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First forge welded axe advice

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Ive tinkered around repurposing ball-peen hammers into axe looking things to work on my hammer drifting techniques. 

Now I want to make a small bearded camp hatchet. I have a 1.5" x 1.5" x 4" block of 1018 and some 1/4" 5160. My plan is to use the 1018 and forge weld the 5160 as the bit.

1. Anyone ever have issues welding these two metals together? Ive welded high carbon and 15N20, mild steel to mild steel, and mild to high carbon but I havent done much forging with 5160 outside making knives with it. 

2. Will the 1018 be a decent metal to use? I dont plan on cutting down big trees with it. More of an everyday bushcraft hatchet.

Id like to use 5160 since it will take repeated impacts better that high carbon, but if not I do have some 1080 in the shop. 

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I've made very effective hatchets with the stock you describe.  You can slot punch the mild for the eye pretty easily.  Use the right size and drifting the eye is not much bother either.  Trick comes in dealing with that much metal at forge welding temperatures (the right sets of tongs are invaluable here) and the actual blending of the bit to the mild steel.  A good scarf and cleaned surfaces will serve you well for the latter.  

You may get  a little carbon migration in your 5160 if you work it too long at the high forging heat.  You will still have an axe with a hardened bit, just not necessarily as hard as it might be with higher carbon inserts. 

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Thanks for the info Latticino. My biggest worry was with the chromium in the 5160 I would run into delamination issues.

22 hours ago, Latticino said:

the right sets of tongs are invaluable here)

Could you elaborate more on this? When I was working with the ball-peen hammers I would pre-heat the steel and arc weld a piece of 3/8 square to the flat head so I could use my V tongs for better grip.  

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In my experience 5160 doesn't like to weld to itself much, but if kept clean I've not had much trouble welding it to mild steel.

11 hours ago, Matt Scanlan said:

arc weld a piece of 3/8 square to the flat head so I could use my V tongs for better grip.

That will certainly work, but can be a little inconvenient when working on the eye.  I guess you could weld to the "front" of the axe blank while working the eye, cut that off and work the other side with a new weld on the poll, but in that case why not weld on a 2' section and just use that as a handle (like Jim Austin does with his axes).

I use tongs like these angle bit tongs that I forged for myself to hold the eye and larger bolt tongs to hold the "front" end while working the eye initially:


There are certainly many other options.  I know some like to use a variant of hoop tongs or even tusk tongs and hold the side walls of the eye.  The key is it is a lot of metal at high heat and held offset.  You need a secure grip with the tongs to not get overly fatigued.

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Latticino is right about the tongs.  Wrapped eye axes don't have much to hang onto unless you have tongs that will securely grab the side of the eye.

Once welded, grabbing from the tapered bit end to hammer the poll is a bit of a struggle too.  Pickup tongs might get it out of the fire, but they won't hold securely enough to let you hammer the work.


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Sorry about the delay but life got in the way. 

Heres the final axe. I chemically oxidized it the form a patina that I'm going to blue for an "antique" finish. 

I did use a welded handle for most of the forging, and made a pair of flat jaw tongs for the forge welding. 

As far as welding the only issue I had was getting the very edge of my 1018 scarf to weld. Other than that it went pretty smoothly. 

It might not be the prettiest thing in the world, but after 8 years of smithing I'm pretty proud of it. 


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I'm definitely happy. Up until this point my Smith experience has been ornamental and knives. My dad got me a book for Christmas that is about pre civil war tools. I plan on bringing some of them back to life and I figured an axe would be a good place to start. 

Almost done putting a handle on it.


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It's called 'A Museum of Early American Tools' by Eric Sloan. Tons of great illustrations and information. 

Got a handle fitted, used some locust that I had in the shop. Not the prettiest wood but it's hard as #%&*. Had another locust fall in a storm a few days ago so I tested it out on that.

I will say ive never forge welded anything that would be exposed to chopping forces. So this was a confidence booster for sure.

Went through the log with no problems, no cracks or delaminations, and the blade was still paper cutting sharp afterwards. Not even a small chip in the blade. 



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