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Hatchet/ pack axe


Anthony Reid
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This little hatchet was today's project,  it is actually the second version I made today as I had trouble with the first axe when the mild steel just would not weld to itself no matter what I did so the solution in this case was just to extend the blade steel all the way back to the eye. The body was forged from 9in of 1/2"×1.5" basically following the Gerald Boggs article and I used a left over piece of low layer pattern welded steel for the cutting bit. I had to make a new drift for this project as well. So the next one should go quicker. I'm still debating whether I should flatten the top profile or leave the shape as it is. 

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I went with a flatter kind of symmetrical oval eye as a change of pace on this one and I think it will be a bit easier to make a handle for but that's just a theory I have. When you say wider and flatter towards the edge do you mean it should have a longer cutting edge and not be so thick behind the edge? I think I may try that on the next one , I stopped early on this one as I was worried my cutting edge would get too thin or possibly off center if I pushed it too far as I started with a piece that was around 5/32 thick so it got super thin quick! I did find that the length started to get away from me a bit even with using a cross peen to widen the blade. I did very minimal trimming of the profile just to get rid of the bit of the mild steel coming around the core at the edges and true up the shape a bit 

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1 hour ago, Anthony Reid said:

do you mean it should have a longer cutting edge and not be so thick behind the edge?

 

Yes to both.  Lots of crosspein work on axes.  Pretty much everything forward of the eye gets thinned crossways with the cross pein, with the flat face only being used to flatten out the dents and clean up the edges.  When I do a wrapped or folded axe, the body steel or iron at the edge is pretty much forged sharp before the bit gets welded in.  

 

Look at an old hatchet.  The thickness an inch behind the edge will often be 3/16" or less, even if it's 3/4" thick at the eye.

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¹This one is 5/16in thick an inch back from the edge so it could definitely be made thinner for sure.  I'm going to try another one today and see if I can get closer to my ideal. I was just happy to get a functional head after all the trouble I've been having lately with punched eyes and trying to get mild to weld to mild in my gas forge... I may have to break out my solid fuel forge and try it with charcoal to see if that makes any difference in welding mild steel to itself. 

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Mild-to-mild is a pain if you can't easily hit 2400 F with a reducing atmosphere.  Have you tried adding cast iron powder to your flux?  Find an automotive machine shop and see if you can collect a can of the swarf from milling cylinder heads or boring cylinders.  Brake lathe turnings are good too, but they're bigger and thus hard to get into tight joints easily.  

A friend gave me a few pounds of the powdered cast iron left over from milling Harley Davidson cylinder heads.  Mixed half and half with anhydrous borax, it really helps with difficult welds.  

 

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if you don't want to scrounge, here's a link to cast iron powder, I've order the pure iron powder from them.

https://shop.chemicalstore.com/navigation/detail.asp?MySessionID=302-443242292&CatID=&id=CIRON

Edited by Gerald Boggs
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I should note you want the cast powder for welding, since it's the carbon that lowers the welding temperature. The pure iron powder acts as filler, and helps with some alloys that don't like to stick (like 5160), but doesn't lower the required temperature. 

 

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Thanks guys, I will have to try the cast iron powder , I am a machinist by trade I could have saved some chips from the last cast iron job I did if I had any idea I would be wanting them later. Unfortunately I'm not working at the moment but I'll see what I can come up with. When using Flux with cast iron powder in it do you need to open the joint to apply the flux ? Borax wicks itself into the joint but it doesn't seem like that would pull in the powdered metal meaning it would have to be fluxed prior to the pieces being brought into position right? Would powdered steel like for canister Damascus work or does it have to be cast iron ? 

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I have tried a commercial Flux with metal bits in it I believe it was antiborax brand but it didn't work with this mild steel either I may have to break down and buy some known 1018 rather than this A36 as I've successfully welded 1018 in this forge before but the random mild steel I have just won't stick 

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If you use iron powder you do need to get it into the joint manually, yes.  Steel powder works too, but not as well since it has less carbon.  And you're not alone on having unweldable A36.  I had a batch several years ago that simply would not forge weld to itself no matter what.   

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My second and 3rd attempt to make this style of wrap and weld hatchet both had issues with the welding so I bought a piece of 1/2x1.5 1018 which I cut into 9in lengths so I can try again with better material but I haven't had a chance to try that material yet .

 

I did do some more work on a slit and drift head I have been working on though. This one I made with a 1inx2inx4in piece cut from mild steel plate and slit with a hot chisel and two 1/4in guide holes at the ends of the slot.

 

I ended up with the eye a bit crooked as I worked to center the blade so I had to do some work to straighten that up. Between the hammering to straighten the eye and the grinding to remove the hammer marks I ended up with a strange boat tail shaped poll but I kinda like the look of it . Chalk it up to a learning experience. I am pretty focused on axes lately because I have several friends who I would really like to be able to make axes for but I think I'm getting closer to the goal slowly but surely. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Been slowly plugging away at some hatchets, I'm still struggling with the mild to mild weld in a wrapped eye axe but I've made a few slit and drift heads that turned out ok. I borrowed a technique I saw In A video on the new England school of metalwork YouTube channel I basically use a slitting chisel to pierce my starting stock and then forge down the eye section to the finished poll thickness which stretches the eye. Then reopen the slot and drift as normal. I have a buyer for the one in the first picture,  my wife has claimed the second one and the unfinished one in the last picture had the drift go off and flare the back of the eye at the top and I haven't decided how or if I'll fix it 

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