Hatchet Restoring (Viking-ish)




About: I am Jake and I make. Knifemaking, metalworking, fashion design (AKA the duct tape tie), writing, filming, prop making, fire. Typical teenage maker. Check me out on Youtube.

I picked up this old overpriced Craftsman hatchet a while back at a flea market (i'm a sucker for old bladed things that need fixed up) After letting it sit in my closet for a couple years (aging makes them better you know), I decided to finally fix it up.

But first I wanted to learn a bit more about this particular "antique" bladed wedge. After an extensive five minute online researching session, I discovered three things.

1: It is a Craftsman. (should have examined the stamp on the head closer)

2: Sear's owns Craftsman. Wait. No they don't. They sold out to Black and Decker. (handy piece of info)

3: Bladeforums isn't as helpful as I thought.

4: Old hatchets are ugly. (who designed those things?)

5: There are some things even Siri doesn't know.

Wait, that wasn't three. Oh well.

If any of you are antique hatchet experts, maybe you could let me know a bit more about it.

Anyway, its old (appears so at least), has a very nice profile, some good steel, and is begging to be made useful again. What can I do?

Make it better than it was originally of course.

Step 1: Video

For you people that don't like to read.

And shameless advertising for my YouTube channel.

Step 2: Angle Grinder-ing

Ok, so........design. This was one of those times when I knew exactly what it was supposed to look like in my head, but was equally certain that the design would get butchered in the transfer from brain to paper. So I opted to skip the drawing/tracing/making guidelines part and trust in my intuition. (Sounds funny using that word in this context, but I think it fits well.)

I find it easiest to take off large amounts of material with an angle grinder. Cutoff wheel first, then the grinding wheel. Just getting the shape roughly closer to the rough shape of what I roughly want.

I cut a chunk off of the back end (can't remember the proper axe terminology for that this second), made the top straight (it had a bit of an upsweep), and gave it a bit of a beard. I was originally planning on making this a viking style hatchet (hand axe thingy), though that's not how it ended up turning out. Just so you know where I was headed.

Step 3: Less Rough Rough Shaping of the Roughed Out Shape of What I Roughly Want

The angle grinder is great for roughing (roughly roughing out the rough shapes of roughly shaped things to what you roughly want) out the (rough) shape, but the grind is indeed (as you guessed) quite rough. Time to smooth it out a bit. Make the rough less rough.

As well as doing some of the more fine shaping. The angle grinder is great, but can't get everything.

Bench grinder. And 1x30 belt sander.

Step 4: Refining Grind

We just made the grinds less rough, but they are still, well, how do I say it; rough. So I moved to my 4x (whatever the other number is) belt sander with a much finer grit belt (can't remember what that number was either) and sanded everything till the scratches and dings of the previous (rough) shaping was gone. I didn't have quite high enough grit belts for that thing, so the final finish wasn't as fine as I would have prefered, but I thought it was good enough.

I also added a number of new grind lines and bevels to the sides and back of the head, as it seemed a little boring. I hate boring.

It looks better now.

Oh, and I used a sanding drum attachment on the drill press to get into that curve really well.

Step 5: Hand Sanding From Hell

I. Hate. Hand. Sanding.

But after all, it is an "antique" (i think) so it still looks good even if I don't sand all the dings and scratches out.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.....

Step 6: Pretty.....

The head is finished. Lookin purty.

Really. It does. It does. Really. (talking to myself here)

Step 7: Handle Work

The handle was ugly as all get out. Sorry, but 'antique' red ain't my thing. Time to sand until you can't see any more ugly.

To do that I attacked it with an orbital sander (150 grit, I believe), and then hand sanded until I couldn't remember what day it was. I believe it ended with a 220 grit. On a friday.

I think.

Step 8: Makin' De Handel Look Mostest Awsomer

Not only do I dislike "antique" red, but I also don't like plain ol' wood. The handle just didn't have enough action going on.

I didn't like the idea of applying stain for some reason, so I decided to run over the wood with my propane torch. I discovered that if you were careful, and went over it slowly it would burn the wood mainly at the intersection between grain lines, making the very cool pattern you can see from the pictures.

This was actually my first time burning a handle in this way, and I was extremely pleased with how it turned out. It's a bit harder than it looks, but not difficult. Give it a try.

Step 9: Polish.

The burning of the wood raised some of the grain up again, so I went over it once more with some very high grit sandpaper, smoothing everything out and polishing it up. Be careful not to overdo it, as you can easily sand the dark spots right out.

I haven't applied a finisher on the handle yet, but I don't think you people need instructions for how to apply linseed oil. You just wipe it on there.

Step 10: Putting Two and Two Together.

Time to put it all together. The eye of this hatchet wasn't too messed up, just loose enough to slide the head on and off easily. It already had a wedge in it, and it wasn't going to take much to firmly affix the head to the handle. I cut a wedge out of a piece of scrap steel, and hammered that into the eye.

Boom. It no move.

I also reground the edge. It was okay beforehand, but I can't stand imperfect edge profiles. They drive me nuts. Didn't really get pics of it, but very simple. I used my 1x30 sander and went from low (rough) grit to a 2000 grit belt. Very sharp.

Step 11: Awesome Hatchet, Man.

And we have a finished restored hatchet. Ready for many many years of hard use.

Or not. I'm actually not really a hatchet guy. Hatchets weigh too much are too front heavy don't have enough blade and have way too much handle. In all respects they are simply not enough machete-like to be very useful. Unless you want to cut a tree in half or something.

In which case I'd use a chainsaw.

Anyway. It did function quite well (for a not-machete), and I am very pleased with how it turned out. Looks great, too. Thanks for reading.

See ya' next time!


Website: http://www.jakemakes.net/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCszMFa_qz5weFBoQ7olwlGw

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13 Discussions

Brokk Hrafnsson

1 year ago

Great project! I've been using my dad's axe, recently, and I quite agree, axes are quite top-heavy. For controlled cutting, I'd recommend holding more of the handle, closer to the head.

Nice project, though, that axe looks very nice (now, anyway)

6 replies
Jake_MakesBrokk Hrafnsson

Reply 1 year ago

Controlled cutting? You must be joking! There are three inches of blade and 15 of handle. On anything other than a hatchet it would be considered absurd (imagine a knife!) (uncontrollable shudders). Ah well, such is the world we live in.

To be quite serious, I think hatchets fall into a rather funny category. They are too light to be of much use splitting wood, and too heavy (bulky, imbalanced), and not enough blade length for much else. I can't figure out why people use them, really. I would carry an axe for splitting wood, and a mid sized machete for everything else. You can't miss with a machete, its light enough to be agile, yet heavy enough to cut through some serious stuff. Best of both worlds.

Thanks btw. I'll stop ranting now :)


Reply 1 year ago

Camping and using a hatchet for making smaller wood bits to start a campfire. This is especially useful if it was raining, as the inside of wood tends to stay dryer. Least ways that how I use one.


Reply 1 year ago

Now that is one thing a hatchet would be good for. I tried that last time we were camping with my kukri, and while being an epic cutting tool I was really wishing I had something wedge-shaped with which to split the logs. I really just don't do much log splitting, and out in the woods here I ussually rather have a lighter tool with much more cutting area.


Reply 1 year ago

can you use your machete for banging tent pegs in?


1 year ago

Two tips:

1. Remove less material. Start with at least 48 hr. soak in vinegar. Then bathe in with soap/water before you "amend any of its mass." (My advice.)
2. For much more, look up YouTuber, WranglerStar. He's one of the best resources for this subject. He collects almost any type of vintage ax, hatchet, saw, etc. No non-sense, but amiable guy. Don't forget to Like, Comment, Share and tell him I sent you.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

For tip 1: Why? It really wasn't rusty enough to require a vinegar soak (which was why I didn't). And it would not have given it the shiny finish I was looking for. I considered that. Personally, I was going for a certain aesthetic, which was why I removed the material I did. I also wanted to make the hatchet lighter. It was purposeful. Not just ignorant grinding. What is your reasoning for that?

Tip 2: I actually have watched quite a bit of WranglerStar. He's quite the expert on the subject, certainly. Lots of good info.


1 year ago

For the handle, could have removed the old wedge, then soak the handle in old oil. Makes the wood swell then fit the handle and make a new hard wood wedge and you are set.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

That probably would have worked. *facepalm


1 year ago

I too like giving old rusty tools new life. I live in Denmark and my ancestors were vikings (good old uncle Ragnar!). I hereby give your ax my viking blessings. (Og må Odin holde øje med øksen lavet af Jake og passe på den!)
Btw: Viking axes often had rather long, straightish handles. That gave you extra reach in battle.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

Why thank you! (my deepest respect to your fearsome uncle) I got no probs with war axes, very effective and powerful weapons. Especially the big ones. I made a giant training axe out of foam and pvc a while back, and my goodness what a weapon. Very effective. (although still front heavy ;)