Hi! I'm The Redsmith, I'm a maker.
I made few axe restorations so far, but this time I wanted to make a throwing axe.
It's not historically acccurate but just "viking inspired".
I made a full tutorial video that you can watch here :
This build was very fun, and the main goal was to reuse the axe head and
the handle as well. I just added a little bit of leather to give it the look I wanted.
Let's get started !
Step 1: Choose Wisely...
For this build, you will need :
- an old axe
- a little piece of hard wood
- some wood stain
- some leather/hide
- some leather dye
- a belt sander / palm sander
- a saw
- rasps and files
- some way to heat treat the axe's head (if needed)
1) I started by choosing carefully the axe I wanted to use. I made several axe restorations/transformations in the past, and it gets much more difficult when you have a crack in the axe's head. So, it can be old and rusty but try to use an axe in relatively good condition.
2) I use my bandsaw (but you can use any saw for that) to cut the handle and put it aside as I wanted to reuse it later on.
Step 2: It's All in Your Head
No need to say that the head of the axe is the most important part of the tool.
1) So I started by removing the handle and cleaning the head with my 2x72" belt grinder, but you can also use a belt sander or a palm sander, or if you feel brave and have time, sandpaper and files.
2) I changed the shape of the head to give it a viking look and ground it in order to redesign the cutting edge.
For this step, I used #40 and #80 grit belts. Be sure to not let the head overheat, it could ruin the hardening. Quench it in water from time to time. As soon as it is too hot to hold, it's time to quench.
Step 3: Shape It
1) I wanted to change the poll's shape (the poll is also called the butt) and turn it into a cone. Even if it's not historically accurate, I thought it would give the axe a better look. So, I traced the overall shape I wanted with a black marker.
2) I ground the poll to give it a rough pyramidal shape and quench the head in water to keep it cool and not damage the hardening of the cutting edge.
Step 4: Make It Sharp
1) I finished the shaping of the poll into a cone on my belt grinder.
2) I slowly rotated the head against the belt till I get the shape I wanted.
Step 5: Normalize
1) I decided to go through a full heat treating process. I started by normalizing the metal. I used my little coal forge to heat the head to a low cherry red color (around 650°C - 1200°F) and let it cool slowly on the side of forge, away from the heat. The forge is made of refractory cement which acts as a heat insulator and enables me to let the metal cool very slowly. When it was cool enough to touch it, I put the head back in the fire. Once again, I heated it to a low cherry red color and let it cool on refractory cement.
2) I did that three times, for the axe's head and the newly shaped poll.
Step 6: Quench the Poll
1) Then, I needed to harden the head.
When I make an axe restoration, there is no way for me to know what kind of metal was used to made the axe head, so, just to be safe, I quench it in motor oil rather than in water. I recommand you to always know what kind of metal you are working with and to respect the specifications of each metal for the quench. Some metals need to be quench in oil, some require water quench, some require only air cooling. Be sure to always wear protective gears for a quench. Safety googles, gloves, an apron will protect you from heavy burns. When you quench a very hot piece of metal, oil (or water) may splash around and cause severe burn. Be sure to be safe in your shop / smithy.
2) I quenched the head without heating the quenching oil. When the poll reached a light red color (around 870°C - 1600°F) I quenched it in the oil trying to draw a 8 figure. When you quench hot metal in oil or water, a steam jacket forms around the metal and some parts of the materials could not be cooled evenly. Expect the oil to catch fire and smoke a lot. So once again, protective gears are essentials and you may want to do it outside your house. The smell is quite terrible... :)
Step 7: Quench the Head
1) I repeated the exact same process for the axe's head, making sure to reach the right color (therefore the right temperature) and quenched it in oil.
2) I let the head cool down on the face of the anvil and when it was cool enough to be touched, I checked the hardening with a file. The sound was clear and the file didn't catch the metal, so the hardening was as success.
3) When the cutting edge of the head has just been hardened, it needs to be tempered otherwise it may break.
So, after cleaning the head with a wirebrush, I put it in my kitchen oven at 230°C (around 450°F) for one and an half hour. It should reach a light straw color if your axe's head is clean and shiny. But I wanted mine to have a used look and wanted to keep this dark grey color.
Step 8: Brush It
1) I used a wirebrush to clean the burnt oil from the axe's head. As said previously, I wanted to keep this dark grey color so I didn't use any sandpaper or belt to clean it.
2) I used a sharpie to trace the cutting edge and sharpened the blade on my belt grinder with #120, #240 and #400 girt belts, which is more than enough for an axe's head. But you can also do it by hand and use sharpening stones up to 12000 grit :)
Step 9: It's All in Your Hand
1) Time to make the handle. This axe is meant to be a throwing axe, so I reuse the hard wood of the previous handle. If you need a functionnal axe to cut lumber, you need a strong handle and should use oak, hickory, ash, hornbeam, cherry, or walnut.
2) The viking axe's handles are straight and not curvy as the modern axe's handles are. So I reused the old handle and kept the shape and width. The handle was a little bit too long for me so I changed the lenght by cutting the end. I used my bandsaw to cut it to lenght. Just choose the length which i confortable for you.
3) I used the head to trace the shape needed for it to fit the handle and used a wood rasp create a tenon with a good fit. It needs to be tight but not too tight as it could break.
Step 10: Cut, Cut, Cut
1) I used a razor saw to cut in the middle of the tenon, then I used the bandsaw to widen the gap.
2) I cut a little piece of oak to make a wedge.
Step 11: Stain It
1) I sanded the whole handle with a palm sander and #80, #120 and #240 grit sandpaper.
2) I applied wood stain with a sponge brush to give it a better look, waited few minutes, wiped it with a rag and let it to dry fully.
Step 12: Add Some Leather
1) While the stain was drying, I cut a 9x20cm/3.5x8inches piece of 4oz vegetable tanned leather.
2) I used my dividers to draw a line at approx. 1cm/0.4inch from the edge.
3) I also used my dividers to equaly space the holes I punched using a 5mm/3.16" round punch.
Step 13: More Leather
1) I cut two strips of cow hide, one was 3/16" wide and the other 25/32".
2) I dyed the leather and the strips with brown leather dye and let it dry overnight, making sure to dye the edges too.
Step 14: Two Become One
1) When everything was fully dry, it was time to assemble all the parts.
2) I put the axe's head on the handle and inserted the wedge with a wooden mallet.
3) I cut the excess with a razor saw and used #80 grit sandpaper to clean the cut.
Step 15: Braiding
1) I started by braiding the 5mm cow hide strip. You can start the braiding before putting in on the handle, but you can also glue the leather to the handle, which would make this step easier.
2) Braid the strip and finish it with a double knot.
3) I chose to let the leather hang for about 25cm/10inches to create a loop and closed it with a double stopper knot.
Step 16: Final Touch
1) This step is optinal and depends on the look you want for you axe. I like using leather on wood or metal so I added another 20mm/25/32" leather strip around the head.
2) I cut it with a pliers at about 5cm/2inches from the knot.
3) A final sharpening and...
Step 17: It's Done !! :)
Congratulations! You're done.
You can customize it the way you want : choose different shape for the head, give the head a miror finish, use another wood for the handle, change the color, add more leather. Let your creativity speak !
Here is the full tutorial video :
I tried to make this Instructable as clear and easy as possible.
If you have any questions or requests for clarification, don't hesitate to comment.
I hope you liked it and if so please vote for the contest and like this tutorial, share it and watch the videos.
See you soon for my next Instructable!
Second Prize in the
Before and After Contest 2017