The Leviathan Axe is the iconic weapon from Kratos' new adventure in God of War. It's an absolute joy to use in the game, and it's a refreshing change of pace from the Blades of Chaos in the previous games. So obviously, we're gonna build it.
I suspect there are many guides on how to build a Leviathan Axe prop out there already, and we will most certainly see more pop up in the coming years. However, this one is different because it's 100% wood. Not counting glue and polyurethane, there's not one bit of non-wood in this build. Yes, even the leather/fabric wrap around the handle is wood. That means that this should be an astoundingly accessible project for folks. You don't have to use fancy wood like I did; you can use 2x4's or even sticks from your back yard. You also don't need fancy tools like I have; basic hand tools will do the job.
Let's talk tools and materials. I have a full professional woodshop at my disposal, BUT YOU DON'T NEED ONE. Basic hand tools will do the job if you have the patience for it.
YOU MOST DEFINITELY NEED:
- Some sort of wood cutting saw (hand or power).
- Sand paper or rasps/files
- Wood glue
- Spray adhesive (or double sided tape)
- Carving tools OR a rotary tool (dremel)
- Wood burning (pyrography) set
- A pencil
- Wood for the handle
- Wood for the head
IT WOULD BE VERY HELPFUL TO HAVE:
- A bandsaw
- A benchtop belt sander
- A printer for the "pattern"
- Clear packing tape
- Xacto knife (or similar)
- A router with a straight/rabbet/dado bit
- Drill with forstner bits
- Wood dowels (approx. 3/8" and 3/4")
- CA (super) glue w/ activator
- A handplane
- Ruler/other measuring instrument
- Spray polyurethane
Step 1: Plan!
The easiest way (in my opinion) to make a replica of something is to print out a full scale version of the object. I found a decent quality picture of the Leviathan Axe online and printed it out. You can find that image here. Credit to Odin Makes for the pic!
It was a bit difficult to get the scale exactly right, and I think the jury's still out on the dimensions for this axe. In the end, I think my axe is roughly 6 inches too short, but I'm considerably shorter than Kratos, so I'm cool with it.
Once the image is printed out to the size you want, you need to use clear packing tape to put it together. This is pretty straight-forward. Just line up the papers to that the image is seamless (you might need to cut some boarders off of some pages) and use tape to secure them. If done properly, you should be able to move the entire image (consisting of several pages) together without misalignment.
The image I linked has the axe in a left and right orientation. This is really helpful because you can keep one of the images all together as an overall reference, and then chop up the other image for a size reference. So, using an Xacto knife, I cut out the images of the axe head, and the handle. This doesn't have to be super precise.
At this point, youneed to have some wood for your handle and head. The wood for the head should be thicker than the wood for the handle. I used walnut for the head, and hickory for the handle. I used a planer to make sure the wood was flat and smooth (optional) and then used spray adhesive to attach the cut-out pictures to the wood. Be careful with the spray adhesive; you pretty much have one chance to get this right or you must print out another image.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE A PRINTER you can use a printing service, or simply draw the axe onto the wood. The drawing method may be less precise, but will still produce a great result!
Step 2: Cutting Out the Handle and the Head
Once the image of the handle is adhered to the wood, you can rough cut it. I'm lucky enough to have a bandsaw, which makes short work of the this step. A jigsaw or scroll saw will also work just fine. But if you only have a hand saw, you'll still get the job done AND receive a wonderful arm workout! Win-win!
I cut out the handle a bit "proud" of the image. This means that I left a little extra material than I needed to. This isn't necessary, but it's a lot easier to sand that extra bit off than to add more wood if you slip or make a mistake! Once it's cut out, I check it against the reference image (the one we didn't chop up with an xacto) to make sure everything looks good.
Now, it's time to cut out the rough shape of the head. But first, I had decided that I want to cut the head into two halves and "sandwich" the handle inside of them. This will make the entire thing very strong and look nice. However, this is completely unnecessary if you don't have the right tools! You can just as easily "butt join" them with glue. This would simply entail you cutting the handle into two parts: the part below the head, and the part above the head. Then, once you have the three parts (two handle pieces and one head piece), simply glue them together.
If you do the sandwich method: resaw the chunk of wood (for the axe head) on a bandsaw that has resawing capabilities. If you don't know what this means or don't have an appropriate bandsaw, just do the three-piece method, trust me.
Then, do the same thing with the axe head as you did with the handle. (if you used the sandwich method, sand and spray adhere the two halves together so that they will line up perfectly.) Simply cut out the image of the axe head, spray adhere it to the wood, and cut it out! Then you can separate the two halves (if you used the sandwich method)
Step 3: Routing the Handle and Head (sandwich Method)
First of all, if you used the three-part method instead of the sandwich method, skip this step!
Now it's time to do some work with the router. The goal is to: make recesses into the handle and both halves of the head so that they will sandwich together and not leave any gaps between the two halves of the head. This will require some basic math. *gasp*
Start with the handle. Use the axe head to trace out exactly where it will go onto the handle. Use your reference image to make sure it's in the correct place.
Now, install a straight/rabbet/dado bit into the router. The smaller the diameter, the better. Adjust the depth of the bit to one quarter (25%) of the thickness of the handle. So if the thickness of your handle is 1 inch, the bit should be set to a depth of 1/4 (0.25) inches. Your material might be a different thickness, so you'll need to measure for yourself.
Once you have your bit set and your outline, CAREFULLY begin to rout away the wood where the axe head will fit. Do not push the router to take deep cuts. Just take your time, be patient, and let the machine work. The router is an exceptionally dangerous machine, and you don't want to get on its bad side. Hot tip: don't start by following the line; just rout out the middle and then "sneak up" on the line to get a more accurate result.
Do this to both sides of the handle, and then the same thing to both (inside) halves of the axe head.
You'll likely need to do some detail work and clean-up with some chisels and sandpaper in order to get a perfect fit. If done properly, you should be able to fit the two halves of the head onto the handle with no gaps. If there's some minor gaps where the head joins to the handle, that's okay! This doesn't need to be perfect, and in fact, some cosmetic errors and flaws will make your axe look battle-worn.
Step 4: Shaping the Head and Handle
Now it's time to shape your axe! Your blocky chunk of wood will look God of War-worthy in no time! This is the part of the process that will be more informed by the tools at your disposal. I have a great ryboi 36 inch belt sander (I got it for like $30, used) and that did the majority of the shaping. However, if all you have is sandpaper, and maybe a few files or rasps, you can still get the job done! It will just take longer!
I started with the handle. I started off by simply breaking the edges, and making them round. Then I just took my time, went back and forth down the shaft of the handle, until I had a nice, organic-feeling shape. I really just wanted it to feel good in my hands, and look like a real handle. It was pretty simple. This is also one area where using hardwood is a blessing and a curse. Hardwood (like this hickory) sands really smooth, but it takes a while to remove a significant amount of material. I also left the pommel (bottom) relatively square so I could carve it later.
Then I moved on the the head. I did each half separately. The first thing I did was draw a line where I wanted the taper for the "blade edge" to start. Use your reference picture to help. For me, it was about 1.5" from the edge. I started aggressively taking off material to make the edge until I reached the line. I would "swing" the head back and forth to get a nice curve.
Once I had the "blade" edges done, I moved to the rest of the axe head. I made the area directly around the handle mount recessed in. This emphasized the thickness of the handle area, in order to invoke the idea that there is a thick piece of wood in there. Remember that this axe head is cartoonishly large, compared to real life axe heads. So don't be afraid to exaggerate the details and make them larger than life.
Once you're satisfied with the shape of your head and handle (for the most part), it's time to glue them together (if you're using the sandwich method). This is pretty self-explanatory, but this is Instructables, so here you go: Spread glue to every surface that will be adhered together and then clamp that bad boy up. Don't worry about trying to achieve maximum clamping pressure; this is not a functional, load-bearing joint.
Finally, after the glue is dried, clean up any uneven edges. This is only relevant for those using the sandwich method. Anyway, you might find that even though you cut everything perfectly, the two halves of the head didn't line up just right. Simply sand them together until they're flush. Easy peasy.
Step 5: Engrave the Head
This is the exciting part- putting that iconic design on the head! You'll want your reference picture, and probably a few more reference images where the design is a little more clear.
The first thing I did was use double-sided tape to put the reference image onto the head. Then I took an icepick (you can use an awl, sewing needle, or even a pointy stick) to puncture little dots everywhere the the line "changed". This means every time the line intersected, forked, ended, etc. You're basically making a big connect-the-dots puzzle. Then, simply remove the paper and connect the dots with a pencil. Your reference images will be invaluable for this step; it can get confusing.
Then, I used a wood burning tool (pyrography or soldering tool) to follow the lines, making a nice dark engraving. If you do this, practice on a scrap piece of wood. Pyrography is a little tricky to get the hang of. You can also use a carving bit on a dremel (or traditional carving tools) to do a relief-carving, if you don't want to use a wood burner. Either way will look nice!
Repeat this step on the other side of the head.
Don't worry if it looks a little messy; we're going to do some finish sanding later.
Step 6: Carve the Dragon Pommel
Now it's time to carve the dragon pommel! This is a relatively small detail, but I think it adds a lot to the axe!
You're basically going to do the same thing to prepare the design as you did with the axe head. Use your reference image to mark the design out onto the bottom of the axe. You can use the dots technique, or just free-hand draw it. It's a fairly simple design, so I just drew it.
Then, use a pencil to shade in every spot that won't be carved away. I did this wrong initially and shaded the places that will be carved away. This is less effective, because you will very quickly loose your design (because you carved it away!) I had to redraw the whole thing. Don't be like me.
I used very small round carving bits on a dremel (rotary tool). You can use traditional carving tools if that's all you have. Even a sharp knife and a steady hand can get the job done (but be careful!). I started by doing a very light pass on the outside of every line. This established the boundary. I did a couple more passes on this line until it was pretty deep.
Then, I started to remove the bulk of the material. Don't do super heavy passes, or the bit will slip (don't ask how I know). Lots of light passes will turn out a nice result in no time. I then used small bit of sand paper to clean up the carving.
The carving didn't stand out like I hoped it would, so I used the wood burning tool to burn the surface of the design. It turned out pretty cool (get it- it's an ice axe)
Repeat this step on the other side of the pommel.
Step 7: The "fabric" Wrap and Other Small Details.
When I say "100% wood", I mean it! The Leviathan Axe has a leather or fabric wrap around part of the handle. If you want, you can use leather or fabric, but that's not unique! We're using wood baby!
I used a cheap japanese hand plane to cut long shavings from the edge of a piece of wood. This may take a little bit of practice. If you don't have a hand plane, you can theoretically get the same result using a saw, but it will be very difficult- fair warning. Also, I used a pretty gnarly looking piece of wood because I wanted the "fabric" to look stained and weathered.
Once I had a bunch of long shavings, I used super glue to attach the ends, making one super long shaving. This isn't 100% necessary, but it might be easier.
Using a couple smaller shavings that I didn't attach to the long shaving, I created the criss-cross X's at the top and bottom of the wrap. I just used super glue (and activator) to glue it to the handle. Then, simply wrap the handle with the long shaving, putting a dot of super glue between the "fabric" and the handle every few inches. It might look pretty rough, but it's kind of supposed to. Kratos doesn't care about perfect aesthetics.
Then, I decided I wasn't super happy with the axe head. If you look at pictures of the Leviathan Axe, you'll see that there is a sort of decorative disc in the middle, and four bolt looking things, presumably to hold the axe head onto the handle. I used some oak dowels to achieve this look. This is optional.
Find a dowel roughly the size of the main disc, and a forstner bit to match. Use sand paper to round over the edge slightly. Use the forstner bit to drill a slightly recessed hole to accept the dowel. Cut the dowel so that it will fit in the hole, but still stick out by ~1/8 of a inch. Do the same thing with a smaller dowel four times (per side) for the "bolts."
Repeat this for the other side.
Step 8: Finish!
We're almost done!
Using a high-grit sand paper, give every surface one last pass of finish sanding.
Then, use your finish of choice and seal and protect the wood. This should also bring out all the pretty colors and grain in the wood.
I used wipe-on polyurethane because it's cheap, easy, and I had some on hand. I did 3 coats, sanding in between.
(Optionally,) use steel wool to bring the shine down a little bit.
I quickly cut out the omega symbol to hold the axe with some scrap bloodwood.
You may now revel in the glory of you very own 100% wood Leviathan Axe!
Thank you for reading!
Runner Up in the
Halloween Contest 2018