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Transitional axes(European patterns to American)

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It so happened that i Will be trying to complete and hang that latest experimental version.

So onward to HT.

A quick grind to see where things are at tell me that i also need to do considerable straightening,an issue with axes in general-they need to end up being pretty darn symmetrical...So it's a couple hours of hot-work,the last ones before the actual finishing and hanging can take place.


The side,top,and bottom views before these last forge stages:







Some axes are easier to eye-ball straight than others...My drifts are all too short for this,so this time i experiment with an old handle...It smokes and stinks but gives me Some idea how to orient the blade correctly....


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Then the usual triple-normalising process...

I appreciate this part more and more,it's a relaxing,philosophical part.But also what a necessary practice run for the final heating to crit.,for us solid-fuel folk it's pretty important...




Here's a shot of bringing it to heat the final time for quenching.By now i know exactly how it's all working,and can run a steady even heat right up to the blade,and hold it there for my minute and a half...(this axe also has a hardenable butt-plate,it's also at heat and will be quenched at the same time of course...



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The usual filthy waste-oil quench...I'm smarter nowadays,and use this nifty hanger to suspend the forging in the quench(instead of standing there sucking up the fumes...).




Then a couple cycles in a toaster oven...

I'm puzzled by it this time around:It's turned up almost all the way,a touch over 425F,but visually all i see is ever-so-light Straw color...

In the same time it feels kinda ok with my files,only very slightly on the harder side...




I'll think about it while i go through the next ordeal,filing the inside of the eye into Some semblance of order and acceptability...

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3 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

,a touch over 425F,but visually all i see is ever-so-light Straw color...


Ovens do that, especially if you left any oil on the head.  Sort of the opposite of tempering over the fire where oil will show you a full blue, but a file will still skate.  As long as it files, it's good!  And, BTW, I'm really diggin' this.  B)

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This is why temper colors are not to be trusted.  Too many variables.  But you all know that, and also know that I had to say it.  ;) 

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Thank you,both of you guys.Couldn't think of any other two people who's advice i'd find more reassuring.


Yes,even after all these years, interpreting them oxide film thicknesses is tricky,and deceiving...Honestly dinn't know about oils interfering,thought they'd all burn off...



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48 minutes ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

thought they'd all burn off...

They do (assuming you get hot enough), and that causes a change.  And that depends on the type of oil, quantity of it, and atmospheric conditions (e.g. heating with an oxidizing flame vs in an electric oven, etc.).  

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I see,yes,of course...It'd all affect energy interchange at the surface...As well as the formation of the film of oxide on surface itself...


Thanks again,Jerrod,this stuff is all very pertinent and important...I love learning.


I love filing inside an eye filled with scale and burned oil Significantly less.On the bright side,i own a nasty set of cheap Chinese files that are stupid-hard.I use them till i see the actual metal,and it saves on my poor aging herd of regular files... 

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Have you considered chisels?  I find a nice half-round die-sinker's chisel to be the very ticket. Just take a rod of something cheap and hardenable, grind to shape, harden, and go to town.  When it chips, grind it back and continue.  Coil spring is great for this.  Once it's roughed in, then go to files.

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Thanks,Alan,and no-it never occurred to me to chisel the crap out...Must try it...(really,i ought to finish some of the stuff i've been forging and pitching under the bench...).


I'm kinda getting it...slowly...(what a tough part to photograph...:( ).

I think i'm about 60-70% of the area metallic there...May have to call it soon anyhoo,as the gauge of my cheeks have long plunged below 1/4"...i'll have to quit at about 3/16" anyway...



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I'm generally following my friend's hafting job above...Historically these axes were hafted straight,and by their owner,using whatever species that grew around.

Naturally the handle blank was cleft,riven out of what suitable log was available.Closest i can get to that is a section of an air-dried hickory that i got that originally was a blank for self-bow,so very consistently continuous grain.

(i could probably split it,it may add that tiny bit of organic feel to it,but i won't bother.I'll just use the drawknife on the whole thing and that slight irregularity will be there...).

The section,tapering both ways, i cut out has not the ideally-vertical grain,but it's plenty good enough:




Next order of business is to shape the tongue,i.e. to nail down the orientation of the head on the future haft.

It's going ok till the very late stages when it starts misbehaving,and steering off to the right on me...

It's still within bounds of "acceptable"(those being that the blade must point Somewhere within the swell,the end of haft),but i hope to correct it yet a bit more at final fitting and wedging(the very last tool one has in that dept. is the grind of the bevels+edge themselves;the combination of all these Should give one an acceptable tool,given you got it in the ballpark back at the forge):




The side will look somewhat like this,as i'm not willing to reduce it narrower than the length of eye itself.It'll equal to under 1 1/2" or so and should be fine:





The thickness i can control better,and will have to make a sound decision on.Next to it there's a standard,store-boughten Link handle,it's a 28" ,2 1/4# "boy's axe" job.It's a comfortable grip,but i don't think i want to go that thin.

The guy i'm handling this for is a serious dude,and likely to use it for felling,or some heavy trail clearing;plus,in winter one often works with gloves or even mittens on.

So it'll be thicker somewhat,but one must be careful with thickness,it can really hurt one's hand,overtime,if the gripping of it is in any way wrong...




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I like a thinner handle on my axes. Some of the old handles I’ve found make the ones available in stores now feel like clubs by comparison. 

Have you tried cleaning up the inside of the eye with sand paper before filing? Cut a slot in a piece of round rod lengthwise and insert a piece of old grinder belt or sand paper and then chuck it up in a drill so it spins. 

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Sand paper,mechanised,is yet another good idea,thank you,Jonathan.

(i think i have before,tried so many things over the years...).

Probably of importance is the scale,capable of ruining files(and paper),and the gunk from HT that simply plugs it immediately.

Much of this can be taken care of by soaking in vinegar,i suppose.


WI is in so many ways a creature all of it's own.When used for the eye,especially after having undergone multiple welding heats,the Silica And that particular sort of scale can be an issue...But,yes.


This is how clean i got it before proceeding:




As far as the slenderness of a haft goes-Yes,absolutely.Haft must be sized for gripping it correctly,too thick of one causes that nasty "death grip" effect and causes fatigue and eventually tendon injuries.


Much of the modern commercial handle products i drawknife right out of the box.They were meant for no human use.And,that varnish must be made to go away,and haft oiled.

But i must say that Link handles(that are apparently disappearing across US)often come in sufficient,if not excessive slenderness.

For this i need to aim just a bit thicker...

But then again,i'll see how it feels as i go;the grain in this handle is entirely continuous and so i could take it as thin as i want to.

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Plugging along...All squared off to the very outside dimensions...The swell flared slightly in both dimensions:





Then struck two lines on each side,and drawknifed everything to an octagon:





The back at this point-




And couple closeups of right by the head.The lugs are just free of the wood,no point in having them bear...




Not sure at this point if i'll refine the facets and leave it an octagon,or knock them back to oval...The size seems about right,feels ok in the hand...

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Man,i take The lousiest photos!:)


It's not the point though,i'll put an edge on it in a bit here,and take it out for a test drive...


Then there may be something to take photos of-chips,of a decent size and shape-or there won't...







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Some more crappy photos(it's the darn focal length on this camera...at any slightest angle things begin looking very different...:(...)


All sharpened up.Used a fairly coarse stone at the end,then a piece of leather to strop off the burr.

Burr was visible in sunlight,i could see that if i bent it back and forth 5-6 times that it broke off then...Is that good,or bad,in terms of HT?

It shaved arm-hair easily as result(after chopping through about an 8"- 10" dry spruce log it did Not,not no longer).




Next is pretty important photo(as crappy as it is).It shows a degree to which the blade is convex.

Convex section of an axe-blade is a natural product of forging(material moves easier closer to the edges),but for some reason was employed rarely in European history.With coming to US smiths started really exploiting this,it's action as a de-facto chip-breaker,and American axes grew to be increasingly more convex as the years went by,and by the end of 1800's it got pretty radically so. 

It is also the natural by-product of grinding,the slight rocker action when pressing the head against abrasive.

In this case i did not put any extra effort in increasing Or decreasing it,just let it fly...




Chopping test.The log is very dry White spruce,not at all a good test material(axes are really designed around use in green wood).

I hesitate to say anything definite at this point,am still thinking about what conclusions,if any, i may draw...








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On 3/28/2020 at 7:48 AM, Alan Longmire said:

If those dry chips are anything to go by, I suspect green ones will be large and thick just as they should be. 


Thanks,Alan,i hope so too...That axe is now gone,deployed...Unleashed upon the country's unsuspecting willows and trees downed across it's trails...A better axeman than i is now wielding it,thankfully.


And i realised that i've yet another axe i need to finish,for a friend in Fairbanks,for his summer fish-camp up rive above us here.


Picking through my horrible box of past forgings i settled on the head that is actually slit&drifted,WI body and god only knows what for blade(either leaf-spring or a piece of a broken Chinese axe,it's been a while since i had any decent steel in any decent size...


Here's what it looked like out of the stash box(the line across marks the extent to which the edge steel reaches):




And thse are the top and bottom views.The eye is styled after some very old ones,which has an inverse taper,and were held on sans wedge(by magic).I'm going to re-do it though,as i want my friend to be able to replace the haft easily with a conventional one,and not have to carve a custom handle out of some wood that he'd have to seek out somewhere somehow et c.




So the first order of business i drift the eye out to a conventional,2 1/4# boy's axe style handle.

It was very easy,as the circumference of these eyes was apparently the same...(something to think about).




Then i pein that half-finished blade out to the max area,till i can't no more...And that's where i had to quit that:





The corrections to the general outline will be minor,here's how it was drawn,and pretty much cut with a disc&ground to that,no biggie(in a way it's relaxing to just roll with it,not strive for some specific shape or period appropriate-ness...):




Here's what the top looked like after grinding(nice welds on this one...nary a crack or any sign of b.s...i'm almost alarmed at that..):




Then a quick trial fit to a boy's axe handle...Looks ok...i don't have a scale,but it feels like maybe just a touch over 2#,so about right for this 28" handle...




Then HT,and a slight grind,and this is what it looks like now(pretty darn disappointingly generic...i may do something creative with them lugs...like some old Brit style of unequal-sided pyramid..):




But This,the top view,is actually something that i'm pretty happy with-and this is really where the heart,the Function of any axe lies:





And THIS-is a my new magic weapon!Gifted to me by a powerful sorcerer,el nagual,the great and powerful Joshua States,Esq.,the drawing dies of Power!

With this i'll have the blade of Any thickness by the short and curlies....I'll try it out here forthwith on the fattest and the meanest of my ugly laminates....



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A quick update...

(it's time to wrap up this thread,my bad brain invariably frays Any thread out making it diverge in too many directions,and this one has come to this point:(...)


 Today is mostly charcoal-making day,but couldn't resist a brief test of my new magiK dies.

My tired old sow-block is cracked,and repaired by three machine bolts...has been this way since before my time of ownership...ah,well...




Et voila!The scookum new dies...In my excitement i installed the bottom one backwards,coinsiding the front vertical faces,but changed it after the first heat(also shimming it out a bit as the key was just a touch too deep in there).




It worked a treat!!!...Thanks,Josh,from the bottom of my heart.


I do have a number of half-done heads that i need to try it on,but to begin with i wanted to subject it to the cruellest test i needed to conduct for a while now.


All too often,for reasons i won't go into here,we think in terms of Inlayed,or inserted bit on axes.However,starting around mid-1800's this country has increasingly rapidly was converting to the Overlayed bit;till eventually during the Golden Age of American tool-making every axe forged was overlayed,way into the 20th century.


Why was that?One of the reasons that i can think about(well,a couple,thinking is a disease with me...:(..)is both the quality of iron(see Jennifer's thread,good example of that),and that pesky,annoying seam forward of the eye,which is always just a royal PITA.


So in an overlayed-bit version that front seam gets pounded in,and then securely wrapped about with higher-C steel,so whatever it may choose to do under there subsequently doesn't really matter...(like everything else not new under the moon this method is also timeless,and old Dahlgren demonstrates it on that classic old Wira film,but that hails from the culture where axes were often and easily re-bladed,and he uses a minimum amount of steel;whereas the later American axes were massively steeled).


So that was my inquiry for today,trying to forge an overlayed-bit blank.


An ugly old Hydr-ax blade,1/2+thick,of which i carved out a section 3"x 4".



One edge forged down thin,now i swapped sides and leaving about 1 1/2" full thickness in the middle do the other side symmetrically.

(Dies are working Corker!Sweet....:).




After forging down the other edge i bend them down into the staple-shape and attempt to forge down that thick middle part on edge,to upset it if possible,or to at least Forge it,as in having it bulge out in the middle,vs becoming concave/fish-mouthed...




In spite of my fumbling,inexpert process(and crap photo)you can see that it at least Kinda worked...And That was the point of this experiment-this could Not have been done by hand...


I love my new dies...and have a number of things to think about now...(that specific bit i'll probably never use-it expanded to about 3 1/2" in length,and would be enough for a 4-5 lb axe or bigger...Lord preserve me from forging one that heavy...:(...

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On 3/16/2020 at 12:02 AM, jake pogrebinsky said:

I should look into a set of symmetrical drawing dies for it(i think 25 is too small for the combination dies).


I seen a guy on Instagram that had a bunch of dies for sale most for LG's. I will look for a number for you!!


I see Joshua helped you with dies. If you still want the number to see what else he has I will find it.

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3 minutes ago, Jeremy Blohm said:

I seen a guy on Instagram that had a bunch of dies for sale most for LG's. I will look for a number for you!!


Jeremythank you,it's kind of you,but i think that with Josh's help i'm now pretty well set.


Yesterday i gave it a test run with pretty near the max.size stock that i'd put through this rickety old thing,1 3/4" round med.-C shaft.

It's done great.

(hardly need to mention that i'm working on some new drifts,ones better suited to period-correct eye,but specifically a drift that'd give me reference for blade alignment,as long of one as possible):





Meanwhile as i do all that i'm figuring out other assorted adjustment issues with the hammer,and all this of course really helps.

So eventually by the end of the day i could test it on an actual axe blade:




Prior to that this same blade looked like this:





It WORKS.This thing is bladed with 5160,and surrounded by WI.So there was NO earthly way i could reduce that laminate by hand-not enough energy for the blow to penetrate,so impossible to re-shape similar composite without breaking,shearing the welds.

So,it looks like i'm in a different world for deformation now...:)




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