Sylva Spoon

Kalthoff Axe

Thomas BartlettComment

So this turned up in the mail the other day.

Kalthoff axe and sharpening stone

I got myself a wonderful little axe from Kalthoff Axes. I've already got some Karlsson Tools axes, a Svante Djarv Little Viking and a Granfors Bruk Wildlife Hatchet. They're all great axes, I got myself a Kalthoff axe not just because axes are cool but because I really like what Kalthoff Axes are doing.

From left to right: Kalthoff, Hans Karlsson (HK), Gransfors Bruks, Svante Djarv (SD)

From left to right: Kalthoff, Hans Karlsson (HK), Gransfors Bruks, Svante Djarv (SD)

As a maker of things, it’s great to see such a deep focus on a singular product. They just makes axes. Not a range of axes. Just one style. And Julia knows axes. Like really knows them. She’s done a TEDx talk about axes. She learnt forging at Granfors Bruk and was CEO of Wetterlings until she decided to go off and make her own axes.

Trawling through the Kalthoff instagram account it looks like this carving axe went through about a year of prototyping and testing before its launch in Fall 2018. The prototypes got serious testing from Beth Moen, the lead teacher in wood at Sätergläntans Institute for Slöjd and ambassador for Morakniv. After release the axes got further testing by Peter Follansbee, Jonas Als and my teacher, Jarrod Dahl. Heavy hitters in the world of green woodworking and hand tool use.

So far, I've only carved 15-20 spoons with it, so still early days for me. First impressions are certainly good. The handle is comfortable, the leather sheath feels solid and the important metal part at the end of the handle slices wood. It feels like it'll be an excellent spoon carver.

Kalthoff+Small+Carver+01

It’s overall weight is about 685 grams, a smidge lighter than my other axes (700g HK, 780g SD). The texture of the handle is nice and grippy. It’s an ever-so-slightly shorter handle than the others. With these light-weight carving axes I’m rarely gripping near the knob of the shaft (insert penis joke here), so a shorter handle isn’t much of an issue. Most of the time I’m gripping around the belly of the handle.
The cutting edge isn’t as far from the neck of the axe. Thanks to our sense of proprioception (knowing where our body parts are in relation to themselves), this makes it easier to be more accurate with your cuts when your hand is tucked up behind the beard of the axe.

Kalthoff Axe Head

My one gripe is that the space between the beard and the handle gets a little tight for my sausage fingers. A slight adjustment to my grip makes it work, so really this is probably an issue with my technique rather than the function of the axe. I need to change the way I adjust my grip when using the Kalthoff compared to how I use my other axes. Embarrassingly, for the first few uses I had struggled to put the sheath back on, but that’s entirely down to me failing at a basic life task.

Good grain orientation in the handle

Good grain orientation in the handle

Thin bit and even bevels

I’ve already started recommending this axe to my students. The HK and SD axes are great, and also get a recommendation, but because Kalthoff is currently making axes to order, you can guarantee getting one. It took about 10 weeks from clicking ‘Buy’ to the axe arriving on my doorstep. Mind you, now that I’ve written this glowing review, I’m sure sales will explode for Kalthoff and they might have to change their business model with the flood of orders sure to come their way. If you’re in the market for a new carving axe, be sure to get in there quick.

Maybe I’m overestimating my influence. Then again, I am kind of a big deal.

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Kalthoff Axe vital statistics:

Axe head weight: 550 gram / 1.2 pound
Handle: 300 mm / 12 inch long
Edge: Long and curved 100 mm / 3.9 inch
Bevel: 32 degree flat
Blade: 130 mm / 5.1 inch long with carving cavity
Neck: 55 mm / 2.2 inch long
Steel: Swedish steel. Alloyed with carbon, molybdenum, chrome, and vanadium
Forging: Die forged in hammer press
Heat treatment, edge: Kalthoff slow hardening to 57 HRC
Steel finish: Rust proof oil
Wood: Swedish ash, grown in Skåne
Grain alignment: Standing grain with +/- 45% variation
Wood moisture: Axe assembled with handle and wedge furniture dry at 8–10% moisture level
Handle finish: Raw linseed oil
Leather: Vegetable tanned cow hides, bordeaux shade


If this review has you interested in learning more about carving axes, on October 27th I’ll be hold a class in Madison, WI all about how to carve with an axe and knife. More details here. I’ll have all my axes with me so you can try them out before getting one yourself.