I bought a rusty vintage axe head for around 3 dollars. I decided to fix the edges a little as they were quite badly sharpened by previous owner, polish it and make a new handle for it. Nothing better than to taking old rusty surface to mirror finish! Plus the polished surface will generate less friction making the axe to chop slightly easier.
Step 1: Cleaning Up the Head and Sharpening the Edge
The previous owner had left part or the old handle in the eye of the axe. There was some sort of epoxy or glue in there with the wood making it very had to remove. I had to use a 2 kg hammer and drill the handle full of holes to finally remove it. No doubt that was effective, yet ugly way of putting a handle on. I will however go with something more elegant.
I started by filing the edge and the bent corners of the axe head nice and square. I used a file to be more precise and to not remove too only the minimum material. I sharpened the edge roughly and tried to reshape the ruined edge as best as I could without changing the angle of the blade too much. I could have also used an angle grinder for the corners as after taking the surface rust off with a scouring pad I noticed there were some dents which I wanted to remove to get a nicer looking finish. Sometimes I enjoy having a rough texture with high polish like in some hand forged kitchen knives but this time I wanted to go for a mirror finish.
I decided to use a sanding disk on an angle grinder to remove as little material as I could, being very careful around the makers mark not to damage it. After removing the dents I changed to use rougher and finer scouring pad disks. They alone yielded to a nice finish but to get the best possible result a polishing compound and a polishing wheel was needed. I used one on a drill press as the is easier for me because I can face the axe head in my hand instead of putting it in the vise. My vise has teeth and it's always a little tricky to put anything in there without leaving teeth marks. I also used the polishing wheel to take the edge from sharp to razor sharp. Just a few passes on the wheel will be enough if you have pre-sharpened the edge with a file properly. There were some minor flaws still int the polished surface. I will find a finer sanding wheel for next polishing project as that should get me to the perfect mirror finish.
Step 2: Shaping the Handle
I decided to use a local "waste" ash my dad had found for the handle. It was found from a local city "waste wood yard" where they dump chopped down threes to be burned in a powerplant or something. Usually there is just pine so it is not as wasteful as it sounds.
I used my dads giant band saw to cut a board out of the block and let it dry before continuing to the handle making. I had drawn a rough sketch on the handle I wanted on cardboard so I merely traced that on the wood and cut a VERY rough piece of wood out. I wanted the piece of wood to still have some adjustment room so that I could adjust the handle a bit if I put the head on in a slightly wrong angle. I started by shaping the wood so that it fits to the eye. After I had a close fit I split the top of the handle on a band saw. I usually make the split quite far down but I think you should leave 1/4 of the height of the axe head "unsplitted". Now you should be able to fit the head to the handle. best way to fit the handle is by putting the head on, turning the head pointing down and pounding the bottom of the handle with a mallet. Due to slowness of mass this will drive the handle deep in to the eye. You should leave a little of the handle coming you from the top of the axe head. This will help with putting the wedge in and to secure the head in it's place.
After I was happy with the fit I took the head off once more. You may have to hammer it with scrap 2x4 or something which doesn't ruin the polish, if it is already very tightly fit. After this I used an angle gringer to shape the rest of the handle. Be careful with the removal of material as you can't put it back and the angle grinder will eat it away quite effectively. After I had the rough shape I wanted I put a flap sander on a drill and finished the surface with that.
Step 3: Putting the Handle On
After I was happy with the handle I sawed a wedge from scrap wood (I think it was oak). the wedge should preferably be too long than too short and it should be very thin from the end so you can easily drive it between the halves of the handle. I recommend getting the surface as smooth as possible to reduce the friction then hammering it in. Always remember to cut the wedge so that the grain is going parallel with the handle, otherwise it will break before you get it deep enough.
When fitting the handle I often use a chisel to open up the split a little and pour some wood glue in to lock the wedge in place. Then you just put the wedge in there and start gently hammering it and once it stars going in hammer it as deep as it goes. On the video I only show hammering it in a vise. Actually I eventually put the bottom of the handle on a floor and hammered it in against it. The axe was sliding down in the vise as I hammered, which meant all the energy was not going to pushing the wedge deeper in. You can also see I put a small "second wedge" in after the first one. This was just a small piece of the handle which came off when I was shaping it and I wanted to put it back in its place. As unintentional as it was, it really made the top of the handle look awesome!
After the wood had dried I cut of the excess wood from the top and finished the whole handle with linseed oil. It really made the grain pop. It's quite nice to see a local grown city tree to be turned into something like this. Thank you all for taking the time to read this instructable. Also go check out my youtube channel for more awesome projects!