Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

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Axe handle making

Postby Sprot » Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:14 am

Just wanted to share a video I found from youtube - don't really know if it has been here already.
It is in a style that Robin Wood has had links in his blog.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcfwlfz_tGs
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Froe 'andles (not four candles)

Postby ToneWood » Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:17 pm

I've enough ax handles now, so I split the last, smaller, ash log to make 2 froe handles. I don't need froe handles currently but, taking my queue from from Peter Follansbee, I am roughing out a few spares which can sit drying/seasoning until needed. Quite enjoyable, simpler than axe handles. I've shaped them pretty close but big enough to allow for shrinkage and some final trimming.
5 Axe handles & 2 froe handles.jpg
3 small ax handles, 3 large ax handles and 2 froe handles
5 Axe handles & 2 froe handles.jpg (75.23 KiB) Viewed 7261 times
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

Postby ToneWood » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:08 pm

Fitted and wedged handle #2 into the little Kent pattern ax last night, and fitted the slim handle #5 the big #5 Kent pattern head this morning:
Big ax Little ax wedged handles #2 & #5.jpg
Together again.
Big ax Little ax wedged handles #2 & #5.jpg (65.93 KiB) Viewed 7261 times

Rough sharpened the little ax too:

Then fine ground it and honed it:
Final hone with stones, paper & strops.jpg
Stones soaked in soapy dishwater - an abattoir technique apparently.
Final hone with stones, paper & strops.jpg (53.88 KiB) Viewed 7261 times

Honed edge.jpg
Honed edge.jpg (53.49 KiB) Viewed 7261 times

Small ax complete.jpg
I really love this dinky axe now. I can get my fingers right behind the head. Full of character :)
It was sharp enough to cut the wet & dry paper, shown, on final sharpening.
Small ax complete.jpg (95.52 KiB) Viewed 7261 times


Finish
I've rubbed beeswax over the black areas of the head since the above pictures were taken. I've oiled the rough looking handle. I thought about scraping it but that tends to lead to sandpaper and finally a rather "industrial" finish. From experience, I know the handle will smooth with use in a way that adds rather than removes character - and that seems appropriate here. I will likely oil it again later & perhaps wax it with beeswax & raw linseed oil later - but I'm not aiming for a polished finish here.

Grind/Bevels
Rather than giving it long carving bevels and/or an asymmetric side-axe like grind (as I did to my cheap but now wonderful Lidl-China Polish carving axe :D), I decided to stick to the original grind angles - it's an old English axe and it seemed appropriate. Actually they are a bit longer than before but it was very blunt previously. I kept the bevels convex - traditional for durability. I think it is quite a versatile grind for carving (as the axe blade is fairly slim) - although not unlike the SCA.


Wedges & Wedging

I used an old, purchased oak wedge in the small ax (it was the perfect size), coated with white wood glue. I made a large oak wedge for the #4 axe from a piece of oak split off my recent bowl's blank - nothing wasted :). I split the head for the wedge, Robin Wood style, rather than sawing a slot as I always did in the past. I think the key piece of information was that he does this while the handle is in the head and only starts the split with the knife - I used my replacement Mora Clipper & a gentle tap with my wooden froe mallet. Worked wonderfully, best fitting wedges so far :)

Not all good news. I was planning to make one more tiny tweak to the big #4 axe before wedging the head but broke my froe mallet in the process - could not get the handle out! :D But I was done, so split and wedged it. Surprised there was room for a wedge but it went in pretty good before finally coming to a firm halt.

[Added some new images to earlier posts too ;)]
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Re: Axe handle making

Postby ToneWood » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:50 pm

Sprot wrote:Just wanted to share a video I found from youtube - don't really know if it has been here already.
It is in a style that Robin Wood has had links in his blog.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcfwlfz_tGs
Hi sprot, just noticed your post. That's the same video as the "old skool" link, mentioned earlier in the thread - apparently youtube had 2 different copies of it. Interesting isn't it. Yes, quite possibly from Robin Wood's blog, or elsewhere on this forum.

I just finished sharpening & honing the big #4 Elwell Kent pattern axe. I didn't overdo it - the bevels are quite short and convex. Nice & shiny now though :) This will likely be used for splitting big bowl blanks - I rarely fell trees and the chainsaw would be my first choice these days and I already have a very effective splitting maul for firewood.
Elwell #4 sharpened & honed.jpg
Elwell #4 sharpened & honed.jpg (77.97 KiB) Viewed 7249 times

I've since rubbed beeswax over the head (not a great look to be honest :D) - I almost bought Renaissance Wax this morning (IanS recommended this museum grade wax), as the wife was passing the book binder that stocks it. I've seen old axe heads described as having a coat "phosphor" - anyone know what that is all about (presumably makes it black or preserves it)?
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

Postby nic » Sat Jun 30, 2012 9:59 pm

Tony is probably a bit late now but sprit (white) vinegar does a good job of removing rust without agressively etching the metal, better if it is fully submerged though. wire brush it under runing water afterwards, dry it and rub some oil / wax in. I have rennaiasance wax, not worth the extra it costs for my uses.

I guess that they mean phosphoric acid, used to be sold as jenolite probably still is. Converts iron oxide to black inert iron phospate, or something along those lines. not tried it my self.
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

Postby ToneWood » Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:47 pm

Thanks nic. Interesting about the wax. I melted some beeswax on with a Clipper lighter but it looks like blobs melted cheese now :D, I should probably have warmed it first in hot water, perhaps thinned with some raw linseed oil (= my homemade wax polish). It'll wear in or off though, so not overly concerned. I was thinking about setting up a small, simple electrolysis rig - not specifically for axe heads but old tools in general, it actually reverses rusting (as long as you put the clips on the right way round), so reduced metal loss. I was thinking of using my old homemade battery charger (transformer with a single diode soldered on as the rectifier, in an old plastic lunch box :D - crude but it's worked well for decades) and washing soda as the electrolyte.

Jenolite looks like rust convertor, if so, I've used that in the past. Yes, I guess it turns red rust to a blue-black colour, which I believe is a more stable iron oxide & is supposed to be protective. Hadn't thought of using it on tools - might be the best use for it. Perhaps the vinegar trick might still be possible - the idea pickling wood came up recently in one discussion :).

Guess what? Somebody contacted me today with an offer of ash :) I think the wait did me good - I was really fired up to make handles when I finally got some. There is room for improvement though, so I'll make some more (won't get it till the end of the month now :(). If there is spare, I'll see if the village greenwood chair-maker is still willing to make me a couple of chairs.
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

Postby ToneWood » Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:15 pm

Got my first handle order at the weekend, a sledge hammer handle for my brother. The fee? No charge. :)
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

Postby ToneWood » Sun Jul 08, 2012 9:50 am

I found a little more ash, so made 3 more handles this weekend: a short handle (#7), a long ax handle (#8) and a froe handle.

For the shorter # 7 axe handle, I was aiming for the more angular Robin Wood/Red-birch carving handle variant of the classic SCA shape. Although I didn't pull that off, I am quite pleased with the result, as I managed to keep the handle broad while producing a reasonable shaped butt/heel. I was planning to slim the handle down a little more later but it actually fits my hand quite well as-is.
Bow saw, draw knife, ax handle #7.jpg
I decided to use my vintage bow saw to shape handle #7 for a change. It worked quite well, as it forced me to create the silhouette first (per Robin Wood's article).
Proper imperial tools: 1 foot saw blade, 1 foot draw knife - how sensible (unless you are a physicist).
Bow saw, draw knife, ax handle #7.jpg (89.35 KiB) Viewed 7179 times
Ax handles 3, SCA & 7.jpg
Ax handles 3 SCA & 7 compared. Better but still not there yet: 7 is straighter & broader, flatter too but that is deliberate.
Ax handles 3, SCA & 7.jpg (66.01 KiB) Viewed 7179 times


The long handle #8 is about 1" shorter than my previous handles (which were 36") with a lower "shoulder" -- when it is fitted I may shorten the top by an inch or so, or raise the shoulder by that amount. I prefer the feel of the longer 36" handles - if I had bought a handle I would likely have gone with 30-34" but 36" really is much nice, might even try an unusually long 37 or 38" handle in the future - but I don't really plan to fell frees. The heel offers the chance to experiment with design & fit, and to practice carving grips & techniques. I loosely modeled this heel after that on the handle of my father's hatchet - and I am really please with it, it feels great, very secure; it's more bulbous than the original, which is deliberate.

I wanted to carved another axe handle with the other half of #7 but after carefully marking it out and starting to shape it, I noticed a large, deep knot right under the head - although tempted to continue, I decided to "knock it on the head". Sourcing and selecting the wood seems to be half the battle. I know some will disagree but often shop bought hickory handles are near perfect. I've worked with, through and around small knots and waves in the ash but this long, central, knot went right to the pith :(. So instead, I used the draw knife to re-shape it as a froe handle. Not sure if it will work out yet, it is a little slim on one side & I found a void (empty knot hole) in the top 1/3rd. I might give it a try, or save it, in case I get a smaller froe later (I which case I'd shorten & reshape it further) or it might end up as firewood, haven't decided to.
Ax handles 7 & 8.jpg
Ax handles 7 & 8
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14lb Sledge Hammer handle

Postby ToneWood » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:33 pm

ToneWood wrote:Got my first handle order at the weekend, a sledge hammer handle for my brother. The fee? "No charge." :)

Was planning to use a new handle (#9) for the sledge hammer - for some reason I was picturing one of those broad-headed pick-axe handles. However, the sledge hammer head, which is huge at 14lb (10lb is big) has only a relatively tiny hole for the handle. So I opted to use handle #4 instead, which, as mentioned above, has a small head after I accidentally lopped off part of it with the axe. Consequently it didn't take long to fit. I inserted two home-made oak wedges in a cross to hold it on and filled the voids (the hole flared slightly at both ends) with wood-glue. I scraped the handle smooth then textured the bottom 12" with my big vintage rasp for grip and oiled it. Not sure how well the handle will cope with the 14lb head: it was originally carved as an axe handle, it has a couple of knots in it and this is the handle with cross-grain. I've warned my brother about it though & I expect it will sit unused in his garage - but at least it is usable now, if needed.
14lb Sledge Hammer -  handle #4.jpg
14lb Sledge Hammer - handle #4.jpg (108.04 KiB) Viewed 7124 times
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4lb Kent-style axe

Postby ToneWood » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:30 pm

I noticed my father-in-law's (FIL) little 2.5lb long-handled Swedish splitting axe/hatchet is looking in need of a little TLC, so I suggested he use my recently refurbished 4lb Elwell Kent-style axe, pictured above. I thought I better give it a thorough testing first. OMG, it is a fantastic axe! I thought it would feel heavy but it feels very light and nimble, with that slim 36" handle (I normally use an 8lb splitting maul) and with that recently sharpened and honed blade it split small rounds effortlessly. I am regretting giving it away! But my FIL is one-in-a-million and I know he'll appreciate it and put it to good use. Wow! Great axe. What a surprise!

Elmore #4.jpg
4lb Elwell Kent-style axe head
Elmore #4.jpg (77.89 KiB) Viewed 7084 times


When I uncovered my chopping block, among the large amount of bug & insect life was a large female Stag beetle: at 2cm with a good set of mini-pincers :) - endangered species. I carefully moved her aside.

I cobbled together an edge protector for the above axe, as it is now sharp. I've improvised a Gavin/Wille-style 3-layer axe guard, using thick old wellie rubber and machine screws, nuts & washers and a good dollop of PVA wood glue, instead of leather & rivets. It's crude but it should do the job and is considerably better than nothing at all.
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Shovel 'andle & Swedish Carving Axe handles

Postby ToneWood » Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:53 pm

I also re-handled my old, short, emergency snow shovel. The hollow fibre glass handle snapped off years ago. Last year I finally put a round ash stick (with the bark on) in as a make-do handle after failing to find a replacement. Recently I whittled a cross-bar, fitted and fettled it. It's quite nice now: rustic & tactile :).

I've also tweaked the SCA handle #7, after spoon-carver Martin Damen let me checkout the Gransfor Bruks red birch carving handle on his Swedish Carving axe (SCA) at Art In Action, nr. Oxford last week. It's the premium, optional, more angular handle, similar to the one carved by Robin in his excellent axe re-handling threads/articles. Being able to hold it was useful, as the axe handle was much slimmer than I had expected, also there is no front facet, the angled sides meet at an edge. I also shaped the butt/toe/heel end of my handle some more. It looks a bit a bit more like the carving handle, crisper edges but not as crisp nor as close as Robins, of course.
Reworked handles.jpg
Hard to see but #7 is slimmer and more angular now. Compare handle #6 with the roughed out version at top of this page.
Reworked handles.jpg (162.24 KiB) Viewed 7086 times
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash

Postby ToneWood » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:24 pm

Handle #7 & red woman bowl.jpg
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash #10

Postby ToneWood » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:30 pm

Thought I was done with axe handles for a while but was given the limb for #10 (& #11?) recently. So I decided to a carve axe handle yesterday:
Ax handle #10 mk3.jpg
Not quite finished yet but pleased with the heel and toe area. The curve was a significant feature of the branch. I prefer my handles to be long, around 36", so I incorporated the curve, which I find pleasing. Groovy English Axminster carpet background - sure confuses the camera's autofocus :).
Ax handle #10 mk3.jpg (80.39 KiB) Viewed 7041 times

I used my little Kent-style axe (pictured earlier in this thread) to shape the heel and toe. It is very sharp now. The symmetrical grind proved useful when hollowing out the area above the toe. Being able to grip behind the blade gave confidence and control when needed.
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Re: Axe/Ax handles

Postby ToneWood » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:32 pm

<removed: out of date>
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Re: Axe/Ax handles (not four candles) & ash #10

Postby ToneWood » Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:04 pm

<removed: out of date>
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