Monday, September 29, 2014

Axe Restoration/Refurbishing Projects

The finished product, sharp and ready to work.
I took a chance on this one for no other reason than I liked the pattern. The problem is that I don't really know what it is and if anyone reading has a clue, feel free to leave a comment. I do know that it possibly had blue paint once upon a time because a streak of blue came through on the handle as it passed through the eye while I was working on it. I know that it weighs 3lbs (2lbs 14oz on the scale), appears to have a "3" marked on the pole and nothing else. I liked it because it is a somewhat compact head while still coming in at 3lbs and with the extra weight concentrated around the eye, it has a little extra splitting potential for its weight without having thick cheeks.

This axe was pretty clean when I got it, so I gave it a quick vinegar bath to have a look at the tempering line and finding that it had plenty of edge life it was time to hang it. I started with a 28 inch House Handle, thinned it to my liking and took an inch off the swell. I certainly like a large swell, and all too often the handles available today are already lacking in that department. This one was no different. The swell on this one had some length, but didn't really have any extra girth toward the bottom, so what I removed was really just a misshapen growth which didn't improve function. Beyond that there wasn't much work to do. I personally like variation when I put an axe together and I love seeing new (and OLD) and different handle designs. Luckily, over-sized handles aren't hard to come by - though as I mentioned the swells rarely are - and they can be customized a little bit here and there.

rescue vintage axe head custom axe
Here it is next to another one that I got at the same time in the condition I got them.

After its vinegar bath - there are almost two hardening lines maybe?


no metal wedge hanging an axe
The wedge being driven - note that the handle is spreading to the point that it is wider than the eye itself, creating a good lock. Also, you can faintly make out what I believe is a "3" laying on its side stamped into the poll.


This image shows that there are about 8 growth rings per inch. Apparently there is a sweet spot, but like many other handle rules passed down throughout history, I don't believe they have a lot of merit. I say that in this case because the sweet spot is somewhere between 10 and 18 (or something like that) with as few as 5 being acceptable. At the same time, those light colored speckled bands you see in this picture are supposed to be thin while the darker bands are stronger wood and therefore thicker. Picture twice as many bands, making each one half as thick and doubling the number of light speckled bands which are supposedly weaker. Yeah, if you're thinking that sounds contradictory, so do I. An axe handle at the time of this writing is no more than $10 and I can do a basic, no frills, serviceable hang in about 30 minutes. 

hickory handle sources

bushcraft axe camping axe hiking axe survival axe
It just so happened that I got a Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe in trade that day. The SFA has a nice feeling handle, but in the case of a larger axe, where the user's hand slides from top to bottom as it's swung, a little thinner stick works a little nicer. Supposedly it will have better shock absorbing capabilities but I have to wonder if that's not just more of the same smoke as growth rings per inch.

camp axe
The Gransfors thicker handle has a purpose in my mind. For one thing, I just don't get hung up on these details. I can pick up 10 different axes and use them just fine. How do I know this? By having 10 different axes. The girth of the SFA really comes in for one handed use and I found that it has particular advantages in that respect.

One last shot of the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe with my very handy new chopper.