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Julia Kalthoff
Kalthoff Axes

Julia Kalthoff

I think axes are amazing. The history, the aesthetics, the culture, everything. When we started making axes 2,5 million years ago, this marks our transformation to become humans in prehistoric times. Since then the axe allows us to fell trees, build houses, hunt, maintain a fire and more. We have explored new land and built new societies with an axe in our hand.

For me it started at the age of nineteen with a curiosity about the dirty work of shaping glowing steel using my own body. I fell completely in love with forging metal. It gives a very sensational feeling: you become warm from the inside, and there’s the heat of the fire, and the shape taking form. I think all craftspeople fall in love with the material they work with.

I learned forging at axe forge Gränsfors Bruk and then started working at axe forge Wetterlings, first as stand-in for the manager and then as ceo. It was a great honor to be a part of these teams and I learned a lot. Then I wanted to work in smaller scale to create conditions to stay true to my values in all aspects of the tool and in each step of the making. I am looking for all the details that make the difference – all the little secrets that make a good axe.

My research mostly focused on two areas - the functionality and the metallurgy of the axe. To investigate the functionality I forged an axe and carved a handle, sent it to axe carving pro Beth Moen, got feedback, made changes, and repeated like that until we were both satisfied. I also had a lot of other pro carvers testing it, and I used it myself a lot. Metallurgic testing and evaluation was done in cooperation with edge tool metalurgy doctor Fredrik Haakonsen. We wend though a variety of different steels, forging methods and hardening methods until we found the optimal way. This process was really intersting and did challenge my preconceived assumptions.

I really love the feeling when axing. To be relaxed and work in your own rhythm. The axe becomes an extension of yourself. Sometimes you use your whole body to chop off big chunks, and sometimes you gently carve see-through shavings. I can disappear in looking at the grain to see where to place the next cut. Slowly let the shape get closer to your aim. Listen to the sound of a sharp tool in the green wood.

In opposition to metal, there is such a freedom in wood, because it is so accessible, and all you need is your axe and knife to shape it.

As important as the axe has been in the history of mankind, it still is for us today, but not for the same reasons. Working with your hands makes you relate and connect to the world around you in a more respectful and humble way. Craft and nature also work as a calm oasis for many people in this fast spinning world. The axe embodies strength in so many ways.

It is very natural for us as humans to make things; we have made things for thousands of generations, and it is very satisfying to have a need and then fulfil it yourself. Working with your hands gives you practical confidence and making things offers such an empowering feeling. You honour the tree in every hour you spend creating something from it, and then you have that object, or perhaps give it to someone you love, to keep for an entire lifetime.

Making axes, using axes and thinking about the different details of an axe never stops to fascinate. I make axes out of curiosity and love for the tool itself. Also, because making tools for others is like spreading waves of all this around the world. Hoping they will inspire people to make something with their own hands, giving others as much satisfaction as it gives me.

Position: Founder and owner of Kalthoff Axes
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Sessions by Julia Kalthoff

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