Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe
Bit Profile: Symmetrical Grind Double Bevel
Weight: 32.0 oz. ( 907 grams)
Blade length: 4.625″ (117.5 mm)
Handle Length: 14.5″ (368.3 mm)
Overall length: 16″ (406.5 mm)
Price: $179.00 USD (Dec. 2012)
When I first received this axe I was a bit disappointed. Now, after a bit of work and getting over my initial feelings, I have really grown to like it. So, after this disclaimer we will delve into the review.
I got this GB Swedish Carving Axe at the same time as the Hans Karlsson Sloyd Axe, which I reviewed a few months back. Out of the box I was thrilled with the HK Sloyd Axe. The quality was top notch and the fit and finish great. You can read that review here: “Hans Karlsson Sloyd Axe”
On the other hand, the Gransfors Bruks axe was nowhere near as good. The handle was in poor shape and the head of the axe was on crooked. (Sorry I do not have pictures of this stuff as I was preoccupied with fixing the problems.)
The handle had large tear outs from the shaping process. GB will tell you that this is part of the design to give you more grip, but I do not believe this. The handle does have a texture which resembles drawknife marks, but the handle had large chunks torn out where the cutter was going against the grain. It is the same thing that happens when you cut against the grain with a knife or an axe. With some knife work and judicious sanding, it is better now and really not a big deal.
The head is canted on the handle, which is a result of the eye being pierced off center. While this looks a bit wonky, it actually is not a problem for right handed use. Apparently according to the company I bought it from, this is within standard for GB axes and they routinely ship them to the states like this. They can have a fair amount of cant to either the left or right. Since this is a symmetrical ground double bevel axe, the bit should be straight and parallel to the handle so that it can be used either left or right handed. This is different than a side axe or single bevel axe which can only be used on one side and usually has some cant to the handle to facilitate cutting on that one particular side.
Now that all of that is out of the way lets talk about how the axe performs.
The shape of the bit really facilitates slicing through wood. When I first saw these axes many years ago I thought that they look a bit funny with the upswept bit that was shorter in length than the rest of the blade. However, after using it I see the value of this design. This works in conjunction with the curved handle to produce good chips efficiently when cutting. Now the form of this axe is very pleasing to my eye and I think it has a nice look to it.
The handle design is also very different than most axes / hatchets. The design is very comfortable in your hand and works very well in use. As stated above, it allows the axe to swing in a manner to make cutting efficient and accurate. I am going to make a wood pattern of this handle so that if I need to rehandle it in the future I will have a dedicated pattern. Overall, there is no need to modify the handle as I do with most of my tool handles.
The grain orientation of the handle is also very good. It runs very close to parallel to the bit.
With a few modifications (you know I can’t leave things alone) this axe performs very well. In fact, it is a tool that I will not part with if given a choice. It is a great compliment to the Karlsson axe. I use the GB for the heavy work and roughing and then switch to the Karlsson for the detail work and final shaping. In this manner I can carve much more efficiently, and the extra weight of the GB is not a burden but a benefit. If I were just using the GB by itself it might get a bit tiring as some people have commented, but I do not find this to be true when used in conjunction with a lighter carving axe for part of the work being done.
One thing that I did to improve the axe besides smoothing out the handle was to round over some of the sharp edges. I did this on the bottom side of the axe head where my hand touches the edges while choking up on the handle. This makes for a much more comfortable grip and reduces wear on my hand. The steel at these spots is soft and can be easily removed with a round file and some sandpaper. You can see the spots in the photos as bright white steel that is lacking the dark forged finish.
The other thing I did was on recommendation from Drew Langsner’s website. This was to flatten the left bevel of the bit for right handed use. This makes the blade bite in more and really makes this axe work so much better. At one point GB offered the axe this way but stopped for some reason. To do this I used a coarse Lansy Puck to slowly take down the convex surface until getting it very close to flat. I marked the edge with a permanent marker to show if I got to close to the edge. This worked out well and prevented me from working the edge down which would cause the edge to become uneven.
This axe also comes with a decent leather edge guard that is riveted together. The fit is a little loose but it does the job of protecting the blade from dings.
After doing these things I have really grown fond of this axe despite my initial disappointment. I suppose I could have not mentioned the issues I had with it when I first got it, but I wanted people to know that there is a chance they could end up having to do work to this axe before they can use it. This is my intention, not to talk negatively about the Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe.
I would recommend this axe to someone needing a heavier carving axe. Just keep in mind that you might run into some of the problems I did. If you end up with one like mine, a little work on it will make it into a nice tool that should last you a lifetime.
Also you might have noticed that the photos are taken with the axe resting on my recently built pole lathe that I built from reclaimed lumber. That will be featured in an upcoming article, so keep checking back for it. As always please leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from you. — Dave