Sunday, January 20, 2013
New Refurbished Axe
Here is one of my recently completed projects.
I found this old beast in my garage when we moved into our house close to three years ago. It was weather worn, chipped and in really rough shape. I almost threw it out.
But I just couldn't help but feel I could do something with it. It was dirty but not overly rusty, and the places where it had splintered on the handle were not going to compromise the integrity of the handle. So I tried it out as it was, and sure enough even with a dull, chipped head it could still quite easily split some wood. Probably due to the 3.5-4 pound head on it, combined with a 36" handle.
The axe head was quite loose and came off without much of a fight. This was great because I knew with a new wedge the old handle could be refitted when I hung the axe. This is super cool because old axe handle are much slimmer and more elegant looking than the ones they fashion today.
I'm glad I took the time to snap a shot of how messed up the blade was. I keep thinking it looks like the ocean because it is so wavy.
I did not get to this project right away, it probably sat by my workbench for close to two years, as I worked on other axes and bows. One night a while back, a friend of mine gave me a head for a splitting maul that he found in his back lane. It was impressively rusty, so I took it as an excuse to try out a new environmentally friendly rust removal technique. I shy away from using highly chemical and dangerous methods because... well I guess that is just how I was raised, I don't like easy fixes that can poison and kill. Instead of some dangerous chemical I opted for apple cider vinegar. And let me tell you that stuff works. Holy cow. One night soaking in that removed easily 90% of the rust first go. While I was testing it on the rusty maul head, I figured why not ad the beastly axe head to the experiment. I could have removed most of the grime from it using sand paper, but maybe the apple cider vinegar would work on that as well. Yup, it worked. Saved me some sandpaper and did a way better job. It even gave me a clear idea where the blade steel of the axe was. Which inspired me even trying to refurbish the axe head.
For those of you who don't know, a piece of harder steal is hammered into the axe head to make the blade. This allows the part you sharpen to maintain an edge. The stuff that makes up the rest of the head is too soft to hold an edge and your axe would constantly need to be resharpened.
So I cleaned off both maul and axe head and placed the maul to the side. I grabbed an axe file and began the journey of filing out the chips from the blade. This took me probably close to two hours throughout a couple of days. Once I had blunted the edge smooth, I went about profiling the blade. I might mention I have never done this before, so it took me a while to get the blade straight. It will function fine now, but I would not enter any lumberjack competitions with this axe.
That done, I grabbed my sharpening stone and put as much edge as I am capable of on the axe head and taped it up so I could hang the axe.
The handle of this axe is a real beauty. Axe handles are made from hickory. A very white wood. However if you oil it with linseed oil it turns a lovely golden colour. If you just use it over the years with dirty hands it will eventually darken into a deep brown. This is the case with this handle. I sanded out all the splinters and took some dark English Oak, Danish oil and rubbed that in. I finished it with a couple of coats of linseed oil between sanding. It now looks and feels spectacular.
Since the handle was already fit to the axe head all I needed to do was apply a new wedge and voila! A good as it ever was, refurbished axe. I have since given it as a gift to my friend who gifted me the maul head. May he find a reason to use such a beastly axe. He is also a talented leather worker, so hopefully he will make a nice protective sheath for it.
Thus ends my axe odyssey. In the future, I would prefer to work with axes that are older but in better shape. It was a good learning experience though, so it was worth all the work in the end.
Sometimes I'm asked how I find the time with a family and work to do this stuff. I simply answer, and I'm not being cheeky here. "I don't watch TV" Amazing how much time you can free up to do interesting projects when you don't do that.
Stay golden pony boys and girls