Carving axes are useful tools that have been around for centuries. They were popularly used in the middle ages to carve out towns, and they’re still as beneficial today because we use them to make homes, spoons, and bowls, among other things.
Over time, there have been slight changes and improvements to their design. The developments have made carving axes even more efficient and capable of carving out more shapes and creating beautiful works of art. Our guide consists of carving axes that will satisfy anyone who’s interested in woodworking, regardless of whether they’re experienced or new to the craft.
How to Choose the Best Carving Axe
To ensure that you get your ideal carving axe, we’ve highlighted some features that you should keep in mind when making your selection.
The Axe Bit and Blade
If you’ve used a carving axe before, you might have noticed that its bit and blade was different from that of other axes. Good carving axes are often single bit. You’re going to have a hard time with a double bit axe, especially since they’re much heavier.
Carving axes will also have different blades from most splitting and felling axes. To easily slice into wood, their blade edge tends to be long, thin, and straight. They’ll also have a straight pointed bevel face. Single bevel axes are a good choice when it comes to wood carving because they’re flat on one side and sloped on the other.
However, there are quite a number of quality wood carving axes that also have a double bevel design. Such axes are versatile and excellent for chopping and cutting wood. You’ll still be able to carve with various types of axes as long as they have a functional design.
The material used to make the blade matters because the axe is going to take a lot of abuse. You should settle for durable, strong metals if you want your axe to serve you well. The metal should also be easy to sharpen and shouldn’t require frequent sharpening.
An axe blade made from high-grade steel will only need occasional sharpening since it will retain its sharpness for an extended period. But, you should also keep in mind that the frequency in which you’ll need to sharpen your blade is dependent on how often you’ll be using your carving axe.
The Axe Handle
You’ll have an easy time with a carving axe that has a shorter handle. Such handles will give you a better grip and additional control whenever you’re operating using one hand. For better precision, you need to select an axe with a good grain orientation and a nicely finished handle.
The best carving axes also have curved handles. So you should always look at the shape of the handle whenever you’re making a purchase. These kinds of handles make the axes readily adaptable to the user’s palm.
The Shape of the Axe Head
For the best wood carving experience, you should get an axe with a narrow poll or butt. This shape will allow you to comfortably hold the handle just below the axe head. As a result, you’ll be able to effortlessly carve out different wood shapes and try out various types of artwork.
10 Best Carving Axes of 2019
1. Gransfors Bruks, Large Swedish Carving Axe
Designed for woodworking and shaping wood, this carving axe was made by master craftsmen who drew their inspiration from old designs. It has a long curved cutting edge and a curved handle with a moderate length.
You’ll have an easy time when cutting using curved movements, thanks to its wide beveled face. Its design also allows users to grip it right against the head. You’ll find it quite effective whenever you need to make cuts that require a lot of precision.
The carving axe has a textured handle for a firm grip. If you want it customized, you can make a special order, and Gränsfors will make you an axe for either left or right-handed carving. The axe also has a weighty head for reliable chopping power. Overall, it’s well-balanced and can also be a useful multi-purpose tool.
- Comes with an ax book.
- Has a vegetable-tanned leather sheath.
- Its handle is ergonomic.
- Some users find it tricky to sharpen.
This product is best for people who want a reliable carving axe that feels great in their hands, does an excellent job roughing out shapes, and doesn’t throw out big chips.
2. Husqvarna 19" Wooden Carpenter's Axe
Husqvarna is a brand that’s well known for its well-crafted Swedish steel axes. This particular axe is best suited for carpentry and other types of woodwork. Carvers highly revere it because of its edge retention, and exceptional performance. You’ll find it stable and easy to handle because of its thin blade and long straight cutting edge. The edge is also tough and easy to hone.
For secure fastening, Husqvarna used both a wooden and a steel wedge to attach the axe head to a hickory shaft. It also has a recess in the head. You’ll be able to get as close as possible to the cutting edge thanks to this design. Users like how it enables them to have maximum control over the axe when carving. The axe handle also has a nice curvature and a comfortable width. It makes it easy to use the axe for both fine tasks and major woodwork.
- High-quality forging.
- Has a leather edge cover.
- The axe is versatile.
- A few users reported some quality control issues.
This product is best for carvers who want an heirloom quality carving axe. It’s also an excellent fit for active outdoorsmen and new carvers.
3. 1844 Helko Werk Germany Rheinland Hatchet
This German axe is quite versatile. You can use it to carve, make kindling, carry out fine cutting work, and other light tasks. Its axe head is made of German C50 high carbon steel. A Helko master smith hand forged it using a drop hammer on open dies. The axe head is also heat treated and oil-hardened. You can trust that it’s a high-quality axe that’s going to serve you for a long time.
It has a Grade A American hickory handle that was crafted in Switzerland. The handle has a boiled linseed oil finish, and it’s also quite secure because it's hung with wood and notched steel ring wedges. It is about 14 inches long, making it compact enough for easy portability. The axe is also lightweight, so it won’t tire you out.
Like other Helko Werk axes, this Rheinland Hatchet also comes with a 1 oz. Axe Guard bottle. The oil will help you protect the axe from rust. It’s also 100% green and biodegradable.
- Has a 150 grit smooth sanded handle.
- Great edge retention.
- It has a wide bit making it great for wood carving.
- It might not be sharp enough for you on arrival, depending on what you want to use it for.
This product is best for people who want a well-crafted carving axe that’s heavy enough to get a lot of work done with the least amount of effort.
4. Hults Bruk Akka Foresters Premium Outdoor Axe
Built in a foundry that’s been operational for centuries, this Hult Bruk axe is one of the highest quality axes on this list. Its axe head comprises of Swedish steel that was struck multiple times to increase its density. As a result, it is extremely durable and can handle a variety of tasks. The head construction involves a tempered zone that will hold a very sharp edge even after you sharpen it multiple times.
What makes it stand out as a good carving axe is its straight knife ground edge. It also has a finger notch near the neck for added carving convenience. Users like how the notch allows for tremendous dexterity. Some even use it to hang the axe on branches when they want to keep it off the ground momentarily.
The Hults Bruk axe is also useful for a wide range of applications. You can use it to chop firewood and even clear forest trails. Some people also use it as their go-to bushcraft axe. It weighs about 2.2 pounds, with a 1.5 pound head for exceptional leverage and power. It’s quite comfortable to hold, and you’ll find it lightweight enough to handle or travel with.
The axe comes with a traditional leather protective sheath. The sheath is sturdy, well-made, and has a welt to protect the bit edge. It also has some unique Swedish decorative elements.
- Razor-sharp and useable right out of the box.
- Has a linseed oil treated hickory handle.
- Some users feel that the handle isn’t strong enough for major woodwork.
This product is best for people who want a carving axe with a handle length that offers a good compromise for both one-handed and two-handed use.
5. ESEE Gibson Axe
This Gibson carving axe has a Viking bearded head, to allow users to carry out their work comfortably. It has an excellent gripping surface thanks to its finger grooves and textured scales. Aside from carving, it will come in handy for a variety of camp chores as well. The axe head is made of 1095 high carbon steel, so it can handle rigorous tasks. However, you’ll need to properly maintain it to ensure that it doesn’t rust or stain.
- Made in the USA.
- Has a 55-57 HRC.
- Sharp edge with near-perfect grinds.
- Some users don’t like the handle design.
This product is best for people who want a compact carving axe that can take a lot of abuse.
6. Bearded Hatchet / Axe Combined with Curved Adze Blade
This bearded axe is also known as a spoon or bowl makers axe. It stands out as a carving axe because its design is based on the advice given by a skilled master bowl and spoon maker. It has two blades that will help you rough out and detail the shapes you need. The axe is made from high-quality steel and holds its edge even after carving out tools like mallets out of ironwood. It’s also suitable for splitting, chopping, and starting fires.
- Has a good balance.
- Comes carving sharp.
- The handle is thick in the middle. Some users find this design challenging.
This product is best for people who could use a carving axe that doubles as an adze blade.
7. Council Tool 1.7# Wood-Craft Camp Carver Axe
Council Tool offers a resilient carving axe, with a hardened poll that you can use for some light hammering tasks. The axe has a nice head to handle fit, and it will provide you with a well-balanced grip when carving. It also features a dense hickory handle with great grain orientation.
- Retains its sharpness for some time.
- Functional design.
- Made in the USA.
- Might chip when used on materials that are extremely hard.
This product is best for people who want an all-round carving axe that they can use for woodworking, hiking, and camping chores.
8. Drake Off Road Tools Light Bearded Axe
This Drake Off Road Tools axe appeals to carvers, campers, and bushcraft enthusiasts. It's compact, lightweight, and has a handle that feels secure. You’ll like how it feels in your hands because of its ergonomic design. The axe is also very sharp, making it an excellent choice for detailed work.
- Its edge is easy to sharpen.
- Well-seated handle.
- Perfect size for carving spoons and small bowls.
- The coating comes off.
- The axe handle isn’t substantial for intensive work.
9. CRKT Freyr Axe
CRKT offers a deep bearded Viking style axe that can also double as a carving axe. It's designed for comfortable one-hand use, and it's useful for projects that require controlled cuts. The axe also has a strong Tennessee Hickory handle with excellent shock resistance.
- Shaped for an ergonomic grip.
- Limited Lifetime Warranty.
- CRKT used magnesium phosphate coating on the axe head for a durable finish.
- It comes with an incredibly dull blade. You’ll need to put in some work to make it functional.
This product is best for carvers who also love Viking axes.
10. Prandi German Style Hatchet
This axe’s head comprises of C45 steel, with a performance that’s equivalent to that of 1045 carbon steel. It holds a fine edge even on hardwood and the axe head design is great for crafting. It’s a great carving axe because of its weight and handle ergonomics. You’ll also like its blade radius since it will let you bite deep and chop effectively.
- Nicely hung head.
- Comes with a leather sheath.
- German-style design.
- Needs more sharpening and some grind setting.
This product is best for people who want a cost-effective axe for small carving projects.
The Best Carving Axe
Some axes are specially crafted for carving, while others have functional designs that still make them great carving axes. You could opt for any of the above axes, based on your preferences. However, you should lean towards longer handle lengths if you’re looking for something versatile.
We recommend the Gransfors Bruks, Large Swedish Carving Axe because each aspect of its design is meant to provide you with an improved and frustration-free carving experience. It’s also the kind of axe that you can rely on for various carving projects.