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Bow Tie Felling Ax <photo heavy>

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I started this project back in 11/2018 at the last demo of the year.. It was cold..  I called my buddy Scott who used to be my sledge operator to come over and help out. He was happy to. 

We made the mandrel and got about 1/4 the way.  It is amazing just how rusty I was then.   It really showed in the metal and how I went about moving it around. 

One facet that I have seen or recognized over the years is this " When I forge 1/3 of something and come back to it 2 or 3 years later there are nothing but problems because the skill set that was used originally was completely supplanted with better skill sets so the metal now moves more in the direction demanded..  

Anyhow I find the measurements are always off.   Luckily I had completely marked out the bar way back then. 

In the photos are the last demo of 2018.  The 1/4 forged ax, the mandrel and a hook made. The ax handle which this will fit so stock ax handles will be able to bought off the shelf or ordered. 

The mandrel as ready for use.   3 different handles..  this ax will fit a straight handle with the largest eye.. 

I had a discussion with a fellow smith and we talked about "Over lay",  "Insert" (bow tie/butterfly) and "Side Lay".    I drew the "Over lay" for him to see and get on the same page.. 

The Overlay is actually a newer method..   Insert (butterfly/bow tie) is the oldest for modern axes of the straight blade and even double bit types. 

The overall length of the eye has to be accounted for both in the scarf and in the mandrel.. You will both gain and loose material depending one how one does it..  I like to make my eyes tight and then massage the outside material around the mandrel.  

No matter whether its a small carving hatchet or a hatchax or even a felling ax. They all take nearly the same amount of time.. I don't fully understand it but 5-7 hrs is normal working by myself, with all hand work. 

I have about 3hrs in at this point or just over.  Maybe 4..  today was 1hr 10minutes.  Yesterday was about the same.   And about 1 Hr at the demo. 

Ax mandrels take a while to make.  The way to think about them is as a "Large and thick knife blade" and are forged nearly the same way with a preform. 

So, of note..  The inside the peening marks can be left inside the eye.. The "bit" there can be no peen marks inside the scarf or the weld area for the bit. 

The reason why I mention it is because one needs to keep in mind where the which hammer face or peen is being used. 

The eye scarfs are forge welded together before the bit is added in for welding. the tool steel is shaped to fit into the inset area. 

On this Ax it is a felling ax so will have a Top to bottom medium width blade with thin ish thickness..   Looking for a 5-6.5" cutting edge and about 6lbs overall..  5lbs-6lbs is what I am looking for. 






















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So, just as an FYI.   With just coming out of the winter and being pasty and not having really any heat exposure..  when dealing with high heat in close proximity its a good idea to have some sort of protection.. 

I could feel the heat but I have a very high threshold for pain and was more interested in getting the eye welded,  With this said once everything was shut down, I went and soaked my bicep in extremely cold running water..  Most of the inflamed skin is better few small reddish dots. 


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IR exposure can get you before you notice alright. A high pain threshold bites me too. I have a squeeze bottle of Aloe gel sunburn lotion that is good for 1st degree area burns like that one.

For worse burns 2nd +/- I found this stuff at a local store. "SilverBiotics," "Armor Gel," for 1st aid and burns. It's not Silvadene but it works better than aloe and a squeeze tube lives in my smithing tool bag with the other basic 1st aid gear.

One of the down sides of a propane forge is getting too close to the dragon's breath, just standing in line with the door will burn you from a distance.

Of course I suppose large area 1st degree burns helps take the winter wimpy off us eh?

Frosty The Lucky. 


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Frosty, that is a great idea to have the Squeeze bottle of Aloe gel sunburn lotion handy..   

Way, way back, I had a product that was called  "Freeze spray"  (it was and industrial product) which was a burn spray that you would spray on and it was cold on contact and coated the area with the appropriate medicinal.   great stuff, it would feel cold for 15 to 30 minutes after spraying it on.  (propably full of bad stuff). 

I haven't even thought about having and issue with high heat exposure but I'm getting old now and my skin has thinned some..  Super soft, but more sensitive to many things.. 

Everything looks good this morning..  Cooling off the area for a long time makes a world of difference. 

I suppose since I am forging more now I should stock up on lotions and such for burns..  the first aid kit is lacking any burn items.. 

Have you tried any of sprays? 


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13 hours ago, jlpservicesinc said:

When dealing with high heat in close proximity its a good idea to have some sort of protection.

When James Austin demos his large axes He puts on a complete "leather suit", including both a full length apron and a bib with long sleeve attached arms.  I thought he was way over the top, until I worked on one myself...

Your axe preform is a little different than the ones I'm used to.  I like the clever thickening of the stock in front of the eye to get a weld there without closing up the section where you will put the bit.  It does look like a bunch more work to setup, but that front of eye section is always the toughest to get a clean weld and maintain same.  When I've done this type of "butterfly" construction I  haven't spread out the front of the axe quite so far before welding the eye.  I think I like your way better, especially for getting the width of the edge, but it does demand that you are a better smith to accomplish it.

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Pnut. The product I had came from a Foundry.. it was just a white can about 2.5 or 3" across and maybe 6" Tall..  It shot out film that would instantly cool the burn and create this semi flexible gunk..   It worked really well at cooling the area.  I only used it a few times in my early days and as I progressed and got used to being burnt I sorta lost track of it. 

there are just some slight pink dots but they are really tiny and looks more like  skin blemish if one could even call it that.. Really nearly invisible. 

I will pick up a couple of cans to have on hand for students as well as an eye wash station. 

Latticino..    James Austin, and the big leather makes great sense..   I have tried to avoid larger forgings because I dislike the heavy output but over the last year have been picking and ramping up skill sets..    Few realize that while I address questions via the videos..  I also take on aspects that I feel I need work on and will work on them until I feel like I have it more or less under wraps.. Just like all the upsetting for awhile.  Everything I do or have been doing is me trying to get back in forging shape. 

I've done the nearly 6lbs wrought iron hammer build setup.. but it's a fairly condensed package only like 3X3X6"  and was towards the end of the summer so had plenty of heat exposure..   This piece has a rather large foot print all heated up..  So, this early in the season my skin is super sensitive to the heat.. :(  I can see where a good set of welding sleeves or half jacket would be sure handy. 

The preform for the butterfly/bow tie from, my understanding is/ was used when this method of insert was in commercial use before the over lay method became popular. 

With a good sledge person and properly sized stock this can be layed out pretty fast.  If you figure with only a hand hammer and lack luster skills I got this far in 3hrs and change.  Doing 5-8 a day would be possible..  I also chose a more technically hard pattern vs just a Kentucky or Michigan.  I thought about an easier pattern but also want something that I like the looks of..   This will just be a larger (Heavier) version of the Hatchax. 

The eye scarf can lead to a much more secure eye weld..   the overlay method in my mind is the best out of the commercial methods for strength and durability and soundness of the eye weld.  The oversteel scarf ends at the end of the eye so it can really push that metal together. 

As we know.  The weld in front of the eye is crack prone or spread prone so is crucial to get a good clean weld there..     This scarf gives that extra material so as you pointed out the area for the tool steel has someplace to sit into without opening back up the area. 

I have filmed the whole process so far to make a video from..    Just now sure how I will proceed.   I have a bunch of projects on the que list but they are advanced in nature and most are long..   I've been told by some of my preview guys that the videos all ready made for different handles and such should move to paid channel or DVD's vs Youtube. 

Today I was able to get another 1+Hr in..  I made good progress and got the tool steel edge welded in and more..   Its looking a little rough right now, but got about 1 more hour of finish forge work to refine all the little bits. 

Today, no burns or over heat exposure..  I was raring to go. 

I don't work with large section enough to remember how to do it with fire management. (keep fire fluffed and be careful about packing down the coke) This is the largest 1 Piece object I think I have ever worked on that takes up so much forge space. 

I forget you can weld a section at a time too.. Which I love it when the memory kicks in. 

Funny to think it will look a lot like the Hatchax when done. 








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1 hour ago, jlpservicesinc said:

the overlay method in my mind is the best out of the commercial methods for strength and durability and soundness of the eye weld.  The oversteel scarf ends at the end of the eye so it can really push that metal together.

I'm not familiar with this method, or at least not the term you are using.  Is there a video or guide that I can reference to learn more?  Your description paints a good picture, but I want to be sure I understand you.

Thanks for the guide and the dimensions.  That is a big boy for sure.  I made some measurements on mine axe collection and will add them to the post I made as you requested.

Unfortunately my wrapped eye axe sized more to the scale of your's had a weld failure, so I didn't get to finish it.  It was actually way heavier than it needed to be (around 5#) and I really trashed my tong hand elbow manipulating that mass off center with the tongs.  Should have been smarter and welded on a stick till I got closer to finishing.  Working in my gas forge the heat from it was appalling as well, since the entire assembly gets heated up to full welding temperatures on a fairly regular basis.  Probably why I worked it too cold and ruined the weld.

Nice work on your axe, as usual.  My personal preference is for a different hafting connection, with the cheeks further down on the handle.  I also like to see just a little of the haft protrude above the top of the eye, but that is just my aesthetics.  This looks like a solid, secure and very functional tool, with all the weight correctly distributed and a very clean forge weld.  I particularly like the shape of the eye and the well defined poll.

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Here is a drawing..  And video link.. From the research I have done..  the Stevens ax company in ME was the last company still doing them the old way with over lay. 

Collins and all the big guys moved onto  drop forgings and forging presses.    Bruks with good use of a forging press  has them laid out precisely. 

When steel became really cheap nearly all MFG's turned to Drop forgings and forging presses if they were still making money at axes.    Few realize that Axes and hand tools was a multi million dollar a year operation..   They were nessarcy tools for all..    Today I don't know anyone who needs and ax, but want one..   Chainsaws pretty much changed the whole game and then the lack of hand work. 

Pioneer Ax  overalay method: 



I plan on doing a video of the overlay method..  it's super fast comparatively for a standard pattern ax.

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So today was a good day at the forge.  I am nearly finished.. I'm at about the 6hr mark now IIRC

All I have left is the final drift of the eye.. For this I use a bottom mandrel which was originally used for shaping the eye from top to bottom.. Then I use a Top mandrel which sets the width. 

All hand done.. No machines..   I'm adding this, because I groove on it.. :)














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Thanks..  it's going to be a monster chopper.  Should I put a straight handle on it or a Does foot.. I have either as the eye is designed to take a standard off the shelf handle. 

Nice eye on the center bevel.  It also has and edge bevel too.   

I ran out of time again and my fire was so dusty and dirty.. I needed to go grab another bag of coal.. but time expired so just used the fire for what it was.  You can see where the flux/scale was stuck on..  Usually I will bring up to a high enough heat to just wipe it off with a brush or with a scraper so it looks kinda bumpy. 

The bevels are rounded so it was tough getting a clean center spine..  I will refine it some with the file tomorrow. 

I leave a leading top edge which throws off the geometry some from what people are used to, It does 2 things..  It leads into the cut and it has room for wear.. Once worn some it will have a normal geometry. 

20 hours ago, Latticino said:

Unfortunately my wrapped eye axe sized more to the scale of your's had a weld failure, so I didn't get to finish it.  It was actually way heavier than it needed to be (around 5#) and I really trashed my tong hand elbow manipulating that mass off center with the tongs.  Should have been smarter and welded on a stick till I got closer to finishing.  Working in my gas forge the heat from it was appalling as well, since the entire assembly gets heated up to full welding temperatures on a fairly regular basis.  Probably why I worked it too cold and ruined the weld.

Nice work on your axe, as usual.  My personal preference is for a different hafting connection, with the cheeks further down on the handle.  I also like to see just a little of the haft protrude above the top of the eye, but that is just my aesthetics.  This looks like a solid, secure and very functional tool, with all the weight correctly distributed and a very clean forge weld.  I particularly like the shape of the eye and the well defined poll.

I"m sorry to hear that yours didn't work out..  What kind of weld failure?  Any photos? 

Do you have good tongs for working Hatchets and axes?  I use  2 primary types..  I use a true ax tong and a pair of eye tongs.  The eye tongs were very old and broken so fixed them for them work.  It made it much easier.      I need to make a pair that are better adjusted to what I like. 

Wow, I imagine it is really tough.. Both forge heat and large piece of metal.. That does make it tough when doing just one section in a weld..   I did have a delam with bubble on the top but just popped it open with a hot chisel and welded it all back together. 

In an earlier photo you can see where I had intentionally moved the outside skin faster than the center steel so it looks like it was a delam on one of the eye shots. 

Do you spread the bottom of the ax cheeks?  

I only leave handle sticking out if it's a tomahawk design with a handle sliding into the socket from the top.. 

From what I understand the shaft standing proud was a viking thing or what is being shown as a viking thing..    You did a great job on your items on the page..  All very stylish and well proportioned.  

Thanks I like this modified stylized look..   Not quite any time frame but with elements of 1700's or so.. 

I have shown photos for the eye mandrels..  the bottom mandrel is used for the basic eye shaping and the rusty one is used for a top mandrel to set the top opening. 

The tongs first one is the vintage pair that were broken.. One of the ears was missing.. Pretty easy fix.  And then some beautiful Axe tongs.  These are to small for this size axe.. They work great for hatchets and a more traditional designed ax up to about 4lbs. 






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I just use hoop tongs, not as symmetrical as yours.  I appreciate your sharing these, and will put them on the list for future forging.  I've never seen axe tongs like the second ones.

I do spread the cheeks up and down before welding the eye.  Learned that from James Austin and Elmer Roush.

I typically use the same tapered eye mandrel for both the top and bottom of the eye.  I forge mine with handles that I hold onto, with a glove, when forging.  I know that Steve Ash uses shorter eye mandrels like yours, and keeps them hotter during forging.  Makes a lot of sense since it doesn't suck as much heat out of the billet. 

My failure on the large axe was partially poor planning, and also trying something a  little different.  I put a very substantial leaf spring bit in to the axe, long enough to go all the way up to the front of the eye.  My theory was that the HC would weld at a lower heat and allow me to set the weld more easily.  Unfortunately when trying to refine the profile I worked it too cold and sheared the weld completely.  May not have set it adequately, and I was certainly rushing due to the extreme heat and pain in my elbow.  I'll go for another one if I can convince my son to strike for me.  Will likely try your preform technique as I find that to be quite clever.

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Just to clarify so we are on the same page,  Hoop tongs are used to work with hoops also called drop lip tongs.(in photo).  I'm not being sarcastic..   Eye tongs are shaped like the ones in the other photo. basically a C with little tabs.   Ax tongs are shaped like the second set.   I do have another pair of eye tongs for hammer making but those are a different beast all together. 

For tomahawks and such hoop tongs work well.  I usually use them myself..  

But for Hatchets or Axes they really need special tongs since the poll gets in the way.   Very simple to make and work really well.  If one made the same type of Ax or hatchet all the time a special type with inner shoulder would be handy this way the head would not slide in the tongs at all. 

I use short mandrels so I can stick the whole thing in the forge if I want to use the mandrel as a welding aid...   I can then heat the whole thing up to welding temp, make the eye weld and drift the eye at the same time..  For Tomahawks I use a longer mandrel but also have a shorter one. 

The shearing of the weld can be a real problem..   In the photo of the ax on edge so one could see the inside scarfs you can see how thick the sides are..  I learned about the shearing factor the hardway myself.   I had done very much the same thing and before I knew it the leaf spring cut right threw the mild steel.. Sheared it right off. 

I now match all the welded items so this does not happen. 

In one of the photos above.. I forged one side more than the other so it thinned out..  To fix this I intentionally left one side on the anvil to cool and then using the peen of the hammer I stretched the other side more..   You can see it, it kinda looks like it delam but it did not.  I then hot rasped this extra material off. 

I am done with the head work.. I need to clean up the head a little more with some sand paper.. It's pretty much done. 

I'll clean the handle and put on the finial cutting edge.  It's just a preliminary edge now. 

Overall I am very happy, but with the notes from this one will make one more.    

Of note.. I have been making a wear edge (the top edge always gets beaten up in use) that once its been sharpened a few dozen times will be like a brand new tool in shape.  This leading edge works well for cutting but does beat the handles up some. 

It is kinda neat.. Was a fun and challenging project..  Can't wait to swing it.. 


























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Thanks.. :)    

I really enjoy project like this..  I went a little overboard..   This has many attributes that are not needed but I wanted to keep them all.  I'm disappointed I was not able to clean the cheeks of the eye up more.. :(

I will make 1 more axe  in the next month or so putting all I learned into the next one..   

Of note:   the cheeks were thinned to much to clean them up.. So next time will keep them forged thicker before the bend.  I've been spoiled working on smaller Hatchets that can be cheated to gain..   No cheating on this one. 

 The rest of the notes have to do with the forge and fire management dealing with an object that nearly fills the firepot. 

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Ok, thanks for clarifying.    Many do not know the difference..   Phoo..   I had some shaped like double pick up tongs..they worked really well for both tomahawks and for narrow polled axes. 

I find the eye type worked very well on this size axe..   I do want to make another pair with a slightly different design. 

I could not stand it..  I had to finish it more to try and clean it up some.   I'm like 96% ok with it now.  It's more impressive in person, but I can let it live as it is now. 

This was interesting..   I've never seen it before on Mild steel nor on 5160..    The Mild steel has a grain like wrought iron which one can see in the photos. 

The 5160 looks to have shed some of it's Chromium either or ????   Decarb layer????    I was shocked to see a silver layer.   Pretty cool really.  I did acid etch it. 

The photos don't do the Axe justice..  and frankly the photos,  the defects irk me.. 







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We are always our own harshest critics.  Perhaps that is what has driven you to become the skilled smith that you now are.

I think it is a great tool, well proportioned and a tribute to the classic form of the felling axe with the subtle newer "speed axe" beveling that should make it very effective.  The minor irregularities shown just indicate that it was handmade rather than machine produced.  I've taken to leaving the "fired on" oil finish on mine that comes from wire brushing the non-bit areas before hardening and not cleaning off all the oil when tempering.  I like the dark finish and it hides hammer marks that I don't pursue during grinding or filing.

Very impressive work.

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You are so right...  Because I have a certain vision in my minds eye before starting a project anything less than that is almost like having a tooth ache.. LOL..   

People are very kind.. 

This desire to produce good work as you pointed out is the driving factor in my own forge work.     When I say good work..  I mean items produced in forging factories that were well finished..   When I see an old hole punch, or a set of dividers, or a hammer or even a nice set of ice tongs..   I see the level of commitment the person had to achieve that kind of result. 

Now mind you,  if one specializes in an item it certainly makes it that much better.   To make 5-10 axes a day will make someone perfect the craft pretty fast.. 

I've been working at elevating my own work into an arena which previously either due to money, time, customers. etc, etc.  I never ventured into..  (to lazy).. 

I sound like a broken record..   the next one will be stellar.  Rant over.. :) 

Thank you and thanks for following along and contributing wonderful information.. 

I do like that you added your "fired on finish"..  It's a great way to go..   I love the looks of your pieces and had I not had an idea of what this was going to be.. I probably would have done the same thing, because it is a great finish and it has that just right looking patina with the correct elements of hand forged work. 

These are burnt oil.. One of my favorite finishes for sure. 





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  • 4 months later...

If you mean the 3 tongs the same, they are called Hoop tongs..   Or "Drop lip" tongs.    They are very handy for holding metal on the top edge.  Can be used for working with axes and such. 

If you mean the tongs above that is solo photos. 

the bottom one is an eye tong or Axe tong.  They are purpose built for working with eyed tools that are tapered. 

the problem with these tongs is they are fitted for the size of axe so only really fit one design or designs based on that size. 

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