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I Forge Iron

Converting a Chinese 2lb-er

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I generally don't hold with reforging tool heads,but,just this once,for expediency mostly,went ahead and done it.
It was a "blacksmith"hammer,2lbs,but after cutting the pein off,and welding on an edge of 52100(skew-welded),it weighs in at 1.8lbs,so,your basic boy's axe weight.
The Chinese no longer are as sloppy as they used to be about the tool production.This hammerhead was not scrap,it sparked like some med.C,and even could've been some tool steel,like W-1,or some other simple alloy.
I went ahead and welded on the bit anyway,because i needed more mass forward.
The order was for a small carving hatchet,so i looked around at the usual run of Sweedish,and similar "sculpting" axes,and derived what i could out of all that.Thus the peculiar point-forward attitude,and also the funny looking handle.The idea was to have a number of holds practical for using someting like this.How well it will work?Will have to wait for the user's review.
Reinventing the wheel for every order is exciting,but tiresome,sometimes i daydream of working at some shop where the shape of a tool is set in stone by countless generations.But,i really have no idea just how deadening that may be,suspect that quite a bit.And,of course,i'm forever grateful for ANY job that comes along.And so it goes...



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That is one intresting Axe. I like the handle shape. I think a lot of the tool variation we see over time is because smiths and their customers kept thinking the tool would work better or easier or last longer some other way.

Let us know what the consumer report is.:)

Edited by Charlotte
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  • 4 weeks later...

I like the axe! I'd be happier with a simpler (but more elegant) handle design. I have two or three swiss carving hatchets now, and I really love using them. I do quite a bit of light splitting with them. I've also used them for distressing/rusticating surfaces. They are much more versatile when you learn to drive them with a rubber mallet. They become handled chisels when used that way and are a great timber tool. I use cheaper ones in such manner for demo work too (I'd never risk my swiss ones for that type work).

They are great for roughing out spoon and other treen ware blanks! With one of these, a hook knife, a pruning saw and a small patch of woods you can spend some fine days outside and show up at home with a few useful things.

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Thanks all you guys and gals for your kind responses.I've only just noticed all this.

Bigfootnampa,may i ask if by Swiss you mean the type,or a certain brand?Pfeil,maybe?(the only ones that i'm slightly familiar with).If you've time,would you mind going into some particulars on the carving with a hatchet,such as weight,lengh,balance,blade radius,and the like?

In general,personally,i find the axe design an EXTREMELY challenging subject.Anyone,any thoughts on the process of coming up with a properly proportioned tool?Much discussion as to the construction particulars,but it's rare that the function of the tool is discussed.

Bill,thanks,that Gransfors Sweedish carving axe is a fascinating tool.BOTTOM corner forward,out of all things!Unfortunately,never had a chance to actually heft one,have you?

Thanks again,good forging to all!Jake.

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Here's an example of my stumbling around in the dark,trying to reinvent the wheel.
After viewing that Norwegian data about the Nordhordland regional axes,i've used that design to build one for a friend,as a general use,woodsman's axe.Of course,the originals are all broad axes,with an insufficiency of mass of wood in the eye,meant to be used in a much gentler,more controlled,slicing motion.
So,naturally,the handle broke all too soon.
I've cut the poll in half with a hack saw,forged the remnants into the extentions of the side pieces,and welded in another,wider,poll.The volume inside the eye is now almost twice of the previous.

Just in case someone is puzzled by the design,it's basically 4 pieces:Poll,bit,and the two sides.Just like a box.The body on this is wrought,the bit is leafspring.



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Thank you,Frosty,all's well,and the flood never materialised here.Other villages weren't so lucky,there's only 2 cabins left in the whole of Stevens village,FEMA,the works...
Likewise,i hope that all's well with you and yours,and that setting up of your new Golem is progressing smoothly!Take good care,Jake.

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That is good news Jake. I hadn't heard any bad news about Galena so assumed it hand't gotten too bad but you never know about the news, the destruction might not have been photogenic enough.

The hammer's coming along, fabbed a new motor mount and am finishing up the brake. A splash guard and treadle extension are next. Then all I have to do is WAIT for the welder to return so I can power the thing.


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I do have Pfeil... woodcraft sells them. The steel is really nice quality! I regularly sharpen mine till they can dry shave the hair from the back of my hand. My cheaper axes and hatchets are nowhere near as good. They have a fairly thin blade that is fairly uniform in thickness from the front of the eye to about an inch and a half from the edge, then it tapers from both sides. I have lengthened my tapers and grind them very slightly convex. As I keep them they will work equally well from either side. Even for such a simple task as chopping ice from the water troughs in winter they excel! I have several nice antique broadaxes that I am restoring but none are really quite ready for working yet... so I currently use the Pfeils for that too. I had one of these for years and used it little but when I learned how to make it work for me it became quite a favorite tool. Now I keep several so that one is usually near to hand. They often find work in creating the roughed baulks for the drawknife and shaving horse. Mine are large axes for one hand use... I might like a smaller version for many things. Their handles (original) are longer than needed as I almost never take a full swing with them. Commonly I will be using them with my hand right up touching the bottom of the eye. When splitting the length is sometimes useful for leverage though.

I am an advocate of controlled splitting for roughing carvings (or treen ware). I find that the axe and gouges are much more satisfying to use than the chain saw. They are very nearly as fast too and more accurate. Another bonus is that the marks left by roughing with these tools are attractive and need not necessarily be reworked for a nice appearance (which is NOT what I feel about chain saw marks). I'll bring one in here tomorrow and give you a little more detail on the architecture/size etcetera.

Edited by bigfootnampa
spelling splitting
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Bigfootnampa-THANK YOU,that is most kind of you to give such a detailed,expanded answer.Crucially important,that-to pursue a purpose in toolmaking,that is the other half of the tool.Without taking in consideration it's counterpart,the material that the tool will be used on,the maker is in trouble-our design becomes sterile,the tool will be a poem that will never be read.
That roughing out of which you speak is extremely important,that's when the wood first encounters the cutting edge,gets oriented the right way,it's the beginning of most woodworking-the wheelwright,the cooper,the clog maker(who was it that brought up the block knife design the other day?),they all begin with a good,often specialised axe.Examining old tools,and communicating with the woodworker is something that the blacksmith simply cannot live without.(Here read the "user" of the forged end product,be one an armourer,or whatnot.Otherwise one degenerates into the abstraction further and further,but i digress...).
So,a fine,apple-seed section for the edge geometry,and the steel capable of taking,and maintaining a good edge,is what you value in a carving axe,roger that,thank you.
The choke hold that you favor,do you think it has more to do with control in general?Would you still choke up on a hatchet of lesser weight?
How would you specialise,if at all,a hatchet for predominantly the end-grain work?
(Sorry about my "insat'ible curiosity"!Of course,please only answer what your time,and inclination allows for).
I'd be extremely interested in seeing some of your broad axes/hatchets.(The holy grail for any axe-obsessed smith,of course,is the "goosewing".Why have the Moravians,and other Germanic folk got away from it?Would love to forge one,at least once...).
Having asked a pile of questions must say that i've a week or so long up river trip coming up,so that i may vanish for a short while,but,i shall be back.
Warmest regards,Jake.

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It was probably me who brought up the block knife Jake. I felt the need for one to make small handles with. I can work the first end while clamped in the shaving horse but the second end has too little room for clamping. My plan is to hand hold them on a bevel while shaving the ends against a block with the block knife. I have since searched the web for a supplier without success. I have tried to make one of my carving axes serve by clamping it in a forged piece of flat bar with a hook on the end (the hook for grasping the staple in the block). This was no go as the weight made it way too cumbersome to use (maybe I could have used lighter bar... 1 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch... still I think a failed design). I am next forging a hook on the end of an old drawknife blade (in place of one of the handles) and trying that.

In the meantime I have developed skill with an old tool called a "carver's bib". It is a chunk of wood that hangs around my neck like an oversized pendant. I have forge welded a little slide buckle that adjusts a piece of macrame cord to hang it at just the right height (over my breastbone). I fit it with a groove and a small center depression to help keep the small handles in position and can use powerful wrist twist strokes to carve the handles while the bib allows me to cut right at the ends of the wood without being very careful not to cut myself. In this way I have one hand to operate the knife and one to hold the work. it is WAAAY faster than trying to clamp the work in my off hand while cutting away from myself... but I still think the block knife is the way to go. Essentially my carver's bib is accomplishing a similar thing... the work piece is clamped between a solid block and my hand controls the angle at which it is presented to the knife. With a true block knife I will also have the leverage of the staple hinging action and the larger blade and should be able to cut even faster! I have seen tobacco knives that were similarly designed (but they were too attractive as antiques to be priced right for a user like me).

The drawknife seems right for the task as it has a stiff rib back with a long (but not too long) blade and a one sided bevel. I have one with through tangs so just have to make a hook of one of those and forge the peened end back straight on the other end and fit a new handle. An easy job but I have so many such things ongoing at any one time that some get back burnered for a while.

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  • 6 months later...

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