Rcjp's Weblog

July 8, 2003

Axe Workshop

Filed under: wild — rcjp @ 11:39 am

Just spent three very enjoyable days in a forest in the Lake district on an axe workshop run by Ben and Lisa’s woodsmoke company. We camped in the woods on a scenic private estate next to a tarn (little hill lake) that was SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due the rare dragonflies. The trees we would later be felling had been selected to help preserve the habitat for them.

This was the first time Ben and Lisa had run this course and they were clearly concerned about potential injuries, so there were nearly as many instructors as students! Infact, they gave us foolproof tuition on stance etc. and there were no cuts except for a few blistered hands from so much wood chopping.

We had all brought a Gränsfor Bruks small forest axe for the course, and I was lucky enough that mine came with some beautiful heartwood colouring on the handle so it was easy to tell apart from others when we stowed them up against trees when not in use. The instructors brought lots of their own equipment.

We made several items including bow saw frame, a trug (a sort of wooden dish) using an adze, spoons etc. building up to, on the final day, tree felling.

axe0013 axe0016

After being shown felling – including some impressive rope throwing into the tree for a guide rope; we split into pairs and tackled our own trees at the edge of the tarn. After limbing them they were then sawn up into sections ready for us to make canoe paddles from the trunk sections. This is as far as I’d got when I brought it home.

After the course…

Althought the Frosts knives we are given for the course are excellent and astonishingly cheap, I was very envious of the handmade knives Rob Pickering had brought along with him and made with Ben (Orford) so after exchanging a few emails with Ben, I placed an order for the 3mm version with olive ash handle, gorgeous.

Whilst in spending mode I also ordered the Gränsfor Bruks carpenter’s axe: more out of curiosity than anything else, I was slightly skeptical about the wide range of axes Gränsfor offer for different purposes. However, when I used it, I was shocked at how slight changes to the weight and blade thickness/shape completely alter how it feels: the carpenters axe is great for taking shavings off easier to control and has much less forward momentum, but with its flat blade completely useless for chopping – you’d use the forest axe for that.

I love that the axes’ are marked with the makers initials and come with a useful little booklet of instructions, you get a weird sense of connection seeing a picture of the man who crafted the tool you’re using. LP – Lennart Pettersson made my carpenter’s axe and is the guy in the picture here.

It took a while to finish the handle knob end with the knife so that it fitted comfortably in my palm. The blade of the paddle is pretty much as finished by the axe, I even left some of the bark along the edge (you don’t get that on a machine made paddle!) but I did sandpaper the handle though and apply some linseed oil.


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