Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A stronger axe?

Just finished hanging a new handle on a 4 pound axe my brother got me from a car boot last year, A nice simple shaped head, is marked with SJ and a small crown like symbol, also stamped with 'made in england'. The steel seems to be of good quality, the angle of the bevel was clearly set for it to be a felling axe and with a little work it holds a very good edge, although some large chips had to be worked out of it first. A quick buff to remove the surface rust makes a dramatic difference

For the handle I decided to go for something a bit more traditional. In colonial America the professional forester and tree feller would have used a straight handled axe, all the way up until about the 1840's and they didn't replace them with curved handles, they were phased out with the development of the double bit axe which gained much popularity throughout the later part of the 19th century. The curved handles would in all likelihood not have seen that much use from the men who depended on the axe for their livelihood.

A straight handle is stronger than a curved one, there are no sections of short grain, as the grain is continuous from the bit to the end. Also surprisingly a straight handle is more accurate. This is because the 10° curve at the end of the curved handle alters the axis of pivot (how the handle aligns with centre of weight of the head) without going into to many angles and calculations it basically means that any inaccuracies in your chopping are magnified with a curved handle. (for further reading/information:The axe book, the lore and science of the wood cutter by D. Cook, or Advanced axe selection)

I carved this handle from some ash that I cut down earlier in the winter, it has been split for some time and was really nice to work with, hardly needed and sanding at all. finished with linseed oil.

I mentioned a while ago how I had the chance to use a friends Gransfors carving axe and how I instantly wanted one! well...

It was my birthday recently and funnily enough this was top of my list of things I wanted! It is a joy to use, a really solid feel to it, quite heavy but balanced so as you don't really notice it. It holds an incredible edge, and arrived sharper than I could ever get it! Took a little bit of adjusting to get used to the single bevel, but now I've got the hang of it I can do so much more before turning to the shave horse and draw knife. As someone once told me the more you do with one tool the less you do with the next.