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The Long and Winding Axe Build

Browsing woodworking Youtube channels leads to an unprecedented amount of ideas. These folks make it look so easy to create such beautiful things but I have to keep telling myself that they’ve worked hard to get where they are today – or edited the video to only show the successful parts.

That being said, I still wanted to give a shot at create an axe. What a road this became.

I started with learning about the types of wood that were normally used for axes. After aggregating a lot of sites with recommendations, it seems that hickory or ash were used most frequently due to their strength and not being too brittle or too soft. I decided, on a whim, to just order a piece of hickory from Home Depot. Mistake!

Although it was quite humorous to see a single piece of wood wrapped up on my doorstep, it ended up being very slim and not wide enough for what I wanted to do. Back to the drawing board.

It was close to impossible to find any hickory or ash in my area. There were some lumber yards in the area but since I was such a beginner, I was honestly a bit intimidated to go there looking for this. I ended up stumbling across an odd source of ash in an aisle in Home Depot… a wheelbarrow handle.

I ordered a cheap, old axe off of eBay that I used as a template. I wanted to get a super rusty axe head as well to make sure that I could show a transformation in the restoration.

I traced the axe onto a cut of the handle and used the bandsaw to cut it down to size.

I also cut a wider slice on the top that I would eventually slim down to fit inside the axe head. I purchase a cheap spoke shave from Amazon that I could use to shape the piece.

The file was super helpful for taking off a lot of material at once.

The spoke shave was helpful for adding curves to the piece. This is also a super fun tool to use if you have a sharp blade. You get some serious control with both hands.

Sandpaper was the next step to take off the rough marks and did a fantastic job.

Looks like it was finally taking shape and matching the template pretty well. Dry-fitting the axe head onto the top part was pretty tough as I didn’t want to take off too much at once and make the fit loose. Once I had that straightened, I tried to sharpen the axe head.

Apparently this puck is very heavily used by folks who want to sharpen axe heads. It doesn’t get a super close finish, but it definitely gets this thing sharp enough to chop something down. I tried to go to the next step by using an old sharpening stone I acquired from my grandfather.

Unfortunately, I totally sucked at this. I’m pretty sure I made it worse because I didn’t know what I was doing. I did my best, but ended up re-using the puck to touch it up to an acceptable sharpness. Time to put the thing together.

I chiseled out this small part so the axe head would sit properly due to its design. 

So here is the big mistake I made in this build. I decided to use a piece of oak to add as a wedge with glue. The oak turned out to be a little too soft and split when hammering this in. Unfortunately, I was not comfortable with this as I wasn’t sure it was truly wedged in there or not and couldn’t take the chance. I decided to start over. 🙁

This time, I decided to go with an old Stanley axe head that had a more simple design and didn’t require any chiseling. I added this head to a bowl of Evapo-Rust which is an amazing thing.

This, plus some sandpaper produced a pretty nice axe head! Time to recreate the handle.

I’ll skip this process as it was close to identical to the original way I created the handle. Unfortunately required a few more hours and a lot of elbow grease but it was worth it.

This time, I decided to use a piece of that hickory I bought as the wedge. Being a strong wood, this worked like a charm.

Using my coping saw, I took off the top piece to make it flush.

I then added my new favorite thing to the top of the piece to hopefully make the wood swell a bit more: boiled linseed oil (BLO).

This really brought out the grain in the wood and finished the piece up. Time for some shots of this thing in action (for science).

She works!

The final piece. Definitely took much longer than expected but I wanted to make this exactly the way I wanted. Highly suggest creating one of these as they’ll last you a lifetime if done well and are taken care of.

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