My first battle axe

My first battle axe

The Forging


This axe proved to be an incredible challenge. When I first took on the commission two years ago, I had no clear path in mind – a typical start for me! This marked my third attempt at creating the axe. Initially, I began with a substantial steel block, 2 inches by 2 inches by 10 inches. I spent an entire day relentlessly hammering away, but the steel barely yielded, making it almost futile to continue.
Desperate for an alternative approach, I eventually settled on a different method. Folding a large piece of flat stock together, which was a daunting task, especially with my modest gas forge and limited tools. Yet, I successfully managed the fold. The next hurdle was forge welding it together, a process demanding a higher temperature than my single-burner gas forge could provide for such thick steel. Nevertheless, I cranked up the heat as far as it could go and let the steel soak in the heat. Despite my efforts, it wouldn't reach the necessary temperature - a straw colour, almost a brilliant white-yellow, with slight sparking. This is when you remove it from the heat, coat it with borax, then reheat and hammer repeatedly to weld it together. Unfortunately, this method was beyond my means.
As an alternative, I decided to drill numerous holes through the steel, penetrating into the section below, and then welded through those holes into the lower steel section. I repeated this on both sides until I was confident that it was absolutely solid. I subsequently filled any gaps with substantial welds. Upon returning it to the forge and heating it to working temperature, I began shaping this unwieldy chunk of metal.
Above, I present to you the completed forged axe head, still rough and in need of further refinement, but forged.

The Engraving


After further refinement using my angle grinder, belt sander, and files, I achieved a final shape that left me content. As for the engraving on the axe head, I approached it with a rather spontaneous spirit. I didn't have dedicated engraving tools at the time, so I had to craft my own chisels and other tools as needed. My vision gradually became clearer during the process.
I decided to engrave a row of Algiz runes, known for their protective symbolism and pleasing aesthetic when arranged consecutively. For the back section, I opted for simple and traditional Norse period knotwork, complemented by a knotwork snake at the front, with the same design mirrored on the reverse side.
Although I had reservations about the snake's final appearance, I believe I could create a better version now. Given my limited tools and experience at the time, it was the best I could achieve. I used my angle grinder to add some texture in the middle section, primarily for decorative purposes, but I found that it tied the design together quite nicely.
Finally, I honed the axe's edge to a satisfactory level. Since this was intended as a display piece, I didn't give it my usual razor-sharp edge, but it was still sharp enough to slice through paper when I finished. Overall, I was rather pleased with the final result. What are your thoughts on it?

Handling The Situation 

The next challenge on my journey was locating suitable handle material, which in itself proved quite a task. Since this was a substantial two-handed battle axe (larger and heavier than it may appear), finding a piece of wood large enough posed a considerable challenge. I was reluctant to purchase timber, as it turned out to be more expensive than buying a pre-made handle, an odd but true situation.
Ultimately, I stumbled upon a handle designed for a mattock. Although the end of the handle was much too thick for my needs, this turned out to be perfect since I could sand it down to match the shape of the axe eye (the part where the handle fits in). With my trusty draw knife, I refined the handle's shape and then used files to further smooth out the cuts from the draw knife. After completing this stage, I painstakingly hand-sanded the handle to achieve a smooth finish.
To enhance both the protection of the wood and the aesthetic appeal, I used my blowtorch to gently scorch the outer surface of the handle. This age-old practice, embraced worldwide, not only safeguards the wood but also brings out the captivating colors of the grain. I concluded the process by applying boiled linseed oil, which nourishes the wood and prevents it from drying out. This ensures the handle's longevity.

It's Complete

I was genuinely delighted with how the entire project came to fruition—the harmonious blend of colours, the captivating contrasts in the engraving, and the enduring steel. The sense of accomplishment that washed over me when I conquered the challenges was awesome. The customer's satisfaction with the final product, which still graces the walls of their home, warmed my heart.
Throughout this project, I embarked on a profound learning journey. The skills I acquired along the way have been invaluable in advancing my craft, and I've gained a newfound appreciation for working with larger stock steel. It also underscored the need to invest in a treadle-powered power hammer equipped with a substantial sledge for manipulating larger stocks more effortlessly. Such an addition would facilitate the creation of similar pieces with significantly greater physical ease.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this project. Even though it was completed a couple of years ago, it remains close to my heart as an axe that I thoroughly enjoyed bringing to life.
Your feedback and insights are always appreciated.
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