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Restoring a pair of old axe heads...
Posted by: Steve(Can)
Date: May 10, 2006 08:07PM
Often when hunting, you find those big old rusted axeheads, like this old rusted clunker of a felling axe that was dug at a homestead a while ago. Though I've never really given these much of a second thought, last week I decided to clean one up and made a dandy little camping hatchet. That worked so well, I decided to do another....

After electrolysis: This works amazingly well. It took a day and overnight of hooked up to a battery charger slowly bubbling away in a solution of water and washing soda, but after, 100 years of crusted rust fell away at just the look of a brass brush.

I've marked the shape I want for a camping/canoe axe, a Hudson Bay style. I'll remove material only from the bottom of the axe head, keeping the top and sides original.

Shaped on a bench grinder: This took some patient shaving over the course of an evening, not allowing the head to get hotter than the touch so as not to lose the temper. This is the most work of the job, but I don't have a saw that will touch it. If I did another, I think I'd find a metal shop that could whip off the rough shape for me.

With the axe head shaped, I added a thin coat of "Ospho" (sold in Canada as Rust Converter)

Bottom view. The ospho makes a thin tough skin of protective patina. I can't get over how much good metal is left in these rusty old axeheads. Little gems in the rough for sure. I dapple the bottom with a ball peen hammer to obscure the grind marks and make it look more consistant with the hand forged finish on the top and sides of the axehead.

Slightly bigger and heavier than the last axe, the completed axe head is fitted to 28" handle which gives it a nice balance. With an axe file along the original bevel, the face of the blade is cleaned up and given a good sharpen. There are still some pit marks along the edge, but with a couple more sharpenings, they should clean right up, giving an nice clean bevel.

The handle has been resphaped slightly, given a good sanding and oiled with linseed.

I'm thrilled with the look and feel of this one and delighted to give that old axehead a new lease on life.

A dandy pair of camping axes. These old axeheads were found in long abandoned homesteads from the early part of the 1800's. I daresay the last time they saw the light of day, they were cutting down the vast forests, clearing land, and building the first settlements. The world must look very strange and different to them now. We're now all set for another summer of camping and canoeing, and we'll put them to good use again!

Re: Restoring a pair of old axe heads>>That's great!
Posted by: Macaco
Date: May 11, 2006 10:47PM
Thanks for posting this.

Resurecting old tools is fun. I've found axe heads from the California Gold Rush era but just left them where I found them.

From now on I'm going to keep axe heads and restore them the way you did.

Very nice.

Steve in California,
*Excalibur, Goldmaster-GM3, Cibola*

Thanks Macaco! I've never paid much attention to these big old rusted clunkers either...
Posted by: Steve(Can)
Date: May 12, 2006 10:50AM
...and have left quite a few behind. I wouldn't have ever guessed by looking at them how much good steel is left in them. I may have to go back for the ones left behind now! :lol:

A couple more pics, my young lad hankering to try out our "new" axes. I kinda hated modifying the original shape of the axe, but what we wanted were a couple lighter axes for camping. I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Getting into the swing. That block of wood underneath serves a couple of purposes, to hold the wood being split up off the ground, and as well, to stop the axe from swinging back into toes. It's the way my grandfather's father showed him to split light wood like this when he was a lad and the way I was showed.

Working on that secret touch to splitting, the little twist just as the axe blade strikes that cracks apart the pieces and keeps the axe from binding in the wood. On pieces in the round, the axe will actually take a little jump staight back up after splitting the wood. A little practise needed! :D

I'd bet there's better steel in these old hand forged axes than in most you can buy today. A nice pair of axes that should be good for another lifetime or two.

Re: Thanks Macaco! I've never paid much attention to these big old rusted clunkers either...
Posted by: mr miner/logger
Date: May 12, 2006 01:10PM
I did the same thing back in the late 70's with as double bit axe head that I had found. I used that axe for years until someone stole it. Constructive criticism. Putting your foot on a piece of wood that you are splitting is a very easy way to chop a toe off. It's a lot easier to split wood if you stand it on end.

Well mr. miner/logger... :)
Posted by: Steve(Can)
Date: May 12, 2006 03:43PM
...take a look again at the pics, see where the axe has stopped each time. Right on the block underneath and that is why it is there. It might look bad, but in practice it's a very safe and efficient way to split light wood like these boards. Whack, whack, whack, whack, whack, and that fast, it's done.

I've seen people trying to split finer pieces like this by holding them upright with one hand and eyeballing the axe into the end and that's a cut hand as sure as shooting.

Been doing it like this for years. No slips--touch wood-- ;)

Posted by: mr miner/logger
Date: May 12, 2006 07:37PM
Now that we are talking about firewood, several times at campgrounds I have seen inexperienced campers squirt a quart of lighter fluid on their green wood to get it going. All that burns is the fluid and the wood never catches. One person went out and bought a 2nd quart, emptied it on the green wood and still no fire. Hilarious.

Re: Thanks Macaco! >>Ummmm....Is the kid smoking?
Posted by: Macaco
Date: May 13, 2006 03:28AM
I mean the first picture he has smoke pouring off him.

A smoking boy with an axe in his hands!.......that should scare the bejesus out of any robbers in the neighborhood.....

"I kinda hated modifying the original shape of the axe"....

Believe me, the blacksmiths who made the axe heads you're using now would be damned happy to know that they are being used again in the 21st century! I don't think they'd mind you modifying the shape.

The steel in the axe heads is probably inferior to what can be found in modern tools but the forging quality of the old axe heads may make them superior to modern axe heads.

Great stuff. I need to pick up a container of the "Ospho". Does it act as a rust inhibitor too? Is that what helped restore the black color of the metal?

Steve in California,
*Excalibur, Goldmaster-GM3, Cibola*

:lol: Smoking kid...
Posted by: Steve(Can)
Date: May 13, 2006 07:54AM
Ha ha! Yeah, that kid is something, Steve. He took a growing spree this winter and his shoes are now a size and a half bigger than his age and I expect by the end of the summer he'll have an inch on me. :D

While we were out that day, I told him the story of how his great-grandfather quit school at his age and went to the logging camps for the winter to make a man's wage in the bush. He lived to be 2 months of 90, and was spry and splitting wood for his stove right up to the end.

While grinding, you could see in the smaller one, distinct lines where a wedge of high carbon steel was forge welded into the center of the axehead, extending from the front of the eye forward to the face of the blade, and where softer steel was wrapped around it to form the rest of the axehead. There was a real difference between the axes when cleaning up and sharpening the faces with an axe file, and I expect the smaller one will hold the better edge of the two.

Yes, the black colour is from the Ospho, Steve. After the electrolysis to remove the rust, the axeheads came out a beautiful dark pearly grey. With a thin coat of Ospho, that changed to a rich black black and formed a tough protective coat on the metal. Then I simply wiped oil on them. I think they came out looking like a million bucks.

From the Ospho website:
RUSTED METALS - OSPHO is a rust-inhibiting coating - NOT A PAINT You do not have to remove tight rust. Merely remove loose paint and rust scale, dirt, oil, grease and other accumulations with a wire brush - apply a coat of OSPHO as it comes in the container - let dry overnight, then apply whatever paint system you desire. When applied to rusted surfaces, OSPHO causes iron oxide (rust) to chemically change to iron phosphate - an inert, hard substance that turns the metal black. Where rust is exceedingly heavy, two coats of OSPHO may be necessary to thoroughly penetrate and blacken the surface to be painted. A dry, powdery, grayish-white surface usually develops; this is normal - brush off any loose powder before paint application.

Yeah, or a beer can full of syphoned gas... :shock:
Posted by: Steve(Can)
Date: May 13, 2006 08:00AM just know somebody's gonna wake up in the morning with no eyebrows. :lol:

Re: Yeah, or a beer can full of syphoned gas>>Eyebrows.....
Posted by: Macaco
Date: May 14, 2006 05:35PM
That's actually funny to me because I saw a guy do that in Mexico a few years back. He was extremely drunk and he lit a bunch of dry wood in a fire pit with gasoline poured from a beer can.

He was ok when the gasoline was lit but then he put a cigarette in his mouth and leaned forward to light it from the fire! He leaned so far forward he pithced, face first into the fire! Two big Mexican dudes rushed into the fire and pulled him out before he got burned bad but his eyebrows were singed and smoking and his whole face was smuged with black from the fire.

The Mexican guys just dumped him back away from the fire and walked away shaking their heads and talking to each other in Spanish. No doubt they couldn't believe a Gringo could be that stupid.......

Steve in California,
*Excalibur, Goldmaster-GM3, Cibola*

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