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What I'm Not Sharpening Today - Kalthoff Carving Axe


November 24, 2020

I was introduced to the Kalthoff Small Carving Axe by professional woodworker,Tom Bartlett. Tom uses his axe to skillfully turn a piece of green wood into spoon blank. I've been using a small axe that wasn't designed specifically for carving, so I was anxious to upgrade my axe. If I'm honest, my skills need the upgrade more urgently, but I like tools.

All smiles from the new axe owner.

My New Carving Axe

I still get excited when I get a new tool. This carving axe came all the way from Sweden. It is made by Julia Kalthoff and her team at Kalthoff Axes. These are hand crafted axes and you can feel the quality in your hand.

Even the axe handle was made by hand. In the photo below, you can see the tool marks on the hand carved ash handle. Sure, they could have used a big belt sander to make it smoother, but that wouldn't keep with the true craftsmanship (or is that craftspersonship?) that is present in this tool.

The hand carved handle feels great in your hand.

Evaluating How The Axe Was Sharpened

This axe was obviously carefully sharpened on a large grinding wheel. The shape of the edge is very consistent and the main bevel is ground very well. The concave grind created by the grinding wheel was then honed. I can't tell what type of stone or strop was used, but you can tell by the shiny areas on the edge that it was finished on some type of flat stone or strop.

That edge looks very well sharpened.

Testing the Sharpness

Being in the sharpening business, not the carving business, my first step was to test the new axe for sharpness. I like to test the sharpness of edges before I use the new tool or knife. Once I use it, I can't go back and test it as it was produced. Over the years, I have found quite a bit of variation on brand new edges, some are very sharp, but honestly most are either only somewhat sharp or even dull.

Wow, that is sharp!

While the Edge On Up Sharpness Tester was designed for knives, the carving axe was very easily tested with the existing fixture without modification. With it set up, I just needed to perform the test. I carefully lowered the axe to the fixture holding the test media. With almost no pressure, the test media broke. It took only 128 grams! That was a truly impressive number. A brand new knife that is well sharpened is seldom lower than 150 and most high-end cutlery is 200 to 400. For an axe to be sharper than most high-end knives with rather delicate edges, is very impressive.

What's Next?

This is probably the first time that I will not sharpen or strop the edge of a new tool. I'm just going to use it as it left the shop in Sweden. I can't wait to use this axe to do some carving. That will be the true test of this fine axe. But given all the signs of true craftsmanship, I don't think there will be anything but pleasant surprises.