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Hewing Hatchet Questions

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Forum topic by Brad posted 948 days ago 4041 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Brad

812 posts in 1339 days


948 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question hand tools hewing hatchet

While on a recent jaunt antiquing and flea marketing in Fort Collins, I came across a booth that was two stalls wide. And full. Packed with all kinds of vintage tools that took me an hour to rummage through. Planes, chisels, try squares, screwdrivers, plum bobs, braces, saws, hammers, hatchets and—as the old Ronco commercials used to say—much, much more.

I’ve been on the hunt for a hewing hatchet because I want to be able to glean wood from logs. And use it for tool handles and other projects. I also wanted a tool that would be useful for “rough cuts” to remove large amounts of waste before using other tools to smooth the edges.

Here’s the Plumb hatchet I bought for $17.50:

I chose this one for two reasons. It has a broad cutting edge and it has a crook at the base of the head for my index finger when I choke up my grip on the handle. I remember reading somewhere that this feature was useful.

After getting it home and cleaning it up I noticed something that I didn’t understand. The right side of the head is flat and straight, in a single plane. The left side, by contrast, is curved.

I have a few questions.

1. Why is the right side of the head flat while the left side is curved?

2. Why is the head ground differently? Meaning, why is the bevel on the flat side much smaller than the bevel on the curved side?

3. What is the proper way to use a hewing hatchet?
4. What have you all used a hewing hatchet to do?

What say you all?

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."


12 replies so far

View SASmith               's profile

SASmith

1546 posts in 1586 days


#1 posted 948 days ago

I think that it was originally beveled on the curved side only to make it more chisel like.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View Brit's profile

Brit

5107 posts in 1442 days


#2 posted 948 days ago

1. Why is the right side of the head flat while the left side is curved?
Are you left-handed Brad, because I think what you have there is a left-handed side axe. Used in the left hand, the flat side allows you to use the tool to split wood along the grain right up to your mark. The lack of a bulge on that side allows you to go right down the length of wood without the bulge throwing you off vertical. Left-handed side axes are quite rare at least here in England. I’ve seen a few right-handed ones, but not a left-handed one. I keep looking.

2. Why is the head ground differently? Meaning, why is the bevel on the flat side much smaller than the bevel on the curved side?
Same reason as above.

3. What is the proper way to use a hewing hatchet?
I’ve never used one, but I believe if you were starting with a round log and wanted to make a flat face down one side, you would stand the log on end and make a series of chops at 45 degrees down the length. Then you chop down vertically from the top to sever the chops your made at 45 degrees. This would leave you with a flat surface.

4. What have you all used a hewing hatchet to do?
You’d have to dig up my ex-wife to see the answer to that question. :-)

You can see Peter Follansbee using a right-handed version at the beginning of the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DzOvSaRSy0

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14590 posts in 2275 days


#3 posted 948 days ago

I have used one to flatten and square up timber just out of curiosity. They work well if you are willing to work that hard ;-)

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Brad's profile

Brad

812 posts in 1339 days


#4 posted 946 days ago

You know Andy, I had the same thought. While holding the hatchet, it felt more natural in the left hand, with the flat face to the right. However, I am right handed. The hatchet head looks symmetrical with respect to the top and bottom so I was thinking I could remove the handle, rotate the head 180 degrees and put a new handle in it to put the flat face on the left-hand side.

Are you left handed?

If so that solution might work for you unless you think there are balance, asymmetry issues with this approach.

As for your replay to 4., I’m still laughing…

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1254 days


#5 posted 946 days ago

Brad, rotating the head 180 works, but you tend to need to make a new handle. I have the EXACT same hatchet, and it is great in the shop. Just keep the bevels exactly as they are, wel formed but not honed and it will serve you very well.

Andy, you are always good for a few laughs.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1254 days


#6 posted 946 days ago

Plan on a few hours to get the handle fitted by the way….it’ not a quick job with the Diamond pattern…trust me.

When it’s in the righ orientation you can use it to remove huge amounts of waste be makeing ladder shops up the side of the work peice and then use the tool like a plane to remove the waste, leave some room to clean this up with a plane though.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1714 days


#7 posted 946 days ago

its just like a carpenters axe just a little bigger
but smaller than the broad axe´s that is used for flattening timbers
I think this one has been used in framework contructions with that size
to make the joinery and if you are skilled enoff you can smoothen floorboards
good enoof to be used in a logghouse or boards for a boat … :-)

but don´t ask me to do it …. LOL

take care
Dennis

View Brit's profile

Brit

5107 posts in 1442 days


#8 posted 946 days ago

Yeah I am left-handed, although I try to make myself use most hand tools with either hand, particularly saws. You don’t get tired that way. You’re right of course, rotating the head 180 degrees will work. Glad you pointed that out Brad. If I don’t see a left-handed one, I’ll get a right-handed one and do likewise.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View BTKS's profile

BTKS

1967 posts in 2063 days


#9 posted 946 days ago

You guys are correct. There isn’t a right or left handed hewing hatchet, just which side you put the flat on. Once the handle is installed it becomes right or left handed. The handle should be slanted toward the curved side of the hatchet to give your hand clearance when flattening or smoothing the side of a timber. Primarily this axe is used with the grain instead of across the grain.
The bevel on the other hand should ALL be on the curved side. The blade is made to knock off high spots and smooth timber. A series of V cuts in a log with a regular axe then swinging with the grain to knock off huge chunks to create a flat side when squaring timber with a broad axe. This hatchet is used for the same job just smaller scale. As others above said, think of it as a swinging chisel.
Roy Underhill demonstrates the use of the hatchet in some episodes along with the broadaxe in others. An adze is another very similar tool.
JUST BE CAREFUL with your off hand an where it is when you’re swinging.
Hope this helps. A little skimpy on the details but I think you’ve got the idea anyway.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View mtenterprises's profile

mtenterprises

815 posts in 1292 days


#10 posted 946 days ago

The eye in the head is straight meaning it can be set up either for a lefty or righty by putting the handle on from the other side. Right now it IS set up for a lefty.
MIKE

-- See pictures on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44216106@N07/ And visit my Facebook page - facebook.com/MTEnterprises

View Väinämöinen's profile

Väinämöinen

3 posts in 464 days


#11 posted 464 days ago

Also note that you are always supposed to work from the butt of the log to the top of the log, the flat side of the axe/hatchet being on the log side when working, which means you will need a “right sided” and a “left sided” hatchet/axe for each log. At least that’s how it was told to me. I also tend to believe that everyone can figure out the best way for them to do a project like hewing.

View Väinämöinen's profile

Väinämöinen

3 posts in 464 days


#12 posted 464 days ago

Oops, I mean you work form the narrow end to the butt end of the log. But, this can be achieved by working forward along the log on one side, and backward on the other side:

http://mudpondhewing.blogspot.com/2012/05/hewing-with-broad-axe-part-4-hewing.html

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