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Philip West

Step-by-Step traditional construction of a Trade Axe

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Every now and again we do one of these for a re-enactor or a period correct stickler. I think its fun myself.

*The Materials: A 9 1/2" long, 1 1/2" wide, 1/4" thick strap of 1018.

* A 3/8" thick forged to wedge shaped piece of 1095

Thats it for the materials..Smiths of yesteryear kept the cost down as much as possible, hence the mild steel body and high carbon cutting edge. Good steel was scarce so as little of it was used as possible..

Well we are going ot use the coal forge with a hand cranked blower. Remember, no electricity ;)

*Well heres the forge being brought up to temp, coking the green coal. We use a large deep fire to weld in and bank the coal up.

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*Heres a pic of the axe head ready for its first welding pass. The eye roughly formed and the high carbon bit in place...

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*After the very first welding pass, as you can see it still needs a couple more before starting any other magor work..

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*Ok, at this point its been three welding heats and the drift as been used the first time to set the eye shape. It wll be used again in a step or two for the final shaping. You will see a pic of it there..

Here is where you see how good your weld is ;) We use a fuller to forge a notch in the bottom of the blade. The edge of the anvil can be used but a hand held fuller or tool is better. If your welds not right here you'll bust the head apart!

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*Ok, now the head is ready for shaping. You know that funny looking thing on the back of your smithing hammer???? This is what its for, spreading the blade out wide :D

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*Here we have spread the blade out and am getting ready to square it up to profile..

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*Now we use the drift for final adjustments on the eye since about all the heavy forging is done. You can true it up again later if needed..

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*Alright, since your using mild steel for the body its going to forge at a differnt rate than the high carbon. It will spread out over the high carbon completely jacketing it. The edge of the blade needs to be trimmed up. Again since we dont know what a 2" x 72" grinder is B) we are using a handled hot cut to trim it up..

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*Again no electricity so no grinder..We put it in the vise and hot rasp the head..

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*Here we have a close final shape, stamped with a touch mark. Any filework on the spine and stoning will be done cold..This is what it would pretty much look like as a trade axe. We did go ahead and hot rasp the edge and set the bevels but you cant tell it here..Here we would have brought the edge up to temp and quenched it in the slack tub. Then final sharpening and out to some lucky frontiersman to use..

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From what I have researched over the years I think this is a pretty close representation of how a traditional trade axe may have been made..Thanks

Please any questions or comments, fire away..

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I just did one of these in my gas forge after watching Butch Sheely make it look easy as pie in coal. I've been getting good at welding san mai in my forge, but I sure had a hard time getting the welds to stick with a wrapped axe like that.. I kept breaking the weld at the eye when drifting.

 

Yours looks great....

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To help busting the eye at the weld try this - courtesy Joe Delaronde one of the best.....that flattened center helps a bunch - after adopting this method I've only busted one weld......

 

folded-hawk.jpg

 

 

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Thanks. :) Just try and leave more material for the eye before you weld. That helps too. Try and drift a wrought iron hawk head too far and the wrought iron itself will tear apart..You can literally see the fibers of the wrought seperating..

Just takes practice, do about 3-4 of these a week for a few years and it'll be as easy as making a j-hook ;)

Forging that notch in the belly is when you really see how good of a weld it is ;)

Edited by KYBOY

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At one time I made a lot of them, maybe not three or four a week for years but three or four a week for a while :P Years is a bit of a stretch but its sure seemed like it :wacko:

.

I cant stand rusty tools, it irks me :ph34r: Good tools are too hard to come by, I like to take care of them B)

Edited by KYBOY

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Cool! Now I don't have to document my process, I can just refer people to this thread since it's basically what I do anyway. B) The only difference is that I flare the strap before wrapping it, but that's just how I was taught.

 

Scott, that's the number one problem people have when they start these. The fix, even when using Chuck's method, is not to try and stretch the eye with the drift. The drift is only for shaping. Forge the strap around the drift before you do any welding, and don't hit the eye ever again. Once you've got the blade completely forged out, the final step is to use the drift to fine-tune the shape and center the blade. Don't try to hammer it on through to stretch the eye, that will always cause a split. You just want to hammer it in enough to fill the eye. As soon as you feel solid resistance, quit. All this is done with they eye at near-welding heat, too.

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Thanks Alan. I have flared them and its fine either way..I do like flaring them made with wrought iron for sure and your right about the fine tuning..You cant stretch a "wrap&weld" hawk eye after its welded, not much at all anyway..I had to figure it out the hard way but using the drift to gauge how much material you need for the eye to start with is the best way Ive found..I taught Lisa that from the get and she didnt have to hide all the "mistakes" in the creek like I did when I started :lol:

Edited by KYBOY

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Great thread! Thanks KYBOY.

 

I still have one of Alan's old threads copied and pasted into a Word .doc (somewhere)

 

I especially appreciate the advice on forming the eye.

 

Don

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Your welcome, happy to help a little :) The plan is to make a haft from last years dead fall on our property. Hickory or Ash, split the blank with a froe and drawknife it shape. Then scrape it..Just gotta wait for this dang rain to let up :wacko:

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Clean and simple . That explains a couple things , and kind of solidifies one or two others for those of us who haven't tried it yet . Hall of famer !!!

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