Council Tools asked me to preview their newest axe, the Camp-Carver. It’s been designed as a camp axe that can also tackle green woodworking tasks. They sent an early production model for me to see how well it works as a carving axe, and to provide feedback for improvements. They’ve got a few bushcrafters looking into its camp functionality. I don’t often find myself having to strike ferro-rods or build shelters in my workshop, so I’ll just stick to talking about what I know.
For a carving axe it’s got quite a long handle, 40cm (15 ¾”) and an overall weight of about 950 grams (almost 2.2lbs). The cutting edge has a nice curve and is 9.5cm (3 ¾”) long. Out of the box it had a slight convex secondary bevel. This makes a stronger edge for performing tasks like felling or splitting. When carving we want a single bevel that runs straight to the edge. This lets us use that bevel as a guide for accuracy. We can lay the bevel flat against the wood and know that the edge with start to engage with the wood. A secondary bevel lifts the cutting edge away from the wood, making it harder to know at what angle the edge will start to bite. A secondary bevel naturally occurs after a lot of stropping, so removing one is a common enough task and didn’t take too long.
I’ve axed out about half a dozen spoons with it. It’s a nice axe. I’ve always maintained that any hatchet with a narrow bit and a sharp edge can be used for carving. While this axe wasn’t designed with carving solely in mind, carving is one of its intended uses. A feature I really like in my carving axes is having a bearded head. For delicate, fine control you want to hold the handle as close to the axe head as possible. With a bearded axe, this puts your hand directly behind the cutting edge. You can now use your sense of proprioception. With your hand directly behind the cutting edge of the axe you have a better idea of where the edge will land.
Another feature I like in a carving axe is a curved edge. The best way to get a clean surface when carving with an axe is to have a good slicing action. The curved shape helps with these slicing cuts. The curve puts a smaller surface area in contact with the wood, increasing its cutting force. The Camp-Carve curve is pretty much the same as my Hans Karlsson Sloyd axe, which makes it easier for me switching between the two. Not sure where this is coming from, but I feel that for the weight of the axe, I’d like a slightly longer cutting edge. The Camp-Carve is 250 grams heavier (almost 9oz) heavier than the Hans Karlsson, but with almost the same edge length. It’s how I feel, but I’m struggling to come up with a proper rationalisation for why.
The slightly longer handle requires a little getting used to. I don’t know if it poses an actual issue or if I’m just accustomed to the shorter handle length of my other axes. A too long handle is certainly a hindrance in a carving axe. It gets in the way. A longer handle that’s just the right (wrong?) length will hit your body, throwing off the accuracy of your strikes. This wasn’t the case for me, but this is something that will be different for different people. This is purely personal, but I’d also like a slightly thicker handle, with more of a curve to it. I’m far too lazy to ever replace a perfectly functional handle. Unfortunately they’ve done a great job with the grain orientation of the hickory handle so it probably won’t be failing anytime soon.
I got into green woodworking by making a lot of pointy sticks as a child. In my early twenties I got back into camping and wanted to make more than just pointy sticks. That was my entry into green woodworking. I had a Swiss Army Knife, quickly upgraded to a Mora Clipper for most of my initial carving. Many, many blisters and aching muscles later I added the Gransfors Wildlife hatchet to my tools. I picked that axe because it’s a nifty little carver but it was designed as packable camping hatchet. Here in the US, where some parks let you cut dead standing wood, adding an axe to your pack is fairly common. I’ve done very little dispersed camping here, and I didn’t bring any of my fancy $250 carving axes with me. I brought along my slightly more beat up Gransfors for handling a variety of camp tasks, as well as a little spoon carving. An axe that can carve and do tasks around a campground is a nice mix.
If you are in the market for an axe, enjoy camping and/or want to start carving, the Council Tool Camp-Carver is a good choice. I’d also say it’s a pretty good choice for people who are already carving, looking to upgrade from their big box store hatchet. It’s got a lot of the same features as dedicated carving axes with one added bonus: you’ll probably be able to find one. With the rise in popularity of spoon carving and sloyd, many smaller tool makers are struggling to keep up with demand. As an owner of two of the more popular carving axes I think they’re definitely worth waiting for, but if the lack of an axe is holding you back from carving, this is a great option. It would be fantastic if Council Tools decided to come out with a dedicated carving axe (hint hint). For the moment, this is the closest they’ve got in their line up and it’s certainly capable of getting work done.
Vital Statistics from Council Tools:
Premium Hickory handle
26 oz. Head weight (737 grams)
25 deg. Flat-grind
3.75” Bit length
15.5” Overall length
90 deg. Spine
Large hatchet eye
NOS Handle design