Stone Age Axes

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Introduction: Stone Age Axes

This time we'll go back to Stone Age times, with modern tools!

Stone axes are cool stuff. They exist in a large number of forms and sizes and for thousands of years they've been used for construction purposes, hunting, war and mosquito smashing. The first 'axes' were unhafted - without a handle. Trying and erroring the caveboys discovered that their tools could be a lot more effective if fixed to a pole - the hafted axes were born.
Hafted axes are or 'grooved' or, of course, 'ungrooved'. The 'groove' refers to a modification of the shaped stone - called a 'celt' - that forms the heart of the axe. Those celts are almost indestructible and eagerly found on archeological sites.

In this Instructible I'll show you how to make a basic stone axe. I don't want to copy any style and I don't want to refer to a particular historic period. It's all about fun and following your creative instinct.

Back in time axe building must have been a long and hard work, but with some modern tools it's really a piece of cake.
Wanna do it the old way with a sand bed instead of an angle grinder? Feel free!

You'll find a lot of usefull information on http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com

Step 1: Shaping a Pebble Into a 'celt'

Search a pebble. Granite, diorite and all kinds of volcanic rocks are pretty fine. Sandstone and flintstone (of course) are also okay.

Use angle grinder with a diamond disc to rawcut the pebble and a heavy sanding disc (the kind used to sand concrete, bricks, metal etc.) to do the rawsanding. Take care of your hands because the disc makes no difference between pebble and meat, use gloves and goggles!

Howto? Like in the pictures: conical, sharp end on the large side, round end at the top.

Fine sanding paper will finish the 'celt' aka axe-shaped pebble. I ended with a 800 grain water-sanding paper.

I stupidly lost the pictures of the shaping process of the granite celt but there's some stuff of another celt - much smaller and dark, maybe basalt.

Step 2: Shaping the Handle

I made the handle of olive. It's a very solid wood and I love to work with it. I learned that you have to stay away from straight-grained woods because the straight grain makes them split easier. Good species in the States are dogwood, hickory, and ash. In Europe: common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is just right. Or olive.

Prehistoric axes have a lot of 'meat' on the celt-side. This reinforces the axe and makes it 'swing' a lot better.

Cut the log to the size you want - a good rule is that the handle measures 4 times the size of the celt. No rocket science.

I found a pretty nice piece of wastewood with a lot of carves and imperfections. I put it away a long time ago, didn't want to burn it because 'you never know for what it could be used for'... Using an angle grinder, again, with raw sanding discs (50 to 80) I shaped it to the, well, shape I wanted. Never waste any piece of nobel wood, you see...
Since I didn't want it to be 'too perfect' I did no plastic surgery and conserved as much as possible the original curves of the log. We're building a replica of an ancient axe, no laser-shaped multitool.

Step 3: Drilling the Handle

Now you'll fix the celt into the handle. Measure it, draw the cross section of the celt on the handle and start drilling.

Achtung! The flat sides of the celt shouldn't make contact with the handle. You should be able to see daylight on the right and left side of the celt. This will protect it against splitting.

Drill in a conical way, file, sand, try, sand again, try, sand, finish!

Step 4: Yabadabadoo!

Finish handle & celt with natural oil, teak oil or whatever kind of finish and jam the celt in it's cave. If you like you can reinforce the handle with leather straps or tendons.

The GROL axe (granite&olive) has been oiled with clear oil, the BROL (basalticrock&olive) with teak oil. Teak oil is relatively dark and gives an excellent finish to the wood. Bring it on with bare hands - FEEL THE FORCE! - and wipe the excess oil with a towel.

How does it cut? Well, they haven't been tested yet. The best is yet to come!

Thanx for watching!

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52 Comments

Looks great.
Met de naam 'Bricobart' neem ik aan dat u uit België komt?

Uiteraard, 't was té voor de hand liggend om niet te gebruiken ;)

Do you need to wear a dust mask before sanding the rock?

You should - but I admit that I use to 'forget' it most of the time...

one last suggestion...sinew is much stronger than rawhide, and would have been the traditional binding material of the age. also shrinks when applied wet and left to dry

Sold in commerce? Or do I have to hunt the mighty mammut to have it?

sinew would be good and can be obtained from any freshly killed animal the bigger the better and is basically the tendons refined into usable cordage it wont be hard to look up in a good survival guide the method for this . the thing about rawhide is it also shrinks into placce as triumphman discovered and would also have been used almost as much as sinew in ancient times and is easier to prepare (cut the skin into strips and soak. the only thing i dont like about your axe is it is to uniform and looks to clean to be a genuine caveman axe maybe you could distress it with a hammer carefully with glancing blows to give it that old effect

I agree, it looks almost too perfect... Professional handycap - I like sanding paper ;-)

I just think it is ironic to use a highly advanced electric diamond impregnated grinder wheel to make this most basic of stone age tools.

But that is just me !

Maybe like cooking a buffalo with a star trek phaser .