An Axe for the Woods?

Felling Forged

I thought I’d try my hand at forging an axe with an asymmetrically welded eye which might be useful for work in the woods.  I made a new mandrel which helped me give the axe a more wedge-like cross section – which I would expect to see on felling and limbing axes.  This axe was the result of forging a 2.4 pound (1100 gram) billet of mild steel (3/4″ x 2.5″ x 4.5″) into a narrow form.  The bit is cleft-welded 1075 steel.  It has a 4 inch edge and is 7″ long.  As shown the weight is just under 2 lbs (900 grams).  So far the form is the result of hammer work only.  Tonight I will heat treat it and finish it.

Refining Wrought Iron

Having undertaken to forge a large Type M battle axe from wrought iron and shear steel, I’m now beginning to refine a quantity of wrought iron from large, rusty square bar that I acquired last  year.  In this case refining amounts to forge welding a stack of bars together into a single new bar, drawing it out, and then cutting and stacking it for another welding step.  I intend to repeat this until the final bar has 64 layers of the beginning material.  The refining process will break down the size of the slag lines in the bar and distribute them in a fine pattern in the final bar from which the axe is forged.  This will lessen the chance that a large, internal ribbon of slag (present in the original bar) will cause a tear or de-lamination during the shaping of the axe – which could be a huge disappointment in a large and demanding piece of work.

The four slabs of wrought in the picture have a combined weight of 9 pounds and give a packet which is about 2-1/2″ square and 6 inches tall.  Much of this weight will be lost in the welding.  Wish me luck!

Wrought Iron 9 lbs

Two New Axes for Australia

Two New Axes for a Collector in Australia

Two New Axes for a Collector in Australia

A Collector in Australia contacted me about purchasing an axe and ended up buying 2! He was quite pleased with what he received. In his words:

“Hi Jim,
The Axeheads arrived today without any delays.

They are very high quality and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. They are excellent !

The workmanship is truly second to none. Jim, thanks very much, for your work and your efforts to have them delivered in such a timely manner.

Thanks & Regards…”

Forging Viking Style Hammers

0018Finished Hammer

I’ve been investigating traditional methods for forging hammers over the last few months.  When tool steel was an expensive commodity, such as in the Viking era (and even right up to the mid-nineteenth century) hammers were not normally made of a solid billet of this costly material.  Rather they had faces and peens of the high carbon tool steel welded to soft iron bodies (either bloomery iron or wrought iron).  This had the advantage of making the punching and forging of the hammer eye easier since it was done in the softer material.  During my research I studied the shapes of some hammers from the Viking era.  While some were fairly crude others were quite beautiful – with langets over the hammer eye that were quite reminiscent of Viking axes.  The following pictures form a short slideshow of the process as I have re-discovered it to make the Viking style hammers for my shop.  I will be teaching this method of hammer forging, along with a few others, in 2014.

Making Your Own Shear Steel is Entirely Possible

Making shear steel from wrought iron is something I’ve been experimenting with for the last year.  It’s a unique and fascinating process – and,  it is entirely possible to do yourself!   A few weekends ago, I taught a class that started with making shear steel, then using it to make a fire steel. In one day, we went over all the steps, from starting with wrought iron and the carburizing medium, to the carburizing itself, to forging out the blister steel into shear steel through forge welding.

What the class showed is that it is entirely possible to learn the process in one day. On the Saturday, the focus was on making shear steel and by the end of the afternoon all students had made a great little high-carbon billet of shear steel. Sunday revolved around making a fire steel from the billet of yesterday, and by late afternoon everyone had a finished piece.

I am in the midst of creating a guide on how to make shear steel from wrought iron (which I’ll make available online here at forgedaxes.com), and I’m excited to host a lot more classes revolving around the historical uses of shear steel in the new year. Check back in the coming weeks for news on both, and in the meantime, I hope you will enjoy these photos from the Saturday of the class.

 

Oakland Axe ‘n Sax-in 2013

As a blacksmith, it’s always a pleasure to travel to a convention and meet smiths from around the world. To be amazed and inspired by other peoples work, to try out new techniques, and sample some tasty homebrew. Isn’t that what life is about?

 

For me it is. So it was a great pleasure to host Oakland Axe ‘N Sax-In 2013 at my shop this past weekend, an exclusive 3-day event with a focus on the art and science of Viking-style axes and saxes (to the uninitiated – a sax (or seax) is a historical, north European style of knife). The event was centered on demonstrations and presentations by Jake Powning, Petr Florianek, Owen Bush, Jeff Pringle and James Austin (me). We totaled around 30 smiths from the Bladesmith’s Forum and the California Blacksmithing Association, and it was organized by Jeff Pringle, Nathan Smith and myself (with help from our friends, thank you all!)

 

Below are some of the highlights, in imagery and words. If you were here and have uploaded photos of it or did a write-up somewhere, let me know and I will link it here.
And a big thank you to all who were here – it was truly a pleasure on my part.

 

A New Axe and a New Finish

Rusty Side View

Rusty Socket

I just finished an axe for a student in my Silver Overlay Class. I tried out a rust patina on this one and think that it suits it nicely. As usual the axe is forged in the asymmetric wrap technique from mild steel with a 1075 bit. I hope you like it!

Forge Welding an Axe Eye

Axes forged in the Viking era (and later) had eyes which were formed by wrapping a drawn-out shank around the back of the head and forge welding the resulting lap together toward the blade.  In the following Youtube link you can see the welding process performed on an axe which has already been lapped together to form a traditional, Viking style eye.  The actual process takes about twice as long as the Youtube segment, but proceeds at the same pace with the same techniques.

Forge welding an Axe Eye

A New Forge-Finished Axe (sold)

I forged this axe in May but only finished polishing the edge last week. It is asymmetrically wrapped on the eye and has a high-carbon bit of forge-welded 1075. The dimensions are:

 

Edge length 6.9″ (17.5 cm)

Width of head 8.1″ (20.6 cm)

Weight 770 grams (1 lb 11oz)

This axe was purchased by a visitor to the smithy who was looking for something special for his father.  He may make his own haft or bring it back for hafting later.

A Bearded Hewing Axe in the Viking Style

I just completed my first woodworking axe.  It is a hewing axe meant for smoothing flat sides 0n a work piece which was previously shaped with rough strokes into approximate but oversized dimensions.  This particular axe is “right-handed”, meaning that its flat face is on the left side when held held in a normal working position.  The handle is twisted away from the hewing plane so that the knuckles of the hewer have additional clearance to the work.  This axe has a forge welded eye (asymmetric wrap technique shown below)  and forge welded bit of 1075.  The  finish is ground then forge blackened, after which the edge-zone is re-polished.  The woodworker who ordered this axe will put his own edge on it and haft it (the haft in the photos is just for show).

 

Viking Style Hewing Axe - Right Side