Friday, May 11, 2012

Axe restoration: what axe is worth keeping

Axe restoration: must have a temper to use
The value of an axe is only measured by its ability to perform or in its ability to remind us of a person or event. With that being said there are two types: those in use and those that have to be retired. 

First, those that should be retired are those that can not function anymore yet have a historical significance, say grandfather's tried and true. no matter what its condition (mushroomed all to hell, deformed eye, crack) they deserve a place on the wall. the object itself is as valuable as any portrait, at times even more potent in reminding us of their strength and hard work. 

Second, those that are in use. this should be all axes/hatchets. ready to go at anytime. there are many great new axes out there: however i find myself reviving the old steel. any axe will not do. there must be some qualifications met before it is worth not taking to the scrap yard.  

When you get your axe, you must check the temper. no temper means the axe is of no use. to do this, fill a bucket with distilled white vinegar. the vinegar will dissolve the rust and expose the temper.  below are two heads to describe some of the issues out there:

The single bit had little rust and a nice patina. patina is nice for antique dealers and for those who want a snap shot of the steel's potential, but we still need to get to basics and test the temper. if anything with proper oiling, use and age that patina will come back. even better you made that patina with your own experience, not someone else's. after just two days in vinegar this head showed its good temper. the darker area is the tempered steel. 
 The double bit head was badly rusted but still had a pretty well defined edges. this head was worth testing and after being in the vinegar (6 days, three times as long as the craftsman single bit) showed its temper well in tact.

The next steps will be to polish, re-establish a proper edge (using hand files and a jig), hanging and then a small amount of flash for easy spotting in the field.

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