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Peter Messent




Location: Texas
Joined: 03 Jan 2009

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Fri 12 Apr, 2013 5:21 pm    Post subject: Two new axes and some thoughts on edge geometry         Reply with quote

Howdy folks!

I just bought two new axes. The first is the Ship Builders Axe by Allan Foundry and the second is the Danish Hand Axe by Windlass.



The SBA is (I think, typology isn't my strong point) a fair representation of a Petersen type B (without a doubt my favorite axe style ever) while I'm not entirely sure where the DHA falls in.

The SBA haft is fitted in the tomahawk style - a straight, tapered haft fed through the top of a tapered eye. It is, IMO, too small - I feel that it should extend out the top of the head a little further, and taper less towards the bottom of the haft. As it stands, the haft is too thin at the end, resulting in excessive fatigue in use.

The DHA has a very fat handle, but it is still slightly too small for the eye of the axe - it is, in fact, shimmed and then pinned. While I'm fine with pinning, shimming is a very unprofessional way to finish an axe. A haft should, IMO, either be tapered and fed from the top of the head (so that swinging the axe forces it tighter onto the handle) or the handle should be fed from the bottom of the head and wedged.









The heads are rather similar in profile, but the DHA is much thinner, giving the impression of an eye that was wrapped rather than drifted and an axe that was perhaps designed with something other than chores in mind. Note also that the DHA bit is slightly crooked when compared to the poll. The thickness of the bit does not actually vary as it appears in the photo, it's actually just a variance in the beveling on top of the axe head. Due to the beefier haft on the DHA, the weight difference between them is not that great - the SBA is a touch over an ounce heavier. The point of balance is very different though, with the SBA having a much slower recovery. The DHA is quite lively, for an axe.

Both of these axe heads have been reworked by me a bit - the edges had a TON of work to do (the DHA was the usual 'windlass sharp' and the SBA was sharp but far too obtuse). The finish on the DHA was typical of windlass - iffy. It's a shame, because a simple brushed finish would have looked much better. I refinished it with a bit of hydrogen peroxide/vinegar rust and then gun blue to darken it.

Overall I like both of these axes - but they both need a new haft. The DHA is bordering on unsafe (I'm not sure how long the pin will last) and the SBA haft is just too thin. The crook in the DHA is nagging at me, though, I already tried hammering it straight to no avail.

They both have fairly good edge retention after being reworked. This brings me onto my next comments, on edge geometry. Note that the SBA is a lower-grade stainless steel (410 or 4140 depending on which website you read! shouldn't be concerns with brittleness) and the DHA is some carbon steel - probably 1055 or similar.

It is commonly thought that a tougher edge should have a greater edge angle. While this is true to a point, it is not a hard and fast rule, in my experience. An obtuse edge that can slice paper easily will, IME, not stay that way. The SBA had a very thick edge. I could get it to paper-slicing sharp, with some difficulty, but it wouldn't stay that way for more than a couple chops into wood. So I took it to the belt grinder and thinned it down a lot - and it's great, the edge is sharp and stays sharp. Thinner edges cut better, the physics is simple - if you try to cut something harder than the axe head, the edge damage will be worse on a thinner edge, but if you avoid hitting your axe off of other metals, the thinner edge will make your life with your axe much easier.

I think that I'll try a haft about equal to the DHA for the SBA next, or maybe I'll even recycle the DHA one for the SBA. A thicker, slightly longer handle should also improve the balance of the axe greatly.

Comments welcome,

Pete
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Apr, 2013 1:37 am    Post subject: Re: Two new axes and some thoughts on edge geometry         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:

The SBA haft is fitted in the tomahawk style - a straight, tapered haft fed through the top of a tapered eye. It is, IMO, too small - I feel that it should extend out the top of the head a little further, and taper less towards the bottom of the haft. As it stands, the haft is too thin at the end, resulting in excessive fatigue in use.



Very nice review and refinishing. Big Grin Cool

As to a too thin handle you could do a cord or leather shoelace wrap around the lower part of the SBA handle and make it bigger in diameter.

I would use some. waterproof after it dries, wood glue like Titebond3 on the handle and saturating the cord or just under if using leather to make the wrap very secure. ( Removing surface excess glue with a wet rag before the glue dries ).

The wrap will also strengthen the handle from splitting also.

This would make removing the handle more difficult if you have to replace the handle in the future, but then you would be replacing it and scrapping the old handle anyway, so just sawing the end off wouldn't be an issue.

Good tips about sharpening also. Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Peter Messent




Location: Texas
Joined: 03 Jan 2009

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Sat 13 Apr, 2013 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank Jean! I did try a cord wrap but just didn't like the way it looked - I'm not a big fan of wraps just because they often come loose (not an issue if glued of course) and I prefer the feeling of wood. Today i did go to the hardware store and buy an axe handle (for a much larger axe than this) and I made a new one - I decided to wedge it so I could have the handle as thick as I want. The wedge had to be a lot thicker than I would have liked, but it seemed to have worked well - it's in a linseed oil soak right now to make sure everything's sealed and snug. Will post pictures when it is complete! The handle was unfortunately already touched with blood, damn axe bit my hand! Just a light bump, didn't feel a thing and still haven't! I think it might be more knife-sharp right now than axe-sharp...

Thanks,
Pete
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