Make a War Axe!





Introduction: Make a War Axe!

I've recently been watching many historical movies, such as braveheart,vikings etc.. and i really wanted to have that fearsome weapon that is used in old wars and battles. The axe is a real horror if used as a weapon, of course i'm not gonna kill anyone with it, only zombies :). I use it for branch cutting, wood splitting which really releases the stress, but not a heavy duty axe (i'l explain why later), and a decorative item to be proud of.
I'm a peaceful person,also secretive, i don't hurt or lie to anyone and i get very patient on things that annoys me, and that annoys me! so i often need to relieve myself from this negative energy, this anger i have from all the pressure from college,family etc.. so i did this project instead of breaking a window glass or a mirror, enjoy !

Step 1: The Handle : Main Shape and Design

In our piece of land, we have this tree (Melia azedarach) that has a really tough grain and wood, the tree needed cutting every few years and logs from it set in the stockroom getting dried up. one of the logs had this curve that looks familiar to an axe handle, so i took it, split it in half, and clean it from the bark.

Note : to see how i restored the axe head shown, watch my other instructable :

the steps here are symmetric to the pictures by order :

  • I begin carving the shape i want with a razor and a wide U chisel
  • Draw the handle outline on a paper, on top of it draw the axe head u bought to see how it should look and how much space it will take to fit in the handle, then draw the design, i don't know why i chose a horse, maybe that's an axe warrior's biggest threat ,since a well armored knight would have an advantage over him with a long sword or spear anyway, draw whatever you like.
  • Mark the handle to where the axe should fit, the "eye" is the axe part that fits in the handle
  • Start removing wood gradually to take the shape of the eye, sand it to make a smooth round, you'l notice this dark rust on the handle since i consistently pull it in the head to know where to remove wood
  • The handle fit should take the shape of the eye, slightly bigger is better
  • Carve the main shape as drawn on the paper.
  • With a pencil draw the horse head, shape it before sanding.
  • Use coarse sandpaper to refine the handle shape, straightening the lines so that both sides of the handle are the same ,giving it even balance.
  • Start working with details, carving the horse head gradually, i didn't like the eye,i had an idea to put that copper-looking pin in it's place so i removed it.
  • You'l notice that the head consist of 3 layers, layer over layer, start with the back layer which is the rounded jaw on the right and the mouth on the bottom, carve the background (which is the neck) around the jaw to give it a bevel, also carve the mouth shape, don't come close to the next layer above, just focus on beveling the back layer. Now move to the above layer which is the armor protecting the horse's face, shape it and bevel it by carving the layer in the back of it (which is now the jaw and the mouth). Now move to the final layer which is the armor, here i used gradient bevel, you'l notice the bevel will start growing from the left (which is low) gradually increasing the height between the two layers to give it a unique look.
  • Before i did all this beveling, i carefully analysed the side and profile of the horse head to figure out where to carve,bevel, make a round etc..

Step 2: The Handle : Design

I made a mistake here, i was so excited to see how it looks,so i sanded the handle so that the axe will fit, that's WRONG, because the head should be hammered in the handle to make a good grab, i managed to find a solution for this later on, now :

  • After carving the horse move on to it's armored torso, where your hand will fit in, it marches in the same layer concept, it's like the brick roof tiles but i carved those in one layer.
  • I chose to use hemp strings on the body which are intersected approximately 90 degrees by brass-looking tacks, that holds the hemp tightly without loosening
  • I draw the hemp routes, so that the lines are parallel and the intersections are aligned, then hammer the pins where they should be inserted, to know their place after you sand the handle and dye it
  • Remove the tacks with a locking pliers and dispose those.
  • Sand for the second time the hole handle except the axe fit with a coarse sandpaper
  • Make sure to sand any irregular surface, removing any bumps, a simple way to detect these is by placing the handle in the sun, any bumps will clearly be seen
  • When all surfaces are cleaned and sanded, the handle is ready for dying, i took the handle to a furniture refinishing shop, he just grabbed a cotton piece, dipped in alcohol and dye, then dyed the whole handle, two times only ( i don't want it too dark) . I chose walnut dye to give it an antique look.

Note : The dye will give a glossy look only at first, when it's completely dry it will get more matte, i want the axe to look antique so no glossy or varnish is needed in this project.

  • Get the brass tacks in place, hammer those slightly at first so they don't bent
  • Don't hammer those completely, you want to leave a gap underneath them so that hemp strings can can pass through and tied to them.
  • Cut about a meter and a half of hemp string, it doesn't need that much but just for precautions. Tie the string in half so that you have equal strings
  • Start with the first pin which is the one on the horse back, you pull the string firmly under the pin, than hammer the pin tightly, this is your starting point.
  • Start pulling the strings FIRMLY, you don't need a loosen one, passing through one to another, the two equal strings will hook up under the pins so you need to work firmly, you must pass the string underneath all pins and tighten it well than you can hammer each pin which firms the string for good

Step 3: Sheath

A leather sheath is necessary for safety.

  • I make a sample of a low quality industrial leather to see how the shape will look and take all measurements.
  • I bought a high quality tanned leather( this piece costed me eight dollars) : mark the locking strip and the sheath, which you draw it more bigger than the size you want, you will need enough space for the tack buttons that will hold the sheath from the edge of the axe
  • Draw the shape you approximately want on the axehead, fold the leather in half and put the head as shown in the pic, covering the design when you fold the leather on it,
  • Start cutting gradually with a sharp razor,cut in two steps the first a shallow one to mark,the second to cut it deeply, remember it's a high quality leather, mistakes will cost you. mark with a pencil the edge where the buttons will be set, give it a lot of space.
  • Cut the edge then fold the leather to cut the second half identically like the first, put the tack buttons with even space between them, leave an inch between the upper button and the center of the sheath where the fold will be made, the fold will take space since the leather is thick. The button on the bottom right under the axe is critical, this will control how and if the axe will suit properly, in the arrangement i made in the pic, that button will need more space between it and the axe ( or the sheath will be too tight for the axe to fit in) so i adjusted it.
  • There's a tool for punching the buttons into the leather that i didn't get, instead i just heated a nail and penetrate the sheath where the buttons will set, i put the buttons on both sides( one male,one female) then intercourse them and hammer them roughly,
  • Continue shaping the sheath gradually with the razor, giving it a smooth round.
  • Now let's dye that sheath : get a piece of leather from previous cutting and try dying it with a leather dye, figure out how many layers do you need to coat the leather, the more you lay, the darker the color.
  • Place the sheath and dye it on the outside only, i gave it two coats
  • You should dye the sheath before setting the buttons, if you did like me, just clean them with a cotton and alcohol.

Step 4: Finishing

This was the most stressful step in this instructable, if the handle isn't installed properly in the axe, it will be ruined, it's also dangerous if the head fly's off while splitting a wood.

In the second step i sanded the handle so the axe will fit in easily, instead of letting it in the same size as the axe eye and then hammering it firmly, so i've comed up with a solution for this mistake, to see how to restore an axe by a professional watch this video, it helped me alot.

  • I found these wooden chips that comes with canvas, the wood is soft so i thought maybe, if hammered well, will take the shape of that eye, i glue two chips with a wood vynyl to make it thick
  • Then i glue two other chips to them, working as a wedge
  • Carve the wedge so that the pointy end is thinner than the top, taking a v shape. saw the handle in half where the wedge will fit.
  • Sand the sawed part as needed for the wedge to fit.
  • Increase the size of the handle by adding an offset, glue the fit and cover it with sawdust
  • Glue the eye from inside
  • Glue the wedge
  • Place the wedge on the handle, start pushing it carefully through it with a hammer, it will break easily since it's thin from the bottom, so be careful.
  • When you reach about the half of the wedge, start hammering the wedge roughly with power
  • Punch it down deeply hard until it just doesn't make sense punching, the wedge now has gone deeply and won't penetrate more
  • Clean the excess glue to see what happened,
  • With saw, cut the remainings of the wedge that didn't get through
  • As i hoped, the soft wooden chips did well, in result of hammering real hard the wedge fitted well, it took the shape of the eye ! look at the eye from the pollside, you'l notice that the wedge took a rounded shape that fits perfectly in it :D
  • Wait for the glue to dry for 2 hours minimum

As i said before, the axe isn't appropriate for heavy duty, because the axe head is not of best quality sadly, when i hit a trunk perpendicular to the woodgrain with ultimate force, the sharp edge would blunt and wont maintain the shape and sharpness, so i only use it for splitting logs and cutting branches and thorny bushes, and a decorative item in our salon!

I used coarse then smooth sandpaper to give the head a bright and clean it up, and with a bastard file i file the edge so it runs on an even line,then i sharpen it on a sandstone coarse than smooth side about an hour to make it more sharp.

will post a video soon..



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    Nice looking See if someone is making high quality ax heads for your next one. That good a looking item should be usable. The wedge system you used is standard for affixing handles. Use a good quality ash or hickory for the handle and a dark hardwood for the wedge,

    1 reply

    Thanks, the axe is usable but not for heavy duty logging, hopefully i will find a good axehead for my next project, maybe one with a known manufacture or a logo.

    Thank you for your information.

    Cool design. Looks like a lot of fun to carve and craft. thanks for sharing. You should try etching a design into the steel.

    1 reply

    Thank you for your comment, in fact i looked up on techniques used in carving steel, they use sharp chisels and stuff, kinda close to woodcarving..

    I will definitely put some brass dome head tacks on my next tomahawk! They look great!

    1 reply

    I know ! they give it a really antique look :D thank you

    Very nice hatchet handle! I have put homemade handles in heads for years. Now I will have to try some carving along with the replacement! Most impressive.

    1 reply

    Thank you so much ! i would like to see your work !

    The sheath gives the 'hawk a bearded look which is double awesome.

    The sheath gives the 'hawk a bearded look which is double awesome.

    I will definitely put some brass dome head tacks on my next tomahawk! They look great!

    Nice viking feel. With the wedge you should really use a hardwood so it doesn't compress over time I assume. I can predict the places it will break ...around the pins or especially around the bend in the handle.

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comment, please read this article about the wood i used:

    the wood has a really though grain, with a high crushing strength (a little less than hickory), the tough grain runs all the way through the handle, so i don't think it's gonna just break off, of course all handles will eventually break let's hope it last's for good !

    Hey, this turned out looking really nice. I really like the unique shape of the handle; it looks very comfortable!

    1 reply

    Thanks sam! i carved it to suit my hand, it grabs really well :)