A question I am often asked is which axe is best for bushcraft? This is an impossible question to give a satisfactory answer to. The answer depends on so many things. Bushcraft is such a wide term that encompasses many different disciplines from primitive skills to camp fire cookery etc.
Forest Knights tend to focus on the craft side of Bushcraft along with Adventure travel as reflected in the courses we offer. Whilst nearly all carving and wood processing tasks can be achieved with a knife and a saw. An axe will speed up the process and is often the most efficient tool for the job.
Throughout the world from the Stone age to the modern era the quest for the perfect axe continues. There is no one axe that is prefect for all wood working tasks the outdoors enthusiast may require. A small hand axe will not be very useful hewing an Oak Beam, A broad axe is not necessarily going to be useful skinning a deer. Also when choosing tools we have to consider our own physiology. My build is very different from many of my students. One of the reasons why on a Bow Making Course for a maximum of 4 students we will have 20 axes for our students to use. Tools are very personal we all have a favourite screwdrivers for example.
The Gransfors Bruk Swedish Carving Axe is based on old Swedish carving techniques. The characteristic curved shape of the cutting edge, carried well above the head’s eye, the position of the edge in proportion to the handle, the rather thick bit and the big angle of the wide beveled face makes this axe an exceptional carving tool.
Each axe is supplied with a leather sheath.
The Swedish Carving Axe from Gransfors Bruk is a chop axe for hewing bowls and other wooden objects, artistic wood carving and architectural work. The characteristic curved shape of the cutting edge, carried well above the head’s eye, the position of the edge in proportion to the handle, the rather thick bit and the big angle of the wide beveled face makes this axe a good carving tool. You cut on the beveled face with curved movements. This new axe pattern, based on old Swedish carving techniques, was developed by Wille Sundqvist, master craftsman and author of “Swedish Carving Techniques” in cooperation with craftsman adviser Onni Linnanheimo.
The handle is rugged to give a good grip. Each axe is supplied with a leather sheath
Style: Right Hand Bevel Length: 37 cm
Weight: 1 kg
I own several axes by Gransfors Bruk. My first quality axe was a GB Small Forest Axe. Which still gets regular use. The build quality of the Gransfors Bruks axes are very good. The edge retention is good. I have a nice mirror polish on the edge of my axes as I use them for carving green wood. In my opinion an axe should be shave sharp. I want the axe to do as much of the work as possible in as controlled a way as I can manage. I can spend 5-6 hours at a time swinging an axe carving the profile of a primitive bows. Therefore I need an axe that is comfortable to use and doesn’t tire the user unduly.
The Large Carving Axe enables me to rough out the profile of a spoon quickly. I am able to hold the handle comfortably in various positions when more accuracy is required. Some handle shapes are uncomfortable to change the grip position or the length of the handle makes choking the head awkward. When using a tool it’s important that the axe lends itself to efficient use. Any barrier to relaxed natural movement increases the risk of an accident or repetitive strain injury. Cutting oneself with a knife whittling a spoon is unfortunate. Losing a finger misusing a Large Carving Axe will be life changing.
The weight of the axe at 1kg is too heavy for some of my clients. I find it about right. I have heavier axes that I tend to use more sparingly. I have much smaller hand hatchets such as the Gransfors Mini. When using a light weight axe for bigger tasks I generally find myself getting sore quite fast. I will then stop the activity and select the correct tool for the job more and more often this has become the Large Carving Axe. I did have to trim the handle next to the head slightly when I first used it. This part of the handle was left too sharp and caused a blister. A quick reshape with a knife and a little Abranet and the handle by the poll is now perfect for me.
The grain runs correctly through the handle and the head is aligned nicely to allow for accurate repeatable cutting. I find it really irritating if I aim for a spot and miss by a couple of millimeters. A properly aligned head makes accuracy easier to achieve along with good muscle memory.
I own a lot of axes I love the axe as a tool it’s far more versatile than many bushcraft folk give an axe credit for. Despite owning a vast number of styles of axe I find myself being drawn to the Carving Axe more and more. The design just works well for me and has improved my carving as I can use enjoy the process rather that fighting the tool.
However as in life the is often a but, something that stops the Gransfors Bruk Large carving Axe being perfect for my usage. That but in this case is the rather poor quality of the axe mask. In the last 12 months of using the axe I have destroyed 2 axe masks. The first failure was annoying as it was a safety issue the axe blade cut through the mask leaving the blade exposed in my craving bag. Luckily I didn’t end up with a nasty cut. The second mask failed within 24 hours of delivery. The top to rivets failed.
I contacted GB and after an exchange of emails they agreed to send me a replacement Axe mask from Sweden free of charge under warranty. When I compare my axe masks from my older GB axes it’s clear that there has been some cost cutting. The thickness of the newer axe masks are barely adequate in my opinion I will at some point make a bespoke mask for this axe, should I decide to purchase another GB axe I will consider the mask that comes with the axe as temporary. Whilst not a deal breaker I do feel that as a premium brand the complete package should be top quality.
- Comes Sharp.
- Good edge retention.
- Quality Hickory Helve.
- 20 year warranty
- Slightly Heavy
- Helve needed minor adjustment,
Poor Quality Axe Mask.
The Gransfors Bruk Large Carving Axe has become one of my favourite tools and preforms as well as my Nic Westermann axe. It withstands heavy use on an almost daily basis. I spent a lot of my days chopping lots of semi seasoned Ash, Oak, Hawthorn and Laburnum. Generally all the axe needs is a regular strop to maintain a shave sharp edge. I would recommend this axe for those wanting a dedicated carving axe. However some of my team find the 1kg head too much for prolonged use. I avoid the temptation to use it to split wood even for the Kelly kettle.
I think Gransfors Bruks pricing is now reaching the upper limit of good value. Their range whilst never cheap at £136 for the casual user it is a large price to pay. You do have to remember though that with care the axe will last a lifetime and comes with a 20 year warranty. A good condition axe will also hold a good price on the secondhand market should you choose to sell it on. I suggest you scan your receipt, GB wanted a copy of mine to replace the axe mask. I think it’s a little unreasonable to expect a user to hold on to a till receipt for 20 years.
Ratings are out of 5, 1 being bad and 5 being the best
Fit for Purpose – 5/5
Versatility – 4/5
Durability – 5/5
Value for money – 4/5
Overall – 5/5