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I Forge Iron

Hatchax build Steeled wrought iron

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So, Littleblacksmith and Arkie,  gave a shout out for a hatchet video or question as to a hatchet video.    I don't have a hatchet video because of how long it takes to make a hatchet. 

I call it a hatchax since it's really a very like hatchet with a very long handle.   I use a boys ax handle total weight is 2.5lbs the head is 1.75lbs. 

Its funny because a hatchet and a full size felling axe take nearly the same time.. Literally just about the same time. 

The wrought iron was supplied by Judson Yaggy, donated to me for a hammer build..  I still have enough for a hammer.. Anyhow, this wrought iron was about as course and unrefined as i ever do tell. 

Even 3/4" in thickness it wanted to split at all heats..  So with this in mind I had to change the standard way of making  the hatchet.   I had to weld the eye without thinning the area for the tool steel to be inserted.  this way the welding of the 2 sides would support more work without fraying and splintering.   

So, once the eye was welded the place for the steel was cut back open and inserted..  Because of the amount of steel I wanted when pushing the steel into the cut, the wrought iron peeled from both sides like a checkered board..  Really some interesting stuff..  

Inserted the steel and took a welding heat.. during this welding phase the wrought iron can not split or ravel as it is being supported by the steel in the middle.. You can see how nicely it welded to the steel with no delams.  You can also see that the area where the eye was/is has some slight delams. Stringy stuff for sure. 

I wafted at the orginal design and changed it to the pattern shown.  I like the looks of the unfinished ax but wanted something with better lines..  Again the main problem was I could not do anything about a preform so all changes had to be done after the steel was welded in. 

That punky look in the first photo is all from the wrought iron..  The first heat there was a pile of stuff on the anvil.. It also had some rust which was strange. 

The first clean up of the eye was to see if the wrought iron was good enough. 

7th photo was after the high corner was forged back down and in. 

8th photo is center spine forged in and heat treated.  

9,10,11 handled, polished with 220 and ready for acid. 

the rest of the photos are of the finished Hatchax.  The last photo is of my old hatchetax made back in 1990 and its time for a redress. 

the old Hatchax weighs about 6Oz more than the new one. 


















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1 hour ago, jlpservicesinc said:

Its funny because a hatchet and a full size felling axe take nearly the same time

Just a lot tougher on the tong hand wrists and more radiant heat for the hammer hand.

Nice work as usual Jennifer.  Last one out of wrought I tried I wrapped the eye just a tinch too cold and split it at the back corner.  I have got to get my home coal forge going soon, the gas forge just doesn't concentrate the heat well enough for wrought iron welds.  Right into the reject bucket for that one.

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Latticino,  Thanks.. :)

have you found the same thing?  Time wise?? 

I  spent some time looking at it awhile back and yes the amount of work and higher heat loads do apply, but for some reason the time does not change much between the 2..   by hand I always figure about 6 hrs for either and it varies between 5 and 8hrs depending on materials and if there are any hiccups.  40lbs of coal was used.. 

Of course a really small hatchet is faster, but overall if the hatchet is a decent size 1.5lbs-2lbs  vs a 4-5lbs ax.  any larger and time does go up. 

I'm intrigued now as it barely even makes sense but this has been the case..  What I do notice is for any given material once you get past a certain thickness threshold the metal moves about the same.   Guess, I'm just thinking out loud.. 

I thought this one was going to shear at the bends too.. LOL..  the iron was that finicky.  You can actually see the forging aspect on the striations on the sides of the hatchet as the compression and elongation and shearing of the fibers happened. 

the rear poll has a deep cut in it from the original bar where it either rusted or wasn't welded fully from the bloomery.   when I forged in the sides you can see where this sheared metal ended up on both sides of the middle of the eye. You can still see that little void in the poll.. You can also see where the sides both top and bottom how it was sheared and pulled away when the poll was forged in.. 

anyhow, I love to see the grain flow and get all geeky about it..  fun way that is. 

In the photo you can see where there is a void at the eye on the right.. it doesn't pass through though it looks like it does.  the eye is just a little bit off in this photo as the bit is leaning some,  I took this out as an adjustment to straighten the bit,  but was leary about doing any more work on the long side of the eye,  because of the fatigue factor with wrought and inducing a large fatigue crack. 

Do you massage the eye mandrel in by working the sides.. Or take a more direct approach but smacking it in like with drifting? 


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I'm not the smith that you are, and only have around 20 axes, hatchets and hawks under my belt at this point (not counting failures), so don't really feel qualified to judge forging efficiency.  It does make logical sense to me that the number of forging steps doesn't change a lot for a certain range of sizes, at least if you are able to just increase the amount of force you can exert with each blow to address the change in thickness.  Of course that doesn't include the huge anime type axe my son keeps wanting me to make (trying to manipulate that 6-8# billet with tongs trashed my elbow - I don't know why I didn't think to weld on a handle...).  Probably wouldn't have fit in my gasser once I drew out the bit in any case, so just as well I had a weld failure while narrowing down the neck.

As far as eye shaping, I typically try to shape the cheeks to some degree before welding the eye together (ala James Austin, Mark Aspery, Sam Ash, Elmer Roush, and others).  Done correctly there isn't a whole lot of driving and drifting involved.  If I do have to drive in the axe or hawk drift I try to clamp closed the top of the eye in the post vise to avoid additional stress.  At times for simple hawks I don't preshape the cheeks, but then it is more work hammering with the hawk mandrel in place to shape afterwards.  Starting to use my treadle hammer a bit for peening out the cheek width and locating the initial offsets with a top fuller.  It nicely takes the place of having a striker for this.  Unfortunately that doesn't help with the angled blows that are nice for later shaping of a viking style after all the welding is complete..

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JLP, you ever do the cut, stack, weld, repeat; to refine coarse WI before using it on a project?  Of course I love the coarse WI look to that axe---makes it look quite old indeed!

Latticino; I assume your WI rejects get busheled and reused at some point?   I've even seen quite small bits used for Oroshigane.

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After I get done being disgusted with myself for screwing it up I certainly reuse my WI scraps.  Haven't done Oroshigane as yet, just repurpose for guards bolsters and the like.  Have to look into it for a future project.  Not sure where/how I would get the carbon content to up the wrought to usable HC.  Need to do more research.  I know Emilliano Carillo does a lot of this.  I'll have to check with him.

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That was one of methods that Ric Furrer used in his "3 ways to make steel" demo at Quad-State a number of years ago.  He had a bunch of little low C pieces that were run through a solid fuel forge using a box bellows and bellows thrall(---me) several times and then forge welding into a billet that sparked like 1% C. (The other 2 were blister steel and cast steel).

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Wrought iron I’d hard for me. This is wagon wheel tire with some high carbon in the bit I forged yesterday. Welds were great working it white and tried to flatten out the curve by placing bit perpendicular to the anvil face one light hit and trash!!


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2 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

JLP, you ever do the cut, stack, weld, repeat; to refine coarse WI before using it on a project?  Of course I love the coarse WI look to that axe---makes it look quite old indeed!


I could see the seam when I started to bend it..  I figured I'd just weld it back in once bent. 

I have in the past when time wasn't important or I wanted both welding time and hammer time. 

I had no idea what to expect going into it and really didn't want to process more time wise with material losses..  Overall I was only off my time by a few minutes overall with the change in method. Just meant having to be willing to be flexible and figure out the corrected procedure. 

Momatt, that actually looks like the fracturing I had mentioned earlier.    It will participate across the grain instead of with.  this can happen when trying to drift the eye..  It's why I asked if Latticino massaged the eye area around the mandrel or drifted hard.. 

I have a tendency to massage the material around the eye to conform to the mandrel.. Especially with Wrought iron.  Mild steels does't really care.. 

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