Saturday, 14 June 2014

We really want to see those fingers

Excuse the obscure Vic and Bob quote. I made a new discovery yesterday with my axe work which involves Peter pointer. I haven't carved a spoon for too long (about 8 months), partly due to ill health, but I'm much better now and so I decided to pick up my axe. I very quickly realised that I was feeling pretty weak having not swung an axe for so long. I decided that I needed to get as much done with my axe as possible, both to save time carving, but also to work on my out of practice technique. When doing fine work with the axe I always choke up with my hand as close to the axe head as possible. Yesterday, for some unknown reason I extended my pointing finger along the side of the axe head. I wouldn't be surprised to find that most carvers already do this and if any are reading this then they may well be rolling their eyes, but it was a bit of a eureka moment for me as this gave me much more control.

I'm sure I read or watched Chris Schwarz talking about extending your pointing finger whilst sawing. I think that he said it was a cue to your brain and helped you to saw straight. I think it may have been on an episode of The Woodwright's Shop. Anyway, I think it had the same kind of effect for me whilst hewing and I certainly felt that it gave me more control. It also puts part of my hand behind the   axe head, which adds to the control.

Then I thought about my Svante Djarv little Viking axe and the groove it has along the back of the head. With my pointer extended and my thumb resting comfortably along the groove, I can bear down with my thumb (rather than swinging the axe) and do small, but very precise cuts.

Like I say, I'm sure this is old hat to most of my fellow axe wielders, but it's been a revolution to me.


  1. Now, it's funny you should post on this subject because I was planning a post myself to warn people against my personal 'bad habit' of extending my pointing finger down the back of the axe head (what I like to call the 'table tennis bat' grip) when choking up on the head because on a couple of occasions now I have been working in this manner and the section of wood that is being removed, that naturally goes up that cheek of the axe as it is being riven, has gone up under the fingernail of my pointer finger, which is actually rather painful. But I was going to conclude my post by adding that you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs; likewise you can't work with axes and all manner of sharp tools and not cut or hurt yourself occasionally (who of us hasn't explained that to our wife or spouse whilst sitting in an A&E waiting room?)

  2. I mentioned this technique on a green woodworking forum and the splinter problem came up, but to be honest I'm using it for precise work and so I'm not taking long slivers off. I'll let you know if I end up regretting it.