've been using the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet and wanted to get something that a) had a bit more weight behind it to help make bowl carving a little easier and b) was more specifically designed for carving - notably an axe with an upswept bit. With regards to a) the 800g head on the SD Little Viking axe does not feel heavier that the 600g Wildlife hatchet. This might be because the American hickory handle on the Wildlife hatchet is heavier than the Swedish elm of the Little Viking. I'm not 100% sure that this is the case, but the balance of the two axes makes me think that's the case.

SD Little Viking Axe and GB Wildlife Hatchet
I was also surprised by how thin the axe bit is. Hopefully this will mean it will do well slicing. I'm also very happy with the flat grind, which should make it easier to sharpen than the convex grind on the Wildlife hatchet.

I've got a rather large piece of hornbeam sitting in my woodpile that has been waiting for this axe to arrive. I'll dig it out and report back on how the Little Viking axe holds up against 'ironwood' hornbeam.

Big lump of hornbeam at the bottom



Most of the carving I do could easily be done with three tools: an axe, a knife and a curved 'spoon knife' or gouge. However I have about ten different tools in fairly regular use:

From left to right they are as follows: HK bent gouge (40-90), Laplander folding saw, Mora 120, Mora 106, HK right handed spoon knife, custom Ben Orford sloyd knife and Nic Westermann chip carver. 

These are my more heavy duty wood removal tools. A HK 50mm adze, Svante Djarv Little Viking axe and Gransfors Bruks Wildlife hatchet. Below it is my Ben Orford Woodlander with the SD Little Viking Axe.  I'll be writing some detailed reviews of each of these tools over the coming weeks.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Review: Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet

It is fair to say that Gransfors Bruks make the best widely available axes out there. One of their most popular models is the Wildlife Hatchet. Here's the description from their site:

A small, light axe wich can be easily carried, masked with its leather sheath, inside your pack or on your belt. Even with a small axe you can manage a lot: cut branches in the back-yard or chop and split sticks for a camp fire. This little hatchet awakes in many of us memories and dreams of exciting camps and adventures.
The hatchet has a 3" face and a 13 1/2 " hickory handle and the head weighs 1 lb.
It comes with a grain-leather sheath.
I've had my GB hatchet for about four years now. It has the initials of the fellow that made it stamped into it - MM - which belong to Mattias Mattsson. This personalisation is a reflection of the philosophy of an "unlimited responsibility of the Total" taken at Gransfors Bruks. It's nice to know that there are successful companies out there which view themselves as responsible for the lifetime of their products. I've been fortunate enough to visit the Gransfors Bruks factory and the pristine countryside it sits in is a testament to the care they take to preserve the environment, whilst creating quality products.

Near the Gransfors factory
It's been in my backpack to over five countries. I've used it to fell small trees, limb fallen trees, split small rounds of fire wood, hammer in tent pegs and even to open walnuts. However it is most often used for carving.

Sugar maple with more work to do

For spoon carving it is a great axe. The small, relatively light head means it's easy to use for extended periods of time. I've found that it holds its edge very well and the hickory handle is very comfortable. Most of the time I'm using the axe 'choked up' - with my hand very close, or partly holding, the head. This allows for very fine carving, useful for quickly getting spoon blanks into a shape that doesn't require so much knife work.

Recently I've been trying my hand at bowl carving. At this endeavour there is a slight drawback to the lightness of the axe - wasting large amounts of wood can be tiresome. A heavier axe with a longer edge would be useful.

If you are looking for a good all-rounder then this axe is fantastic. However there are several axes out there that are more specifically designed for sculptural carving, but I have yet to try these. Once I do, I'll be sure to let you know my thoughts on the matter.

If you've used the GB Wildlife hatchet it would be great to hear your thoughts on it in the comments section below.