Introduction: Pocket Axe - One Day Build
You are probably asking your self, "Who needs a pocket axe?" Well I'm here to tell you...nobody, well maybe most people don't need a pocket axe. But this have been on my to-do list for a while. I actually tried making a miniature bearded axe quite some time ago and failed. I gave up on it but I knew I wanted to revisit it someday so I went back out to my shop and gave it another whirl. So why make a mini bearded axe, well I don't need a life size one and I really don't have the space for it but I still wanted one. I find that I still get the joy of owning a bearded axe with out having worrying about where I will store it. I can keep this mini axe on my desk and not look like a weirdo that keeps an axe on his desk, you know? I didn't sharpen this because it will sit on my desk and I have small kids that will probably want to touch it but since I am using 1095 knife steel it can be sharpened and hold an edge.
DISCLAIMER: I had to change my plan in the middle of the build because it didn't go quite as planned. So about half way through you will notice the design/shape of the axe changes, the process for making it is still the same though.
2 inch wide x 3/16 inch thick Steel or comparable
3/8 inch steel rod
1/8 Brass rod
Portable Bandsaw (or Hacksaw or Angle Grinder)
1/8 inch carbide drill bit
Small C Clamp
Ball Peen Hammer
Oil for Quenching
I did a little research on Viking bearded axes to get an idea of what I wanted my mini axe to look like then I drew a quick sketch and cut it out. I had some scrap 1095 steel from another project and I traced the axe head on to the scrap steel. 1095 steel is a carbon steel which is used for knife making and can be heat treated and quenched to obtain a hardened blade. If you do make one of these you don't have to use 1095 steel, mild steel will work just fine as long as you don't plan to use it for actually cutting things as mild steel will not hold an edge.
Next I cutout the rough shape of the axe head on my portable bandsaw table. I made this portable bandsaw table a while ago (here's the Instructable for that Portable Bandsaw Table) and its my go to tool for cutting metal and small pieces of wood. I realize not everyone has a portable bandsaw table, this step can also be accomplished using a hacksaw or an angle grinder fitted with a cutoff wheel. That's what I used to use before I made my table.
Next I used my 1x30 belt sander to further refine the shape of the axe head. I also used a round file to clean up the curved section.
Originally I drilled a hole for the eye then heat up the axe head with a blow torch and tried to expand the eye hole using a make shift drift. This didn't work my blow torch just didn't hot enough and I couldn't get the hole to expand evenly, so I abandoned that plan and started plan 'b'.
For plan 'b' I took a 3/8 steel rod that was from a fireplace poker tool and cut a slot the approximate size of the axe head. Here again I used my portable band saw table and just nibbled away at the material until I had the slot cut.
I had a little bit of clean up to do on the slot so I used a mill file to get the right fit. I also had to remake the axe head as the other one was pretty rough and not really useable for this, as I mentioned in the beginning I changed the shape slightly. Once I was happy with the fit I moved on to the next step.
I wanted to secure the axe head to the metal rod so I used my mig welder and laid a heavy tack on the top of the axe head. I am not a welder but I do own a welding machine. If you don't have a welding machine do not worry you can still make this, you can drill and pin the parts together. I will show this process in later steps.
Next I had to clean up my terrible welding job, for that I used some hand files and my 1x30 belt sander. While at the belt sander I took the opportunity to scribe a center line for the axe edge. I used my belt sander to make the bevels. I also clamped the axe in a vice and sanded the axe head up to 400 grit sand paper starting with 120.
This step is optional if you are not using knife steel and or don't care if the axe holds an edge. I went ahead and heat treated the axe just in case I want to sharpen it in the future. I used my mini forge (Mini Forge Build Instructable) to heat the axe head until it was non-magnetic then I quenched it in peanut oil.
After the axe head cooled I sanded off all the scale with 400 grit. This is necessary in order to temper the blade because we will need to watch the color of the steel change. The heat treating makes the steel very hard and brittle and the tempering relieves some of the brittleness while maintaining some of the hardness. After the axe was cleaned up I used my blow torch to temper the steel. I heated the steel gradually watching the color change, ideally you want to see a straw or dark straw color almost like a shade of bronze. Once the steel reaches that color I arrested the tempering by quenching it in oil again. This will stop the color change. As you can see from the final pic I got to a dark straw color.
After the tempering I sanded the blade with 400 grit sand paper, yet again; and I cutoff the excess steel rod using my portable bandsaw table. I don't have pictures of it but I also squared off the handle of the axe on my belt sander. I felt like the rod was just a little to thick which threw off the proportions and a more squared off handle would look better.
I mentioned earlier that if you don't have a welder you can drill and pin the axe head to the handle. In order to do this first I used a center punch to mark the location of my hole. I used a 1/8 inch drill bit to drill through the handle and axe head. I don't have a picture of it but I also slightly countersunk the hole on both sides. Next I cut off a small 1/8 brass pin and put it in the hole. I used my ball peen hammer to mushroom the brass pin down on both sides of the hole. I would tap one side a few times then switch to the other side making sure not to work one side more than the other. The goal here is to deform and expand the ends of the pin to create a mechanical connection.
I would not recommend doing using this method on a full size axe as it probably wouldn't be strong enough but for this mini axe it will hold just fine.
I wanted to add a pattern to the blade by etching it in Ferric Chloride but that meant I had to draw the pattern on the blade. When ever you acid etch metal you have to use a resist or rather something to protect the steel parts that you don't want the acid to eat away. I used an acrylic marker to coat most of the axe, it is important to get a good coat over ever piece of exposed metal. Once the paint marker was dry I used an ice pick to scrap away the design I was trying to achieve. It was difficult working on such a small piece and having a lack of artistic drawing skills didn't help either. I drew what I thought approximated a cool Viking design on the axe head and part of the handle. I also used electrical tape to act as an acid resist on the handle but I left a few open spots to create some grooves in the handle.
I have acid etched a few things before (Acid Etching Justice League Coasters) so I had some etching solution already mixed. The solution is Ferric Chloride and water, I generally use a 1:1 ratio of water to acid. I used some electrical tape and a bamboo skewer to act as a handle for the axe while I submerged it in the etching solution. I let it sit in the solution for 45 minutes. After the 45 minutes I rinsed off the acid in a bucket of water and baking soda, this will neutralize the acid. After sanding the entire piece I realized that the paint marker worked okay but I wanted a deeper etch. So I used my Dremel tool to clean up some of the lines.
Final thoughts, I am happy that I revisited this project and actually finished it this time. I'm not 100% happy with how rough the etch turned out; I think next time I will use spray paint instead of the paint marker and use a finer tipped scraper to make my design. Speaking of design I would probably put a little more effort in to creating a design first instead of just sort of winging it.
I hope this little bit of whimsy will inspire you to create something completely unnecessary and just for fun! Considering everything going on in the world right now it was nice to spend some time and focus solely on making something just for the sake of making it instead of all of our problems.
Thanks for reading!
Second Prize in the
Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge