part 1: making a new axe handle

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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Billman » Fri May 20, 2011 6:43 pm

witt wrote:French link, take a look at topics 1 to 5 in the table of contents
http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0129f/T0129F00.HTM


Thanks for this interesting link - curious that in the gabarit (pattern) for the making of the axe handle (2.2. Gabarit pour manche de hache) the grain is shown running in the opposite sense, i.e. at 90 degrees, to that shown in the Youtube video Axe to Grind (see the other post on this forum viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1919)..
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Fri May 20, 2011 10:58 pm

Billmann,

You do know that I do it the swedish way (hewing axe out of Finland) with a piece of wood that is cut tangentially.


I had full confirmation about cornus mas last week from another French blacksmith. We shall meet again, together with some other blacksmiths at a local fair in Poitiers tomorrow.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Sat May 21, 2011 3:25 am

witt wrote:French link, take a look at topics 1 to 5 in the table of contents
http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0129f/T0129F00.HTM


Thank you, Witt. Hours of useful reading, and if I don't know a word the pictures make it perfectly clear. (I always thought "pattern" was patron but no. Gabarit!)
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Sat May 21, 2011 8:36 am

Thank you all of you.

I guess making a handle like on the video (which is what I do) gives more durability whereas making it like on the French forestry link gives more flexibility.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Billman » Sun May 22, 2011 9:03 am

With the grain running in line with the blade (US method) i guess there is a better chance that it will run the full length of the handle than if it is at right angles (French way) - however, if the timber is selected to be straight and close grained then it may not make much difference - but note the Americans use hickory, the English ash and the French cormier (edit: sorry I meant cornus mas) - all woods with slightly different properties.... I prefer ash over hickory....

Factory made handles often have short or diagonal grain - the wood is not split (cleaved) or selected so carefully, it is just sawn to maximise output before going on a copy lathe...
Last edited by Billman on Sun May 22, 2011 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Sun May 22, 2011 10:04 am

Billmann,

I'm almost certain that the French way, as it is described on the French Forestry site is a choice due to a quest for the best elasticity ( consider a leaf spring). The other way is much less flexible but doesn't break so easily.

Cormier is O.K. for short handles but too heavy and much too hard (no elastidity) for long shafts.

Another thing, personal prefences : I don't have to place a wedge before up to three years. I make the wood as tight as possible in the eye, there is no place for a wedge before some years anyway. I don't use glue for the wedge so that I can adjust another wedge more easily when needed but something else with adhesive quality. I don't use sand paper, I use a thick leather bit to polish the wood with just after having shaved the wood with a tiny draw knife. I use animal fat (calv kidney fat that I refine by cookinf and skeamming) instead of linseed oil sometime.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Sun May 22, 2011 10:23 am

One more thing :

I'd like to add that I've seen some other French sites where they advise to select the wood tangentially cut (it's more stable and will be mechanically more appropriate) and to use it the American way or the Swedish way (as I read it in a swedish book "The woodworker and its tools") if one can call them so.

I'm not impressed by the way they use axes on that video. I've seen an artisan splitting wooden tiles with a large axe like a machin without even looking at what his hands where doing while he was speaking with me. A good shipwright carpenter was supposed to be able to cut a big bronze bolt placed at the top at his foot by a single swing of his adze.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Sun May 22, 2011 10:41 am

I meaned :"placed at the end of his foot"
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Sun May 22, 2011 10:43 am

I meant (sorry)
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Billman » Sun May 22, 2011 1:02 pm

witt wrote: Another thing, personal prefences : I don't have to place a wedge before up to three years. I make the wood as tight as possible in the eye, there is no place for a wedge before some years anyway. I don't use glue for the wedge so that I can adjust another wedge more easily when needed but something else with adhesive quality. I don't use sand paper, I use a thick leather bit to polish the wood with just after having shaved the wood with a tiny draw knife. I use animal fat (calf's kidney fat that I refine by cooking and skimming) instead of linseed oil sometime.


Now that I find a bit odd - but I guess Scandinavian and maybe French axes have different eyes to UK and USA made ones where the eye-hole is waisted - i.e. smaller at the centre than at either end - in this case there is always plenty of room to expand the end of the handle into.... To get the end of the handle to pass through the hole it also has to be waisted at the shoulder of the handle....

I noticed on the Lars Enders' video on Youtube for some axes he hammers the eye mandrel in from both sides, so some types of Swedish axes will have waisted eyes...

Some excellent pictures on http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showtopic=9711 where they are discussing eye shapes....
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Tue May 24, 2011 8:37 pm

slightly conical eye five years without wedge. No play yet :

Image

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In need for a wedge. Three to four years without wedge. It shrunk recently :

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Gradually perfectly seated. In process :

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Cornus mas handles manufacturers : Vaillant - Ferte - Art et Métal
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Wed May 25, 2011 3:10 am

Just to add to all the opinions and folklore: in Venezuela where I grew up there are (or at least were) many expert axemen. However, if you gave them a curved handle, normal on Euro or American axes, they would break them in a week. Give them a straight handle and they would chop for years! My father told me that he stopped buying handled axes and bought axeheads instead. Let the axeman make his own handle. It saved money and more importantly, time, in the long run. I suppose there is a moral here. The way you use the axe is probably as important as the way the grain runs, the material you use to make the handle, and the pattern you follow. I myself grew up with curved axe handles so they feel "natural" to me. But not, perhaps, to somebody who trained on straight handles.

My current bedtime reading is Eric Sloane's A Museum of of Early American Tools. He states that up until oh, 1850 all axe handles were straight. It was only when power sawing (steam or hydraulic) became widespread that we went to curved handles. I find this very interesting.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Billman » Wed May 25, 2011 8:25 am

Have you read the part in one of Sloane's books where he states he (?) broke an axe handle at the beginning of the day (week) and despite a long split (piece missing) still managed to fulfil his quota in the woods before he made an fitted a new handle - just by being careful and letting the axe do the work..... (Sorry cannot remember the full details of the story, just the outline) - wonderful books, and highly recommended to anyone who hasn't read them....

see http://www.ericsloane.com/bookpage.htm for a full list... many are still in print, or readily available second hand....
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Billman » Wed May 25, 2011 8:35 am

Socketed axes obviously have many differences from the more common eyed axe - the long slow taper of the socket allows than handle to be tightly fitted (in the same way that the Morse Taper on lathe chuck drill etc allows them to self wedge in the socket)...

The angle of the taper is thus critical in ensuring they hold themselves in place. I guess other factors also come into play - moisture content of the handle before and after fitting, and any subsequent shrinkage or expansion (here grain direction can be crucial as timber shrinks more at right angle to the grain, than parallel to it).

Another method if the handle does become loose is to cut a little off the end, which will have the effect of enlarging the taper (at the risk of shortening the handle too much for comfortable use)... I note that many German socketed axes have a triangular socket, thus giving an increased wedging action across the handle as well as along it...

As usual the more we learn the less we know......
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Wed May 25, 2011 8:43 am

To add to all the opinions and folklore ; it is said that in the middle of France where prunus spinosa grows in the fences like grass, people used to slip their axe head to be handled onto a living branch of that bush and left it under a coat of linseed oil till the branch grew tighter in the eye giving a bulge on both sides of it.
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