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New Carving Axe from Old Chopper!

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Broch, Jul 17, 2018.

  1. Broch

    Broch Full Member

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    As some of you know I enjoy breathing new life into old British axe heads that I pick up from flea markets and car boot fairs. I don’t usually bother with anything that has been too abused but just occasionally I act against my better judgement and end up bringing home something that goes to the back of the workshop and forgotten about. So, when I decided I wanted a right-handed carving axe, I thought I’d have a go at reshaping the badly battered Gilpins axe below. Axes that have been abused as badly as this can sometimes have cracked eyes so my rather simplistic test is to hang them on a piece of string and tap them in a lot of places; if it rings like a bell for every tap I am satisfied. There are more sophisticated and, probably, more reliable methods but this has worked for me so far.

    old head - 512 - 25.jpg


    First thing I had to do was anneal the piece to make it workable. It was heated to 800oC in the kiln, held for half an hour then allowed to cool slowly; it was still at 45oC fourteen hours later! I drew the new shape on with a Sharpie. I wanted an axe with the toe well forward of the eye which meant removing the front lug completely but as that was the most damaged part I was quite happy with that.

    I cut out the unwanted parts of the blade and ground out the distorted parts on the poll. Then I ground the right-handed edge. The edge was then sharpened; minutes spent on this now save hours after hardening.

    bevel ground - 512 - 25.jpg

    Once I was happy with the overall shape and edge finish it was time to heat treat it. Again, it was brought up to 800oC, held for half an hour, then oil quenched – concentrating on cooling the edge as fast as possible. The piece is quite fragile at this stage and dropping it would almost certainly result in a chipped edge or even worse. So, as fast as possible, it goes into the oven to be tempered. Normally I would be looking for an end hardness of around the mid-fifties RC for an axe that may be used on a frozen oak log but for a carving axe I wanted something a bit harder and decided on 58RC so the tempering was done at 250 oC for an hour.

    quenched - 512 - 25.jpg

    Once cooled I set about finishing the blade edge. This is the Zen bit that I enjoy the most – ending up with a fine sharp edge.

    Finally a new handle. I had set aside a piece of plum for the handle but it was still a bit too green so for the moment it’s got a cherry handle. Overall I’m quite pleased and, on first test, it certainly seems to do what I wanted

    finished axe - 512 - 768.jpg
     
    MrEd, ProjeKtWEREWOLF, Flood and 6 others like this.
  2. redneck

    redneck Settler

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  3. Bionic

    Bionic Forager

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    Looking good, very nice upcycling of an otherwise unwanted item. Out of interest how did you identify the steel type for the H/T, is it common across this type of axe or is there an online reference or similar (sorry for the questions but I’ve got a few similar old axe heads that could be repurposed) :)
     
  4. Broch

    Broch Full Member

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    Like you I have not been able to find a definitive steel type for these axe heads but have had to assume a medium/high carbon tool steel (0.7 to 0.8%) probably and treat them like that. Most of the old axe heads from known makers appear to have similar characteristics using the 'spark' test and file hardness test so I treat them all the same. I suppose what I go by more than anything else is how they turn out: if it's too soft to hold an edge, or so hard it chips easily, I re-treat it. By trial and error I have found 800oC and tempering between 200 and 250oC gives me what I want; sorry, it's certainly not an exact science :)
     
    ProjeKtWEREWOLF likes this.
  5. Bionic

    Bionic Forager

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    Thanks for the info. Other people’s hands on experience frankly means a lot more than tables of what a steel should do under perfect conditions so that’s very helpful. Thanks again :)
     
  6. Muddypaws

    Muddypaws Full Member

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    Excellent work! Making something great out of an old unloved tool is a really worthwhile pastime.

    By the way, what is the weight of the head, and is it hefty enough after you have removed quite a bit of metal?
     
  7. Broch

    Broch Full Member

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    The finished weight is around 1Lb 6oz (a little over 0.6Kg) which appears typical for a carving axe (they seem to fit between 1 and 2 Lb) - more to the point I suppose, it feels about right - not too heavy to use for a while but with enough weight to carry through a cut.
     
  8. Sparky415

    Sparky415 Forager

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    Lovely bit of work
     
  9. Jackroadkill

    Jackroadkill Full Member

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    Really good to see some new life being breathed into an old tool - really nice job, Broch.
     
  10. Madriverrob

    Madriverrob Native

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    Good job , looks the part, very informative write up , thanks ......
     
  11. Hunkyfunkster

    Hunkyfunkster Full Member

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    That is a lovely looking axe. Well done
     
  12. snappingturtle

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    Good stuff broch! can I ask why you heat soak for half an hour?
     
  13. crosslandkelly

    crosslandkelly A somewhat settled

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    Nice job, it looks great.
     
  14. Broch

    Broch Full Member

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    No scientific reason really - more habit than anything. I like to make sure that the whole item reaches the same temperature with plenty of time for the 'change' but it's probably not necessary at all. Probably more relevant, I don't tend to stay around the kiln waiting for the cycle to finish so I programme it with a hold time. If I happen to get back to it and it still has 20 minutes to go I'd probably end it there.

    I'm guilty of not changing habits that have worked even when I can't justify them :)
     
  15. snappingturtle

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    Ah right, sounds a fair plan! I think we all work to habit, I think I may try an axe at some point so was just trying to soak up some knowledge, plus thinking on it that dose give time for tea and dunkables!
     

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