We used this newly acquired axe at a park party last night and it
worked rather well at chopping firewood and such.
My questions are twofold.
1> I used a bench grinder to resharpen the axe. I did pay attention to
seeing that the edge would not overheat (turn blue). What I want to
know is what shape of the edge is right. I made a concave shape.
2> The handle looks like it would benefit from some wedges inserted to
support the axe head on the handle more tightly. I searched some
places and did not find any wedges. I suspect that I simply did not
look for the right term. Where can I find steel wedges for axes? I
know that I could make one, but I would prefer to find something ready
I made a wedge out of flat stock.. But, my grandfather would soak his picks
and axe's in water after putting the heads on. Wedges usually do come with
new handles though. What you can do with the old is make a cut in the head
part of the handle then using a piece of hardwood as a wedge. pound that
into the handle head after you re install the axe head..
I would suggest drying the wedge (and the handle too, if it will fit)
in a oven at maybe 150 F, before assembly.
That way it will get tighter as the moisture content rises to
ambient, instead of looser as it drops to ambient.
My guess is that your grandmother didn't allow your grandfather
access to the oven...
As someone else noted, it looks like a broad axe, used for
hewing a flat side on a log. The original bezel would have
been one-sided like a chisel and the original handle curved
to one side to reduce the risk of barking your knuckles.
The few that I have seen that had the original bezel and
handle were shaped for right-hand use.
High carbon low alloy steel anneals at ~ 325 F. Ideally
it should be honed with a hand stone or with a wet
Nicks can be filed out before honing.
That looks like a pretty old tool. since its cutting edge is pretty
straight, rather than curved, I think it would be used more for hewing
than for chopping down trees. Its short handle makes me think it might
have been used for hewing the ends of logs, as in preparing a piecs of
wood for bowl turning. If it's flat on the other side, then it would
be used for hewing logs into rectangular cross sections.
Since it is pretty old, the steel welded into the bit area would
probably be plain carbon steel, so "blue" may be too high. I'd suggest
not going beyond dark straw or red when grinding. I don't suppose its
a real big issue, since the axes that I have known aren't left all that
hard anyway. we always used to touch them up in the woods with a file.
Most stores that sell handles also sell wedges.
google "hewing timber"
I guess I should be a little clearer -- there was no color changes
when I was grinding the edge. I made sure to move the axe along the
edge so that no area spent too long in contact with the grinding wheel.
Thanks. I will check Menards for replacement handles. They should have
On Sep 4, 12:21 pm, Ignoramus15584 <ignoramus15...@NOSPAM.
Something like 30 years ago, I did a wood handle replacement article
for Popular Mechanics. At that time, every hardware store had wood
handle wedges in a variety of sizes. There are far fewer wood handles
out there today, but I'd guess you should still find them at Ace or
any local hardware stores, and maybe even at the big box stores.
The axes that I see on sale in stores today look like they are not
meant to be actually used (maybe the Chinese who make axes nowaways,
do not have a history of axe use like the Russians or Scandinavians
do). I hope that the replacement handles are better. I will report
once I find anything out.
It's knackered long before you see it.
Fortunately it's an axe, rather than a chisel, so the carbon of the
edge steel will be lower and it's thus a bit more resistant to
overheating. However an axe of this pattern is probably a carbon steel
edge welded into mild steel or iron and not a modern heat-resistant
alloy steel. It's just not designed to be sharpened on anything faster
or hotter than a slow water-cooled wheel, or by hand.
Concave is _totally_ wrong (and getting to be dangerous). It should
have a _very_ slight convex crowning to it for this pattern of axe,
possibly with the corners radiused off too, depending on the use you
intend to put it to.
Don't grind a convex edge onto an old (i.e. forged) axe of this
pattern. If you want a convex-edged axe for carving, find one that
was forged that way and intended to be used with a convex edge.
Otherwise, if you just grind the edges back too far, the thickness of
the forging ends up all over the shop and you've ruined a nice tool
that deserved better.
Never wedge the head onto an axe (i.e. steel wedges hammered in
afterwards). It's a terrible way to do it, and it doesn't work at all
It takes three days to put a handle onto a big axe, although you can
do a little one like this in maybe one or two.
Start with a good piece of timber for the handle: hickory, ash, or
probably osage orange (I've no experience of osage orange). You need
something that's strong in bulk, but also has good crush resistance.
it also has to be well-seasoned (at least 5 years old of proper air-
drying and seasonal cycling). It also need to have been kept dry for
the last month.
I don't care if your grandad did it, you can't fit a green ash handle
and expect it to stay in place.
Shape the handle, as you prefer. Then shape the handle to fit the eye
of the head _perfectly_. This takes a long time and a lot of care. You
might use a drawknife to start, but only a real expert can finish with
one - anyone else should switch to a spokeshave or rasp. The split is
sawn in afterwards. Then make a wedge to fit, which is itself nearly
as careful a fitting job as the handle. Especially watch the taper
angle and the length. The timber can well be the same as the handle,
although many favour a slightly harder timber (no-one can justify this
Assemble. Do it right, get it perfect, because it's the only chance
you've got and you'll be living with it for 10 years. Assembly is
easy - you did the hard part when you fitted it.
Fit the wedge. Leave it long.
Now another important bit. Leave it alone. Leave it overnight. Come
back tomorrow and drive the wedge in again, just that bit further.
For a felling axe (4-5lb upwards) do that again for a second day.
That's why it takes 3 days to fit a handle.
_Then_ trim the wedge down.
There's no need to soak a handle on a well-fitted axe. Ever.
It doesn't need it because it shrank (it was dry when you fitted it).
If it does need it, then the handle is possibly worn out, because you
either used too soft a timber or else you've been using your axe as a
prybar. Possibly you fitted the handle carelessly and it was only ever
bearing on a couple of points.
The handle hasn't "dried out and shrunk". It can't do this, because of
the care you took in choosing and making it in the first place. So if
it's not moisture shrinkage that's causing it, soaking isn't going to
put it back right for you. If you've crushed the timber instead, then
soaking does little to aid that - the wood swells, but the structure
is now softened and it'll be loose again by lunchtime. Time for a new
OK, so it _might_ need soaking if you move to somewhere extremely hot
and the eye expands, but this still isn't because the timber shrank.
Don't fit handles to cold heads in winter.
Don't use steel wedges. They damage the timber and they reduce the
handle's strength inside the eye such that the handle's fit no longer
lasts well. They're a quick hack for crude hammers (hammers aren't
used by levering as axes tend to be), they've no place in an axe
There might be another reason to not soak it. It looks like the head
is quite old. There may be some stress cracks that you can't see.
Soaking the handle after a snug fitting will cause the wood to expand,
indeed, it may expand so much that it breaks the head. The power of
expanding wet wood is well illustrated by the old technique of
quarrying stone with wooden wedges. The quarrymen would chisel holes
along the line of desired breaking, pound in dry wooden wedges, then
soak the wedges in place. The swelling wood would put so much
pressure on the rock it would split it right off.
Also, when wetted and confined, wood can expand so much that the
fibers are crushed, and when the wood dries out again it is looser
than when it started. This is one of the primary reason that wood
joints fail over time in climates that have large seasonal humidity
One interesting trick I've used as a temp solution is soaking in linseed
oil. If you soak in water it gets loose again one it dries, but the
linseed oil will tend to stay or even harden. Still only a temporary
fix, not a true solution.
Then there is the Araldite crowd and their solutions to loose axeheads.
I won't comment, since sensitive souls (Foreign Legion noncoms,
longshoremen, etc) might take objection to my choice of language.
"It's a teeny-weeny bit bigger than all the original files. For
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