Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Enzo Trapper Handle Scales Project

Thompson Scandinavian Knife Supply
For some time now I've wanted ... wait, let me rephrase this. If you read my blog much you probably have the idea that I would rather make something myself, or at least have something that I could modify to my liking than buy things. I am always looking at folding knives and asking myself, well how could I modify it? And, have they done something stupid to it that would prevent me from working on it? Well I guess ultimately there is nothing that can't be taken apart and changed but somethings are made in such a way that it would require the same tools and skills to modify as simply making from scratch, and I don't have them. At any rate, fixed blades are an obvious place to start for people who want to make knives and like to modify things. I have to admit that fixed blades just don't do it for me the way folders do and it's not because I love folding knives more. I use and carry a folder every day. I could do the same with a fixed blade although I think certain people I work with would cringe in terror if it was the sort of knife that could be seen. But seriously, I'm getting off topic here. I have been eye balling the Enzo knives for a long time and man I tell you, the Birk folder is making it hard for me to stick to sub $50 knives. And it's unusual for me I think. Because honestly I don't get too fired up about Scandi grinds and bush-crafting and such. It's not so much that I think it would be cool to have a Scandinavian knife in a folding package, but I am a notorious genre-mixer so to speak. Without getting even more off topic, I like the idea of combining two concepts, or several, into a new concept. I think this is the basis for every good idea that ever happened. So for one thing they are different in the sea of tactical nonsense, and they are two concepts mixed in a successful way. They are a traditional look in a somewhat modern folder with every day utility design. Point is, I like them and I want one.
hedge handles
But I wanted a fixed blade that would be a sort of an all around outdoor tool. The term "Trapper" certainly conjures a picture of outdoor multipurpose tool in my mind. Trappers of old probably used a knife for a variety of tasks and were likely people who spent a lot of their lives outside, living, cooking, skinning ... trapping. Anyway, outdoor knife for me is mostly going to mean hunting. But when I say bush-crafting doesn't get me excited I don't mean that I don't think survival skills aren't something we could all use to have. Even though this is a Project Post, it's also going to be a philosophical discussion as well. So the bottom line here is, get a sort of multipurpose knife and a fun project all in one shot.

Scandi grind, O1 tool steel, full tang survival knife
Back on topic, let's talk about the Enzo Trapper. I got a blank in O1 tool steel and a couple Corby bolts with the big idea of making my own handles. I think in the end I came to the Enzo because they are a pretty good value where the steel is concerned and the designs are simple and straight forward. I just don't care much for a lot of the other blanks available in the States when I look at these two particular aspects. It was a toss up on handle materials. I am feeling more traditional of late so wood made it to the list. I should probably polish it because blood is going to be an issue at some point. Anyway, we always have some Hedge (Osage Orange) around and I liked the idea of a bright yellow handle well enough to decide to go for it. My father and I split some Hedge into rough boards with an axe first. Next, I shaved them down to slightly less rough and straighter boards using my trusty Aranyik E-Nep, then put a flat-ish side on them with a belt sander. The final step was to surface them flat by sticking a sheet of sand paper to a good flat surface and using up some of my elbow grease supply. The rest consists of what you might expect - carving, sanding, more carving, more sanding.
One of my small boards quickly flattened with the belt sander.

survival blades
My E-Nep made fairly easy work of thinning and straightening the rough boards.

Here are my scales cut out.
osage orange hedge handles
Here they are rough shaped and partially fit. After this I was pretty well on the home stretch.
scandi grind, bushcraft knives enzo trapper
Here the Enzo is compared to a BuckLite MAX Large mainly for the sake of comparison. The BuckLite MAX is a perfect knife in my estimation. It's one of those products I like to talk about, the ones made to do their task without extra fluff. Sometimes it's hard to admit but plain boring modern materials like the rubber on the Buck's handle is just plain better than traditional materials when it comes to performance. Traditional materials are attractive, carry workmanship and can be made to last. But when it comes to just doing their job, the rubber is simple, impervious, can't come off, provides grip and can be molded however it needs to be. The Buck has the right blade shape, only the essential features, it's light weight, inexpensive and the sheath doesn't suck! It is an excellent product.

So what I think we have here is modern and traditional kind of going head to head. But they live in the same tool box so to speak. While both are utilitarian, the Buck is as pure and no frills as it can be.

Enzo Trapper review, build
You may have noticed dark rings around my Corby bolts - that's called being impatient. I over heated them and I am hoping that I didn't screw something up.

Chunky handle but I like how it feels. It's not perfect but I don't have enough experience to know what needs to be done to make it better. I wanted to add a little more material up top since there isn't really a guard. I mean really, slipping up on a knife has got to be the result of misuse, but that was one of the thoughts behind this shape. I also wanted a place to pinch the knife, and all this without making it so huge that I couldn't get my thumb up on the blade for power cutting.
The Buck is a touch longer but it looks to me like it has ever so slightly less cutting edge. Is the finger choil really useful? I dunno, maybe.

The curve to the Buck is just attractive to me, plus lets your rock the knife into places your hand may interfere with.
These little details let me get different grips on the knife while still having the chubby handle.

I often consider the term survival, particularly in the context of the internet, TV and the commercialized portion of the word that can't really be overlooked when having a discussion on the topic. For me it always comes down to, what is survival? Here is a pile of all the crap called survival gear, here are the professionals who teach the survival skills, now make it all fit into a situation that can be labeled survival. I have narrowed it down for myself but that's not to say it won't change. I can only picture two situations, maybe three. They are the emergency, and long term survival situations.

In the emergency situation, something unexpected has happened to you. In all likelihood, these situations are going to involve injury the way I see it. Obviously this could be split into two which is where my possible third scenario comes in. Some people, somewhere just live in remote areas where the unexpected could actually turn into a use tools to live for a somewhat extended period of time kind of situation. Some people put themselves in these situations for adventure. In the United States, this first situation isn't going to be more than a matter of hours. You aren't going to build a shelter with a wire saw, or go fishing. People like to prepare each day for the unexpected, whether that means carrying an extra twenty bucks, or putting a bug out bag in your trunk, or filling your basement with MREs. But using a wire saw or needing fishing hooks are the unlikeliest of the unlikely tasks to be ready to perform. Even if this first situation can be broken into two, there are always more important things to carry - first aid, warmth, water. In virtually all situations you're going to look at your little tin full of fishing hooks or your big ass survival knife and wish it was a tall glass of cool refreshing water, or a nice pile of wool blankets long before you are going to hit the river banks for a tasty flat head. For the people who are in situations where trouble could spell disaster, being properly prepared should be a priority. You might as well have useful things that will get you through a few rough days - it's not really so unexpected. I struggle to picture a situation where you are going about your day and BAM, you're building a shelter from leaves and making traps from sticks. Putting a couple warm blankets in the car with a good first aid kit and some water is probably worth its weight in gold compared to the typical bag full of survival implements. I'm not making fun. My point is not that these things aren't good for a number of reasons. My point is it probably makes more sense to be ready for higher probability scenarios when going about your daily life.

For a fun hypothetical let's say you are a combination of these things. You are going adventuring in a remote area, but you came prepared. You have to carry all this stuff on your back, so you insist that saving space and weight is paramount. Suddenly you are in that situation, that one, the one they talked about on the packaging for your wire saw and ferro rod. It must be time for fishing. Now the question is, why don't you pack that crap up, and walk out the way you came in? Well, you suffered an injury. So, unless you're wire sawing your trapped leg off like that one guy did with his pocket knife, isn't it time to treat some injuries? You've put yourself in this situation. The question is, why are you incapable of living through it? You've suffered an injury that permits you to go fishing and build a shelter, but not walk back out the way you came in? No injury? You are lost then. Wouldn't a map, compass, GPS, or all 3 have been pretty light weight if you had just left all that other crap at home? And without question won't you need water and warmth above all else? If you can't move and you need shelter, how well is that $0.59 Wal-Mart space blanket going to work out do you think? I can hear you saying it out loud as you read this - well, it's better than nothing. You're right. 

The fabled ferrocerium rod is often the item that puts my mind to this topic. I'm not sure they're good for anything. They sort of represent my two sided survival situation coin. Long term survival is that great unknown. It is the situation where for whatever reason you like best, you are actually using more primitive tools to live out the rest of your days, or possibly what I would consider a long term situation, several months or more. Essentially all it needs to be is a no electricity event. Electricity was the game changer. Without it, the skills known to early Americans or early native people all over the world, suddenly return to necessity. It's not really survival at all, it's living. This is fantasy land. I say that, not sarcastically, but genuinely. I think humans connect to nature and while many reject the notion that we are in fact animals, we are hard wired to work with our hands and provide for ourselves. It's the free and independent nature of the beast. Humans are apex predators, contrary to the misguided notions certain individuals choose to adhere to. Whether you plant a garden, or enjoy crafting things with your hands, or just love to watch birds, it's some small part of your connection to nature. Glass buildings and fast food are the exact opposite. My point is that even if it's small, some of us yearn for a simpler time that puts us back to self-preservation, self-reliance and true freedom. Some believe that the desire is societal and economic collapse, chaos, violence and mayhem. That's wrong. Many people, if given the option, would walk away from the chaos and violence of today's world, and return to simpler living all the while leaving the status quo open and available to anyone who prefers it.

Coming back to the ferro rod, having one makes a lot of sense. It's simple and makes fire and takes up virtually no space. In no situation does that not sound good. But looking at it from the dual possibility concept what's it really good for? In an emergency a dirt cheap, always reliable Bic lighter is faster and easier to make fire with. It fits in your pocket and will make a hundred fires in case your emergency somehow goes on for days. You gather up stuff that burns and you set it on fire. Often ferro rods are combined with tinder and some kind of striker, which strikes me as a more complex way of doing what the Bic does all by itself. On the other hand, neither stack up in the long term. They decay and eventually you will use them up. I think the notion is that you probably won't use up a ferro rod. If you are living, then you may always have a fire going or have hot coals anyway. You will be cooking with it multiple times a day and keeping warm by it, so you may not actually make many fires each year from scratch. But in the end it is a consumable, tangible, irreplaceable item which is the definition of something that isn't long term. I always try to ask myself, what would early native people do? They used skills - things that cannot be lost or taken or used up - to build fires and if they used some sort of tool, it could easily be replaced using knowledge they all owned. The ultimate point here is practicality and skill are the true essentials. In an emergency, practicality makes more sense to me, and for primitive living, skills are vital.


As always, my blabbering isn't mean as a communication of facts, but a collection of ideas. I would love to take a wilderness survival course and I hate the idea of these skills being lost in time. I even like the idea of bush crafting as a hobby and enjoyable past time. In fact, pick any reason, no matter what it is, for practicing survival skills and I will accept it as legitimate. As far as I'm concerned there is no reason too good or too bad for developing self reliance skills. It's disheartening to think of all the things that humans simply don't know how to do anymore. Many of us don't actually make anything at all, and over our life times may create very few useful things for ourselves or anyone else. The idea of community in my mind is a collection of skills and creativity where each member makes the lives of all the other members easier by the things he or she creates. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Snow & Nealley Axe Restoration Project

o'dell studios axe projects rehanging an old axe
I have had this axe the longest and my Dad had it for who knows how long before that. It's appeared in some of my other posts as well on a 36 inch handle. Basically, some years ago I needed an axe to split wood for the furnace in my house and this axe head was just laying around. It might have been on a handle but at this point I can't remember. Anyway, I went to the nearest hardware store, grabbed the first handle I came to and set off to hang that bad boy. Well I had a 36 inch handle and what I believe to be a boys axe, so we had to carve away a ton of material to get it to work. It never even occurred to me that it was odd looking with the tiny head on the long handle or that the handle had terrible grain. I just needed an axe. And it worked for a long time. We left it outside, the handle had lacquer on it that began to crack as the handle dried out, it was neglected. Eventually the head got loose and I think this is the point where I started caring about my axe. I am thinking it must have been on a handle because somehow we saved the wedge. It was a full steel wedge - not the little ones that you drive in sideways. This was actually lucky because when the head got loose I was able to dig out the old wedge. I split off a wooden wedge from whatever I had around and with very little effort had my old axe back in fighting shape. I soaked it in boiled linseed oil and even with the poor grain orientation, that axe would have gone on to do lots of work as it was.

rehang an axe
But as I have learned more about axes and grown to enjoy them I have realized that my Snow & Nealley has sentimental value, is a really well made axe, and the handle was too long for my body dimensions. One day while cruising a local hardware store I stumbled across some handles and found a couple 28 inchers hanging there - this was pretty surprising given where I live. Upon closer inspection I discovered that both of them had excellent grain orientation and one in particular was almost flawless in every way. Things get a little unclear at this point though. Eye sizes really seem to be approximate from what I can tell. You will recall that I originally put a 36 inch handle on this axe and we had to remove a significant amount of material to fit it. That would lead me to believe that it is a boys axe. It is marked with a 3 however, which would indicated its weight, and I can say the handle at the hardware store, the perfect one, would have slid right into this head with no fitting at all. Suspecting this to be the case, I took some measurements before returning to the store and neither handle was really large enough, but one was close. They are Link handles and the two 28 inchers side-by-side were nothing alike. One was thinned down and had a grayish color while the one I ended up buying is very white and a little on the thick side.
axe restoration
Small wedges added at each end to fill gaps.
Of my three axes, no two eyes are the same and from my experience it's looking like a combination of eye variance and handle variance can lead to the need for some creative fitting. It seems no one makes a really nice handle these days. With that said, House Handle sells 28, 30 and 36 inch handles with the larger eye dimension, so I believe that's the route I will take no matter what the axe itself is. Furthermore, some of the space, theoretically should be taken up by the wedge. I've made the mistake of using the supplied wedge on these projects but I don't plan to make it again. It makes sense that with the kerf and a wedge perhaps one quarter or three-eighths of an inch wide that the handle can't really be the full length of the eye. The wedge on the other hand, can be. I think from now on I will make my own wedges the length of the eye and use them to fill every gap. With that said, the shoulder of the handle itself, needs to be large enough because those gaps can't be filled with the wedge. I'll detail this in the pictures. Overall the Link handle is ok. The grain is good and the wood is white, and I don't mind the extra girth at all. None of the other handles I've dealt with soaked up so much boiled linseed oil so quickly though. I coated this one multiple times and within hours it was bone dry - an interesting observation maybe, but I can't say if it's good, bad or indifferent.

boys axe
Here is my Snow in original condition. You can sort of tell that over time I ground away a lot of the previous handle just under the head. An over sized handle is easy to chip while using an axe to split wood.

Here I've cleaned the head up pretty nicely. I don't want a vintage head to look brand new and when I think of an axe, I don't picture something with a mirror finish. I knocked off some minor mushrooming - the stamp never was deep and I didn't remove any material there.

This shows the 3 stamp and the gap toward the poll end. I don't think it is an issue with my extra wedges, but a properly made handle should definitely be over-sized down toward the shoulder. It looks like a black hole here, but the small wedges I drove in nearly reach the bottom and I made sure the sides were very tight.

Pictures don't illustrate it well but the Snow is on the lighter colored stick to the bottom left. It is much wider than the center one and just a little wider than the third. It gives me some variety to determine preference.

The Link handle is also straighter. This probably saves lumber, or maybe it's just how they do it. I like more curve but I didn't feel that it was actually any different to use while splitting with it.

Here you have a shot of the nice grain. It's tight and running the right direction.

Snow & Nealley at the bottom, then the Gambles ARTISAN, and the Wards Master Quality.

For fun I made these little curls to test the sharpness of the Snow and just to see how it felt in my hands. Being summer time I don't have much wood splitting to do but I still wanted to get a feel for it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

FDE Kydex Mag Carriers

A new batch will be for sale very soon in a couple shades of FDE and a couple digital for fun. I think I have mastered the tight press technique on this batch, as you can see they are very clean and I think will represent a new generation, with a few new design features this time around for more carry options.


mag pouches, kydex magazine holders, kydex magazine ar-15 pmag carriers 5.56

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Final Thoughts on CO2 Air Pistols for Training and Recreation - Not Reccommended

KWC Blackwater 1911 CO2 .177 steel BB gun
Nearly one year ago to the day I wrote my first post on the subject titled, Airguns as Viable Recreational or Training Trigger Time Alternatives?
In the time since then I've done a fair amount of shooting and fiddling, writing more blog posts, and sending them in for replacement. There are 4 other posts on the subject which sort of follow along with my testing.
Part 2
More Testing
The Sig X-Five
Sig X-Five Return

The original post has continued to be one of my most viewed posts all throughout the year and I have finally run both guns enough to find their failures in that time. To get new readers caught up, we're dealing with the Cyber Gun or KWC 1911 and the Sig X-Five, CO2 powered airguns in .177. The concept behind this whole project was to see if these guns could go beyond backyard plinking and overlap into competitive or action shooting and even firearms training. You will recall from the very first post that I asked a simple question at the beginning - will these guns make that overlap? The answers were no, no and yes mostly. Pictured in that post are an Umarex PX4 .177 and the G&G Xtreme 45 airsoft pistol, along with the Blackwater 1911. My answer has changed since then to a firm no on all accounts. I had built a list of requirements which airguns needed to meet in order to be considered for real trigger time.
-External accuracy to the firearm equivalent.
-External controls identical to the firearm equivalent.
-Magazine dimensions as close to identical as possible.
-Blowback (last round hold open firstly AND some kind of inertia which moves the gun and forces user to realign sights, however minimal)
-Weight similar to that of a firearm.
-Wouldn't hurt if it was at least relatively well made.
-I prefer steel BBs.

There is one requirement I got wrong; relatively well made. It's vital and should be requirement number one, that we get our money's worth from these products. And I don't think it is possible to do that with these guns. I think one glaring factor that I overlooked when starting this project was the cost relative to .22 caliber firearm equivalents. I did compare the cost, and with steel BBs, it is still lower. But I recently spent $15.00 on 500 .177 RWS pellets, and a 550 round brick of .22LR USED to be about the same price. Now let's pretend someone designed and manufactured an air pistol that didn't suck and ran pellets rather than BBs. Chances are, the price would come up to .22 levels in both ammunition and gun pricing. That said, .22 ammunition is difficult to even find and the price is unstable at this time. Furthermore, I was seeing .22 pistols priced much higher than they're worth recently.

So let's talk about what needs to happen for this to work before I get to strictly bashing the KWC/Cyber Gun products. First on the list should have been; quality product. These guns are poorly designed and they will always fail because of the design weaknesses. That's unacceptable. As long as these guns stayed under .22 firearm and ammo prices, while offering significantly more variety (brands, makes, models), then I think consumers would be willing to spend another $50 or even $100 on an air pistol that lasts.

*External accuracy to the firearm replicated. This means the airgun needs to feel like the firearm. It does not have to be absolutely identical down to the last detail. It needs to feel the same and it would be nice if it fit in the same holster. This is not to say that a completely fictional gun would be unacceptable. 

*Identical external controls. This is an area where things have to be right. Slide release, safeties, mag release - all the controls have to be identical in order for there to be any training value. It would be nice if the trigger was the same but I can accept that this is probably an unrealistic expectation. With that said, the triggers on these airguns were perfectly acceptable so accuracy in this department isn't necessarily out of the question. I want to also point out that I am specifically talking about external controls. Internally and functionally, I would much rather have a quality, functioning airgun that doesn't sacrifice performance for realism. These guns function very similarly to their firearm counterparts and I think often this carries a performance penalty.

*Magazine dimensions. They have to be very similar. Reloads are an obvious training benefit that ariguns could provide especially when packaged with other benefits. Mag carrier compatibility here is likely another unrealistic expectation. Furthermore, much of the function of the airgun is really in the magazine. Again, I'd rather have a good airgun over an accurate replica in this department. The magazines are expensive and I had some minor leaking issues with mine. They should be user serviceable, and internally and functionally universal. They should also design all of them with a shock absorbing base pad.

*Blowback. Firstly, it's fun, let's face it. We're looking for recreation and action shooting here. More importantly this feature provides last round hold open which facilitates reload practice.

*Weight and steel BBs. The weight is not vital but it's important that you're training your body to move an object that weights about what a pistol weighs. Relatively speaking, there is a fair spread in weights from something like a Glock to an all steel 1911. If I could, I'd own 20 guns, probably across the weight gamut, so weight only needs to be about "like a gun". Running steel BBs is also a flexible requirement. Less surface area, more density, better outdoor performance than other options. You might be thinking this is pretty important if it's not important, because there are about a thousand airsoft guns and some of them might just be pretty good. Yeah maybe, and I might give that a shot one day. In a perfect world I would move up from steel BBs to lead pellets, stacked in the magazine just like firearm cartridges. Moreover the important factor here is that BBs and CO2 are readily available and very inexpensive.

Slide release in up and down positions.
So how did these guns fair on the requirements list? First and foremost they are poorly designed and both failed prematurely. Externally they are both very good replicas, though most likely they sacrifice air gun performance for realism. They both fail on external controls. The controls are correct, and feel right, they just don't work. The 1911 will not disengage the slide lock using a slingshot reload technique. The reason for this is a simple design flaw where the notch in the slide does not bump the slide catch when the slide is pulled fully to the rear - the notch is simply located in the wrong place. The Sig fails in the same category because slide lock is not consistent. Furthermore the slide catch is able to remain up by friction which causes it not to drop with gravity, so sling shot reloads are hit and miss. The 1911 magazines have no base pad, but overall the magazines are ok.


The fatal flaw in the KWC Sig X-Five is the method used to secure the mechanism which controls the CO2 delivery. It's retained by two screws (green arrow). These screws have coarse threads, are poor quality, and insufficient for the task. Because there is very little material to thread into, they extend up into the rear sight. Coarse threads are a poor choice given the softness of the metal the entire gun is made of and it takes little or no effort to strip these screws, and unlike a properly used machine screw, they naturally want to back out even with threadlocker applied. Once the screws are loose the entire unit (highlighted in green) falls out. This whole area is taking a lot of the forces involved in this gun and once the whole thing starts to drop down the gun jams. I returned the first one for this problem, but the problem is not one gun, it is the entire design. This mechanism should be pinned in rather than screwed in, or in some other way secured. This same part on the 1911 is secured slightly differently, but not much better and suffers from the same problem.


In this picture the green arrow points to a failure I didn't really expect. The tube seen in the picture seats the BB in the chamber and delivers the CO2. Directly below that is a small tab which strips the top BB from the magazine and guides it to the feed ramp. This part is made from a single piece of plastic. You will notice there is a small gap between the tube and the small tab.


This is a picture of the same part from the bottom - it is identical in both guns. The small tab meant to strip BBs from the magazine bent slightly upward. The plastic is soft and weak, and I theorize that this occurred when the entire mechanism became loose and dropped down slightly. This tiny difference causes it to jam on every single shot. This tiny failure itself makes the gun completely unusable.


This is a picture of the barrel and feed ramp. You will notice a hole above the feed ramp (green arrow), and below the barrel. The mechanism from the previous two images fits here and is the reason for the gap between the tube which seats the BB and the tab that strips the BB from the magazine. The gap has to be there, but at the same time creates a serious weak point. All of these guns work in exactly this same way. Once things start to get loose, then the internal parts of the system start to move out of place and the gun is done. Nothing breaks necessarily, although I can see no way to repair the bent portion, it's just a chain reaction of parts failing and it all comes back to two little screws.

How close did we come? Well pretty close. Poor design is the biggest problem. I could have overlooked some of the flaws if I had a solid product, but I absolutely cannot recommend these KWC Cyber Gun pistols. However, we got close simply because these things had a big number of the features necessary to generate some interest. My guess is that a lot of owners of these guns have non-functioning replicas sitting around and thought, oh well, it was fun for a minute. As a short term solution, the system that handles CO2 delivery needs to be made from better materials and properly secured in the slide. But for me it's more than someone making an air pistol that happens to be useful for more than plinking. I want to see air guns designed specifically for a new market. In fact, I have to ask myself what the goal really is for companies making replica air guns and I think they should ask themselves as well. I think the answer right now is, because they are cool, and that's it. In my original post I talked about what I think are the four aspects of shooting. First, is the romance of the firearm. Second, are the fundamentals of shooting. Third, is the challenge of the game. And fourth is practical firearm training. We've touched on a couple of these aspects here. If replica air guns are made because they are cool, that's really addressing the romance of the firearm. It gives people a different kind of access to something very similar to a real firearm but really only needs to fulfill the cool factor. Virtually all air guns address the basic fundamentals of shooting - sight alignment, trigger control - though perhaps not all of them in many cases. In my mind, these two aspects aren't nearly enough and I think it's clear that the interest is fairly low, even within the shooting community. The interest isn't gone however. There are a number of factors driving shooters to look for different avenues while at the same time a large expanded interest in shooting sports, action shooting, and practical firearm training. I also think that programs like NRA's 3 Gun Experience which includes rimfire and airsoft guns, indicate that there is some movement toward different shooting experiences.

As I said, I think we are seeing the very tip of an emerging market and there is only one way it's going to continue to grow - the air guns have to fit all four of the shooting aspects. It is not until I put my hands on an airgun that makes me want to go out, set up some targets, and run drills and isn't falling apart after 5,000 BBs or 10,000 BBs that we will have a new shooting experience that's worth while. I believe the guns from KWC / Cyber Gun could easily be made to last without significant changes, and that in itself is a shame. It's disheartening to have something that's so close, but just can't deliver because of a few design flaws.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rehanging Another Old Axe

rehanging and old axe
Well I managed to go seven months without purchasing a new axe to work on. Seven months ago I wrote a blog entry detailing the last axe I worked on and how I felt the addiction take hold. I had rehung an axe before that, but it was just a tool to me then. I didn't know anything about axes or picking a good handle and didn't really care either. It split wood just fine and lived outside. It's always interesting to look at the way your perceptions change and for me I can't always figure out exactly what factors came together to facilitate the change. Somehow I came to the realization that the standard 36 inch handle was too long for me. We had actually hung a 36 inch handle on a boys-size axe head. I didn't know. That was the handle the hardware store hand so that's the handle it got. Needless to say it took a LOT of fitting to make it work given the eye size difference. I am always watching outdoor kinds of youtube videos and I have always understood the value of the axe, I just hadn't made the deeper connection with the value they once had for people who did all manner of work with one. It was a necessity. It built houses, provided warmth and even income for many. There are many kinds of axes for special jobs, but just one axe has more potential uses than virtually any other tool, rivaled only by a knife. For a long time I've understood the intrigue of popular survival tools - little things that fit into tins, survival this, survival that. However, I've always been conflicted about them as well. Watching craftsman or any skilled person work with the tools of their trade has always been one of my favorite ways to learn. When you watch people who live and breath by their tools, you don't see them using any kind of nifty little survival gadgetry. Whether it's an axe, knife, or large jungle blade like the parang or e-nep, they are well rounded tools capable of a variety of daily living tasks and are combined with skills, not gimmicks.

And so my perceptions of the axe changed. I rehung that Wards axe in November, about the time we started burning wood for the year and it did a lot of splitting over the winter. Not only are axes always going to be useful for their intended purpose, there are tons (literally and figuratively) of them out there rotting away. To me that's unfortunate so there is the fun factor of finding a gem, saving it, and bringing it back to life.

Lately, my home town seems to be haunted by oppressive humidity which significantly hinders my micarta making process which in turn slows down my whole wallet project. Add in some rain, and cabin fever gets to me quick. I had to get out of the house so I swung by a local antique mall where I ran into a friend who was suffering from the same ailment and had a handful of old tools already picked out when I showed up. I had a 28 inch handle sitting around and what good is something like that without a head? Low and behold there it was, this Gambles Artisan axe with the smaller eye, in great shape. The internet can't tell me much about it and so I don't even know how old it is but I do know that Gambles was pretty much dead by the 80s as a company. Chances are it's pretty good. My file pretty much skittered across the bit without really digging in, so I feel good about the cutting edge. Overall, with a few splotches of blue paint that I suspect was its original color, the fact that the bit doesn't seem to have any extra rounding from years of sharpening, and the lack of abuse to the pole, I can conclude that this axe had very little use. It rested in one place for at least some period of time because one side has some minor pitting where it may have laid and it had been rehung. I suppose these are indications that it could be 30 or 40 years old, older if it was used very little throughout its life and kept in a dry place. 

Here it is in the condition I got it in. Very little rust and a scary grinding for a cutting edge. The line under the head on the handle is where I had already begun to drive the handle out. You can see that the previous owner used a file to fit the handle.

The grain on the old handle wasn't great but I liked the overall shape so I wanted to salvage it just in case.

Here is a better shot of the original condition.

Here are some of the markings - and you can see only minor pole abuse.

Here is the Gambles ARTISAN logo on the opposite side
So I managed to get the old handle off in one piece and here is my new House Handle. I got it from a local hardware store and it's not great. It may be hard to see but it kind of had this huge bulbous end and had lacquer on it. The nice part though is that I was able to reshape it to my liking and you can see my pencil lines in the picture basically where I cut the new profile. On my last handle they got stingy with the swell so I couldn't really change it, but in this case I had material to work with.
Here is the new shape. It's different and I like it.
The end grain here is nice and straight - a little wood burning going on too.
But toward the head it takes a turn. I've only used 2 House Handles but they seem to leave very little extra material for fitting and here you can see I had to drive in some filler pieces at the rear of the eye. I didn't get a picture but that gap was really only toward the top. From the bottom is fits very tight all the way around and I'm satisfied with that.
Something odd I didn't notice until I started grinding was these dips near the bit. I could see them being a functional feature, but they are only on one side and it makes me wonder if it's not just half-assed craftsmanship. If you look closely I was able to clear out almost all of the grinder marks except from these two low spots. The other side came out nicely which you can see in the picture at the very top. Here you also see a little streak of heartwood but nothing terrible. Overall it's a user, not a beauty queen and should work out fine.