part 2: fitting an axe handle

discussion of anything related to tools

Moderators: jrccaim, Bob_Fleet, gavin, Robin Fawcett, HughSpencer

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby goldsmithexile » Mon Apr 06, 2009 7:56 am

Have you got a stove up in your loft then Robin? :D
goldsmithexile
Regular
 
Posts: 346
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2007 4:00 pm
Location: suffolk

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby Robin Fawcett » Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:32 am

goldsmithexile wrote:Have you got a stove up in your loft then Robin? :D


No
http://www.facebook.com/GreenWoodwork?ref=tn_tnmn[url=http://www.treewright.co.uk/]
Green woodwork courses, treen, demonstrations & talks http://www.treewright.co.uk[/url]
User avatar
Robin Fawcett
Site Admin
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: Essex/Herts/London

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby Al Muckart » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:55 am

Thank you for this Robin. I'm in the process of rescuing and old and sorely abused side-axe (which are annoyingly hard to find in this country) and the blade is done so I'm starting on the handle.

I've got a newbie question about wedging though; is there any particular reason you put the wedge in parallel to the long axis of the eye, does it affect the way the axe works at all?

In The Complete Guide to Sharpening, which I was consulting on how to best rebuild the edge of my axe, mr Lee says one should always wedge an axe along the short axis of the eye, perpendicular to the long axis, because wedging it parallel to the long axis can deform the eye.

The axe I've got has been whacked on the poll enough to mushroom it over quite a bit, and when I drilled out the old handle there was some cracking evident in the weld on the inside of the eye. I'm worried that if I drive a wedge in hard along the long axis it could lead to the head cracking further or breaking.

Here's the head before I did anything to it. It's mounted for a left hander, I'm guessing by someone who didn't realise it was a side axe, and the lugs have been taken off with an angle grinder, but you can see how much of a beating the poll has taken:
IMG_3272.JPG
IMG_3272.JPG (19.1 KiB) Viewed 15835 times
--
Al. Medieval shoe geek.
http://wherearetheelves.blogspot.com
User avatar
Al Muckart
Regular
 
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Jun 17, 2009 1:23 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby Ian S » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:50 pm

Hi Al

I'm no expert, but I have re-handled 3 axes so far....

When you wedge an axe, you want to get the handle as tightly held as possible. I'd always put the first wedge in along the long axis of the eye - there's no way that wedging with a wooden wedge will ever distort a steel axe head (unless the steel is butter soft). This long wedge forces the handle to grab the greatest area of the inside of the eye - exactly what you want.

I then use a (soft) iron wedge at somewhere between 45 degrees and 90 degrees to the first wedge to really tighten things up. Again, a soft iron wedge isn't going to distort a steel axe head. There's a substantial amount of handle to compress and crush first of all!

The poll on that axe does look mushroomed, doesn't it? Hammering the poll of an axe like that (with big steel hammers, no doubt) is far far more likely to distort the eye than wedging ever could. This is why I only ever use a wooden beetle or mallet on the polls of my axes, and woe betide anyone who skelps (Scottish word - means hits) one of my axes with a hammer! :evil:

You mention cracking within the eye. This sounds nasty, but is hopefully not what it seems. I understand that most axes have an oversized hole punched through the axe head during forging. The outside of the axe head is then hammered down to shrink the hole down to make the eye, and you can frequently see something that looks like a crack, but isn't. Effectively it's a sort of fold line in the steel and typically it will be at the front of the eye, nearest the cutting edge. If there's a 'crack' elsewhere, I'd be more concerned.

Good luck with re-handling your axe - it's great fun to put a good old tool back in service.

Cheers
How sharp is sharp enough?
Ian S
Regular
 
Posts: 370
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:33 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby bodgehog » Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:37 pm

I've done a few myself & As Ian_S has said...

You will likely get a good working side axe out of it Al.

File off the musrooming & don't worry about the crack - I've seen such things left from forging so it may well be stable - where in the eye do you mean? Often the narrow end towards the cutting edge can show folds or cracks that have been there since it was made.

If knocking in a wedge breaks it then it was never going to be a safe user anyway.

Metal wedges are not always needed...depending on the shape of the eye & the amount of pressure exerted fore & aft by the initial wooden wedge. A bit of careful testing prior to sawing off the excess can help establish what is needed if in doubt.
User avatar
bodgehog
Regular
 
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:52 pm
Location: East Sussex

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Thu Jan 27, 2011 4:07 am

In my experience with axes I have seen long wedges, cross-wedges, angled wedges and what seems to be a new fad in this country, tubular wedges. All seem to work quite well. Myself I try the long wedge (parallel to axe blade). If that works I wedge no more. So far (the rapping sound you just heard is me, knocking on wood) I have been succesful. If there is a real crack in the axe-head, you might try JB-Weld stuffed into the crack after cleaning it up as best you can. Amazing stuff. It is said to patch engine block cracks, so it might work on axe heads. It will not adhere to rust, however, so you do have to clean up before you apply it.

Postscript. I just googled on "JB weld UK". It is indeed available in the UK, by that name. If you are not a welder (and I am emphatically not), this may be what you need.
User avatar
jrccaim
Regular
 
Posts: 1082
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:53 am
Location: Willow, Alaska USA

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby Billman » Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:13 pm

Excellent article - a few comments...

On the Longleat Estate in Wiltshire each forester had his own preferred axe handle - shape, offset, length and until the 1960's there were dozens of thin wooden (hardboard or ply???) templates in the carpenters shop (sadly long since disappeared) - if you find a handle length etc that suits you, make a pattern for future use....

It is very easy when fitting the handle to the eye to get a slight twist out of line - this makes it difficult to aim on target when using as a felling axe or for splitting logs - take extra care when fitting a ready made handle... when making billhook handles I rough out the shape, fit to the tang, and finally shape when on the blade - this way I can ensure they line up...

Modern axe heads are forged from one piece of steel - except hand forged ones - even Gransfors Bruks are machine forged, albeit by a skilled smith (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVty29TY ... re=related) - the eye is punched through from both sides, opened up on a mandrel and usually waisted - older ones were forge welded from wrought iron or mild steel with a high carbon cutting edge and poll. There will always be evidence of the weld in the eye behind the cutting edge of a welded axe head, and I have seen them split open when the weld has been badly done....

Some good videos of hand forging of an axe head on Youtube, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD9lF03s ... re=related (USA) or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4cJ0Vf72eI (Germany) or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbCpDsxU ... re=related (Sweden)
Collector and restorer of old agricultural edge tools, especially billhooks
Billman
Regular
 
Posts: 540
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:51 pm
Location: South West Wiltshire

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:13 am

Billman wrote:Excellent article - a few comments...
Modern axe heads are forged from one piece of steel - except hand forged ones - even Gransfors Bruks are machine forged, albeit by a skilled smith (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVty29TY ... re=related) -
...

Not to split hairs or anything, but I have watched videos of GB axes being forged. They are not machine forged. Instead, they are using a trip hammer. Trip hammers are described, for instance, in Weyger's book. The trip hammer is a gigantic hammering machine. It has to be operated by hand (by foot, actually -- a foot switch turns it on). The smith saves a lot of time. Otherwise the price of a GB axe, already really steep, would be prohibitive. And in the videos I have watched they are "butterflying" the axe head in order to stick in a high-carbon steel insert -- laminating, in fact. In a "machine forged" axe, a billet of heated steel is placed in a die. Another die just like it is placed in a hydraulic ram. The ram comes down and wham! Presto! an axe head. They are forged in one blow. Another name for this process is "drop forging," I suppose because the ram drops down on t' other die. I think it is important to distinguish between the two -- a trip hammer is sort of an automated "striker" (in the US at least, a striker was an apprentice who struck the steel with a sledge exactly where the smith struck with a much lighter hammer. We probably got the term from the UK). But the guidance is done by a human being. In drop forging, you need some low-skilled person to drop the billet into the die. It may be done by a robot these days for all I know.

Lots of stuff on google under "trip hammers." Maybe one reposes in a scrapyard near you! Save you much bashing time, except you've got to get a two-tonne machine into your shop.
User avatar
jrccaim
Regular
 
Posts: 1082
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:53 am
Location: Willow, Alaska USA

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby robin wood » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:05 am

Only the very expensive range of Gransfors tools and replicas are made with the trip hammer, these ones http://www.gransfors.com/htm_eng/index.html and I think the 1700 and 1800 broad axe.

Most are made in a press with dies. It is a sort of in between stage which speeds things up and still needs a whole lot of skill unlike drop forging. This is the way most Gransfors are forged http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVty29TYovo

This is a drop forge which is the way most cheap axes are made, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOfsV20X_C8 all three methods can produce excellent tools though I personally have a liking for skilled handwork and feel it honours the person that learns the skill. I am also happy with industrial production but prefer to see robots than people doing the mind numbing work. Even Adam Smith in showing how division of labour in a pin factory vastly increased production admitted that such work amounted to the "mental mutilation" of the worker.
http://www.robin-wood.co.uk bowls, books and courses
User avatar
robin wood
Regular
 
Posts: 1670
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:21 am
Location: derbyshire

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby Billman » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:55 pm

Technically a trip hammer (also known as a helve hammer or a tilt hammer, depending upon how and where the hammer head is raised) is a slow beast, usually water powered, and thus unsuited to modern production. Most hand forging is done under a power hammer, although Bradley (and others) in the USA did make motorised trip hammers.

The GB video shows a multi headed motorised power press being used, which still relies upon the skill of the smith as well as the precison of the dies. The press can apply a greater pressure than a gravity, or even a small power, hammer, and squeezes the metal into the desired shape. This is how the axes have been traditionally made there for the past hundred years or so. There is no mention of forge welding on the website, and it appears the heads are made from solid steel with the eyes punched through. The video show the press being used to push the mandrel into the preformed eye to shape it. Each head depends upon the skilled hand-eye co-ordination of the smith, rather than being formed, or stamped, in a die, and is thus punched with the initials of the smith who made it.

Only the replica axes are are forged by hand at Gränsfors Bruks by the axe-smiths Lars Enander(LE), Claudia Kowalek (CK) and Ulrika Stridsberg (US). These are forge welded with high carbon steel inserts in a softer body. Lars and one of the girls acting as striker can be seen in the Swedish video (link in my previous post)... It also shows a power hammer being used to draw out the blade. Courses are available if you want to go and learn how to make your own axe - 5 days to 20 weeks - link: http://www.gransfors.com/htm_eng/index.html (page 8).

A better video of drop forging for tool making is the one showing wood chisels being made at the Record Works in Meadow Street, Sheffield in 2000: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPWEzxll46o
Collector and restorer of old agricultural edge tools, especially billhooks
Billman
Regular
 
Posts: 540
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:51 pm
Location: South West Wiltshire

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby robin wood » Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:51 pm

It's true a trip hammer was originally water powered with lugs on the rotating shaft flicking the big hammer up in the air to fall under it's own weight. I had a go on one of the last 2 working in the UK at Patersons spade mill in Northern Ireland. http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2 ... -mill.html
Image

At Gransfors they have power hammers which some smiths still call trip hammers as used in this vid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbCpDsxU ... re=related but the one with the dies in the other Gransfors vid is a press rather than a hammer they work in very different ways.
http://www.robin-wood.co.uk bowls, books and courses
User avatar
robin wood
Regular
 
Posts: 1670
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:21 am
Location: derbyshire

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:37 am

Very interesting and thanks for the comments. There is, apparently, a third way to make an axe. My McGowan "FireStone Belt Axe" is apparently cast from stainless steel, heat-treated and then ground and honed. I say "apparently" because that is what the literature that came with the axe says, but I am always suspicious of such literature. FireStone is a superb axe. To my utter amazement, it required no honing at all! I got it from Lee Valley, but you can get it much cheaper (as in half the price I paid :( ) elsewhere, including, improbably, a site named cookware.com. Maybe they use it to chop chickens.

If you google on "McGowan FireStone axe" you will get many hits (70,000 or so) and the majority point to places where you can buy it. When I bought it from Lee Valley it was labeled "Iltis Belt Axe" (no mention of McGowan) and I never have gone wrong with Lee Valley so I bought it for myself as a Christmas present. I am glad I did, though. It shows that the US of A can still turn out a quality product. Not, unfortunately, that it does this very often.

Oh yes, and Robin (Wood) I am eagerly awaiting your episode grand finale, the finished handle. After getting my McGowan axe, which has a laminated birch handle, I said to myself "if I can't make a laminated handle out of birch for an axe, I should be drummed out of the bodger's board. Froes reversed, buttons cut off and all." So not having hickory and/or ash doesen't seem like such a big problem anymore. Or maybe you posted the finale and I missed it? If so I apologize.
User avatar
jrccaim
Regular
 
Posts: 1082
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:53 am
Location: Willow, Alaska USA

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby Billman » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:13 pm

Cast steel for an axe used to mean that the steel was cast into an ingot, which was then rolled into bar and subsequently forged to shape... Invented by Huntsman c mid 18th century in an effort to improve the quality of clock and watch springs, blister steel was melted to produce a homogenous product...

But there is no reason why an axe head cannot be cast, apart from cost of making the pattern and the mould for each head - but with modern lost wax processes (i.e. investment casting) this has been much reduced.. It may be that the stainless steel used will not forge successfully..

Just looked at one site for the McGowen axe - it states 'Bead blasted investment cast head' and 'Head material: 440C High-carbon stainless steel' - but I'm not so keen on 'Handle secured by a stainless steel set screw and stainless steel roll pin' - link: http://www.cookware.com/McGowan-1204-MCG1002.html?cv=

QED
Collector and restorer of old agricultural edge tools, especially billhooks
Billman
Regular
 
Posts: 540
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:51 pm
Location: South West Wiltshire

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:31 am

Billman wrote:Cast steel for an axe used to mean that the steel was cast into an ingot, which was then rolled into bar and subsequently forged to shape... Invented by Huntsman c mid 18th century in an effort to improve the quality of clock and watch springs, blister steel was melted to produce a homogenous product...

But there is no reason why an axe head cannot be cast, apart from cost of making the pattern and the mould for each head - but with modern lost wax processes (i.e. investment casting) this has been much reduced.. It may be that the stainless steel used will not forge successfully..

Just looked at one site for the McGowen axe - it states 'Bead blasted investment cast head' and 'Head material: 440C High-carbon stainless steel' - but I'm not so keen on 'Handle secured by a stainless steel set screw and stainless steel roll pin' - link: http://www.cookware.com/McGowan-1204-MCG1002.html?cv=

QED


The setscrew/roll pin arrangement may look odd. In fact it does look odd to me. But the ultimate test is to put it to use, and so far it has worked like the proverbial charm. Cut my spoon-roughing time in half, in fact. And I have to admit that is far easier to tighten a setscrew than to drive in another wedge. The thing is, the setscrew is going into a laminated handle. Very difficult to wedge laminations. Novel solution. Does it hold up under field conditions? We will see, this summer.
User avatar
jrccaim
Regular
 
Posts: 1082
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:53 am
Location: Willow, Alaska USA

Re: part 2: fitting an axe handle

Postby axel » Wed May 04, 2011 10:51 am

Sorry to dig-up an old thread, but I think my question is a good one and perhaps not answered elsewhere?

When fitting a handle to a Kent pattern axe, is there much benefit in the handle extending upward beyond the poll? Beyond the poll there are, of course, the pointed "cheeks" of the axe head, but do they really help much in securing the axe handle? I notice on GB carving axe there are none at the top.

Kind Regards, Axel.
axel
Regular
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2007 9:50 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Tools

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests