I like learning about new tool makers, and Hans Karlsson is a Swedish blacksmith whose high quality, hand-forged carving and woodworking tools are ones I’ve been recently taken with. I picked up a small carving adze and heavy duty bent gouge for bowl making, and the excellent quality is distinct from the get-go.
Here’s some information on Hans Karlsson and his tools that I have been able to glean. If you’re interested in wood sculpture, bowl and spoon carving, or any kind of hand tool woodworking, take note!
About Hans Karlsson Tools
Greenwood & Leather Crafts has a nice mini-interview with Hans Karlsson about his entry into blacksmithing. They’ve also got a nice little write-up with photos about making a dough bowl with a basic set of his carving tools. Very sweet. Karlsson runs a small outfit, but makes hundreds of varieties of gouges, axes, drawknives, inshaves, etc.
Through some extensive searching, most of the info I’ve gleaned has been from web forums — there isn’t a heck of a lot of resources on Karlsson tools elsewhere — in fact, the tools themselves are somewhat difficult to locate for purchase.
Where to Buy
The two best places to buy his gouges, adzes, axes, etc. are the following. There is but one US shop, and that is Drew Langsner’s Country Workshops, where you can find a good variety of his lineup. It’s really expensive, though, and I’ve found Woodland Craft Supplies, based in the UK, to be much cheaper, even with shipping overseas. Matthew (the owner) is a helpful fellow and quick to respond to email queries.
- Country Workshops — only US shop for Hans Karlsson tools
- Woodland Craft Supplies — based in the UK, less expensive, has perhaps a somewhat wider selection?
- Hans Karlsson’s official site — can’t tell if you can actually order directly, as it’s somewhat hard to navigate, but worth a look nonetheless
Karlsson 5cm Adze and Gouge
I decided on a 5cm adze for bowl carving, as it came highly recommended across several forums. This sucker is intensely sharp, has a great heft, and sweet finish. It’s small enough that you could use to rough out the bowls of larger spoons, too, with some very careful use. It’s versatile and you can do some serious wasting fairly quickly. It even cut through (green) hard maple quite nicely, although I’ve since backed off from beginning bowl carving with such a tough wood…
Up until now, I’ve never actually used an adze before, but I’ve been fascinated by dough bowls ever since seeing images and instructions for making one in Drew Langsner’s book several years ago. An adze makes very quick work of waste removal, and from my research, I chose the Karlsson model based on the excellent feedback I’ve seen. I’m anxious to find a piece of poplar, or somewhat soft wood to try it out some more. Cherry would be sweet for a bowl, too, but maybe I’ll work up to that. We’ll see. Whatever I can find, I guess.
I should have gotten two gouges for bowl carving, as the heavy duty bent gouge (55-40mm) is very, very sweet, but it becomes clear that a smaller gouge is much more appropriate for finer cleanup work. The heavy gouge can be used to great effect for wasting wood (in place of, or in addition to the adze), and it is really, really nice to hold. Fits like a glove. The end has a bit of rubber to dampen the blow of a mallet, which I actually really like. Again, it’s as sharp as one could want right out of the box, and the finish is lovely. This is a very nice tool, and I could see it coming in handy for some specific timber framing joinery as well.