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I Forge Iron

Finishing axes and Handles


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After browsing around for awhile I noticed some pretty nice looking hawks and axes around. How do you finish your axes? I currently just leave forge scale on them or wire wheel. What method do you use? Ive seen some polished once, Would I use an angle grinder and sandpaper for this? Im not use to polishing anything other than knives.

Also where is a good place to buy hammer/axe/hawk handles? or would I be better off making my own. Im pretty cheap and all the hammer handles I bought from the hardware store cant last for more than a month or so. An online dealer would be great if you know one.

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I forge to shape, harden and temper, grind to a sharp edge, then sand blast and cold blue the head, followed by burnishing with steel wool and oiling. This approximates a lightly used appearance and is better than bare steel. You can also play with browning compounds and get some interesting colors that can resemble various finishes on muzzle loaders.

I make handles from bois d'arc (osage orange) because I have access to it and it is xxxx for stout - almost impossible to break. Dixie Gun Works is a very good source and stand behind their product. In fact, my oldest hawk in my shop has one of their handles but it is not thrown - I only use it to chop.

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Those who polish usually do so with a buffing wheel and felt compound. Personally, I don't "believe" in polishing knives... I also don't believe in making knives that aren't "using" knives to at least a reasonable degree. Polishing comes after grinding and sanding to probably 1200 grit for most steels.

Woolridge, ever tried osage orange for a hammer handle? Is it too stiff?

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T-G,

I confess I have never tried osage on a hammer - for no particular reason other than I keep hickory on hand. However, I do have a seasoned stave and may give it a try. I started using it on hawks based on a recommendation by another smith but it is hard to work when seasoned. I usually get a fresh grinding belt and sand them to shape.

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Making your own
I'm a beginner blacksmith, but I have been making axe and sledge hammer handles for years. I use white ash because it is a good handle wood and it grows around here.
If you got a bunch of handle makers together they probably would argue forever which type of wood is the best and never agree. So what you'll have to do is find the wood that is suitable for handles that grows closet to you and use it, and after you made a few handles you can swear to heck it was the best wood ever invented.
I don't mean to sound flippant, but I don't even know what an orange osage looks like, but i know ash wood is better.
:mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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Woodtick,

Osage or Bois D'Arc is a large shrub/small tree that grows mostly in the south near moist areas. The Indians used it for bows and war clubs and the settlers used it for "live" fences - it is covered in thorns and almost impossible to get thru so the pioneers planted them in hedgerows to keep cattle in. The tree's fruit are big, grapefruit-sized green balls that are often seen in the woods and along river banks, which is how I usually spot them.

I've also used ash for handles and it is plenty tough.

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Osage is also known as hedge apple, around here (north central Indiana) it is only lightly thorned and they tend to be small thorns. The heart wood is normally bright orange when fresh cut, but tends to fade as it oxidizes to a deep yellow tinted with orange, or turn redish when oiled. The wood tends to sucker a lot, so there are twigs and branches coming off the main truck everywhere normally, which makes finding clean straight grain fun;-) and the trunk of the tree often has a twist. I have made osage bows before and it is an interesting wood to work with;-) Finding a clean straight trunk that has not been damaged, and doesn't twist, and isn't interrupted with suckers is probably why bowyering isn't more popular;-)

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I have only made a couple hawks, but I grind/sand them smooth with an angle grinder, then sandblast. A coating of WD-40 keeps most of the rust away, and it has a gray textured look.

For handles, I'm lucky. Our guild meets in a local buggy building shop, and the scrap barrel has hickory spokes from broken wheels, already tapered. Scrape off the paint, flame temper, add linseed oil and you're ready to go.

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BO-DARK, OSAGE ORANGE, HEDGE. It has different species in different places. MO., ARK., ILL. have about the same tree. When you cut them the first time they are not so hard, but after two or three sprout backs they are harder than the hubs of Heck. Same with MESQUITE. I guess they do this in some kind of protective mode.
So it depends on when you are using the wood. From a first time cutting or later. You can burn a Forester bit drilling BOIS-'D' ARC for two inch id. candle holders.Grin.
I have used it for everything from fence-posts to scales on full tang knives. When you take it down too thin, it has a tendency to spinter and split if you try to brad your pins, instead of epoxy. Do not like to carve it, it will spit if your knife is not razor sharp.
I like it in shoeing hammers for the lightnest and the feel, after it has sweated in. It would probably make good handles on Hawks, shaping hammers and lighter hammers. I don't think I would want to throw one.
I still would prefer ASH, HICKORY or WHITE OAK for handles and just stain to what ever color, I wanted.

Sandpile

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