Can You Carve With An Axe?

wood carving with an axe

Wood Carving with an Axe: Tips and Techniques!

Understanding Wood Carving with an Axe

Wood carving with an axe is a craft that has been around for centuries. It is a technique that requires skill and patience, but it can be very rewarding. From spoon carving to large rustic sculptures, wood carving with an axe can literally do it all!

It is important to choose the right axe for the job. A wood carving axe is different from a regular axe. A wood carving axe has a shorter handle and a smaller head, which makes it easier to control and maneuver. The blade should be sharp and made of high-quality steel. It is also important to choose a good carving axe that feels comfortable in your hand.

When starting out, it is important to practice basic techniques. One of the most important techniques is to use the axe to remove large chunks of wood. This is called roughing out. Once the rough shape of the carving is achieved, the axe can be used to refine the details. It is important to use the axe with care and precision to avoid damaging the wood or injuring yourself.

Experienced carvers often use a combination of axes and other tools to achieve the desired result. For example, a carving knife can be used to add fine details and a gouge can be used to create curves. It is important to choose the right tool for the job and to use it with care.

Types of Axes for Wood Carving

Wood carving with an axe requires a specific type of axe that is designed for the task. There are different types of axes available on the market, each with its unique features and capabilities.

Choosing the Right Axe

When choosing the best axe for wood carving with an axe, there are a few factors to consider. The first factor is the size of the axe. A smaller axe is easier to handle and control, making it ideal for intricate and detailed work. However, a larger axe is more powerful and efficient for heavy-duty work.

Another factor to consider is the shape of the axe. A bearded axe, also known as a “scandi” axe, has a curved blade that is ideal for carving. A double bit axe has two blades, one on each side, and is useful for both carving and splitting wood.

The type of steel used in the axe is also important. High-quality steel is more durable and holds a sharp edge longer, making it ideal for wood carving. Axes made by reputable brands such as Gransfors Bruks, Hults Bruk, and Council Tool are known for their high-quality steel and craftsmanship.

wood carving with an axe

Check out our article on the best carving axes, too! Here are some of the most popular types of axes for wood carving:

  • Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet: This small axe is perfect for carving and has a narrow blade that allows for precise cuts.
  • Prandi German Style Hatchet: This elegant and beautifully designed axe is perfect for carving and comes with a great leather sheath for protection.
  • Gransfors Bruks Large Swedish Carving Axe: This premium axe is designed in collaboration with two Swedish master craftsmen and is ideal for heavy-duty carving work.
  • Mapsyst Bearded Hatchet: This great axe has a curved blade that is ideal for carving and comes with a leather sheath for protection.
  • Beavercraft Carving Axe: This excellent carving axe has a long and narrow blade that is perfect for detailed work and is made from high-quality steel.
  • Hults Bruk Akka Foresters Premium Outdoor Axe: This versatile axe is designed for both carving and chopping wood and is made from high-quality Swedish steel.
  • Council Tool 1.7# Wood-Craft Camp Carver Axe: This multi-use tool combines the best aspects of traditional riggers axes, Northern European bearded axes, and hatchets to create a versatile tool that is perfect for camp use, carving, and detailed work.

Components of a Carving Axe

When it comes to wood carving with an axe, having the right tool is essential. A carving axe is a specialized type of axe designed for shaping and carving wood. In this section, I will discuss the various components of a carving axe that make it unique and effective for wood carving.

Handle Length and Grip

The handle of a wood carving axe is typically shorter than that of a regular axe, usually around 9-12 inches in length. This shorter handle allows for greater control and precision when carving. The grip of the short handle is also important, as it should provide a comfortable and firm grip for the carver.

A more ergonomic handle is designed with a curved shape to fit the natural contours of the hand, while others may have a more traditional straight handle design.


The axe head and blade of a carving axe is typically thinner and narrower than that of a regular axe. This allows for greater control and precision when making cuts. The blade may also be curved or angled to facilitate certain types of cuts.

The blade material should be durable and strong, able to withstand the frequent sharpening that is required for wood carving.  The blade length of a carving axe can vary quite a bit, from a small compact blade to a curved long cutting edge for taking large slice cuts.


The bevel of carving hatchets and axes refers to the angle at which the blade is sharpened. A flat bevel angle (around 20-25 degrees) is ideal for wood carving, as it provides a sharp edge that can make clean and precise cuts. A higher bevel angle (around 30-35 degrees) is better suited for chopping small trees and splitting wood.

Weight and Balance

The overall weight and balance of a carving axe are important factors to consider when choosing a tool. The axe should be lightweight enough to allow for easy maneuverability, but also the weight of the head should be heavy enough to provide enough force for making cuts. The total weight and balance of the axe should also be considered, as it can affect the accuracy and control of the carver.

Importance of Balance

The balance of a carving axe is crucial for effective wood carving. A well-balanced axe will allow for greater control and precision when making cuts, while an unbalanced axe may cause the carver to lose control and make mistakes. The balance of the axe can be affected by the weight of the blade and the length of the handle, among other factors.

A carving axe is a specialized tool designed for wood carving. The components of a carving axe, including the handle length and grip, blade, bevel, weight and balance, and importance of balance, all play a crucial role in the effectiveness of the tool. When wood carving with an axe, it is important to consider these factors to ensure that you have the right tool for the job.

Maintaining Your Wood Carving Axe

As a woodcarver, it’s essential to maintain your carving axe to ensure that it remains sharp and in good condition. Proper maintenance will ensure that your axe lasts a long time and performs well. In this section, I will discuss two critical aspects of maintaining your carving axe: sharpening techniques and handle care.

Sharpening Techniques

Sharpening your wood carving axe is crucial to ensure that it performs well and remains safe to use. A dull axe is not only frustrating to use, but it can also be dangerous as it may slip and cause an injury. Here are some sharpening techniques to keep maintain a sharp axe:

  • Use a sharpening stone: A sharpening stone is an excellent tool for sharpening your axe. Begin by wetting the stone and then place the axe blade on the stone at a 25-degree angle. Move the blade back and forth across the stone until it is sharp.
  • Use a honing compound: A honing compound can be used to sharpen your axe. Apply the compound to the blade and then use a leather strop to sharpen the blade. This technique is excellent for maintaining a sharp edge.
  • Use a file: A file is another tool that can be used to sharpen your axe. Begin by placing the axe blade in a vice and then use a file to sharpen the blade. This technique is excellent for removing nicks and chips in the blade.

Handle Care

The handle of your carving axe is just as important as the blade. A well-maintained handle ensures that the axe is safe to use and comfortable to hold. Here are some handle care tips:

  • Treat with linseed oil: Linseed oil is an excellent treatment for axe handles. It helps to protect the handle from moisture and prevents it from cracking. Apply a thin layer of linseed oil to the handle and then wipe off any excess.
  • Sand the handle: Sanding the handle of your axe is an excellent way to remove any rough spots or splinters. Begin by using coarse sandpaper and then move to finer grits until the handle is smooth.
  • Store your axe properly: When not in use, store your axe in a dry place. Avoid storing it in a damp area, as this can cause the handle to swell and crack.

Maintaining your carving axe is essential to ensure that it performs well and remains safe to use. By following the sharpening techniques and handle care tips outlined in this section, you can keep your axe in top condition. Remember to treat your axe with respect and care, and it will serve you well for many years to come.

Wood Carving with an Axe Safety Measures

As with any tool, safety is of utmost importance when using an axe for wood carving. Here are some safety measures and accessories to consider when using an axe for wood carving:

Protective Sheaths

For safety reasons, a protective sheath is an essential accessory for any wood carver who uses an axe. A leather sheath is a popular choice, as it provides protection for the blade while also allowing for easy access when needed. A vegetable-tanned leather sheath is a great option, as it is durable and resistant to wear and tear. Additionally, a sheath with a belt loop allows for easy carrying while working.

Safe Handling and Storage

Proper handling and storage of an axe is crucial for safety. When not in use, an axe should be stored in a safe location, such as a locked cabinet or tool shed. Additionally, the blade should be covered with a protective sheath to prevent accidental cuts or damage to the blade.

When wood carving with an axe, it’s important to keep a safe distance from others and to always swing the axe away from the body. Additionally, wearing gloves and goggles can provide additional protection from flying wood chips and accidental cuts.

In conclusion, safety should always be a top priority when using an axe for wood carving. By using a protective sheath and practicing safe handling and storage techniques, wood carvers can ensure a safe and enjoyable carving experience.

Additional Wood Carving Tools


While an axe is a great tool for roughing out a carving, a knife is essential for the fine details. A good carving knife should have a sharp, thin blade and a comfortable handle that allows for precise control. There are many different types of carving knives available, but some popular options include:

  • Chip carving knife: This knife has a short, straight blade that is perfect for making small, precise cuts.
  • Detail carving knife: This knife has a slightly longer, curved blade that is ideal for carving intricate details.
  • Sloyd knife: This knife has a longer, straight blade that is great for general carving tasks.

When choosing a carving knife, it’s important to consider the type of wood you’ll be carving and the type of carving you’ll be doing. Some knives are better suited for certain tasks or types of wood than others.

Other Essential Tools

In addition to an axe and a carving knife, there are a few other great carving tools that are helpful when carving wood. These include:

  • Gouges: Gouges are similar to chisels but have a curved blade that allows for more precise carving in rounded or concave areas.
  • Mallet: A mallet can be used to tap the end of a carving tool, such as an axe or gouge, to help drive it through the wood.
  • Sharpening tools: Keeping your carving tools sharp is essential for achieving clean, precise cuts. A sharpening stone or honing guide can help you maintain a sharp edge on your tools.

When using any carving tool, it’s important to take safety precautions to avoid injury. Always wear appropriate safety gear, such as gloves and eye protection, and make sure your tools are sharp and in good condition before using them.

Wood Carving with an Axe Features

Compact and Light Weight Axes for Carving

When it comes to wood carving with an axe, having a compact and lightweight tool is essential. This makes it easier to maneuver and control the axe when carving, especially for extended periods. A lightweight axe also reduces the chances of hand fatigue, allowing for longer carving sessions.

I prefer to use lightweight axes that are easy to handle and carry around. A compact axe is also easier to store and transport, making it a great option for those who travel frequently. When selecting an axe, I look for one without a long handle, that is not too heavy and has a comfortable grip.

Versatility of Carving Axes

A versatile axe is a multi-purpose tool that can be used for various wood carving tasks. It should be able to handle different types of wood and be suitable for both roughing and finishing cuts. A versatile axe is also right-handed, making it easier to use for most people.

When selecting an axe, I look for one that is versatile and can be used for different jobs of wood carving tasks.  A versatile axe should also have a comfortable grip that allows for easy handling and control.

What’s Next?

When selecting an axe for wood carving, it is important to consider its weight, size, and versatility. A lightweight and compact axe that is versatile and easy to handle is ideal for most wood carving tasks.

Good luck with your search for a carving axe, there are many great options to choose from. Read our article on the 10 BEST woodcarving axes to help guide your decision!

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