I’ve always been fascinated with antique tools. They tell a unique story of accomplishment and progress of the people who lived before us. A tool was a precious thing, many times the difference between life or death, food or famine, protection from the elements or the key to saving hours of back breaking labor.
I find it especially interesting if something is known of the family or person who owned the tool. In this instance, this hatchet was my grandfather’s. My grandfather worked as a young man in the lumber industry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I don’t know if this particular axe was used in his time as a lumber man, but I know that any woodworking tool was dear to him.
The axe head is in marvelous condition. It is a Walter’s and by the style, could have been made anywhere from 1912 to 1969. Walter’s axes weren’t rare tools, but the identification of them is often difficult because the touch mark was stamped so lightly. In many of the axe heads the symbol wore off with use.
The original wooden handle of my grandfather’s axe was quite decayed and unsafe to use. The head of the axe was loose and may fly off mid swing. We had discussed replacing the handle and making the hatchet a useful tool again. The store bought handles were nice and convenient, but lacked meaning and sentiment.
So Zach bought a piece of kiln dried hickory from a family owned mill by our house. Hickory is a nice wood for handles as it is a strong, durable wood with relatively straight grain. It can handle the shock of blunt force without splitting.
Zach used the old handle as a template but made it a bit larger, with more girth, to fit more comfortably in his hands.
He traced and cut the profile
Then used a draw knife and spoke shave to shape the handle leaving the end. (Trusty helper always by his side)
Once he had a good start on the handle he traced the opening of the axe head as a guide line to whittle down to.
Once the axe head would fit half way, he cut a slot in the end for the wedge and carefully drove the head in with a mallet on the fawns foot end.
Here he is making the wedge using the axe.
Then drove the wedge to keep the head secure.
220 grit sandpaper smoothed the wood and gave the handle a very comfortable finish.
For more about farming, woodworking and blacksmithing, visit our blog at Iron Oak Farm
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