A Hatchet job…

came into the workshop this week.

A fellow fixer at the Manchester Repair Cafe, hosted by Stitched Up, asked if I could repair or replace a broken handle shaft on her hand axe. A straight forward job I am happy to do for a friend.

The axe had a simple break just inside the axe head. The remaining stump was loose in the axe head and easy to remove.

The first job was to find a suitable piece of wood, in this case beech to match the original shaft, from my off cuts pile. Ash would have been better but most of my off cuts have been donated to the Incredible Education Working in Wood group.

Fortunately this piece of beech was the same thickness as the old shaft and so made the job easier.  A simple task of drawing around the old shaft and then cutting out with the band saw.

The first bit of shaping was done to form the fit into the axe head. If this bit goes wrong then there is no point working on the rest of the shaft.

The tools I used were a flat spoke shave, a convex spoke shave, and an old wooden spoke shave that makes a good mini draw knife raking out a lot of material quickly.

With the axe head 3/4 fitted and the rest of the fit snug, it was safe to start work on the rest of the handle shaft. Again this was done with the spoke shaves using finger tip feel to find the correct profile. Feel is far more important then dimensional accuracy in this case.

With the shaping done it was time to fit the axe head. Three wedges were used to open the end of the shaft to ensure a tight fit, one longitudinal, and two lateral.

The saw cuts were made carefully and oak wedges cut on the band saw. I first glued and hammered in the two lateral wedges, and then with a shallow saw cut I was able to insert the longitudinal wedge. With all the wedges glued and tight the waste was cut off and trimmed flush.

The shaft was then then sanded smooth using progressive grades, 80 grit, 120 grit, 360 grit, and then the end of the shaft was cut and sanded.

The reason for leaving the end of the shaft unfinished until this point was that it would be hammered and bashed while test fitting, and final fitting, of the axe head. Trimming off after ensured that the end was clean.

The finished axe.

I didn’t want to replicate the black paint but wanted to include the coloured end of the shaft. It was masked off and some red mahogany stain was applied, only enough to add a contrasting colour. The finish coat is Danish oil, so far two coats. More coats will be added until my friend collects it.

This whole project has taken 3 1/2 hours, over two separate days, to complete, and is much nicer then first axe handle I made for my own hand axe. I might re make my one now!

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