Thursday, 4 April 2013

Axe File Number 3: Stefan Ronnqvist Viking Axe

The first dedicated carving axe I bought was the ever popular Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe. Having carved previously with other regular hatchets, I really appreciated the extra thought that had gone into it's design, such as the long curved bit that extends above the eye and the beard that allows you to choke up on the handle. The only problem I encountered was my feeble arms. As a hobbyist woodcarver I can sometimes go for quite a while without swinging an axe, so the Swedish Carving axe   is a bit on the heavy side for someone who hasn't built up the necessary strength. So I decided that I wanted  a lighter axe without sacrificing the features that I like so much. I'd seen the Stefan Ronnqvist axe in a few different books such as the wonderful 'Celebrating Birch', I'd also seen Jogge Sundqvist using it in his 'Carving Swedish Woodenware'  DVD. Well if it's good enough for Jogge, then it's good enough for me. The only problem was that I could no longer find it for sale anywhere. I'd searched for some time, so when I received an email from Woodland Craft Supplies saying that they had them in stock again for the first time in several years, I immediately ordered one.

The first thing that I would say is that this isn't an axe for the completely unexperienced, as it arrived un-sharpened and without a handle. The edge didn't require much work to get it to shaving sharp, but the handle was a challenging task. The first handle I tried on it was based on the handle of my Swedish Carving axe, but it just didn't seem right. Pictures I'd seen of the axe all had a very pronounced curve and this was necessary to take full advantage of the slicing capability of the head. After a bit of enquiry I was kindly given a template of one of the original handles and that worked really well for the overall shape, but it has really taught me a lot about the importance of the handle and I will still refine it from time to time, taking a bit of here and there.

I've been using this axe almost exclusively for a while now and really enjoy carving with it. It slices through the wood really well, this is partly due to the 51/2" curved bit, longer than the Swedish Carving axe (4.33"). At just under 800g it is a bit lighter than the Gransfors (900g), but not by that much. It is enough to make a difference though and I can cut very accurately with it for longer than I can with the Gransfors. 

The beard on it gives plenty of room to choke up on the handle and make planing cuts and other grips that allow you to use the axe a bit like a knife.The long curved bit means that you've got a lot of edge to work with and you can make long slicing cuts. This is handy for me as I like to get as much work done as I can with the axe whilst I'm outside, that way I can finish off in the evenings, carving in the living room. 

The non cutting edges are all rounded off with a bevel and this makes it more comfortable to use your thumb to push the edge into a controlled cut, using the axe like a knife.

You can also tuck the handle under your other arm and use your chest as a fulcrum for even more control.

I forgot to take a picture of this one, but the long curved bit also means that you can rest the toe of the bit on your block and rock the head back using the heel to make some powerful, but controlled cuts. Overall I'm very happy with the axe, it performs really well and is incredibly versatile. It comes with a symmetrical bevel so can be used by both right and left hand carvers. This axe gives a lot of edge for it's weight. 


  1. Hi there
    I don't suppose you've still got the template for the handle have you? And would you be happy to share it? I've just received a lovely Westermann laminate carving axe head of similar size and proportions to the Ronnqvist and it would work well with this handle! I'm still waiting for my email from Matt saying he's got more in stock!

  2. Hi Great review. After wanting one for years, I finally got one from Woodlnad Crafts. Could you please email me the template for the handle, if you have it? Would be very helpful

  3. Ade, how much is the Westerman laminate axe and is he still making them?