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Thread: Hewing hatchet questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Dayton Ohio

    Hewing hatchet questions

    Ok, I just got an old Plumb hewing hatchet. I'm right handed and the single bevel is to the right side. The edge has a very slight curve to it. The flat side also has a very slight bevel to it. Should I totally flatten the back or leave the slight bevel? How sharp do I sharpen it and what is the best technique to use?

    All answers appreciated. Thanks.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    Eric - What you have is what I call a "shingling hatchet", though I can't verify that's actually the correct term, nor the correct original use for the tool.

    However, I can answer some of your other questions - yes, you want a hatchet to be just as sharp as a carving tool if you intend to do precise work with it in clean wood (by clean, I mean "not firewood, and no bark"). To get the tool to work as intended, you want a flat back and only one side beveled, and a slight curve on the cutting edge. The easiest way to get a flat back is to grind the bevel past the point where someone put a back-bevel on it, the hone/sharpen as normal.

    The purpose for wanting a flat back on it is so that the back will track along a previous cut, while the side with the bevel (which should always be pointing up) will split little chunks of wood on the other side of the previous cut. If used correctly, the single-bevel shingling hatchet does a really nice job of creating a neat, clean inset cut into a log. Underhill shows the use of this hatchet in one of his Woodwright books as the initial stages to wooden dough boal making.

  3. #3
    Eric, I've heard it both ways--a flat back and a slight bevel on the back. Mine has a slight bevel on the back and works very well. I believe it keeps you from cutting too far into the wood, and instead, deflects the blade back out of the wood once you've struck your workpiece. I've never used a flat back hatchet, though, so maybe it works even better. Peter Follansbee's hatchet has a flat back, but Ville Sundqvist used a hatchet with a slight bevel. I sharpen mine with stones by laying the blade on my bench and using a circular motion with the stones. I do not put a hollow grind on the blade since I believe it would weaken the edge too much. Instead, I try for a flat bevel.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    extreme southeast Nebraska
    A shingling hatchet has a very narrow blade and usually a serrated head for driving nails and a row of holes with a movable bolt affair to measure the reveal when shingling.

    What eric has is a broad hatchet, (small broad axe).
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
    By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand

  5. #5
    I think the curved back is like the curved blade of a jack plane. It takes a shaving thick in the middle tapering to nought on on sides. It also allows you to roll the chisel into the work.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Sebastopol, California
    If you're right-handed, this is great (if left-handed, consider putting a new handle on it, with the bevel reversed). Technique is fairly simple when hewing off wood: bring the hatchet in at about 45 degrees to make cross-grain cuts (don't go all the way to your layout lines), then down to knock off chips. Final smoothing can be done with more gentle strokes; I've even seen pics of people holding it like a chisel with the handle in an odd position, although I've never tried this myself.

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