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Still I struggle to chase after the illusive bearded axe.  My home forge is not strong enough to make a forge weld.  It's not the burner, I believe it's the KOA wool I selected.  Just not reflecting enough heat, or I've got to upgrade to a duel burner which, I don't currently see the need for as most my work is decorative stuff.  I also don't look forward to slitting and drifting a block of tool steel, so I happened across an old worn out 2lb mushroomed ball peen hammer.  I looked at it and wondered if there was an axe in there, or should I reforge it into a top tool?  Since I have a tomahawk drift - axe it was.  

Spark test was not exciting, but also was not terrible.  So I went ahead with the plan and drifted the eye to a tear drop (this way I can true everything up once all the forging is done.) I've currently got the beard drawn out with a 'spur'. I don't know what it's for, but I like the design of it.

I had hoped to get the forging a little closer to finished profile, but it was getting pretty late in the evening. I had to shift the beard down once I had spread the material, then after I forged in the spur I wound up with a 3 1/4 length on the blade.  I was shooting for 4in but I'll take it on a piece of scrap.

I was shooting for what I think is a Patterson type 'E' profiled blade, the peen side of the hammer is eventually going to be upset and necked down a little to make a nice "what I hope to be" tool hatchet.

 

Hammer head is normalized before forged.

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My local forge has a small power hammer where I fuller ed out the blade.  I got a nice spread with still a lot of meat to move around to make a light axe. 

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Very rough and very ugly and please excuse my forge scale as my little gasser makes literal bullet proof forge scale on tool steels! Last evening I shifted the blade down, rounded out the beard end, and set down for the spur.

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I don't know what would look better to cut the blade of the axe back a little more toward the bottom or not. In the end though, I would recommend that if you see an old ball peen, maybe remake it into a hammer unless you really want to try to do this.  I'm doing this more or less to learn the process of how to draw the beard out.  I would like to try my hand as making an 'a' symmetrical wrapped eye axe with NEW steel, but so far this has taught me how to shape a blade with only hammer and anvil.  Where to strike to move the material where you want it to go, and where you should strike on your anvil to move it that way.

 

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Well, I don't know a lot about forging axes, but if I were to have tried this, I would have started developing the beard much earlier, like at the stage where the second photo shows.

I'm interested in seeing the progress on this one. keep us posted.

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As Ben is asking, you'll never get to welding without at least something like i-100 or whatever the IR reflective coating is called. Ideally a good half inch of castable refractory or soft firebrick on top of the wool would make attaining and maintaining a welding heat much easier.

Looking good though!

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Progress is a little slow on blade projects, I had a few inquiries about some decorative work in the past few weeks, but I am moving this project along a little. 

If I was paying more attention to forcing that beard down while I was spreading material I probably wouldn't have that set back of trying to force it down after spreading. I began the fullering from the center.  Maybe I had started a third above center, and worked in an arch I could have been able to pull a little more material down. 

Since these photos, I've cut away a chunk of the blade, I got a long cold shut while working it.  While forging down the blade, I squared it, knocked off the corners of the end, and began to work it down on the diamond. Unfortunately I didn't ease the corners off enough, but there was enough material to cut way the cold shut with losing that profile.

 

 

As for how my forge is built, I used some materials that just happened to be available at the time to get me working.  My KOA wool is rated for 2300 and for refractory, I used hard firebrick repair mix, rated for I believe 2400.  It has proved to be very - very durable material as I've only got about a 1/8th inch coating on my walls. I have also tried to used a compound known as Magnesita that I got from the steel mills, rated for much much higher temps. Although that material has failed due to it needs to be compressed by some tons of pressure to become a solid mass.  I only found that out after I got the product, so until I can find some kind of binder for it, its pretty useless.

Some kind of reflective coating may help, I just haven't invested in it yet.  It would surprise me if it could improve efficiency so much.  Currently I'm getting to good orange forging heat, but regardless of pressure and orifice size on my burner, it is only getting hotter faster - its not retaining heat.  This tells me there is an insulation problem, also my outside walls are screaming hot. 

For now, Its getting me to forge temps at 5 psi and maybe a 2-3 min wait on material to come up to temp.  Welding was not my priority as the time I built it, just getting to work. I would much rather invest in getting a coal set up - but that's far into the future.  I have enough wool to rebuild the forge - but right now I don't see a major reason for it.  I'll probably talk with some of my smithy friends and see if I can get a little reflective off them as I won't need too much. 

Of all the guys I personally know using gas, only one of them is hitting welding temps.  All the other guys I work with put a sealer on the wool and just get to forging temps with them.  Coming from the decorative world, propane is such a pain in the butt! its nice to have instant heat and a way to shut if off and on without much worry. Even heat for twist and working very long sections of work.  working 5 things at once or more.  It has it's benefits, I just prefer coal/coke as I don't know of a way to mig weld a nice wrapped axe together yet.

 

 

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This is not too exciting, I still haven't made much progress on this other than cutting the blade down a bit.  I had the a cutoff wheel on the grinder so I just chopped off a hair while it was out. 20180704_120940.jpg

I will probably take another little chunk off the bottom edge of the blade so that it has a little more downward sweep to it.  I just made sure that I cut out all of the cold shut first to see how much meat I still have.

Also, you build and you learn.  I should have worked the other end of the axe first by necking down the peen section first - then upsetting the peen to make a nice hammer face.  With the blade already drawn out, I'm now looking at how awkward its going to be to neck in that transition point.  I could grind it to where I want it - but I'd rather forge it and push more material to the hammer face before I grind away.

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It's taken some time for me to get back to this side project.  This past week I got a few minor details done, but you'll see from pictures here that I've got one heck of a hole to climb out of.

Firstly, I upset and squared up the pein to a hammer head. A good idea to do as step one.  I then attempted to neck in the transition but decided I needed to make a spring fuller to make it nice and uniform. 

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Next was fullering that transition. It cleaned up well, I would have liked to get a little more depth on it, but it just didn't seem to work for me.  I decided this was close enough to final form to make my final passes with the drift. When I first resized this hole, it was a little off to one side. It also closed up when I was drawing out the blade so I attempted to straiten it out and reopen it. The drift sunk straight in from my view at the time, so when I got it smacked into home, it looked relatively lined up.  And then I noticed it did not reshape the misalignment, it just made another path and left me a cold shut . . . . bugger . . . . on top of that, its now over compensated form the original misalignment.

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From the underside, it''s taking a curve for the worst. I attempted to adjust the blade and eye until I just plain ran out of gas and it seemed like nothing I was doing was correcting the off center drift. 

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I was able to brush away a good chunk of my forge scale, and then I found the real trouble.  I have cracks and crevasses all over the transition from the eye to the blade.  Either just me forging badly, or too cold while the drift was in correcting the blade, or maybe material. This is now going to take a lot of fixing.  A lot of grinding out the cold shuts and filling. 

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I believe everything on this is correctable, and possibly survivable after HT, it's just not going to look anywhere near as good as I hoped it would. Will it be usable or just another axe in my scrap pile of attempted axes, Meh learning experience. 

 

I'm going to finish this, but put it on the back burner, I still feel as if I can do a wrapped axe that will come out better.  I have the challenge of getting to welding heat, and what tools do I think will help me make this shape faster and more efficient.  I am already thinking that I need an oval drift instead of tear drop. Spring fullers? or think about top tools and treadle hammer? I'd love a power hammer but . . . . that's one heck of an investment at this point. A really bigger hammer might help, but my wrapped axe will be made from 1/2 stock so I believe it won't be as bad to forge as this was.

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I've never seen a ball pein axe NOT do that cracky thing, which is why I don't do it anymore.  I did make a fullering tool from one that worked well, and a hot cut wiyh a big surface crack.  I think the key is to use a good quality head to start with.  Vaughn and old Stanley are good.  No-name Chinese will crumble every time.

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I do know, that at least I can forge the blade shape I want when I attempt my wrapped axe.  If I would have done a simpler straight forward stouter blade maybe my results would be a little better than this.  Most of working this thing by hand has been a bear just because of the stock size.  It would have taken me a month to fuller down the blade if not for my local forge having a little tire hammer. 

During my first year learning smithing, I successfully made a symmetrical wrapped axe, but I did not have enough experience of how to move the metal to get it into a usable shape. Since then I've been chasing making an 'a' symmetrical wrapped axe like the one in James Austins post from years ago.  It seems like for a mid sized 'use-able' axe style I'm going for its the best construction method for the tools I have. I'm going to have to pour over that post again just to see if the size of the material I have on hand will fit what I have in mind.

 

And yes, Alan, for this wrapped axe attempt, I'm going after new steel.  For the edge, I've got a hand me down piece of O1, and the local guy I deal with has a lot of 4140 and S7.  I'm thinking on using the O1, or looking into 1080 or 1095.  Unless, there's a better idea.

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O-1 is overkill for an axe edge.  It will work fine, but something simple and cheap like 5160 or 1084 is great.  Not as scary to weld up, either.

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hmmm, I do like the idea of the 5160.  I still have so much spring laying around that I feel like it needs used.  I got it to HT well with the little knife I made a few months back so I do feel pretty confident working with it. 

I've got good bit of planing to see if the piece of 2"x8"x1/2" mild will give me the right size body and blade I'm looking for. I'm still going to shoot for a 3 1/2in blade so that might be pushing it too thin. I should see if I can get my hands on at least at 3" section, or see if I can bend this into an 'L' shape.  That will not be fun.

In the mean time, I know enough guys that might have a cut off of new 5160 or a 1080 that I might be able to get off them.   It's time to get out the clay and see what will work! 

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Ever get your axe finished? Love to see it. Which edge material did you use? I was a sucky forge welder and preferred using 10xx, it welds easier than anything else to mild. Also 1010 or 1018 beats unknown mild or A36 for ease. 

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Hi Steve, sorry but I've been away from the forum for quite some time finishing up a recent commission. 

This axe is currently in my pile of probable finishing projects, when I get the time to mess with it.  I really don't like the fact that I drifted a cold shut right into the eye #1, and secondly all the surface crack concern me. 

However I have not given up on axe making and have been again continuing to tool up to make them.  Recently I just finished forging to shape an oval drift which I should be able to use for both re-purposing hammers and mid sized axes.  I also just finished welding up a broad spring fuller to help with spreading axe blades. 

20181109_152547.jpg

My drift is again a truck axle - which when spark tested is not a 4140. I have some known 4140 and the spark pattern is much more sparky - it's more like the leaf spring I got laying around.  I made this drift very beefy, I wanted to have a wide rage of hammer eyes to make from it.  The striking handle was beveled and welded on.  It's there mostly for gripping and working off the drift.  It needs cleaned up but I'm pretty sure it will survive for a while. 

My spring fullers where shaped from a 1in grade 8 carriage bolt.  It was something I cut apart about a year ago and thought to give it a go, should it fail, the next dies will be 4140.  

 

The tools need normalized and sanded smooth - but are ready just in time as I have a possible camp axe commission out there.  The person interested just hasn't sat down with me and committed to a design nor budget yet. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Daniel W said:

Hi Steve, sorry but I've been away from the forum for quite some time finishing up a recent commission. 

This axe is currently in my pile of probable finishing projects, when I get the time to mess with it.  I really don't like the fact that I drifted a cold shut right into the eye #1, and secondly all the surface crack concern me. 

However I have not given up on axe making and have been again continuing to tool up to make them.  Recently I just finished forging to shape an oval drift which I should be able to use for both re-purposing hammers and mid sized axes.  I also just finished welding up a broad spring fuller to help with spreading axe blades. 

20181109_152547.jpg

My drift is again a truck axle - which when spark tested is not a 4140. I have some known 4140 and the spark pattern is much more sparky - it's more like the leaf spring I got laying around.  I made this drift very beefy, I wanted to have a wide rage of hammer eyes to make from it.  The striking handle was beveled and welded on.  It's there mostly for gripping and working off the drift.  It needs cleaned up but I'm pretty sure it will survive for a while. 

My spring fullers where shaped from a 1in grade 8 carriage bolt.  It was something I cut apart about a year ago and thought to give it a go, should it fail, the next dies will be 4140.  

 

The tools need normalized and sanded smooth - but are ready just in time as I have a possible camp axe commission out there.  The person interested just hasn't sat down with me and committed to a design nor budget yet. 

 

 

I still have to make one of those things lol.

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On 9/3/2018 at 4:01 AM, Alan Longmire said:

I've never seen a ball pein axe NOT do that cracky thing, which is why I don't do it anymore.  I did make a fullering tool from one that worked well, and a hot cut wiyh a big surface crack.  I think the key is to use a good quality head to start with.  Vaughn and old Stanley are good.  No-name Chinese will crumble every time.

Thing to remember, a lot of hammers are either cast or mild cased hardened. 

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Hi Gerald, I do really suspect this was a cast something - parts of where the cracks are exposing some of the material under the surface looks like grains of salt.  Just for the heck of it, I tossed it in some acid to blow of my notorious forge scale I've been making just to see what this is all cracked up to be.  I could give it another spark test to remind myself of how unexciting it was the first time around once it comes out of the acid.  

This is one of those live and learn experiences, I've given it a try and . . . roughly forged a shape I was looking for (needs much tweaking still).  If I get the time to fiddle with this, it's probably going to wind up as a wall hanger. 

 

Andy if your thinking about making a drift, be prepared if you think about using a mid or low carbon steel. That axle was 1 1/2 material.  I hit it with my tinny arms and it barely budged - I would never have attempted this without access to a my local forge's mechanical hammer.  Even if you choose to use 1in mild steel, it will be an effort to do by hand but is possible.  In-fact,  for the time and effort I put into making the drift, I could have bought one and had it shipped to me for less.  This is something that I thought about time and experience vs, do I need that tool right away.   To be honest I thought it was going to be a good learning experience while I had the guidance at the local forge to make another style of drift. 

Things are gradually changing - and with possible commissions coming in, its opening the opportunity to buy more tools without it digging into my normal income.  Also to stop sourcing scarp material for projects!  

 

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On 11/15/2018 at 10:46 AM, Daniel W said:

 In-fact,  for the time and effort I put into making the drift, I could have bought one and had it shipped to me for less.

 

Late to the party on this one, but that was my experience with making my own eye drift as well-- though I was also going for a long, narrow eye like you see on American axes. Holy crap, that was a lot of work. If you just want the tomahawk-style teardrop or a basic oval, you'd be much better served buying a drift (that said, if anybody knows where the hell you can buy a drift for long, narrow axe eyes, I'd love to hear about it because I couldn't find one).

As for getting the spread you need for the beard on those axes, I have some wisdom to impart! Most of my axes so far have been made from jeep axles (they suck for forging but are really good at being axes), which isn't too far removed from a ball pein hammer in terms of starting shape. I found that the Key to the Beard was to upset the very end of the bar (the bit that's going to become the edge) a bit before forging the cheeks and bit down to thickness. The upsetting gives you extra material at the edge, which translates to a more pronounced flare as you forge it out.
If, while you are upsetting, you manipulate the steel so that your bonus material ends up mostly at the toe, you have pretty much set yourself up a pre-form that, with a little bit of coercion, will turn itself into a bearded axe as you forge it out.

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Yes, the last two times I forged out a drift the smithys around me said "just buy one dummy!"  Its one of those larger tools that you piratically need a bigger tool to make.  Or a dedicated striker.  The tear drop drifts, my tomahawk instructor said 'Go to SOFA and you'll get a dozen of them for like 50 bucks!' I want to do things the hard way I guess.  Of course he said that but a few hours later he asked me for a chunk of axle so he could make a diamond drift from reproducing some square drifted historical tomahawks.

I did step back a while ago and work in clay.  I did find out that if I did one round of spreading, I needed to do another round of upsetting and I could control the spread a lot more. 

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5 hours ago, Daniel W said:

I want to do things the hard way I guess.

That's the common thread that binds a lot of us together, I think. Especially those of us making axes. :lol: 

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4 minutes ago, Adam Betts said:

That's the common thread that binds a lot of us together, I think. Especially those of us making axes. :lol: 

Ain't that the truth!  :lol:

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I like the challenge of axes, but no matter what - their a heck of a lot of pain! 

In my opinion, there is no easy way to make them whether you wrap them, punch them - or for some god awful reason want to attempt to make one out of tool steel without serious equipment because you want to skip welding.  

 

 

 

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