Archive | Tools

Sloyd knife Course 8th Feb

Adrian Lloyd and I will soon be running a sloyd knife making course at my workshop – this course will be a bit different from previous courses, this time you be concentrating solely on making one knife- we have lots of equipment available, including a newly kitted out grinding room with a bank of ProEdges with a variety of different fittings, many of which have not yet reached the market under our Hewn&Hone brand. All these machines are plumbed into a new dust extraction system for your comfort and safety.

There will be time for you to have a look and even try out a variety of blades and handles and make the knife that you want to. You are of course welcome to have a think about this before the course and come with a drawing, sketch or idea- as long as it comes under the sloyd banner- we will be as flexible as possible but no full tang bushcraft blades or Bowie knives please!

You will get to forge and profile your blades on a grinder, after heat treat there are a variety of bevels forms you can choose for your knife. You will put the final edge on using a selection of fine grit H&H papers, but that is best done after handling.

You will make your own handles- we will tend to use ash for its consistency and ease of finishing – shape is much more important than grain, and you can make a handle to fit your hand. However if you want to bring some wood along then please do, but it must be workable with hand tools, we wont be sanding these to shape- wood dust and steel dust are definitely not compatible in my new extraction system.

Lastly you will get to weave a sheaf for your new blade- this is definitely Adrian’s area of expertise, nearly all my knives live in temporary-turned-permanent duct tape and cardboard sheaves!

So grab a place, there are only a few left now- and if you do find that that we are sold out drop us a line- we may be able to put on another day.

Course bookings are taken care of by Adrian from his site

Knife making Course 5th & 6th October

I will be teaching a Knife making course with Adrian Lloyd at his workshop in Cumbria this September, this course will run under my sharpening company Hewn & Hone’s banner.

Ade’s description of the course is below.

This workshop is suitable for all levels from complete beginners through to those that already have some experience of home blacksmithing. Adults only, or over 16 when accompanied by a paying adult.

This workshop will be limited to 10 participants.

Quite possibly the best opportunity for hand forged carving knives…

This is almost a two for the price of one workshop – and a rare chance to catch two of these incredible makers in the same place, at the same time, working on the same thing!

Nic Westermann and Adrian Lloyd, half of team Hewn and Hone, will spend the day teaching you to create two brand new, scary sharp carving knives from raw materials.

You’ll start with raw steel, bits of tree and some bark and be guided skilfully through the process from start to finish, having the opportunity to use and experience Hewn and Hone sharpening products and be taught how to achieve new levels of sharpness you thought never possible.

Over the course of the day long workshop, you’ll be forging, grinding, heat treating, sharpening, carving, weaving and generally having the time of your life.

We plan that all attending this course leave with a minimum of a Slöjd style carving knife and a detail carving knife or Kolrosing knife, carved and fitted handles and woven bark sheaths to protect those uber sharp edges.

All equipment, tools, materials, refreshments and lunch provided.

This is sure to be a popular course, and one that may not be repeated regularly – so do you really want to miss out…?

To be held in our farmhouse workshop in Dundraw, Cumbria.

All tools and materials are provided but you may bring your own if you have them and we can advise on their suitability.

Time: 09:30 – 17:30

All refreshments and lunch provided.

Further information will be sent via email upon confirmation of booking.

Workshop bookings are non refundable.

Workshop dates cannot be transferred once booked.

  • Saturday 5th October 2019
  • Sunday 6th October 2019

you can book a place here.

A Spread of Sloyd blades


On my  Hewn and Hone instagram account I recently put up a version of this photo, it was taken for an article I wrote for Woodcarving magazine on sharpening  sloyd blades. I was asked for a more detailed look at these blades,  So I made some measurements, collated some thoughts and took a better photo of them all lined up, in chronological order.

from the left-

Laburnum/ bone/ silver steel laminate- 76 x 14.3 x 2.0mm   21 deg bevel angle-  Despite the smaller handle this never feels too small in the hand. A delicate blade, needs a slight microbevel to hold the edge in harder woods. No intention of hollow grinding this one. The earliest carving blade I have, about 7 years old.

Mulberry/Bearing steel 82x 15.5 x 2.6   25 Deg . Forged with an intergral bolster, this makes a for a very neat fit at the handle, but in the end I decided this wasn’t really important. Recently hollow ground, not a blade I ever use, not keen on the lost edge near handle.

Ash/Bearing steel   77 x 15.8 x 2.6   25 Deg This was one of the first batch of blades I sent to Lie-Nielsen, it actually came back for evaluation as Peter Follansabee chipped it on a dry apple wood knot, nothing untoward found though, now hollow ground but originally flat.  Not a very subtle knife used more for roughing, although this may have changed with the hollow grind. Has been kept as a reference to stop the design drifting over the years. Comfortable handle but rarely used,

Cherry/ Silver steel laminate-62x 15.3x 2.6  23 deg- Kept this blade as there was a flaw in the laminate. Although I don’t like the look of this handle is gives the most control in a cut, possibly aided by the straight stiff edge. Recently hollow ground.

Hazel/bearing steel 80x 16.5x 2.2  25 deg . Pretty knife, precursor to the turning sloyds that we have been playing with, slightly convex bevels, only used on curved finishing cuts.

Hazel/ Bearing steel laminate 72x 18.5 x 2.8  22 deg-  This was an experiment in seeing how far I could push the Heat treat of laminates, a wicked but slightly fragile edge, not a blade I lend out but the sharpest and best edge holding of any of my blades. Flat bevels.

Cherry/bearing steel 70x 15.7 x 2.7  24 deg-  This was one of my first hollow ground blades – originally a lot longer,  it was one of my standard Sloyds ground on the wrong edge- hence the slight lip/ guard on the handle to stop me inadvertently using it the wrong way round, and I do lie to thumb push.. As the dead straight edge gave no clearance I kept cutting the opposing rim of kuksas when trimming the nearer one. So cut it down, with hindsight I cut too much off. Very easy blade to sharpen and cut flat with.

Ash/ Bearing steel- 83x 15 x 2.8 x 22 deg- My most recent blade, kept as not the best forging.  Pretty knife, but feels a bit light in the hand.

Mora106/ 120  sacrificed to my sloyd jig, then finished off practicing freehand grinds  on CBN wheels, they have only ever cut paper and hair.

106 – 82 x 14.5 x 2.8 – 26 deg

120- 59 x 14.8 x 2.8 – 29 deg

Both these were bought for a magazine shoot, untouched, only used to open boxes.


Quite a lot of information there- And I am not sure what can be usefully unpacked from it all, a lot of blades have recently been hollow ground as this is a great demo to do at shows,  however despite the ease in sharpening I do not find a hollow ground blade intrinsically better in use.  I laid these out at home and my Daughter remarked that they were virtually laid out in colour order- partly this is to be expected wood darkens with use, mulberry in particular is photosensitive. However I definitely used to favour darker woods when making knives, now I tend to stick to ash regardless.

Most of this though is my personal opinion. I was surprised however to be reminded  just what a diference handle size and shape makes, and this is absolutely tied to the size of the users hand and the grips that they favour, this is one of the reasons that I sell blades unhandled.

My other company, Hewn and Hone  are running a knife making course next month at the  Spoonhoolie  in Scotland, this is going to be really special as you will have a chance to try out a huge spread of blades, not limited to just these, evaluate the features you like in them and then over two days you will be able to forge a set of blades to your design and fully finish them with sheaths and handles.

Still a few place left- as demand has been high we slightly increased the course capacity- to compensate we now have an extra two instructors on this course to those advertised in the link. We look forward to seeing you all there!


Apologies for the infrequency of my blog posts, everyday I get  notification of new people signing up and haven’t posted in nearly a year. Most of my spare time has been spent on my other company Hewn and Hone, both in day to day running but also in developing and testing new products, I have also been developing some new tools for NW, but they are as yet unreleased, with the size of my waitlist it seems pointless to add to the product line at the moment, but the time will come.

Axes though- I damaged my shoulder nearly two years ago and although it did heal it was not really up to the production runs of axes I started doing, and although it feels fine now after a long rest I have decided not to restart production, the potential to damage myself and make it impossible to do any of my current forgings is at the back of my mind always and I kept putting off restarting axes as a result. It makes more sense to call a halt- the wait list that was held for axes will be dissolved- I don’t want to have this hanging over me and feeling that I should restart to service it. This has not been an easy decision but there was a limit to how long I could prevaricate over it, so finishing as I started, my apologies!

Hewn and Hone

It has been 6 years since I took the leap from blacksmith to full time toolmaker, as many will know all my work is done in house and this allows me complete control of the product that leaves my shop. Currently I have taken the decision that I want to be a craftsman not an employer and will not be taking on staff to expand production. I am very proud of Nic Westermann Hand Forged Excellence and want to keep this as true to my original ideals as possible. It has been really gratifying to see customers returning again and again to buy my tools, more aggressive advertising and marketing would have secured the initial stream of new customers but having a range of great, innovative tools meant they kept coming back. It has been a frustration that my tools are increasingly cloned but as other makers have said when they are aware of a better way it is hard to ignore it.

I used to sell a limited range of sharpening products on this site as it made sense to allow customers to maintain their purchases, many of you have emailed asking were it has gone as it was removed a few months ago. I had long wanted to design bespoke sharpening solutions for hand tools and expand this range however this would mean getting products made up for the site, conflicting with my view of Nic Westermann, and they certainly aren’t going to be forged, so I have started a separate company to bridge these concerns – Hewn and Hone, this will consist of me, Don Nalezyty and Alex Yerks.   Don, who provides the IT support for this site,  will be again be utilizing his skills in Web Design, IT and CADCAM, not to mention his background and experience in carving and teaching.  Alex’s background as a professional photographer and film-maker will be put to use in the numerous instructional videos we will be putting out.  Alex’s Kuksa carving, teaching and travels are well known and I am very pleased he is on the team. It has been a lot of work setting up the site, testing and refining new products, there are a lot of projects still underway that will be added to the site as they are completed. Letting go of doing everything in house for Hewn and Hone will also not put any limits on its growth, allowing me to continue with my first love, which is forging tools.

I have always admired old tool catalogues and wanted the new site to reflect that aesthetic, also the ethos that this site would, like my tools stand by its product rather than its gloss.  A few images may help to illustrate my point.

Firstly a small booklet I have, it funded its publication with a few adverts in the back, which is the best part of the book for me.

Whilst I like the style of this one for its clarity, simplicity and beautiful line drawing,

I can’t help but marvel at the boldness of the ad on the reverse of the page.

No gloss, just complete confidence in their product.  I was also reassured  because some of the products I have been commissioning include CBN and Diamond, I was concerned this would be a juxtaposition in an old style catalogue, but obviously not.

Followers of my blog will know that I like to investigate technical aspects of my toolmaking, with detailed experiments and I have carried this over to Hewn& Hone as you can see from my first blog post  Sandpaper shootout .  I will be carrying on in this theme with more tests, on both sites, whilst putting putting some handles on adzes recently I discovered a bizarre way to manipulate the handle that is worthy of more investigation and will be posting the results here. In the meantime have a look at the new site , there are some great new products to keeps your tools as sharp as the day you bought them, or sharper if you bought elsewhere.

Hewn and Hone

Postage and Packing

There are new postal rates coming out in the UK in October and this has prompted me to revamp the P&P charges on the site. Due to past difficulties in managing stock, customers often could buy only one item at a time and ended up ordering multiple times. Acknowledging this I made my postal rates as low as I could, and as a result often ended up paying more for the stamp than I charged for P&P to the customer, but on balance it worked out OK.

Now that Don has sorted out the ordering system the dynamics of the orders I take have changed again. I am seeing Increasingly larger orders, I did increase the flat rate charge but this made it expensive for customers that only bought one item, and with the recent addition of axes to my stock list the larger orders can still be close to double the P&P charge I make

Again Don has been able to help with this- So taking into account the new postal charges we have been able to work out a new system, depending on where you are there is a base rate- which has been reduced in most cases- if you only order the smaller blades this is all you will pay. Heavier items such as Axes, Gouges and Twca cams may add to the this base rate to come up with the final postage figure. I am not going to put up the loading that each item has, not because it is secret ( you can look at the postage charge at checkout anytime and see what you would be charged) but because it is complicated, varies region to region and due to the odd hikes in charges at different weights it isn’t intuitive. However it looks like it will be a much more equitable system, and if it turns out not to be, I will tweak the figures again.  My aim is to make and sell high quality tools, not make money from postage.

Keeping the elephants away


A man boards a train, and finds himself sitting in a compartment opposite another passenger who is reading The Times. Every time the other finishes a page, he tears it from the paper, rolls it into a ball and throws it from the train. Perplexed, the man asks what he is doing.

“Ah,” says the man with the newspaper. “A trick I learned in Africa. Keeps the elephants away, don’t you know.”

“But there aren’t any elephants around here!”

“Yes. Works well, doesn’t it!”

Nearly twenty years ago when I was an Artist Blacksmith I found myself in Paul Zimmerman’s forge in Germany, I was impressed as to how well seated his hammer heads were compared to mine, and was told that every Christmas they would soak all their hammers for three days in linseed oil, this would swell the wood and hold the heads on. This made a deep impression on me, not in the least that Christmas was the only time they took a break long enough to complete this process.

When I returned from this trip I set up shop more professionally, soaked all my hammers and have not suffered loose heads to the extent that I used to; forging hammers have a tough life, they often get hot from contact with hot steel, often enough to expel uncured linseed from the heads. But in my new shop the process seemed to work and I have used the same process on Axe and Adze heads with similar success. Or have I ? my new shop is much less damp than my old one, maybe the heads would not have come loose without a soak. In a similar vein I have heard and repeated the idea that soaking a handle in water is a bad idea as the fibres will try to expand greatly to the extent that they will become crushed and on drying the handle will be a worse fit than before.

Is this true though? can the fibres expand and become crushed at the same time? Yet another version I have heard is that in Japanese woodworking if an irregularity is found in the socket of an axe head the corresponding area in the handle is peened down and then carved to make as good a fit as possible, the handle is then fitted and water poured down the handle/socket junction. This soaks and expands the compressed wood which then pops back into place locking the handle on. Yet would soaking the handle not make it swell, compress the fibres and then contract on drying and come loose? It is said that if something is repeated eleven times on the internet it becomes irrefutable fact, but it is hard to know which facts to believe sometimes.

Heads coming loose on axes and adzes, especially where the contact area is relatively small because the eye socket is quite short- such as the Chineland pattern axes is something that comes up fairly frequently, even in my workshop I have had students bring along such axes for attention.

A slight window in my schedule gave me the few hours I needed to finally put in the time to continue a series of experiments to address some of these questions. I had made a tentative start over a year ago and then as ever work took over. But I am finally on track again. The full cycle of these including wetting and drying cycles will take around a month to complete and will be quite long winded. I will document results as they progress partly because I am uncharacteristically excited by this and want to share the results, also there is quite a lot to get across and it seems to make sense to break it down a bit.

To start off with though I  had, last year,  rough turned some ash blanks in the workshop, these were now skimmed in my metal lathe to be an accurate fit in some 25mm tube I have.

These  blanks were then cut into sections as were the tubes. They were then weighed and measured ( unfortunately my lathe was cutting a very slight taper) then driven into the tubes with a few very light taps of the hammer. This replicates an axe/adze/hammer handle as it would be fitted in my workshop. These tubes were then left over a radiator in my home and tested again. Unsurprisingly they had come loose to varying degrees, again replicating a common problem.

The next stage was to soak these test pieces in various solutions to try and fix them, I used the following:

Water- will it get even looser after drying?

PEG – polyethylene glycol- this was used quite commonly in the woodturning community a few years back but seems to have fallen out of favour somewhat now, it was quite hard to source. The idea is that the PEG will saturate the wood like water but will leave a waxy residue in the wood, reducing shrinkage, and in the case of woodturning it will lubricate the tool cutting it leaving a finer finish, check out Wiki for its other common uses.

Veritas Chair doctor glue- ‘ If a chair has a loose rung an injection of Chair Doctor Glue will first swell the rung and then bond it in position. The secret is the low viscosity. It soaks into the end grain, swells the wood then ‘freezes’ the wood in its swollen state as it cures. A film of dry glue is left on the walls of the wood cells preventing contraction. ‘ – sounded like it was worth a go, so a bottle was purchased.

Boiled linseed oil- My usual choice, rather than test different types of BLO I also tested a sample cut with 20% white spirit to thin it, hopefully allowing increased penetration. Accepted idea is that the oil penetrates and wets the fibres which then swell, and stay swollen as the oil will not evaporate out of the wood.

I used two samples in each solution- trying to match one loose and one tight fitting in each pair. They were left to soak for three days, replicating a German blacksmith’s Christmas break.


I didn’t soak the Chair doctor glue pair- just added some to the end grain at the end of the three days- these seemed to glue solid into the tubes.

After the soak weights and measurements were again taken, but the most obvious thing was that the water and PEG soaked pairs were now rock solid in the tubes and the protruding ends were noticeable oval. However all the BLO samples were as loose as when they had gone in, the oil actually made them slide in and out of the tubes easier. At this point I did wonder if all the time I had spent soaking tools in BLO had been a complete waste of time, maybe the only effect was to reduce the rate at which moisture could pass in and out of the wood as atmospheric conditions changed? Still I wanted to complete the experiment and see how the water and PEG samples dried so have been completing the weights and measurements on all the samples over the last couple of weeks as they dry or cure,  I should have final results completed by next weekend, so far they have surprised me.



Axes, finally

For years now I have been telling customers that I would be adding axes to my site in the near future, well finally that day has arrived! When the next round of orders come up there will be a carving axe head available to buy.

I have finally refined the design to a point that I am confident that I will not suddenly feel the need to change it, I do love to tweak designs like this, but after at least a couple of years of trialling the many prototypes I am happy with where I have got to. Less visibly I have trialled different steels and heat treatments and am pleased with what I have come up with. Importantly I have refined the production process so that I can consistently make the heads the same, I don’t want to be listing individual heads,  I expect to be within 25g of the target weight and 1/4″ in measurements. Apologies for the mash-up of metric and imperial- I always think of edge lengths in inches, but final weights in grams. Still I have customers in Europe and the States so it seems appropriate.

A  satisfying by product of forging accurately to size is that the initial  blank of round bar I start from looks improbably small.

These heads will have an edge length of 6″ ( measured along the cutting edge – is about 5 3/4″ as the crow flies) They will be symmetrically flat ground, the steel and heat treat I am using will hold an edge at 29deg which is much finer than standard  axe grinds, they tend to be a fair bit over 30deg. The tips at heel and toe are fine, they will stand up to sensible use but are not designed to be used to pry with, these are carving axes and these tips are for getting into and out of concave cuts. I prefer to think of these heads as a ‘knife on a stick’,  albeit much prettier hopefully, rather than a jack of all trades tool. I have made the throat quite narrow as I like the dramatic ‘Viking’ look this gives, I have however left it a bit thicker than normal to be sure that strength is maintained, you can see this in the profile picture at the bottom of the page.

The toe is quite pronounced but due to the long cutting edge this is balanced out by the large beard, it makes for an agile head that will shape well but still have enough edge length for planing cuts, the edge is pretty straight which aids both the planing cuts and the more extreme tips.  The weight at 650 is fairly heavy for a carving axe- not far off a GB carver but, but it is certainly not excessive. I may well introduce a scaled down version around 500g

I have put some subtle decoration on the heads, as I mentioned at least a year ago part of the rationale behind this was to reinforce the point that these are not heads bashed out at speed but works I have poured a lot of effort and care into, I enjoy making them and don’t want them to become a huge part of my production schedule. If they do the frisson of excitement I get from an axe making week coming up will be lost. And it was such fun that I went ahead on the dates that I had marked on my calender despite them coinciding with the hottest days of the year- the workshop has never been so hot, which was challenging. I also spent some of this week making the fourth prototype for a larger head that I hope to put into production next, but currently I am struggling to make them using the techniques that I want to at a speed that will make them commercially viable.

I should also say that whilst the carving head may seem expensive at £210  it is from my point of view under priced, I still take too long over them. I could make them quicker but there are so many tweaks and refinements that I feel are necessary to make these the best Axes I have ever made. My hope is that with practice I will speed up to a point that they do become worth making financially, they are fantastic heads and I enjoy forging them, but if I only made these heads I would struggle to stay afloat.  So I will put these up in the next round of back orders, will be really informative seeing how many are ordered.  When they have been made and posted out I will then take stock and see if it will be possible to repeat next month. I certainly hope so.

Axe Forging- Demo and Workshop

This weekend I will be at the Bodgers Ball, its only a bit over an hour down the road, I am pleased not to be spending too long in the van. will set up the forge and make an axe and an Adze, Harry who used to strike for me at the Greenwood Guild will be wielding the sledge again.

May is looking to be my busiest month ever so I will not be setting up a stand at the show, and am really looking forward to a relaxing weekend catching up with friends and family.

The weekend after I will be in London teaching knife making on the Sat and Sun, and on the Mon/ Tues will be doing Axes- and there are still a couple of places left. These usually sell out very quickly so this is rare chance to grab a place while you can. Tom made a great video of the last course we ran.

These courses are really special and being over two days the atmosphere is great, the sense of achievement people get from forming and marrying raw blanks of steel and wood into their own special axe is infectious.

You can book your place Here.


When I made my hazel gate a few weeks back I was reminded that I didn’t have a small froe anymore. As often happens I must have sold it when running low on stock. I find it quite amusing that when  I offer to sell a customer one of my personal tools their eyes light up thinking that these are in some way special.

In a way they are. If I forge a tool and some fault become apparent  that means it won’t be fit for purpose then it will be scrapped, I won’t spend time finishing such a tool. However sometimes when I make a batch of tools something may come to light that means it won’t be sold on this site, sometimes it is just a matter of sizing. I make a bath of 80mm blades and one measures up at 75. These will be sold at shows, that way a customer can be sure of what they are buying.

Other times though an issue will come to light that makes me question a tools strength. It may be forged too thin, I do like my tools to not carry excess bulk but there are limits. I often handle these tools myself and try them out, to see if I can find these limits. I actually have yet to break one, which is pleasing. Other issues include de-laminations in a forge welded tool. I prefer not to sell these, if I do it will only be face to face so I can point out any issues. Regardless everything is guaranteed.

So, back to the Froes. For me there is no doubt that the most efficient way to make a froe is to weld a laser cut blank to a piece of tapered tube. But, this is not a way I prefer to work and wanted to forge myself one in a traditional style, mainly to see if I could. One issue that can effect all froes is the eye join. In machine welded ones they can break, in forge welded ones they can split where the eye is wrapped and the two sides meet, wrought iron resists this splitting a lot better but not completely  and is not a material I work in so the weld was potentially more vulnerable.

I have wanted to forge a blade with a socketed eye for quite some time, but I wanted to avoid the likelihood of the eye opening so tried a new (to me anyway) weld, it was tricky partly due to the shape, but also because when I did decorative work I used to forge weld everyday, now it is very uncommon for me. But I did fairly well I think. Made a pair, then had another go and did another couple.

I will as ever keep the one with the dodgiest weld and sell the others. They won’t be on the site as it is not worth listing something I am unlikely to make again- I can’t see me being able to forge these at a rate that would make them viable. I could arc weld and grind some up that would look very similar and function the same much quicker. Still it was fun to try something new.


First two forged in the end they went a lot easier than I expected.



Final forms for them; I was talking to Alex Yerks about these and sagely proclaimed that a froe should be sharp enough to bite into a log but not cut you.


I decided to put handles on, and in the process cut myself deeper than I have in a long time!  I used  hazel in the round and stained it; this is a favourite for me, lots of variables but if you get it right the results are really good. They ended up looking very much like the tool I envisaged, rough forged and handled but with a bit of delicacy.


Years back I used to help out at a forest school, children learning cleaving used to work in pairs, one holding the froe the other the maul, even with gloves it was dicey at times.  I tend now to either forge the eye slightly offset, or if I am still not happy fit a curved handle to give a little bit more clearance on very short froes.

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