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Alan Longmire

bearded axes have been keeping me busy

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I haven't posted any new work in quite a while because of a large commission, but I'm nearing the end of six months of weekends work on this project: A set of bearded axes.

 

bax 1.jpg

 

Forge-finished, approximately 5" / 135mm edge and 6.5" / 155mm head length, head weight averages 18 ounces / 510 g. Mild steel body with W-1 edge. 29" / 737mm curly maple handle.

 

bax 2.jpg

 

Sterling escutcheon on the back of the handle just below the head with the recipient's initials in Younger Futhark runes.

 

bax 3.jpg

 

For the record, that escutcheon plate is 5/8 x 1/4 inch, about 15mm x 6.5mm.

 

The head is based of this 9th century find from western Norway: small axe.jpg

 

The D-shaped eye was slit and drifted, and the handle has a unformly tapered D-shaped cross section, which is amazingly comfortable to use. Makes it very easy to keep track of where the edge is aimed.

 

Short WIP in the next post.

 

 

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Short WIP in the next post.

 

 

 

Excellent! :D

 

I'm hoping it explains the hole in the flat of the ax head. I love bearded axes. I really need to get my charcoal making going so I can get the charcoal forge going so I can make a pathetic attempt at something as cool as yours.

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It took me a month or so (June, basically) of dinking around to figure out how I wanted to make these. I tried Jim Austin's asymmetrical wrap, but I'm not as good as he is and the weld line always showed. I treid a full bowtie and sandwich (my usual axe and tomahawk method) but didn't like the look. I tried starting with a piece of 2.5" x 1/2" mild and drawing out one end. I even tried forging an upset square corner the hard way on some 1/2 x 1. Eight half-finished axe bodies tossed under the forge later, I settled on this method:

 

1. start with a 6" length of 7/8" square mild steel. Mark out the eye location and drill a 3/8" hole at the poll end and a 1/4" hole at the blade end, then make a deep cold chisel line connecting the centers (if you do the line before drilling the bit tends to walk up the cut).

 

2. upset the blade end until the bar is 5" long, ending every heat by flattening in three directions to keep the eye axis at 7/8" thick while letting the excess steel spread into the proto-beard area. This can be done with a hand hammer and patience, but I used welding heat and a 100-lb treadle hammer to beat it into submission in as few heats as possible, cleaning up with a hand hammer at the end of each heat. Side view of body at this stage:

 

bax 5.jpg

 

3. then slit and drift the eye. I use a chisel made from S-7 and the treadle hammer plus some industrial punch lube, the combination of which allows me to slit the eye in one heat of about eight blows. Then the fun part starts, driving in a progressively larger set of drifts and using the cross pein to pull down the langets. This takes a long time and a lot of hard work, and I forgot to get any photos of this in progress because I was busy with other things... :lol: Once the eye is shaped and the langets are pointy like they should be I forge the edge down to about 3/8"-1/2" thick and work on the curves between the eye and the beard. Then I go to the bandsaw and slice a 1/2" deep slot for the edge steel.

 

Side view at this stage:

 

bax 7.jpg

 

Bottom view:

 

bax 6.jpg

 

4. forge a bar of 3/4" round W-1 square, let cool, and grind two adjacent faces clean.

 

5. use a chisel to split the edge end of the head, then use the crosspien to thin the resulting fishmouth to as thin yet short and edge as you can get. Use the edge of the anvil to set it at a 90 degree angle, grind the inside clean, and lay into the resulting V-groove a piece of the square W-1 leaving about 3/4" hanging free on the beard end.

 

bax 8.jpg

 

6. I tried folding over the excess mild and welding up the edge that way, but I kept getting inclusions. So I cheated and started tacking the top and bottom together, then grinding off the excess mild lips.

 

bax 9.jpg

 

Welding up is fun. The first blow is with the edge steel flat on the anvil, body vertical, and a series of firm blows straight down through the poll. This is where coal is handy, with a gas forge the eye would be too hot to allow me to do that. ;) Then work the back of the V-slot until you're sure it's fully welded, blending the body/edge steel transition at the underside of the beard. Start flattening the edge steel, and fix any delaminations that show up as soon as you see 'em. Use every trick you know to forge to shape, because these babies are not going to be touched by a grinder anywhere except the edge.

 

baxes on anvil.jpg

 

Repeat ad nauseum, grind and heat treat ad nauseum, make handles, hang the finished ones in the rafters to dry.

 

bax 4.jpg

 

Continue until you can't finish any more before the Christmas shipping cutoff date. :ph34r:

 

 

 

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Wow, I sweat bullets if I have to forge 2 simple objects that look similar. That, sir, is some nice work :)

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Thanks!

 

They are not fancy nor my best finish quality. I explained the "good, fast, and reasonably priced, pick any two" rule of making objects by hand to the client and this is the level we agreed on.

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Nice!!!

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I like the "good, fast, and reasonably priced, pick any two" rule. Those turned out quite nice Alan. That's a lot of axes...

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Wow. That was a lot of work. The last picture is really impressive.

 

Niels

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Holy Moly! that is a ton of work, Alan. Good for you. I thought I had a lot going on last time I took a commission for 8 knives. Now I think maybe I was a little too whiny.

 

great work. that is some creative forging, for sure.

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i bet you wish you were still using only traditional non powered methods -- youd be Schwarzenegger junior for sure lol

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Very nice Alan. I've been planning/making my first bearded axe for about 3 years now. It just keeps getting pushed down the priority list. It's about 25% done......maybe this will get me going again. I'm trying the Austin method, if it doesn't work out, I've got this as a back up, thanks.

BTW, where do you get those handles?

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Thanks again, guys!

 

Gabriel: the only power tool used to make the heads was a bandsaw to slot the edge and a.stick welder to spot the edge steel. The treadle hammer is still human powered!

 

Joshua: I made them. I had a couple of 12"x2"x48" planks of curly maple I got from a local custom sawmill who buys maple for Gibson Guitars. They prefer a wider stripe you can see from a distance so the tightly curled is not as wanted. I got four green planks for $20 and dried them in the shop rafter. Cut out the blanks on a bandsaw, shaped with KMG.

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Nice work, Alan. Great axes! Lovely wood- I dry my exotics / hardwood on the shop rafter too. I figure anything that survives the extremes of humidity, dryness and sudden changes in temperature AKA when the forge is on... isn't going to crack down the road. For extra fun, my shop venting fan blows all the forge heat into my firewood shed for kiln dried goodness. ;)

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Those are really great Alan, I love the shape you have achieved on them.

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Thanks again, guys!

 

Gabriel: the only power tool used to make the heads was a bandsaw to slot the edge and a.stick welder to spot the edge steel. The treadle hammer is still human powered!

 

Joshua: I made them. I had a couple of 12"x2"x48" planks of curly maple I got from a local custom sawmill who buys maple for Gibson Guitars. They prefer a wider stripe you can see from a distance so the tightly curled is not as wanted. I got four green planks for $20 and dried them in the shop rafter. Cut out the blanks on a bandsaw, shaped with KMG.

That's a great deal, no that's almost stealing it.

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I know! I thought he wanted $20 for just one plank and nearly wrenched my shoulder getting to my wallet fast enough. I nearly levitated when he said "nah, take 'em all." I need to go back up there... even though there was a good bit of checking in the middle of the planks.

 

Another good place for kiln dried figured hardwood is Dunlap Woodcrafts near DC. More expensive, but it's dry and they ship.

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Posted (edited)
On ‎12‎/‎11‎/‎2015 at 10:52 AM, Alan Longmire said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bax 8.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess that I never thought about using a square high carbon bit.  Is that usual rather than a flat bar?

Edited by Gary Mulkey

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Only if you intend to use the extra mass to form the beard.  Just like squishing clay. B)

Flat bar works too, it just doesn't allow as much leeway for moving steel where you want it to go.

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Reckon I also should add, the reason for square over round or flat is that it makes it easy not to get a little gap behind the bit steel.

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