Giving myself 3months to find a vintage equivalent or I'm buying a GB axe!

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Dai

Member
Jun 7, 2020
17
12
Wales
The long and short of it is I've wanted a quality axe for years, spent the last month thinking more seriously about what size/model and what brand, made a decision (GB Scandinavian). Then during the day I was going to go pick one out after work I decided to try to find a good vintage axe, or small selection of, to cover what the GB would have been doing (limbing, crude carving/shaping and bits of light felling and splitting). I'm hoping to get something at near enough bargain prices though will pay more if I find something I'm sure is just right and worth it.

—— Extra detail (not essential to thread): Now the hunt has begun in earnest, I'm time poor at the moment so regular browsing of carboot sales is not really an option and ebay seems overpriced and full of junk. We do have a local antiques/collectables emporium that has a couple of decent old tool sections (with the downside that it is very close to the GB dealer so unsuccessful visits to the former create temptation to visit the latter), and a house clearance style auction house that occasionally gets something half decent in. I also have a family member who has a shed full of old tools at the farmhouse they bought. I've got permission to have a look through and have/buy anything they don't have use for, so am hoping to find something of interest when next down around Christmas time. ——

Back to the core purpose of the thread; yesterday I had my first success, finding an Elwell 1 1/2 pound axe head for £5 (balances at 1 & 1/2 oz over on the kitchen scales or 720g total in new money). Some work will be needed but it seems in fair condition to my inexpert eyes - the poll is rounded by being bashed, a clean up and sharpen is needed as well as the obvious need to put a handle on it. At the price if it ends up as no more than a kindling splitter and learning piece I think I've done ok.

51720437147_06060d43e7.jpg


Hoping to start working on it this weekend, any tips or recommendations are welcome. The intention is to sympathetically restore it to functionality rather than make it look new. I'm considering trying out electrolysis to clean the surface, then profile the bit as required and rehandle - I have a 14inch handle hanging around which would fit but am unsure if I should go longer.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,605
4,979
Mid Wales
I have refurbished a lot of old English axes over the years, some dating back to the late 1800's. Apart from appearance, the only problem with the axe being mistreated on the poll is if this has resulted in the eye being cracked - check carefully before spending time on it.

I very rarely do a lot to the axe surface - a little wire-brushing and oiling is usually enough. I prefer the old black finish to a polished finish. Originally they would have simply been oiled without much surface cleaning at all once out of the forge.

If the edge needs a lot of work (it doesn't look like it does) be careful not to overheat it, so use lots of water with grinding (anything over 150 degrees could change the tempering).

As for axe handle length, put 14" on it for now and put a longer handle on your next one (putting new life into old tools is addictive, there will be another one :))

If I have a lot of work to do on an axe head (I reprofiled one into a right-handed carving axe for example) I will anneal it, rework it, then heat treat it. Here's the one I did then:

 

Dai

Member
Jun 7, 2020
17
12
Wales
Thank you Broch, I cannot see any cracks - I had a good look before buying - and that was my reason for cleaning it up first in case some damage is hidden by the rust. Or are cracks from misuse normally more obvious? Anyhow if it gets too shiny I will oil it then let nature return it to a darker finish over time, I certainly won’t be spending time polishing it. I agree on the edge, I think it is just blunt rather than damaged or misshapen so am hoping to sharpen by hand. Will update when progress has been made.
 

Mesquite

Anyone for sailing?
Mar 5, 2008
25,597
1,441
60
~Hemel Hempstead~
As Broch said that axe looks in pretty good condition and the eye is in reasonable shape. It ought to clean up to a nice user

Any cracks that occur from misuse are usually visible and in places where the eye is thinnest. The only crack you don't need to really worry about is if you see one running from the eye straight towards the front edge of axe. This type of crack is common and caused during the forging process. The only time to be concerned with this crack is if it's excessively large and/or running off at an odd angle
 
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Dai

Member
Jun 7, 2020
17
12
Wales
Progress has been slow, more stop than start really but the axe head is cleaned up and on a handle. Just need to find the time to put a decent edge on it.
51745472304_66fd4f0e74.jpg


I made a bit of a mess with the handle so may put another on sooner rather than later, on the plus side the head seems to be in as good condition as I could hope, no cracks or warping/twisting and only the slightest of nicks in the edge.
 
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Brizzlebush

Full Member
Feb 9, 2019
311
198
Bristol
Progress has been slow, more stop than start really but the axe head is cleaned up and on a handle. Just need to find the time to put a decent edge on it.
51745472304_66fd4f0e74.jpg


I made a bit of a mess with the handle so may put another on sooner rather than later, on the plus side the head seems to be in as good condition as I could hope, no cracks or warping/twisting and only the slightest of nicks in the edge.
Nice job.
That looks like a useful tool.
There's a lot of mileage, and satisfaction in bringing old tools back in to service.
Certainly greater fun, satisfaction and time well spent, than clicking a button and buying new.
 

FerlasDave

Full Member
Jun 18, 2008
1,353
209
Off the beaten track
Try the axe and edge tool company, they’re based in mid Wales and do a lot of refurbishments. I think the chaps name is Sam, I’m sure he would be able to help you out.

 

Dai

Member
Jun 7, 2020
17
12
Wales
Try the axe and edge tool company, they’re based in mid Wales and do a lot of refurbishments. I think the chaps name is Sam, I’m sure he would be able to help you out.


Thanks for the suggestion, certainly lots of eye candy on there. Though by the looks of what is shared I wouldn't be saving any money nor would I be shopping locally, I stick to the top half of Wales if I can help it ;). I will keep an eye on the secondhand possibilities and as covid complicated Christmas plans there is still a tool shed that needs rummaging through.
 
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FerlasDave

Full Member
Jun 18, 2008
1,353
209
Off the beaten track
Thanks for the suggestion, certainly lots of eye candy on there. Though by the looks of what is shared I wouldn't be saving any money nor would I be shopping locally, I stick to the top half of Wales if I can help it ;). I will keep an eye on the secondhand possibilities and as covid complicated Christmas plans there is still a tool shed that needs rummaging through.

No problem. If you’re in the top half of Wales I’ll keep an eye out for you, I’m always rummaging about in second hand shops up here.
 
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