Making a neglected axe useful - quick and dirty

Randall

John McDouall Stuart
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I'm working on a house that has some land. Some dead trees. There's also a pine tree that has grown to about 6m that I don't remember seeing before. I noticed a neglected, cheap, pope brand axe sitting in the garage at home. No idea where it came from - it could have been my partner's. She used to have an old house with a fire place, and like most people used an axe for splitting. That would make sense too; she isn't into looking after things and would have left it outside. This axe looks as though it was left outside. Clear coat on the handle has about half weathered off, handle is cracking from drying out. Head is a bit rusted and had an edge of about .5mm wide.

I used a wire brush on the head, just to clean it up a bit. With a worksharp and the coarsest belt I gave it a few runs at 25 degrees each side. One side was pretty close to this angle, the other side looked a bit less than 30 degrees. I did a few passes with the angle grinder to get it in the ballpark. Then I spent about 30 mins with the worksharp. As parts of the edge became sharp, I would just focus on the parts that weren't. Once I was happy with a nice edge, I used the next belt up for a couple of passes.

I gave the handle a quick going over with a wire brush, then coated everything in used engine oil. I gave each end of the handle a good drink. I'm away from home so making do with what there is. It's hanging in a tree now. Later I'll go to work using it to prune little limbs off some bushy plum trees, lop down the pine, lop off the branches. Might clean up some other dead branches (fire place thickness) that are in a heap and pile them up ready for a chain saw.

Haven't used an axe for years. This will be the sharpest axe I've used - it shaves my arm.

Below pictures aren't my axe, but they are the same model - I stole them off ebay

The edge protector on mine is gone. I might make one with a piece of cheap garden hose (there's a section in a rubbish pile) and two zip ties. I did this for a cleaver at home and it works great.

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Aussie123

Never Alone In The Bush
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Good work with the axe, I'm sure it will work beautifully now that its sharp.
Can you post a pic of the edge protector when you get it done ? I'd love to see it
Cheers
 

Askew

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I've got an edge protector made from garden hose on a kindling chopper, it's held on with a rubber band.
Nice work on the axe.
 

Randall

John McDouall Stuart
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The pine tree is actually 15m. I lopped down a couple of small dead trees, pruned some prunus plums, and cleared a heap of branches into the pine tree. I used a trick I saw on youtube; if you bend a branch down you only need to tap it with the axe near the trunk and it will nearly cut through (use the axe where the branch is under tension). Great trick because I didn't have much room to move. I didn't put a lot of effort into the axe work - just swinging and letting it cut. I was trying to focus on accuracy and technique.

The head came a bit loose. Some of the wooden wedge had broken out. I made a new 8mm or so thick wedge out of dry eucalypt using the axe to shape the wedge. I then cut it to length using my knife (chest technique, working my way around the branch). It was awesome to put these things in practice. The wedge was a good tight fit, and bashed in nicely with a hammer. It didn't split because I bevelled the top edge.

However, the head has come loose again. Any ideas?
 

Chigger

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Put the axe head in a bucket of water and leave overnight. As the wood is so dry it needs to swell up a bit.
 

Randall

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Put the axe head in a bucket of water and leave overnight. As the wood is so dry it needs to swell up a bit.
Good idea, but I might try it with used oil, which I have. I'm going home for a few days, so I'll leave it soak. Maybe I'll whack some nails in the wedge too when I get back. I'm going to return with my ww2 machete too :)
 

Aussie123

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I think its time for a new haft.
If you're using the axe quite a bit, you need to know it is secure. The last thing you want is for it to come off

Swelling may give a temporary fix, but you need a safe tool
 

Randall

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I think its time for a new haft.
If you're using the axe quite a bit, you need to know it is secure. The last thing you want is for it to come off

Swelling may give a temporary fix, but you need a safe tool
Yes, I've heard that happens if you use water - the water eventually evaporates. I'm hoping oil will help preserve the wood and stay in there. I've used old engine oil on the verandah of an old house we have. It's a tasmanian thing - all the old timber apple sheds are treated with used engine oil. There are wooden steps down from the deck and in the garden - I'll do those too.

I've read that in the past people used short fat nails - I assume they were whacked into the wedge - I don't want to weaken the actual handle. I have some 4" nails that are reasonably thick - I thought I'd cut one in half, sharpen the blunt one, and whack them in. Maybe try one first and see how hard it is to get in - maybe that's enough.

For me I see an axe as a thing of the past. Saws are much more effective. I'm guessing axes were a pre saw thing, but much easier to maintain and more tolerant of travel / carry. Probably generally shipped to remote places without a handle. In my youth people only ever used axes for splitting wood - I didn't see a splitter till I was much older. Again, when I was younger, bushies tended to carry a small bow saw strapped to the rear of their packs. One area axes do excel is lopping branches off bigger branches or felled trees. This is a joy if the axe is sharp; but keep the tree between you and the branch you're lopping off (if it's on the ground). I imagine this is probably how the majority of axe injuries happened. I had alarm bells going off subconsciously when I tried it differently. Because you lop the branches off from underneath, but the branch is angled up (figuratively speaking; it's lying on the ground). There is a chance that if the axe doesn't bite or you get the angle wrong it'll run up the branch and into you if you're that side. There's probably better technique; I'll have to look into it.
 
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Randall

John McDouall Stuart
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Can you post a pic of your axe?
I will. I'm elsewhere and have left it soaking in oil. When I get back I'll tip it up and leave the end of the handle soak a bit. This will give excess oil a chance to soak down into the head part of the handle. It might be a week or so till it's ready, or my fixes have failed.

Incidentally, I found the video that shows what I did with the pine tree branches. I can imagine that most of you already know this - all my previous axe experience was just mucking around as a kid. The branches were close together and I could only swing the axe about 6" with one hand holding it not far behind the head. I got through 3" and 4" limbs like this fairly easily (yes, soft wood and a sharp axe). Also, green eucalypt doesn't seem any harder to cut than green pine. I'm guessing eucalypt is considered hard when it's dry, unlike pine.
 
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Randall

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Using the axe again after a break. Had to whack in a few more nails - I figure I have nothing to lose unless the head comes off. I spent some more time on the pine tree limbing it and cutting it in half. Trying left handed and back handed. I think my cuts are pretty good. I was chopping through a smaller branch on the ground, cut through and drove the axe into the dirt and of course a rock in the dirt. I was surprised at the damage it did. I didn't have much with me so used a file to fix it (no I don't deserve a gransfors axe :oops:). I was surprised how easy it was to file; not hard steel. Which also surprised me how well the edge holds up to dead hardwood - I've been pruning dead limbs off a black wood - the ones big enough to kill someone :oops:.

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