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An old axe I inherited


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A few months ago, my brother-in-law shipped his father's old delta table saw to me without any warning. In addition to the table saw there were a few odds and ends of stuff. A lifetime supply of plastic trash bag rolls (used as padding, sorry Tom, I know you will read this!) some hickory sticks, and some metal objects, including this old axe.

 

1 Side view.jpg

 

I finally got around to taking a good look at it and called him about it tonight. He thinks it came out of his grandfather's (also my wife's grandfather) shop on the old farmstead in Ohio. Now the Carlier family was known as expert woodworkers, and apparently Joseph and his brother Frank also had a blacksmith shop of sorts. A lot of farms back in the early 1900's had a small forge and anvil with the requisite tools for making a variety of tools and useful things. This axe appears to be hand forged to my eye. I can make out the forge welded seam along the blade edge. So I know it was folded rather than punched and drifted.

 

2Blade weld.jpg

 

The eye is hardly symetrical, and the blade looks like it has an intentional (?) curve to it.

 

Eye.jpg

 

I cannot be sure, but it looks like the poll may have had some forge welding action as well. There are two parallel seams or cracks running down the inside of the eye.

 

 

Poll (2).jpg

 

And the one on the right has a faint trace of seam (?) running the length of the poll. Maybe it's just a fold/hammer mark IDK.

 

Poll (3).jpg

 

poll (4).jpg

 

I certainly think some steel was welded onto the face of the poll and has started chipping off.

 

Poll (1).jpg

 

Anyway, it's a neat tool and a piece of my wife's family history. Thanks for looking and any insight is always welcome.

Edited by Joshua States
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A few months ago, my brother-in-law shipped his father's old delta table saw to me without any warning. In addition to the table saw there were a few odds and ends of stuff. A lifetime supply of plastic trash bag rolls (used as padding) some hickory sticks, and some metal objects, including this old axe.

 

1 Side view.jpg

 

I finally got around to taking a good look at it and called him about it tonight. He thinks it came out of his grandfather's (also my wife's grandfather) shop on the old farmstead in Ohio. Now the Carlier family was known as expert woodworkers, and apparently Joseph and his brother Frank also had a blacksmith shop of sorts. A lot of farms back in the early 1900's had a small forge and anvil with the requisite tools for making a variety of tools and useful things. This axe appears to be hand forged to my eye. I can make out the forge welded seam along the blade edge. So I know it was folded rather than punched an drifted.

 

2Blade weld.jpg

 

The eye is hardly symetrical, and the blade looks like it has an intentional (?) curve to it.

 

Eye.jpg

 

I cannot be sure, but it looks like the poll may have had some forge welding action as well. There are two parallel seams or cracks running down the inside of the eye.

 

 

 

Looking at the that last shot, it looks like someone readjusted the axe to get the blade to line up center with the handle! It definitely looks forged!! Real nice piece of history! 

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Very cool Josh

 

My neighbour round the corner blacksmith Mike found two new victims(/students), since I'm on medical parole I spent the past 2 Saturday afternoons drinking beer and watching the 3 of them forge various axes and learning as they go.

Your axe and their efforts is a good reminder how different times were before everything came from a shop.

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Your guesses are correct!  It's a carpenter's axe, it does have a steeled poll, and those are cracks inside the eye from when someone tried to hammer it into something as a wedge without a handle in place.  It's a type of broadaxe, thus the asymmetrical eye and slight curve in the blade.  Originally it would have had a chisel-ground edge.  Most of them got double-ground by the second or third generation after its time of use, as nobody knew what they were for anymore.

 

By the material used (it's wrought iron), the shape, and the size of the poll, I'd date it between 1830-1870 at the latest. Probably factory made, in what passed for a factory at the time, unless they were really good smiths who specialized in axes.  Ohio in the 1830s was not the frontier by any stretch, in fact it was beginning an industrial phase.  I'm thinking it was a family heirloom, as those are a fairly specialized tool that take a lot of practice to use well.   

 

Cool!

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I would clean it up and put it back into use! 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Daniel W said:

I would clean it up and put it back into use! 

I am considering doing just that. It's pretty clean to begin with considering the age of it. I would have to restore the original chisel grind. Judging by what's still there, the convex side of the blade has a very short edge bevel and the concave side has the longer bevel.So. I would eliminate the short bevel and accentuate the longer one on the inside cureve. The only problem I have is judging where the tool steel bit ends, or if there even is one. I cannot see the telltale signs of a weld on the blade faces. Is it possible that the tool steel was overlaid onto the folded wrought? Is it possible that the body is really just a low/medium carbon steel and they called it good enough?

Edited by Joshua States
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It would have been steeled, and they did it any number of ways.  Usually a long lap weld for these, but V-welds, butt welds, and any other way you can imagine were also done.  A little careful etching may show a line.

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Although the steeled edge is the face of the tool, and should have no bevel - consider to give it a micro bevel on that side.  It should have a chisel edge or this is what people are familiar with, a bevel on just the one side.   However, even a chisel edge should have a micro bevel on the facing side as well.  I normally do this when honing down my wood chisels by working on the bevel side first up to 2000 grit.  The finer the sanding the finer the finish on the wood.  But once I get to the 2000 grit polish on the bevel side, I turn the chisel over to the flat side  Then I put an old hack saw blade down on the table to give the chisel some angle.  Then just do a few strops to get rid of the bur and put a tiny bevel on that flat side. 

 

If you just make a single bevel, just like a chisel, it will tend to dig very aggressively.  And this in turn does not plane the worked side of the wood it just gouges right in and causes tear out.  That micro bevel will help keep the tool from digging and help plane or hew/trim.  Think of wanting more of a scooping cut. 

 

I would wire wheel it, then test etch it lightly.  handle wise, nothing big and long for one of these, just hatch size.

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1 hour ago, Daniel W said:

consider to give it a micro bevel on that side

 

This is very important for a carving hatchet!  But it is barely there.  

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Well this already has a double bevel and not a very good one. Here is the inside curve bevel.

 

Edge Bevels (2).jpg

 

And the outside curve bevel

 

Edge Bevels (1).jpg

 

Not exactly what I'd call a "micro" bevel.

 

Edited by Joshua States
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Lovely old axe,Joshua,good for you,it's a fine old tool.

 

A bench-,or a carpenter's axe,it is a Kent pattern,but most probably forged in the US.

 

That symmetrical outline in plan view,typical of this pattern,indicates(ironically) an asymmetric(chisel)grind,as that symmetry made it suitable for either right-,or the left-handed use by imply swapping the handle top to bottom.

 

I'm afraid this head ha fallen into some careless hand,possibly before it came into your family(it could've been a find,or a trade-in,or someone's future refurbishing project);it looks like it's been beat on,and the eye and cheeks distorted somewhat.

 

In part that has caused those seams inside the eye to be more prominent.And speaking of those two seams on the inner poll-side of the eye is the one point i disagree with Alan's otherwise excellent assessment - i think those seams are from an extra,fat little element added inside the eye to thicken the poll.


One could planish some of those distortions out,but it looks like the hatchet is useful as is,as the blade ha remained as intended(it's mostly the right,or the bevel-side cheek that is affected,bulged).

 

And yes,the actual sharpening of these was strictly individuated,and probably most often asymmetric even beyond the chisel-grind(as both Daniel and Alan point out).

But technically it's a single-bevel tool,though symmetrically ground ones in this pattern/in a number of weights were also quite common.

 

I use my Kent-pattern bench axe a Lot,it's a wonderful tool,most useful.

(i grind it strictly single-bevel,as i do my slick,but i'm not a scientific sharpener,alas,and am sure the guys have a better idea).

 

Handle it,use it,(if need be-re-blade it with some 5160,an almost perfect alloy for this),you'll love this sweet old tool,guaranteed!:) 

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Thank you  most noble Jake sir for your insight and addition to the other most valuable advice and observations so far supplied.

 

10 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

it looks like it's been beat on,and the eye and cheeks distorted somewhat.

 

10 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

One could planish some of those distortions out,but it looks like the hatchet is useful as is,as the blade has remained as intended (it's mostly the right,or the bevel-side cheek that is affected,bulged).

 

10 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

(if need be-re-blade it with some 5160,an almost perfect alloy for this)

The thought had occurred to me to do some forging to reshape the eye somewhat and possibly adjust the bevel on the outside of the curve. I am afraid of causing those cracks in the eye to spread and split, leaving the axe useless. I would trust it to someone more experienced, and therefore skilled, at axe forging, but I'm not sure I trust myself to do this. I think for the time being, I might just try to regrind the bevels after establishing where te tool steel bit is, and then some file work to smooth out the inside faces of the eye and put a handle on it.

 

A little more insight as to the age and possible history here. After consulting Liz's family geneology document, it appears that this axe may have originated in Europe and emigrated to the USA along with Eugene Carlier (born in Belgium, 1822) who was already an established carpenter when he settled in Brown County, OH in 1852. His son, Joeseph, (also a carpenter by trade) was Liz's grandfather.

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Cool!  I am betting it's an American axe based solely on the visible weld seam.  I could easily be wrong, but as an Anglo-American pattern one of the big tells as to where it was made is the level of weld blending.  On an English- made axe of the period you should not be able to find any weld seams at all, on American ones they are often visible.

 

14 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

disagree with Alan

 

Please feel free to do so, and continue!  I am far from a true expert on these things, and welcome every chance to learn more.  

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8 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

Please feel free to do so, and continue! 

 

I'd love to but i So rarely get a chance!:)

 

You're very knowledgeable,Alan,and articulate,And level-headed with your info,i've learned much from you over the years...

 

Thank you in particular for those dates above,it's nice to have something a bit finer than a century(which is as fine as my pea-brain stretches).

 

But about those seams i'm pretty sure(and thanks,Joshua,for taking good close-up photos).

 

It was probably the most common welding scheme of the period,3-layer stack.The steel poll-plate,not Strictly necessary on a little side-axe,may well be a part of that scheme-it works well to protect the otherwise exposed/vulnerable edges of the lamination.

ALL of this is my conjecture,of course,but since i'm already spouting i'll go ahead and say that bending the pre-form at the poll was for whatever reason(-s) not done very often.Possibly,the WI of the day did not take kindly to that,or maybe it's the difficulty to accrue the desired mass at poll by bending that made that 3-part tack+steeled poll a much more common method.

But i've seen lots of evidence of all of the above,and that slight S-shaped wiggle of the seams is pretty telling,those side-pieces forming the cheeks of the eye were already thinned out when welded to the more massive middle filler piece...

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