Can you carve with an ax?

When most people think of an ax, they think of chopping wood, but is there any other task an ax can be used to do? Can you carve with an ax?

The ax is an enduring symbol of our humanity and our roots in wood culture and Yes, you can carve with an ax. But one thing you should know is that you can’t use a chopping ax to carve wood because there is a difference between chopping wood and carving wood.

Carving axes slice into the wood and shape bits of wood while chopping axes are designed to chop away wood fibers splitting the wood apart or felling small trees.

An ax is a fantastically versatile tool especially if you are working with greenwood. For spoon carving, the ax is used to split a lump of wood into a roughly spoon-shaped unit, which is then refined using a carving knife.

Axes are the best tool for removing a lot of material quickly, for it carries a weight of momentum and it’s very efficient for the job.

How Do You Shape A Carving Axe

Most axes are not designed for carving and that’s why shaping is necessary. The best way to reshape an ax for carving is using an electric grinding wheel for speed and ease and if you don’t own one you can visit a workshop that has one.

Using an electric grinding wheel burns the steel, softening it and when you see a dark line appear along the grind, put it in cold water. You should do that every few seconds and as quickly as possible. After, the grind will quench and harden if needed and it will also prevent heat building up immediately.

Another way to shape an ax is using a 10 or 12″ flat file, and the more the need to take off the ax fillings to achieve the right design for carving, the more tiresome it will be.

After you are done shaping the ax, you will need to sharpen it and you can use a flat file and honing stones.

What Is The Difference Between an Ax and a Hatchet

The difference between between an ax and a hatchet is;

An ax in some countries is the big one and it is used in chopping and splitting wood. With an ax, you use two hands but a hatchet being the small version of an ax, mostly used by campers, carpenters and carvers uses just one hand.

The confusion comes where hatchets are also referred to as axes. And according to what you know about axes, you get to ask yourself, can you carve with an ax?

You can only carve with the smaller version because it is the only one that allows you to use one hand. And remember that hatches are the small versions of axes concluding there is no difference between a carving ax and a hatchet, both are the same. The difference comes when you mean a big ax.

How To Sharpen And Maintain a carving ax

A good quality ax can serve you for a lifetime and you can pass it down to your next generations and the best way to maintain your carving axis by sharpening. Ax sharpening works best when you have locked it in a place and in this case, you can use a vice or clamp it to your workbench.

The reason for this is for your both hands to be free to use the file or a honing stone for sharpening.

To begin sharpening, start by propping up the blade edge by placing a small block of wood underneath the ax head to place the centerline parallel to the ground.

After that, hang the edge of the blade about halfway off the bench. If you are using a clamp, choose the one that is deep enough to reach the center of the ax head and clamp the ax in place with a handle parallel to the ax.

To help you go about the fact that it can be difficult to gauge the correct angle at which you should sharpen your ax, you can use a marker pen and draw a 4-mm-wide mark along the edge of the blade.

The next step is filling away from the creases until the cross-section of the entire length of the edge looks even. Focus on the edge of the blade, use full strokes, and apply even pressure for the length of the stroke.

Adjust the file angle in your hands as necessary to sharpen the carving ax enough to shave your arm hair and only sharpen the marked part but not the entire 4-mm width.

To show the progress, there should be a line of shiny, bright metal showing and this indicates your edge is sharpening up nicely.


When dealing with any sharp tool, safety should be on the top of the list. A carving ax needs a thin and strong cutting edge and this will make you enjoy the process.

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