I'll jump on any excuse I can find to build something with my kids! My 12 year old, like every other 12 year old, is hooked on Fortnite. When he asked if I could help him build a real life pick-axe just like in the game, I told him "absolutely". But his attention span is pretty short so I had to make sure that once we started down this path, we were going to 100% finish this project...unlike that archery bow from the hunger games he wanted to make.
I'm thrilled with how this turned out. I'm not really one to boast, but I think we did an amazing job on this, just kidding, I love to boast! Big shout out to Sam Salvati who gave me the solid path to pulling this build off. Also having access to The Foundery in Baltimore (www.foundery.com) made this project easy to complete in just two evenings!
This Instructable and video show how we made the pick axe! I hope this inspires other parents to build cool stuff with their kids as well!
p.s. Aidan and I both make out own versions of a build video so you'll notice two videos on this page.
Step 1: Gather the Tools and Materials
Note: The picture shown is not my actual workshop. I just added that to give my buddy, The Jester, a heart attack. The Jester has major OCD and is probably curled up and rocking in the fetal position if he actually glanced at this photo.
Paper or cardboard to draw on16 gauge steel sheet - 36" x 36" will be plenty1.5" OD 16 gauge round tube x ~8" length1.5" diameter dowel (I used pine) x 42" length2 part epoxy1" long #10 self tapping screwWood stain Tools:
Pencil and dark markerMIG or Flux core welderband saw or metal cutting jigsawAngle grinder with a 40 grit flap wheelHand drill or drill press with 1.5" hole sawMap gas or propane torch
Step 2: Sketch the Profile and Top View of the Pick Axe
Using paper and pencil, sketch out the profile view of the pick axe. My son and I referred back and forth from fortnite screen shots to get the dimensions down the best we could. The full length of our axe was 22". You can see the square grid we sketched first to keep the axe symmetrical. The square pencil grid is roughly 6" x 6" squares.
Once you have the two views sketched out as you want the axe to look, cut the paper views out so they can be traced! Oh whoops...Spoiler alert, step 3 talks about using the templates.
Step 3: Trace the Paper and Cut From Steel
Trace two copies of each the top view and side view onto the 16 gauge steel sheet. Pro Tip: if you cut the steel sheet in half and tack weld over top of each other you only have to band-saw the profiles out once and you get two identical to each other. Look close at the pic of me cutting the steel on the band-saw and you'll see the two layers of steel being cut together...I'm a pro ;)
Another Pro-Tip: Wear safety glasses and hearing protection for this step. Cutting thin sheet metal is obnoxiously loud.
If you don't have access to a band-saw, a jig saw with a metal cutting blade will work just fine.
Step 4: Bend the Top Section
Bend the top of the axe to compliment the top edge of the side pieces. I used a slip roller but you can bump form it over the edge of a table to get the right shape. Just make sure you move the part and make small bends along the top piece to create a mild curve.
Step 5: Weld the Sections Together
This is the part you want to take your time with. Line up the pieces to box out the axe and tack weld (small spot welds) to hold the form together. Once you have it tack welded, look it over and make sure it's exactly how you want it. Once you lay down full welds, there's no going back!
Step 6: Grind Down the Welds
Whoops I lied...This is the step you want to take your time with, it's also the step that takes the most time. You'll need to grind down all edges to make it look like one solid piece of steel. I used a knife grinder for most of this but then switched to an angle grinder with a 40 grit flap wheel. Took about 3 flap wheels to get this axe head looking great!
Step 7: Add the Axe Stem
Use a 1.5" diameter hole so and drill a hole in the top and bottom of the axe head for the stem. Weld in the 8" section of 1.5" tubing, flush with the top and grind down any weld on the top of the axe head.
Step 8: Darken the Steel
Once the stem is welded in and all welds are ground down, you'll need to darken the steel to cover up any grinding marks. You can do this with a torch (just takes a long time) or you can buy a black oxide or patina solution. I prefer a patina called "Black Magic" found here: https://sculptnouveau.com/products/traditional-bla...
Once you darken the steel, the axe-head will look like one solid steel part. You can grind down the front edge and pick spike and it'll look just like the pick axe in the game!
Step 9: Fit the Handle
Once you get the axe head how you want it, you'll have to shave down part of the 1.5" dowel so it'll fit in the stem. I used a wood lathe to turn down a section but you can chisel or whittle it down with a sharp knife.
Step 10: Stain the Handle
Wood stain and I are best of frienemys! It took me many years to lean how to apply stain correctly and many many ruined projects. But once I read the directions on the stain container, it was actually pretty simple. Wipe on, let dry, wipe off. Don't paint it on like...paint but wipe it on with an old t-shirt and wipe off with some clean paper towels.
Choose a stain color that best matches the video game. Aidan and I used a walnut gel stain by General Finishes.
Step 11: Bond the Axe Handle
Using two part epoxy, bond the axe head to the axe handle. Make sure you mix the two parts thoroughly to unsure it cures correctly. And read the directions! I also like to put a dab of epoxy off to the side on some scrap cardboard so I can monitor the curing.
Step 12: Back-up Screw
When your swinging this axe around wildly to show off your fortnite larping skills, you won't want the head to fly off and kill someone. Use a self tapping 1" screw for back-up. Or, as The Jester says, "Belt and Suspenders".