If you’re reading or working along with many of us who are returning to the roots of the craft and building the Follansbee/Alexander Joint Stool (I talked about it here), there are a few tools that are less commonly found in most of our shops. In most cases, you can get away with using other tools (yes, you could even use your machines). I thought it worth the learning experience of trying to use the tools an early joiner might have (as much as possible). One of these is a hewing hatchet.
New ones are quite expensive, but fortunately, ebay tends to have a few at any given time. I paid about $23 for one on Ebay.
This one is a brand I’m not familiar with, and frankly, I didn’t really care about brand, just that the steel was in decent shape, and was a head of ~2-3 lbs. A little research online showed a 1925 flyer for a similar head, made from ‘chrome nickel alloy steel’ selling for $37/dozen, in 1925 dollars (that’s ~$460 of today’s commodity dollars), and described as ‘Broad’ hatchet, single-bevel, curved bit.
I cleaned up the head with sandpaper to remove the very light pitting and corrosion and polished up the back side. then ground the bevel, and honed it as I might a scrub plane blade – with ample camber. Honed it to 6000, razor sharp (sliced my wrist a little just grazing it!)
On to the handle: I used a method discussed by Robin Wood, nearly exactly, so I won’t go into the details, they’re all on that blog.
A couple things I did slightly differently:
Since it’s a hewing hatchet, often , the handles are angled away from the plane of the flat side, to give some clearance for your knuckles when swinging parallel to the stock. I roughed the tenon for the head at an angle relative to the length of the board. The result is a head about a 1:16 angle between the handle and the edge, flat face to the left (I’m a righty):
Some of these hatchets I’ve seen have extremely offset handles, almost ‘S’ shaped. which could be made if you started with really thick, or already curved stock. I’ll determine whether I’ll need that when I’m using it. I suspect not, given the amount I’m likely to use it.
Shaping the handle is entirely up to you. I just went with what looked right. I may tweak it after I use it a bit. For finish, I’m thinking just Boiled Linseed Oil, though I’m open to suggestions.
In all, this took about 2 hours of shaving, and shaping, so in my mind was worth the effort. This tool should last decades, and if the handle need to be replaced, now, I know how.
More on the Joint Stool: