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Author Topic: Axes for timber framing  (Read 8649 times)

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Offline Spruce_Goose

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Axes for timber framing
« on: March 19, 2013, 08:09:32 pm »
Hi all.

I am curious on people's opinions on axe use and specifically which axes people use in the timber framing world. I have been preforming basic joinery operations (lap joints, saddle notches, etc) for trail work applications and am interested in pursuing more timber framing style work.

One tool I am interested in hearing more about (because there are so many styles and options) is the axe. I've heard things such as: 'joiners like oxhead (German) axes'. And of course there are such axes as Granfors Bruks, in all shapes and sizes. What I am really curious about is whether a small 1 handed carving style axe would be the first axe of choice for chopping and finishing joinery (such as the granfors swedish carving axe, or the Hans Karlsson Sloyd axe) or a larger style axe, perhaps like the Oxhead axes or some other choppping axe would be more used in timber framing.

I apologize if this has been covered in other threads, I haven't really figured out how to navigate and search for old content that may be similar.

-Tyler

Offline ziggy

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2013, 08:27:46 pm »
Tom Cundiff turned me onto the Gransfors Hunters Axe, which is absolutely lovely for wasting away wood for making tenons, and even getting down to the line for tenon making... you can push it like a chisel and do very effective work (assuming it is sharp, of course). I love it very much so (and by the end of our timber frame workshop, I was using it exclusively to cut tenons and skipping a chisel completely).

It works okay with one hand, but it's probably most accurate and comfortable to swing with two. Thanks to the length of the handle, you can get some good leverage. It's also a nice axe for making shallow shoulder cuts.

I imagine anything too much smaller would feel inadequate...

(Also, there is another Gransfors axe very, very similar to the Hunters Axe that is significantly cheaper... the Small Forest Axe. Haven't tried it, though.)

Offline D L Bahler

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2013, 09:00:39 pm »
the best axes come either from the traditions of central Europe or Scandinavia
these would be places like Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland. than in the north Norway and Sweden. both of these have their own set of axes, adapted to their methods of work.

really your choice in axes should be made depending on the style of work you are doing. do you want to build timber frames? if so, English style? German style? or do you want to build log buildings? American style? Norwegian? Alpine? and don't forget the wood to use. different wood works better with different axes.

what I would use is
a long handled but narrow bitted axe. I use a German bundaxt, but you might use a Gransfors small forest axe the same. this is a great general use joinery tool,

a short handled, broad bit axe. a carpenters axe. either a german style or something like a gransfors 1900 which is what i use. this is often one handed, used for finer joint tasks.

a broad axe. I prefer a Goosewing, and love mine more than any of my tools.

with these three tools you can accomplish just about anything. all you need more is a chisel and a mallet. a drill is nice too. add to this basic list with axes of your choice  and other more specialized tools in order to make certain tasks a little easier or to attain more refined results or a different accent.
hope this helps
check out traditional woodworker, they carry some very fine axes made in Austria by hand.

Offline Jay C. White Cloud

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2013, 09:55:30 pm »
Quote
the best axes come either from the traditions of central Europe or Scandinavia

Hey David,

I liked and agreed with all your advice on this subject of choice by style, but the above statement is a little "jaded."  ;D  "The best,"  ??? would be stretching it much.  ::) There are, ( I know you still don't agree-that's O.K.  ;) ) older and well established methods in other regions, like Asia, with their own exquisite cutting tools. Considering our other conversation about history that is still needing some follow through.  The metallurgy in tool steel work in Asia, particularly Japan out dates complexity in form, fashion, and scope, only having rivals in the Middle east and much later in Spain, then spreading through the rest of Europe by trade.  The Nordic (Viking) being perhaps the best at distributing the metal crafts and methods, in themselves becoming incredible smiths.

You should read, "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond.  His theories are still forming, but the history he uses is sound and well documented.

I would add that many of the Japanese axes and adz serve well in the craft of shaping joinery.

Regards,

jay
"To posses an open mind, is to hold a key to many doors, and the ability to created doors where there were none before."

"When it is all said and done, they will have said they did it themselves."-teams response under a good leader.

Offline D L Bahler

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2013, 10:53:35 pm »
Jay,

I assumed the poster to be speaking in a Western context.

If we open up to the desire to do Asian style work, then yes I will say that Japanese tools go up there as well (though I have used Japanese saws and axes off and on, and must say I still prefer the Central European style, perhaps because it is ideally suited to my methods)

There is also a great deal about metallurgy and its history that we don't understand, but this is another topic. Suffice it to say, we like to pretend we know a lot about such things, but we really do not.




Offline Brad_bb

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 11:55:05 pm »
This video shows TIMBEAL(FF MEMBER) using an ax to quickly hog off material.  This video inspired me to find a similar ax for myself.  It has a 2-1/4 lb head and the handle is shorter than a felling ax.  We refer to it as a mama bear ax.  I've also believe some may have referred to it as a camp ax, but not sure if that is correct. Tim seems to work pretty effeciently in this video.
 
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Offline timberwrestler

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2013, 10:08:36 am »
Tim is the man.

I use the large Gransfors forest axe for joinery, and love it.  It's short enough you can choke up on it.  It's long enough that you can swing it.  And if fits in my toolbox.

Offline Brian_Weekley

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2013, 10:55:12 am »
Not an axe, but I love using my old hatchet--it's one of my favorite tools!  Works great for roughing out housings too.

 
e aho laula

Offline Spruce_Goose

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2013, 05:28:59 pm »
Thanks for the replies.

Does anyone have thoughts on straight bevel vs convex? One axe I've read some positive talk about is the Hans Karlsson Sloyd axe which comes with straight bevels. Better for slicing away for joinery supposedly. Makes sense to me. Any of thoughts? Does anyone know if any of the Gransfors come with straight bevels?

Ty

Offline zelpatsmot

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2013, 11:02:46 am »
I am also curious about the cutting edge and the benefits/drawbacks ...

straight like Brian_Weekley's photograph above, or curved like a typical hunting/forest axes...

also does anyone prefer single bevel ?

any thoughts and experiences would be appreciated... thanks

Offline D L Bahler

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2013, 03:13:44 pm »
It depends on the work being done, the desired finish, the way you work, etc.

I'll stress the point again, there is no single answer. It all depends on the person and the methods.

For myself, I do not like a straight edge. I think every axe should have at least some degree of curvature to the bit. My practice is to use the axe with a slicing, trimming motion and the way I work, a straight axe will dig in at the corners and tear up the grain. If you are primarily a chopper (which to me seems inefficient, but to each his own) than you want a straight beveled axe.

The advantage of a straight axe is it is easier to work into corners with this. But I think that's a moot point, I have never had trouble with corners and I like to finish with a chisel or a chisel-like tool known as a Stichaxt or Stossaxt anyway.

I like a single bevel axe for a lot of applications, I like a double bevel for other applications. There are a lot of nuances to axe work.

I do think it is best to find a single system and work with it, rather than trying to combine elements from different cultures. This is because in a single tradition we have tools developed to accomplish a variety of tasks. Another culture accomplishes those same tasks in a different way, and the result is that the tools used do not always fit together.

Offline Spruce_Goose

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2013, 07:28:42 pm »
Hmm, good point about the straight edge vs curved. I didn't even think of that when I posed my question... what I actually meant by 'straight bevel' is flat. In other words, rather than each bevel itself (not the edge profile) being convex, each bevel is ground so that they are flat like a chisel would be. see this axe:
http://traditionalskills.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/hans-karlsson-sloyd-axe/
I could see this affecting the angle of attack and could in a sense allow the tool to act similarly to a single bevel tool (by riding the flat of the inner bevel, albeit a small surface to 'ride')

Quote
Another culture accomplishes those same tasks in a different way, and the result is that the tools used do not always fit together.

That's an interesting concept, especially in today's modern world. It may not be true, but I feel like nearly nothing is completely in line with one tradition of old, considering also that many of the traditions themselves combined multiple older traditions. I do agree with the point you make, but I wonder what it means practically for my, and other peoples, work. I use power tools and hand tools both. The power tools, by their nature, won't line up with any traditional practice as far as the tool itself goes. Perhaps the use of that tool can line up?

Offline Jay C. White Cloud

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2013, 08:55:58 am »
Sorry Tyler K.,

I meant to jump in on this before now.  I thought I knew what you had been asking, but I still could be wrong?  You want to know about "flat grind" compared to "hollow grind" in a cutting edge, at least I believe that is what you are asking?  Let me know.  I can explain it, why you get it, why some like it, why others (me) don't. etc.

As for the bit it self.  Straight cutting edges on things like say a small ax, are normally for roughing in work and for striking where the object struck is smaller than the bit edge.  It is also often used for clean up almost like a chisel.  Small axes like the one used by Brian W. are the most common form of striking tool used throughout Africa, Middle East and Asian.  It is used for everything, hammer, chisel mallet, etc. It is the go to tool.  I'm with David B. on this, curved bits are the most useful, just like a gouge cuts better than a flat chisel, you have more control, and better range of finishes that you can achieve.

Does that help?
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Offline TW

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2013, 12:15:40 pm »
There are many traditions each with their set of tools just like several posters already have pointed out.

-I use an axe with a long narrow blade and short straight edge for notching log house corners. The straight edged notching axe mainly cuts cross grain and has to reach into corners. It is almost impossible to trim a tad off a smooth face grain surface with a straight edged axe but in end grain it is possible. Corner notches require mostly end grain trimming and angular shapes.
-For general shaping I use axes with a longer slightly curved edge. It can be used both on face grain and end grain and the slightly curved edge bites deeper into wood than a straight edge. On the other hand it cannot be used to cut the complicated angular shapes of a corner notch. On larger face grain the surface produced becomes rather splintery and uneven as the thin blade does not break the chip properly. Because of the short blade it can only remove small chips on face grain.
-For hewing and smoothing face grain surfaces I use axes with very thick blade and very long curved edge. This kind of axe is used only vertically and mostly cross grain so the heavy head does a great part of the job. The long thick blade breaks the chips and minimize tear out. The ends of the curved edge are kept clear of the wood when smoothing to avoid tear out at the ends of the edge. The chips become very large so this is an efficient tool. An axe like this is unsuitable for all kinds of cross grain work and too heavy for all working positions except hewing vertically.
Single bevel axes are almost unknown in my part of the world. All axes have double bevels and the bevel rides on the wood when working just like the bevel of a turning chisel. Bevels are usually rather flat or just a little convex. This choice between flat and very slightly convex is mostly up to the taste of the carpenter. Deep hollow grinds are considered too vulnerable and the very convex bevels seen on some American axes are considered un-steerable and only good for very rough work like felling and limbing.

I hope this gives you an idea about the principle.

Offline Jay C. White Cloud

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2013, 12:48:58 pm »
Great entry TW, well put and described. Thank's
"To posses an open mind, is to hold a key to many doors, and the ability to created doors where there were none before."

"When it is all said and done, they will have said they did it themselves."-teams response under a good leader.

Offline Spruce_Goose

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2013, 05:25:39 pm »
Thanks that is very helpful.

Yeah it is the bevel grind I was referring to rather than the edge profile (hollow, flat, convex - hollow as if you used a grinding wheel with no additional honing, flat like you would see on most chisel bevels if not hollow ground with a grinder, and convex being what you see on most typical forest axes). It seems like it's largely preference as far as convex vs flat goes, but to me it would make sense that a flat bevel (or close to flat) might provide more of a reference surface for general shaping/carving/hewing operations.

Offline TW

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2013, 08:27:15 am »
That is correct. It is much easier to work accurately if the bevels are flat or almost flat. I have flat or almost flat bevels on most of my carpentry axes. Exceptions are two axes used for rough work.

Offline skipB

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2014, 03:52:51 pm »
So I recognize that this post has been inactive for some time but it appears that it's the best place to start a question regarding axes.

In a nutshell, I'm looking for guidance in buying axes for timberframing but more specifically for hewing.  The research I've done all points me to Muller (Mueller) but they are clearly the most expensive of the bunch.  A good friend of mine once told me to buy only "heirloom" or "museum" quality regardless of what you're buying and that if "you can't afford it, wait and save until you can".  That advise has proven quite sage over the years but I'm just not sure that such is true in this case.....

I'm hoping that others out there can help me choose correctly the FIRST TIME.  Specifically, I am interested in hand hewing and I think I've narrowed my choices down as follows, all of which are Muller (sorry I can't get my keyboard to print the diactric) Biber Classics: (part #'s are from Traditional Woodworker which appears to be the only North American source)......

367-2055 Scoring Axe
367-2055 Roughing Broad Axe
367-2051 Finishing Broad Axe

Thanks in advance for comments and suggestions-I am anxious to learn and value any and all feedback/advise.

Skip

p.s. Anyone looking to sell used TF hand tools are welcome to contact me directly.


Offline D L Bahler

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2014, 04:52:23 pm »
ü = ALT + 129, Num Lock must be on.

You can find good items on ebay if you are careful, and if you are aware you may have to swing a few times before you get a good it. But if you buy 1 or 2 inferior tools and then get the good one, you will still have less in it than just buying 1 new Müller tool.

There are a few guys from Austria and Hungary that regularly place old tools on ebay for sale, I've had good tools from them.

If you buy handle-less axes, the equivalent you will find to those will be for the last two called 'breitbeil' or goosewing. if you search those terms, you will find the European guys selling them.
A rough broad axe is one with a beard and a relatively flat top. The finishing broad axe has a beard and much more sweep to the top, so that the bit extends quite a bit further up from the socket.
Rough axes usually do not have an elongated handle socket. Finishing axes do.

Roughing axes, you equip with a long handle like what you would use for a felling axe.
Finishing axes, out use a very short handle (like 18" to 24") which are bent.
The eye of a roughing axe is straight, the eye of a finishing axe is set off at an angle. Sometimes you can use this angle to tell when the axe was made.

If buying an old axe, the more decorations that were hammered into the iron generally shows you it is a top quality tool. The decorations also will tell you when and where the axe was made, if you know how to read them. I have one for example that was made in the late 1700's in Austria.


You use the roughing axe standing on top of the log, chopping down below your feet. You use the finishing axe standing beside, chopping in front of yourself.

Instead of a scoring axe, get a foresters axe. It will work just as good, and is useful for more things. Even an American pattern axe works good for scoring. No need to get such a scoring axe, unless you plan to hew for a living  ;)


Offline Magicman

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Re: Axes for timber framing
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2014, 01:59:51 pm »
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