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In the mid-,to later 19th century Pennsylvania became the home of some of the most famous axe manufacturies,Mann,American Tool Co.,et c are all solidly associated with the place still.

Of course all of it was preceeded by earlier,lower-tech/more hands-on craftsmanship tradition,probably influenced to a very large degree by the "Pennsylvania Dutch"("Deutsch",of course:)culture;but also by location of ores,and fuel,and lime-stone and other metalworking factors...

(I'd bet Alan could tell us in a concise,articulate manner:)

But the place was famous for it's quality tools,and contributed hugely to the eventual emergence of an American axe(trust Americans to've reinvented this most ageless of all tools...:).

Some pre-/early industrial makers are known to this day;J.B.Stohler among them(https://www.google.com/search?q=stohler+axes&rlz=1C1TSNH_enUS546US547&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjb2aTL69nhAhXTGTQIHRdoAkMQ_AUIDigB&biw=957&bih=415#imgrc=h8MzjYpZtMOL1M:

I always really liked his axes in particular,but really fell in love with an unnamed,unattributed axe of a similar nature,and finally decided to try that design out in the forge.(photo of the original one i've no means to ask permission to post,and so will play on the safe side for Forum's sake;it actually pops up among Stohler axes on Google images,but it's not material,as we're speaking of a regional style here).

 

I've never seen one in real life,and had to interpret the way they look into construction methods.The one i liked,like a few more of those,has an uncommonly long poll(also plated with steel).

It's so long that i doubt that many types of iron of the day would allow for a folded construction,and i think that those were welded in a box-like configuration,like many old American broadaxes and hatchets were.

My experiment was moderately successful(very satisfying,in a a true axe-masochism manner),and the rest is easier shown in photos.

Materials.WI strap,1/2" x 2" for the body;leaf-spring for blade;1095 for butt-plate.

2001.jpg

Preform,common enough,but that middle portion will be cut and folded in half,to form a lateral seam.

2005.jpg

2009.jpg

Pre-form being folded before welding:

2015.jpg

 

Welded pre-form with drift in place getting offered up and sized for blade material:

2029.jpg

Blade largely welded in,top view,after some preliminary drifting:

2049.jpg

Side-view,the soapstone marks one of the places where i begin to loose control over the desired shape...I never do regain it,and end up profiling later with angle-grinder...(loss of face..:(

2053.jpg

Butt-plate tacked on for welding(another shameful transgression;never rolled this way,always juggled and wired,must be wearing out...:(..).Plate is only 1/4" thick,but oversize.It'll wrap around some,in the end looking substantial,visually:

2057.jpg

Poll steeled,profile ground,at end of rough-forging:2067.jpg

2070.jpg

The entire process taking 7 hours,softwood charcoal,hand-crank blower.

Oh fun!:)

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Wow, nice forging work.  Nothing boring about that all!

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8 minutes ago, Brian Dougherty said:

Nothing boring about that all!

Thanks,you obviously share the affliction...:)

I see you're in Indiana,great,keep an eye out for those very old axes,they're incredible in so many ways...

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Posted (edited)

Looks like a WIP in progress. Like the fact that you used recycled material. Years ago when I got into knife making hand forging was to of my list but found very little on the process. When I got into tomahawks and small axes the seat of my pants got wore out. Thanks for your information and photo's!

I see your anvil is in bad shape but it still works.

 

Edited by Raymond Richard

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Raymond,thanks much,it means a lot coming from you.

Yes,using older alloys is neat,but of course Uber impractical,pushing the risk factor way up in an already hairy bizness...:(

(This particular WI strap,a part of a break-lever system on this steam donkey winch i got laying about the yard,turned out to be both hot-,and cold-short.(P&S,of course,old dirty industrial crap),which of course made it touch and go on peining in particular et c.).

And yes,we're luckier today with info,Much more so,but it still leaves a lot to be desired...Confusing,not systematised at all,pretty hard to dig up...(not complaining,just exercising my Constitutional Right to B...ch!:) 

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Nice!  I need to try my hand at a larger axe one of these days.  I think you are spot on with the construction.  

While not about axes, this book is absolutely essential for those who study old American iron: https://www.amazon.com/American-1607-1900-Hopkins-Studies-Technology/dp/0801868165  Lee Sauder turned me on to it.  

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8 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

Nice!  I need to try my hand at a larger axe one of these days.  I think you are spot on with the construction.  

While not about axes, this book is absolutely essential for those who study old American iron: https://www.amazon.com/American-1607-1900-Hopkins-Studies-Technology/dp/0801868165  Lee Sauder turned me on to it.  

Excellent,thank you,i'll order it forthwith.

(i've tried hard to retain info from assorted posts,many of them yours,but my aging brain looses it afterwards...would be Great to have a hard copy).

Alan,the more i look at these the more elegance and other assorted aspects of "cool factor" i see...Yes,it'd make a most worthwhile project.

Actually the smaller ones like above(it occurred to me in retrospect) would lend themselves well to slitting&drifting,avoiding much trouble...

Those sexy big ones,with really deep eye,probably will have to be welded.But these are fairly sensible welds to make,modest in size,and Very well positioned(in shear).

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No such thing as boring axe stuff!  It is looking great so far, nice work!

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6 hours ago, Raymond Richard said:

I see your anvil is in bad shape but it still works.

Yes,Raymond,i lost yet another chunk of the face yesterday...:(...It's an old Vulcan,much obused by the U.S.Air Force who were the original owner...Boilermaker Corps used to be seriously trained in blacksmithing,but not other branches of the Service it seems...

It Does still work,however,and in spite of it being so fashionable to look down on old US made cast anvils they're fantastic tools,do their job right and for very long time.

It Is asinine to not chamfer the edges,and of course if you don't-that's what you'll have.

 

Mike,thanks!

That "so far" in your mssg seems ominous...Don't tell me i'll have to finish it now,too...:)

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Finish.... absolutely.... you can't just tease us with such a great start and not finish it..... helve and all :D

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Boy oh boy, axes are alive and flourishing around here lately! Nice work Jake and please do finish the piece for us. 

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Joshua,thanks,kind of you to say this,but i don't think i can...

I mean,i may,in some rudimentary way,HT and an indifferent handle,and send it off with my buddy out trapline direction(you'd not believe how many axes trappers loose in a winter,seriously staggering).Hardened poll will be handy swaging snares et c.

 

But finishing it for realz is out,it's missing too much metal where the edge of the pre-form hits the blade,the feathered-out scarf edge.It converges `onto the blade in a bad,negative angle,forming a concavity...

It's a screw-up on my part,pure and simple,a lack of thickness in blade stock(it's 3/8",but shoulda been more).

See,i went to re-construct an existing tool here.This has a tremendous advantage,as you're building on the sum of Many makers' and many Users' experience,very valuable,generational data.

It's a challenging business,remaking something off a photo alone(with no measurements other than the weight-original is 2 lbs even).

I don't have a scale,but by calculating cubic volume of steel(x 0.283) i used 2.34 lbs of stock.I don't know what my loss to scale was,but with so much welding it's about in the ballpark.

Unfortunately here is where it got too skimpy,at that critical juncture.

See,an axe(a chopping,i.e.Cross-cutting tool,vs Hewing) needs the taper of the blade to equal no less then 1:5,or have the thickness of no less than 0.5" at a distance of 2.5" from edge(maybe just a tad sharper in a brand new tool).That is important as it acts as a chip-breaker,parting the chip,and not allowing the blade to get stuck.

So this was a trial-run,an exercise in Intuitive Mensuration,you may call it,and i failed.

That's ok,like in chess,a loss is somewhat more educational than a win.And i was in earnest in my advice to Gerald-couple dozen of same pattern axes is not too much,before you start hitting IT:)...(J.A. said that,and i'm finding it only too true).    

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Well,i've pursued this same general design further(as in repeating it within the general parameters,changing things slightly but making sure that all info adds to one pile of knowledge).

(stuck this file onto post by mistake:)...it Is the source of some of my WI for these axes though...)

2005.jpg

I made an elongated oval drift,as many axes of that period seemed to have a similar eye.

It (their eye) was an inverted cone,big end opening toward the handle;haft was wedgte-less,and worked similar to Morse taper...

Tried the drift on a couple of slit&drifted versions.Those were around too,tho' predominantly this style axes were composites.

This is a variant in 3/4" thick A529 plate,though in a bit i'll find one in WI2029.jpg2033.jpg

But back to composites for a moment.This is some of that wagon-tire,1?2" thick x 2" wide,pre-form welded and left long pending decision...(that original one in this post ran short on this side-mat'l,and i needed to remember how long It was...)2028.jpg2034.jpg

And here it is welded...And a screw-up again,on the opposite end of spectrum this time-my mass escaped too far forward:2049.jpg2047.jpg

 Here it is ground(to a functional edge),but it's still too long...

2008.jpg2020.jpg

Now back to slit&driftment...A chunk of WI,7/8" thick by 5" long x 2" wide.I drilled it,as slitting that mild a day or tow earlier has beat me up sadly.

Good Lawd but did it make it easier!!!Never tried it before and was Tres impressed...(dinn't get a good control of a friends drill-press in time to not have holes all gaggedy-ass,but it slit fine anyway...

2008.jpg

That old-style drift,2" wide by a touch over 1/2"...2016.jpg

Bit ready for welding(and i think the poll is already steeled...)2037.jpg

It needed some profiling after everything,but i'm getting a bit more happy with results...(you can see traces of my misdrillment:)2050.jpg2052.jpg

And here's that slit&drifted mild...This one has actually been shaped by hammer alone...no reduction...:)2020.jpg2016.jpg

New drift...Slightly changing the paradigm here,something i oughtn't do yet(...4 down,but 16+ more to go,as per J.A's dogma..)...But,my time at the forge is nearing an end,spring subsistence schedule pressing,and there's that one axe i'm just dying to try...2001.jpg 

So,one half of a pre-form with drift...It'll get a spacer,making it a 3-layer poll(+ steel plate),and a blade2005.jpg

Materials,WI of a couple sorts(wagon tire is one),scavanged 10xx for a blade,and eventually nice new 1095 for butt-plate...2014.jpg

Welding,as one can imagine,was a bear...Both welds needing to be done close together in time,and neither of them small...Big,ugly sandwich of junk,looked real hairy...:(

But,by gum,weld it didst...2015.jpg2015.jpgsorry,double...:(2016.jpg

Needing to trim off the top,naturally,my control of this bunch of steel wasn't terrific,and edge-setting something this tall and massive was pretty much out...

And finally the initial grinding...so far,only one lousy part of weld,unimportant technically,and should grind out(but if there's more,so much better for Period Correctness:)

 

Hey,sorry for such an endless post...:(2027.jpg2020.jpg 

22038.jpg

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That's a lot of axe!  All good stuff, thanks for showing. B)

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These are great. How do you drive the material all to the bottom when forging your preforms? When I learned the fold over axes it was the Viking style with the pointy langets. This summer I was planning on trying to figure out how to move the material to just one side like you did here. I have an idea but haven't tried it yet.

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55 minutes ago, Jbradshaw said:

How do you drive the material all to the bottom when forging your preforms?

Jbradshaw,hi.I think i know what you mean-how to "set" the langette area down?

Sometimes a well-defined transition is required,like when these edges will be the limit of a weld(often in front of eye,but on that last one above both sides).

So a sharp,definite transition can be obtained by using a Set-hammer(or just "set"),or using a (properly radiused!!!)edge of anvil,or combination of both.

Actually formally trained/educated in forgng J.A. also refines those transitions in a vise,vertically,with a sharp pein.Very elegant,that.

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Here's the beginning of a set-down and an official set-hammer(an old US Army one:).

Set tools are important;one can follow a line,and be in control in assorted other ways.

These particular set-down portions are parallel-sided,but tapered in thickness,so that too wasn't difficult with a set.

The lug itself i peened out with a ball-pein,taking care to not exceed either depth or width...2003.jpg

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I'm having axe envy!

Again another idea I've never thought about or seen before to fold right at the poll of the axe.

 

 

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Jake I think what I’m calling a langet you’re calling a lug. The way I know how to make an axe the material spreads to both the top and bottom of the eye. What you’ve shown here the material only spreads below the eye and is flat at the top of the axe. 

Are you saying this was done with a ball peen?

I use a fuller for the set downs and then spread the eye area with a cross peen. 

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1 hour ago, Jonathanbradshaw said:

Jake I think what I’m calling a langet you’re calling a lug. The way I know how to make an axe the material spreads to both the top and bottom of the eye. What you’ve shown here the material only spreads below the eye and is flat at the top of the axe. 

Are you saying this was done with a ball peen?

I use a fuller for the set downs and then spread the eye area with a cross peen. 

Jonathan,thanks,very valid question.

This type of axe has the eye taper from top,to bottom.

At top,where the haft comes out,the opening is very small,and side-walls of eye Thick,not having the mass to be displaced to form langette(lug:).

Historic note(by a non-historian):Many  Northern European patterns of axe had a very small opening at the top;sometimes none at all.The eye was a socket in which the haft was jammed,Morse-taper like,and held by friction alone,wedge-less.Examples are those early Medieaval woodchopper axes with an eye just a plain spear-like socket,and go on to types surviving into our time,Germanic goosewing,Finnish Piilukirves(and all Kirves in general),Swedish hewing axe loosely known as "1700",and a number of others.I personally ascribe it to Frankish/Rhinish influence,they were where much of black metallurgical trickery stemmed from historically,but that's a crude generalization.

This pattern(-s) above also have much to do with Germany,these areas of US were settled primarily by German Protestant folk known later as Pennsylvania Dutch(corruption of Deutsche).

One of the effects this taper has on a forging is that it tends to bow,to flare the bottom of preform(naturally,since it gets spread well out and the top less).That,i believe,gave some patterns their characteristic Sway along the top,so that effect was retained and became a part of pattern(Kirves have it fairly radically).

But in this case i found it most puzzling that the top of these axes was flat as a pancake(And square to poll)...So,where did that sway go?!

Did it get cut,or ground off?...Was the pre-form Bent in an opposite way,gradually forging back to straight?(those are not insignificant weldments,that mass moves a Lot as welding alone is done...).

I ended up grinding or cutting the top flat except in this one where i managed to forge it edge-wise down to the face of anvil,high-centering it on top of poll and the still-thick toe of the edge.

So yeah,these single-lug jobs are odd,please forgive All this verbiage,your comment was simple enough...

So again,the socket wall is tapered in thickness top to bottom.Also it is narrow,1 1/2"+.To fuller it i'd have had to forge a dedicated,narrow fuller,and then the mass coming out the Top would've increased,something i tried to minimise.

So i used that flat set,and at bottom drew the lug out with a ball-peen,flattening it with the set to even the surface.

Originally it May've been done with a narrow fuller on a Diagonal,inducing that effect that caused many of the earlier lugs to be pointed vs round...

UFF!!!!...so much typing for Such simple issue...But that's how i often find this reverse-engineering of old patterns...

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Daniel W said:

I'm having axe envy!

Again another idea I've never thought about or seen before to fold right at the poll of the axe.

Daniel,it only appears enviable!In reality,it's a dreadful ordeal!:)...

I'm not sure what you mean by a "fold"...The polls on these are two thicknesses of side material,plus a flat poll-plate butt-welded on the end.

(edges of butt-plate are drawn down forming a cap of sorts,and welded along the sides a short way,giving the steeled part an appearance of greater thickness than it really is).

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You're more than welcome,Jonathan,thank You,for asking a pertinent,intelligent question.

Historic reproduction(replication?) is Super challenging,for me somehow especially...:(

But it's extremely educational,in any number of ways,but trying,(all too rarely successfully..:( ), did help me become a better smith.

This project in particular is extremely insightful.These axes are not that far in the past,a number of examples are around and in actual use.

(i've been drawing a lot of inspiration and technical detail both from photos pilfered from a well-known auction site,that i hesitate to post due to possible conflict with forum rules,but there's quite a few about).

The ultimate challenge for a smith is to build a decent Tool.My personal belief is that it's the Function that creates the visual and/or tactile Appeal of an object.The design of something that is so down-to-earth and practical as an axe is like a pebble on an ocean beach;between the uncounted generations of smiths,coupled with an equal number of tool-users,by the interplay among all of them,that design is rolled around and polished infinitely.

The object itself contains this empirically,it can be actually tested.As i finish these experimental versions i'll be sending them off to some of the most experienced axemen i know,to garner as much more information as possible.

Unfortunately,i'm neither set-up or very skilled at reduction part of the deal(and this pattern was heavily ground originally;making re-engineering of it even harder).So it'll take me a long time....(i left a Lot of extra beef...).

1028.jpg

But,it's a very cool and important in a lot of ways inquiry.These axes contributed a Bunch to the development of the iconic "American" axe,that changed the very paradigm of that ancient tool so surprisingly radically in the late 19th century...

 

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I'm running out of forge-time,and am desperate to do all i can to study up on this design before i must quit for the season...

I discovered a stash of some uber-sexy WI that i forgotten i had...It's 3/8" strap,and is exactly what i want,as i must try to loose some mass/weight,forward especially,and reduction is not my thang,and was not really what engendered this pattern,and i Must become better at forging to shape no matter wha...

Meanwhile,a bit of history keeps trickling in...From Mercer House museum:

uc1.b4494310-seq_25 (1).jpg

This tells me i'm keeping to the right path,in general...But here's an artefact photo that a friend sent:

s-l1600-2.jpg

...one May think that it's a "jelly-roll"-ish deal,but i inerpret it as a butt-weld with a third piece welded to help keep it closed/add mass to poll.

So that is what i try with this 3/8" stuff(i cut it to 2.5" wide).2007.jpg

Butt-weld prepped.It involved forging two square corners(and the ends upset for the weld itself).

In the end,after making the weld,the inside of corners suffered,as when you do the square-corner too tight,a later photo will show that.It'll require a more careful job drifting to avoid that,but all else seems to work good.

Welded-

5018.jpg

...and with that extra,third piece forged out of pavement-breaker bit(those polls were hardened to drive felling wedges):

5023.jpg

Complete pre-form/composite ready for welding;bit out of leaf-spring;still experimenting,so still using junk steel...

55045.jpg

After welding.Wrought misbehaves a bit,i got too aggressive with it drawing down the lugs.It's not too bad,and i love it for the "historic look" effect,but will be more careful in future.

Note that peculiar red of oxidation,almost like "Pure-iron" brand stuff,very low C material...

55056.jpg

(i'm beginning to feel bad about the poor forum's bandwidth or whatchamacallit...:(...Alan,am i misbehaving,with all these photos?:(

Will try to keep it brief.

Ground and hillbilly etched with sulphuric just to see what's In there(couldn't resist)

5015.JPG

Welds,Most surprisingly,are all fine...Whatever looks like crap i was just too stingy to grind clear out(one of those rare instances where chasing shitty weld with your grinder actually Works.No fault of mine,this stuff is just plain Nice).

But,this is where you can see those radial cracks from overly tight inside radiusing:5008.JPG5008.JPG

5017.JPG

Stuck on a haft to check the angle of drifting:

5011.JPG

(messed up the photo sequence,but i ought to moderate this anyway....)

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Lovely!  Fear not about the bandwidth, too.

I've seen a few archaeological finds where the edge steel had come out of the head (east TN and central KY, ca. 1850s).  One was under a rock in a field outside a ca. 1869 cantilevered log barn.  Just goes to show they didn't always get it right even back in the day.  

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