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Forging an Axe

K. Bryan Morgan

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I've gotten a chance to spend some time forging with my friend Jake from Galina, Ak. The last couple of days together we started and axe and got some forging time in. All in all a great time. The first day I made a slit in some 3/4" x 2" x 8" mild steel plate. That was about all the time I had and had to get going to do other things. Today we got alot more done. We made a drift from an old breaker bit. Did a forge weld of spring steel for the bit and had time to refine the shape some. Then used the drift to begin to open the eye.


Temps here have been hovering around 20 F and thats not a bad temp to be outside at all. Jakes shop here in Ester is small and sparten. He made a side blast forge with a metal drawer and some cat litter. A square tube for the tuyere and my shop vac for the blast. Its a great success. We are using a friend of his 25 lb anvil. With a cheap chisel and a few different sized hammers we've accomplished a great deal.


Jake has alot more experience than me and its great to work with him. I've been learning alot. For me the best part is the friendship and comraderie that we have. I can't wait till we get back together next week and work on the axe some more.













Virtuite et Armis (Virtue at Arms)



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The forge works very well. We got the weld done in it with no trouble at all. We are still working on the hatchet. But, schedules and obligations have slowed us down alittle. We plan on getting together tomorrow and getting as much done as we can on it.


As far as slitting the hole is conserned, I don't have any other frame of reference. Its the only one I've done. It wasn't very difficult, but it did take time. The chisel we used is a cold chisel and we should have forged or ground it to a better profile. But we did get through, it just took alittle longer than we thought. The anvil is 25 pounds and has a good hard face. It came from an old mine, you can see on the sides where they cut cable for the dredge.


I hadn't given much thought as to what it would be called. I guess pack hatchet/axe would be a good discription.

Edited by K. Bryan Morgan



Virtuite et Armis (Virtue at Arms)



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Very cool Bryan! Always good to get together and forge a bit! Is Jake just as much of a nutter in person :D?

Let not the swords of good and free men be reforged into plowshares, but may they rest in a place of honor; ready, well oiled and God willing unused. For if the price of peace becomes licking the boots of tyrants, then "To Arms!" I say, and may the fortunes of war smile upon patriots

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Shawn, actually there isn't a huge amount of time in this. I would estimate that total time working on the axe would be so far about 8 hours. We talked a lot about technique, style, welding, between heats and also spoke at length about how axes function.


Sam, Jake is intense. Very passionate about blacksmithing in general and axes and how they work, are shaped ect. I have learned more in the three days working with him than I did studying on the internet in the last year. Besides which he is just a great person who is more than willing to give his time and thoughts to someone else.



Virtuite et Armis (Virtue at Arms)



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I got to spend some more time hanging out with Jake and working more on the axe. I've included some pictures of us slitting the slot. There are a couple of things I would do differently. One, I would profile the chisel for hot cutting, its a cold chisel. Two, I would make a pair to tongs specifically for tools with eyes. I'm in the process of doing both right now. I do plan on making more axes. Its a heck of a lot of fun. The rotund guy with the hammer and chisel is me.


Jake and I were shaping the blade and eye of the axe. I was running the camera so I didn't get any shots of me working on it. But, another great time was had. I'll get pics of the axe as we continue to shape it and also of the tongs I'm making. Not done with them yet but I did get a good start on them. I'll add pics as we go.

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Virtuite et Armis (Virtue at Arms)



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axe is comin along great... some grinder clean up and a little draw filing ... it'll be super fine


the shop reminds me so much of the shop i first built on my parents land..... just lights and a coal fire to keep warm in -30 cel, but i was so thankful for it !! the nice thing about a small anvil is that it heats up quickly... this is great for forgewelding in the winter... i hate to say it but a large anvil in the winter is almost a curse, stealin the heat from the work


i can almost smell the sweet coal burning


there was an article in blade mag where some fella made a small pack axe... (almost too small ) by forgewelding all the components together ... bit, 2 side panels, poll ... came out ok but i thought but not the way i'd do it



take care


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Thanks to Bryan's solid,reasonable,common-sense reporting the story hasn't been confused or convoluted yet!Alas,my absolutely dysfunctional dial-up connection may just allow me to change that,to muddle things up a bit with some maniacal ramblings...


Needless to say,much(all?)of what we all do with steel is about the Process,vs the Product,it's all about exploration,learning and discovery.This project here is no different.


Fortunately,i'm doing it together with Bryan,who's a rock of solid,unshakable reasonableness and common sense,and thanks to him the experiments are proceeding with dignity and sensibility,and may even result in a product(other than the confirmation or the opposite of some conjectures on the subject of axe-making).


For myself,the hope is that the project may answer some questions about axe-making that can only be answered in the forge.The ultra-primitive conditions help in some ways,distilling the Process to it's very essentials.They may be also counter-productive in other ways,just like bending a stick works only to a certain point,after which,et c. :blink:


Something that interested me in the extreme for some time now was the way that many among the Scandinavian toolmakers slit the eye:The slitter that they use is narrow in width,requiring several passes to slit the needed lengh of an eye.

Having played with this a couple of times now i begin to appreciate this logic more and more:

The versatility is immediately apparent-one can use the same slitter for many eye shapes,but the most important diff. is a radical reduction in resistance-the slotter is never jammed in the slit,the slit being longer than the footprint of the slitter.

I see it as an important fact because i've long coveted them tall,slender-profiled polls on many of the Scandinavian-style axes(and adzes),wondering as to how exactly that they're forged.

The reduced resistance of a slitter does indeed result in less of a distortion,an upset,as the eye gets slit;Bryan and i lost only 3/8" from the original 2" height of stock(some of it recuperable in drawing down the sides into langettes).

The only downside seems to be the fact that such a slitter needs to have sqare corners,so as to travel down the ends of the slit in a plumb manner.That necessitates it being something decent alloy-wise,but apparently not outrageously so:That Stanley cold-chisel that Bryan came up with held up great,with zero distortion,plunged through a couple inches of mild,at fairly high heat(dark-medium yaller,i'd call it).

The stock slit was very slender in section,proportionately,only 3/4" wide,something else that i wanted to try radicalising,just to see where the limits may be.That 3/4" was not too close to the limit,but through my oversight we did end up with a depression,a fish-mouth in effect,back of the eye toward the poll.That could probably have been avoided by profiling the slitter to a nobler section,oval rather than the original sq.cornered shape.

Those distortions may come out later with careful forging,but this time we only managed to forge out one side,beats me why,as the slit is fairly well centered :)


That slitting sequence was probably the only thing worthy of particular note,though ANY forge-time teaches one all sorts of lessons.I can also mention the make-shift side-blast,that i'm very impressed with:Given the rather thin cover of fuel over the tyere(2+" at most),the weld went reasonably well,certainly took place in a reducing zone.Surprising,really,given the heinous qualities of Cr based nature of the steel bit used(leafspring).


Lastly,i greatly enjoyed the "ride 'em cowboy" manner in which Bryan and i both went about all this,eyeballing the location and the centering of the slit(neither of us happened to've had a marking punch aboot us :rolleyes: ),and the weight of the future axe-head(about 2 lbs).

All in all,it's great to work with Bryan,and an incredible thing altogether,to have an imaginary internet-friend materialise into a real one :D


Greg is very much right in that a small anvil is very convenient in reaching high temp,a very handy feature when welding,or working something of a really slender section!


Alan,your last tomahawk is Lovely,my hat's off to ya!(This lousy connection precludes my posting 90% of the time).That,sir,is a good lesson to us all,the way i see it:One's way better off sticking with something that one truly loves,understands,and has taken the time to learn much about,the way that you're learned in the history and the lore of the tomahawk.I can only look on,with a certain envy,and hope to settle my bad brain down some day to practicing that one design,vs greedily reaching out to them all,never really accomplishing much in either(a form of a metalworker's ADD :( )

(The box-fan is to try to improve the exhaust flow,as i've a friend with a type of respiratory problems that preclude her from spending too much time here with the air quality that Bryan and i find tolerable...)


Well,attaching photos was too much to hope for...IF it succeeds,this one is the forging situation that i aspire for! :):ph34r:




And this is the way one Sweedish toolmaker,http://www.djarv.se/djarvenglish/ovrart.asp makes slitting a bit easier on himself(the blanks are Sandvik steel,though):



God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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