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 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. 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.
|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|
|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.|
|Here is the same axe 4 months later on the same handle, rehung. My original hang was slightly "open" and with the head properly seated it all fit together much better.|
|This wedge is much more effective than before and the eye is full.|
The point is, you don't really want the handle to fit tight at the top when you seat the head, and you don't want the kerf closed. You will hear different theories on the subject. For instance, some people cut the kerf wider to accept more wedge. Some people just leave a slight gap, maybe 1/16th, around the eye. I personally don't see the point in a wide open kerf if the handle is tight. You'll get a thicker wedge in there, but is it really having a wedging effect if the wood has nowhere to go? Therefore, both theories are a different approach to the same thing. You are trying to bend the wood slightly to fill up the cone, which means if the handle is tight around the walls of the eye, then it has nowhere to bend to. Whether you cut a wider kerf or not, you need to spread the handle and I like to wedge it until it begins to bulge from the top. The image below illustrates the bulging effect.