Using an axe

Topic:Broadaxe grips and their handles

  • By E.duBois, on 20 August, 2015 at 16:05

    Still, I cast my seed about in all directions to see where the wind blows and if I find fertile ground.


    A lot of the time the broadaxe handle will be a sweeping one. I see that almost all the time the question of why, gets answered something like this: “That’s to keep you from skinning your knuckles on the face of the wood you are working…” The dreaded conventional wisdom. I’m afraid this answer has a little truth and a whole lot of misinformation.

    Who wants to come on board and take it from there, as the old Northern Hewer might put it if he were on board?

  • By E.duBois, on 26 August, 2015 at 20:58

    Can’t find that one picture showing the different grips. Anyone know where it is?

  • By E.duBois, on 26 August, 2015 at 21:27

    Don’t bother with your search, I have found it in my own possession.

    Lets just think about this for a while.

  • By E.duBois, on 26 August, 2015 at 21:29

    I mean really think about it.

  • By E.duBois, on 30 August, 2015 at 00:06

    Well, if you’ve thought about it, I’m sure you come to the right conclusion, regardless of what “The Axe Book” wants us to think. Don’t let authorities confuse your minds any more than illicit substances.

  • By everettoakes, on 14 September, 2015 at 23:08

    I do believe you are quite right here Ernest. The side swept handle seems to be a attachment of the single bevel hewing axe, something I’m not actually very familiar with and have only picked up a few times to give a try at. I don’t in fact even own one myself. I find them less useful and versatile (but maybe that’s another conversation). Anyway, my far greater experience with the double bevel hewing axe, the Kent pattern mast-axes at home here in Maine, or the various range of different patterns from Norway, is that having the bevel against the wood increases the angle of the axe and handle in relation to the hewn surface moving your hands away at the same time and thus making a side sweep unnecessary. There are also the many folks who like to stand up on the log and take swings with a long handled broad axe down below their feet, such as the Japanese and also the old railroad tie hewers from New England. This again makes the side sweep hang a little silly. And lastly even with a single bevel I think the skinned nuckles can be avoided with a little caution and increased skill. I honestly haven’t seen very many old axes with original handles that are side swept just as another addition to the argument. Hope this adds to your so far one sided conversation and I’d love to hear any of your theories on the side sweep and why it’s bad vs. good.

    All the best,


  • By E.duBois, on 27 September, 2015 at 11:57

    Hi Everett,

    Never know if you are here or there. Have you finished up in Norway then?

    I think you are right to point out that a double bevel is versatiler, ha, ha, than single bevel. Just yesterday I was going at it on a piece of dry oak, twisted grained, that needed a stopped slope over its top surface along a 1.2 meter length – that’s how long the piece was, a bottom lintel for a window jam repair – so a difficult piece to axe and I ended up with the 1700, with that beefed-up bevel, in my hands for roughing-out. Well, a single bevel poses its own difficulties, but for a certain kind of work I find it  a pleasure. I think they do take a back seat to various double bevel patterns in Scandinavia until you get on down into southern Sweden and then by the time you hit Denmark it’s the single bevel that’s dominant. It’s the type of building going on.

    The sweep of the handle of a single bevel is essential though, (speaking here of short handle for the style of squaring up done standing alongside with the timber fairly high up), not to keep the hand next to the wood from getting skinned- like you said it, anyone will quickly learn how to adjust the grip to solve that problem and regardless, I take it for granted I might be leaving a bit of blood behind on the stem – but like I was trying to point out, to position your shoulders at a right angle to the axis of the timber and that’s why the far hand should be back at the end of the handle, not the near hand, (see drawing above). At the same time, when that sweep gets excessive then the whole thing is out of balance and you’re better off with no sweep. Here is an example of excessive sweep. I’ve since cut it down but even still the handle is not good.

    Like the poll of an axe, the sweep of a handle often leads some to untimely and not thought through conclusions when we go to drawing those in a state of ignorance, and let’s face it, since the time between when axes were essential and the time when they have become novelty a lot of knowledge about them has simply become faded memory and the only way to get it back is  by keeping an open mind and getting a sense of the subtleties of the massive amount knowledge contained in all kinds axes and do away with the simplistic notions. These do a real disservice to the ones who have contributed to such fine axes we have available to get our grubby hands on and put back to use.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by  E.duBois.
  • By E.duBois, on 6 November, 2015 at 09:21

    Olaf Andersson, the new Axel Weller of Sweden, going at it the way he does. Has he been reading The Axe Book too?

    No argument with the end result could be made on the face of it, but what about that angled approach and twisted upper body posture? Can we ascribe it to a symmetrical double bevel grind on his axes?


  • By E.duBois, on 6 December, 2015 at 11:27

    Once more a hewer with a sensible grip.

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