Introduction: Viking Bearded Axe (Skeggox) From an Old Woodsman Axe

Hi! I'm The Redsmith, I'm a maker.

Last summer, I bought few axes at my local flea market for cheap. They were rusty and damaged, but I thought I could do something with it. Few days ago, I decided to make an simple axe restoration but as you will see, I ended with a Viking Bearded Axe, and I will explain why during this tutorial.

I'm really happy how the axe turned out. Having a bearded axe was one of my childhood's dream. Now, I have it, and even better, I made it.

I made a full tutorial video that you can watch here :

Let's get started!

Step 1: Choose Your Axe

For this build, you will need :
An old axe
A piece of hard wood (hickory, ash, hornbeam, cherry, or walnut)
A strip of leather
A black sharpie pen
An angle grinder with a cutting and a grinding wheel
A 2x72" belt grinder or a belt sander
A dremel
A welder (depending on the condition of the axe you use)

Step 2: Cleaning

First, I removed the handle and put it aside just to keep references for the one I made later.

Then, started to grind the axe head with an angle grinder and a grinding wheel to remove all the rust and the some dents in the metal. I took my time to not take out too much material and keep the two sides even.

Step 3: Lot of Grinding

I took my time to keep the surface of the head as flat as possible but I soon discovered small and big cracks into the metal. I was able to grind some flat and make them disappear, but some were very long and deep as you see on the pictures.

Step 4: Let's Weld the Cracks

So, I decided to weld the biggest cracks. I was not sure it would work because of the depth and length of the cracks, but it was worth trying to fix it.

I don't have a MIG or a TIG welder, so I used my old stick welder. I also welded a little crack inside the eye of the axe. Then, I ground the welds flat to check the result of this quick repair.

Step 5: Shaping

But I quickly realized that my welding method or technique (or both) was not the good one for this kind of repair. So, I decided to change my plans and reshape the head axe into a Viking Bearded Axe.

I used a lid of a jam pot to draw a perfect curve on the head and design the axe's head I wanted to make.

Then, I used a angle grinder with a cutting wheel to cut the metal and remove the most part of it.

Step 6: More Shaping

As the axe I used had a long poll, I decided to cut it with the angle grinder.

I used my 2x72" belt grinder to refine the shape and get perfect curves.

I also used it again to finish the head grinding and cleaning.

Step 7: Normalize the Head

The welding heated the head enough to partially ruin the head hardness, so I decided to go through a full heat treating process.

I started by normalizing the metal.

I used my little coal forge to heat the head to a low cherry red color (around 650°C - 1200°F) and let it cool slowly on the side of forge, away from the heat. The forge is made of refractory cement which acts as a heat insulator and enables me to let the metal cool very slowly. When it was cool enough to touch it, I put the head back in the fire. Once again, I heated it to a low cherry red color and let it cool on refractory cement.

I did that three times.

Step 8: Quench in Oil

Then, I needed to harden the head.

I wasn't sure what kind of metal was used to made this axe head, so I quench it in motor oil. I recommand you to always know what kind of metal you are working with and to respect the specifications of each metal for the quench. Some metals need to be quench in oil, some require water quench, some require only air cooling.

Be sure to always wear protective gears for a quench. Safety googles, gloves, an apron will protect you from heavy burns. When you quench a very hot piece of metal, oil (or water) may splash around and cause severe burn. Be sure to be safe in your shop / smithy.

I quenched the head during winter, the air and oil were both very cold so I heated a piece of metal and put it in my quenching tank to heat the oil beafore quenching the axe.

When the head reached a light red color (around 870°C - 1600°F) I quenched it in the hot oil trying to draw a 8 figure. When you quench hot metal in oil or water, a steam jacket forms around the metal and some parts of the materials could not be cooled evenly.

Expect the oil to catch fire and smoke a lot. So once again, protective gears are essentials and you may want to do it outside your house.

Step 9: Tempered and Make It Shine

Now the cutting edge of the head is hard, it needs to be tempered or it may break.

So, after cleaning the head I put it in my kitchen oven at 230°C (around 450°F) for one and an half hour. It should reach a light straw color.
Then, I cleaned the head once again using my 2x72" belt grinder and #120, #220 and #400 grid belts.

I finished the head with my buffing wheel and polishing compound to get a mirror finish.

Step 10: Handle

Time to make the handle.

These axe is meant to be a decorative piece so I used beech, but if you need a functionnal axe to cut lumber, you need a strong handle and should use oak, hickory, ash, hornbeam, cherry, or walnut.

The viking axe's handles are straight and not curvy as the modern axe's handles are. So I reused the old handle to take measurements of width and lenght.

I used my table saw to cut a piece a beech to lenght and width after marking the lines of the eye with a black sharpie.

Step 11: Shaping...again

I started to shape the handle with my 2x72" belt grinder to obtain a round section. This is the part which into the eye of the axe's head. Be sure to take your time and not remove too much material. The handle must fit the head perfectly otherwise it will get loose and the head may come off the handle. I recommand to make the handle a little bit larger than the head eye, just to be sure.

Then I used a plane and rasps to shape the handle to my hand.

The handle must not be round otherwise it will turn in your hand when you swing it.
I shaped my to an ovale shape, with the two sides flat to be able to carve it more easily later.

Step 12: Viking Knot

I printed a mirror image of a viking knot found on the Internet.

Then, I traced the lines with a pencil on a tracing paper. I applied the tracing paper on the handle making sure the lines previously drawn faced the wood.

I traced the lines once again to obtain a viking knot pattern on the wood of the handle.

Step 13: Carving the Wood

The lines were thin so I use a pencil then a black sharpie to make them easier to see.

I used a straight bit on my dremel to carve the outlines of the knot.

Then, I used a V bit to go inside the lines and give the pattern its final shape.

After a quick sanding with #80, #120 and #220 grid sanding paper, the handle was all done.

Step 14: Attaching the Head

Attaching the head to the handle is pretty easy if your shaping was done correctly.
The fit must be tight. Be sure to align the head cutting edge and the handle properly.

I finished attaching the handle by hammering the bottom of the handle gently.

Then I applied three coats of boiled linseed oil with a brush on the handle.

Step 15: Some Leather

I wrapped the head of the axe with a brown 20mm wide strip of leather.

It serves two purpose :

1) be sure that even if the head get loose, it would not fall off the handle. Safety first.

2) it's better looking this way ;)

Step 16: Sharpen And...

Just a final touch.I used my 2x72'" belt grinder with a #400 grid belt to sharpen the blade just a little bit. You can also use a stone to do it.

Then, I polished it with a cotton cloth and...

Step 17: ...you're Done !

...it's done ! Congratulations! Now you have an awesome Viking Bearded Axe.

You can customize it the way you want: choose different wood, stain the wood, use a different leather wrapping or even change the shape of the head.

Here is the full tutorial video :

I tried to make this Instructable as clear and easy as possible if you have any questions or requests for clarification, don't hesitate to comment. I hope you liked it and if so please vote and like, share and watch the videos.

See you soon for my next Instructable!

The Redsmith.

Comments

author
Modern Rustic Workshop (author)2017-02-20

Very cool and I love the pattern on the handle! I wonder how it might look if you were to spray paint the handle black, then sand off the high points, so it would only leave black paint in the places you carved out. I don't know if that would accentuate the pattern, or if it would look really tacky...

author

Thank you very much !That's definitely something I want to try in a near future. I didn't want to do it on this one because I feared it would make it tacky and ruin all the work I had done so far. But for sure, I will try it. :)

author
monsterlego (author)TheRedsmith2017-02-20

Another way you could do that would be to scorch the wood with a torch and sand the high spots off. Great build!

author
TheRedsmith (author)monsterlego2017-03-04

Exactly. Will try that next time.

author
dbenedetto (author)2017-02-21

does anyone know what the viking rationale was for this design as opposed to a modern axe head? Just curious.

author
AndersJ3 (author)dbenedetto2017-02-27

Iron was expensive, very expensive. So the form gives a long egg (cutting edge) but doesn't use that much iron. That is why swords was so much higher class, as it hed more iron than an axe (or spear).

And as christianm5 wrote, it also is useful to hook into the opponents shield. But that I guess was mostly just by the primary design. And as he wrote, Lindybeige channel are good, but there are some discussion between him and historians about interpretations of historical findings. But yes, the videos are entertaining.
https://www.youtube.com/user/lindybeige

author
TheRedsmith (author)AndersJ32017-02-28

Interesting. Thanks for the link

author
christianm5 (author)dbenedetto2017-02-21

i highly suggest you look at "Lindybeige" channel on YouTube. he has a great and entertaining explanation of different axe shapes for warfare. sorry, you'll have to explore to find it. if i remember correctly, one of the uses of the "beard" or the hook was to be able to snag an opponent or his shield. also weight vs cutting edge, i.e., speed of the swing. i hope i'm right!

author
TheRedsmith (author)dbenedetto2017-02-21

I'm not sure to fully understand your question, but if it is "what makes this axe a Viking axe rather than a modern one ?", I would say the shape of the head (bearded), the straight handle, the carving into the handle, the leather around the head. Modern axes are not bearded, have curved handles, no carving and rarely leather. I hope it answers your question. Thanks for watching. :)

author
saskfire (author)2017-02-24

just cool man.love it.keep it up

author
TheRedsmith (author)saskfire2017-02-26

Thank you very much ;)

author
Crossforge (author)2017-02-22

Vikings used this design as you had a fairly long cutting edge but needed less steel to make it. Cracks can't be fixed by heating and hammering as carbon and dirt particles will have found their way into the cracks preventing the steel from forge welding together even at very high temperature. You did the right thing by grinding out the cracks.

author
TheRedsmith (author)Crossforge2017-02-22

That's what I tought, thank you for confirming it. And thanks for watching ! :)

author
deluges (author)2017-02-22

What a beautiful axe. Thanks for walking us through your mistakes as well as your successes, it's good to learn from your own mistakes but feels better learning from those of other people ;)

author
TheRedsmith (author)deluges2017-02-22

Thank you very much ! Yes, exactly :)

Happy if I can help someone to learn and progress as other helped me before !

author
CalebGreer (author)2017-02-20

That's an awesome axe.

Voted

author
TheRedsmith (author)CalebGreer2017-02-20

Thank you very much !

author
ed-romes (author)TheRedsmith2017-02-21

I am just wondering as you have a forge would it not had been better to just get the metal good and hot and use the hammer to repair those cracks blacksmith style ??
As for the base relief carving on the handle I prefer knife work to get nice clean and sharp edge with a minimum of effort !! And a chance to add a bird or animal head to the design !! But then I'm getting used to carving canes with a spiral notch top to bottom and a wizard's face or wood spirit !!!

author
TheRedsmith (author)ed-romes2017-02-22

I'm not good engouh (yet ?) at forging to fix deep cracks. But a more experminted blacksmith could probably have done that.
Carving the handle was a first for me. I'm surely gonna try knife carving soon. :)

author
4DIYers (author)2017-02-21

Absolutely amazing workmanship!

author
TheRedsmith (author)4DIYers2017-02-22

Thank you very much !

author
rmorse730 (author)2017-02-21

But I quickly realized that my welding method or 'techique' (or both) was not the good one for this 'kinf od' repair. So, I decided to change my plans and reshape the head axe into a Viking Bearded Axe.

typos!

author
TheRedsmith (author)rmorse7302017-02-21

Only two ? Woaw, not bad for a french guys :)

Thanks !

author
M40 (author)2017-02-21

Very nice! Would be cool to add more of the knotwork patterns to the blade itself to tie it in with the handle.

I've done a few hatchet heads kind of like that.

Hatchet007b.jpg
author
TheRedsmith (author)M402017-02-21

Thank you ! That's something I've never done but want to try in a near future. Nice hatchet !

author
M40 (author)TheRedsmith2017-02-21

It's an Estwing hatchet that I took to a full flat grind. The artwork was cut from sign vinyl which is applied to the blade as a mask. The etch was done in ferric chloride, followed by plenty of buffing with jeweler's rouge.

author
TheRedsmith (author)M402017-02-21

I used this exact same techinque on brass before and it worked pretty well, but never on steel yet. For sure, something I will do in a near future :)

author
jpfalt (author)2017-02-21

You can prevent the cracking during welding by preheating the steel to 500 deg F. The cracks are caused by rapid cooling of the steel around the weld, which forms martensite which is hard, brittle and expands in size. Martensite usually forms during rapid cooling to below 250 deg F. If the work is above 500 deg, then no martensite. A slow cool afterwards avoids forming martensite as well.

An alternative is to do the weld with acetylene, where you preheat the steel with the torch and then do the weld. Again the magic number is about 500 deg F to prevent the forming of martensite.

author
TheRedsmith (author)jpfalt2017-02-21

Thank you for the tips. Will do that for the next one ! Thanks for watching.

author
TheRedsmith (author)2017-02-21

Thank you Terry. I really appreciate it. :)

author
robbadooz (author)2017-02-20

NICE!

author
TheRedsmith (author)robbadooz2017-02-20

Thanks :)

author
bigbluestu (author)2017-02-20

that was terrific, rescuing a tool which could very easily ended up as scrap and the video was very well shot too.

author
TheRedsmith (author)bigbluestu2017-02-20

Thank you very much. You're right, rescuing a tool is the right thing to do. I hate throwing away old rusty tools. There is always something to do with it ;)

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Bio: Hi, I'm TheRedsmith. I'm a maker. I make stuffs. You can support my work on Patreon.com (https://www.patreon.com/TheRedsmith). You ... More »
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