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Author Topic: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head  (Read 9422 times)

criminalhate

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Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« on: 2012-07-29, 04:53:06 »
Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
Grabbed this from my website because I figured you'd all be interested in it too. Sorry for the length of the post

The Plan is to take this
A generic hatchet from Harbor Freight


And make this
An ornamented, 7th-century Merovingian battle axe head on display in the British Museum





The concept is simple but the work will probably be harder then it appears. The plan is to grind the shape into the harbor freight hatchet using a bench grinder and angle grinders.
I'm more worried about mimicking the shape not the inlay work (yet).
If I can get the shape accurate I may try inlaying the head with silver or more then likely brass or copper but that's getting the cart in front of the horse.


Well I went to harbor freight and was looking at the axes / hatchets and decided to go with the $7.99 fiberglass handled hatchet.
I also picked up a Firemen's Hatchet while I was there (a project to follow this one will be a boarding axe), which contributed to the choice of the fiberglass handle.
So for around $30us I was able to get the Firemen's Hatchet (using a 20% off coupon), the fiberglass handled hatchet, and an 8" half round file.








So after bringing them home and taking some pictures I got to work removing the fiberglass handle. That ended up being quite the chore.
I knew starting out that the head was epoxied to the handle but I still figured it wouldn't be too hard taking it off.
Boy was I wrong, beating on it using a cold chisel and 2# hammer for about 10 minutes it wouldn't yield. 
All it would do is chip a little of the epoxy out and fling it a crossed the garage (did I mention it's about 97°f in there right now).
I tried getting a small wood carving chisel to cut the epoxy out and that didn't really help. Finally I gave up and got the torch out.
I was reluctant to use the torch because I didn't want to ruin the temper of the axe head but I figured since I would just be heating the end furthest from the blade I should be fine.
So I heated it up and smack it a little more with the hammer and cold chisel and it finally started to move a little.
 I reheated it again (never getting it hotter then needed) and gave the handle a few bends back and forth finally pulling it out.
Victory is mine =) and it only took about 30 minutes. After removing the handle I cleaned up the eye to remove the rest of the epoxy which came out quite easily.

So my lesson in all of this is buy the wood handled version if you don't feel comfortable heating the head up.







So the next step is to work out how I want to proceed in reworking the axe head. Then draw the plan out on the head and get back to work on it.




Here's a link to the British museum that has the original head that inspired this project.

« Last Edit: 2013-04-21, 19:43:41 by criminalhate »

criminalhate

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #1 on: 2012-07-29, 04:53:29 »
Some progress

Just working on the grinder still a lot left to do but it's still about 90° in the garage. I'm hot, the grinders hot and it's getting to late to continue. Hopefully I'll get some more done tomorrow.

As many will notice the bottom part of the blade (bit) follows the top line of the original axe head better so I flipped it over and made the major modifications to the other side. The eye has no taper on mine so it shouldn't make a difference.

Original (upside down)



Right side



Left side
« Last Edit: 2013-04-21, 19:44:04 by criminalhate »

Thorsteinn

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #2 on: 2012-07-29, 05:14:51 »
Awesome!

Have you read the article from Hurstwic on Axe's of that era?
« Last Edit: 2012-07-29, 05:23:03 by Thorsteinn »
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Sir Patrick

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #3 on: 2012-07-29, 12:50:56 »
Very cool!
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Sir Wolf

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #4 on: 2012-07-29, 13:16:20 »
cool, still a ways to go but cool. how are you gonna do the markings on the sides?

criminalhate

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #5 on: 2012-07-29, 18:40:11 »
Awesome!

Have you read the article from Hurstwic on Axe's of that era?

Yes I have read through that article a few times. It's a great article with a lot of information packed in and the best part is every time I reread it I pick up things I missed the first time through.

cool, still a ways to go but cool. how are you gonna do the markings on the sides?

If I do decide to do the inlay work I will follow the same techniques as this article. I need to make sure I get the shape looking good before I even contemplate the inlay work or I'll end up researching more inlay/graving techniques instead of finishing the piece =)

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #6 on: 2012-07-29, 18:43:32 »
Nice. Can't wait to see the final product.
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criminalhate

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #7 on: 2012-07-29, 22:09:22 »
A little bit more done. I still need to level all my angles out so both sides are equal but progress is still progress.

Some more Grinding Left Side



Some more Grinding Right Side


Some File Work and minor sanding done Left Side


Some File Work and minor sanding done Right Side
« Last Edit: 2013-04-21, 19:44:35 by criminalhate »

Sir William

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #8 on: 2012-07-31, 16:07:41 »
I'm liking it so far!
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Ian

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #9 on: 2012-07-31, 19:53:17 »
Wow, what a transformation!  Looking great so far!
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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #10 on: 2012-07-31, 20:58:33 »
Looking good  ;)
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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #11 on: 2012-08-01, 01:00:44 »
Must make a trip to Harbour Freight...
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Thorsteinn

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #12 on: 2012-08-01, 01:38:40 »
did you anneal the axe first?
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criminalhate

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Re: Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #13 on: 2012-08-08, 20:15:44 »
did you anneal the axe first?

Nope been keeping it cool in hopes of saving the temper.

Sorry for the lack of updates been busy at work and haven't been able to work on the axe. Hopefully this weekend I can get some more shaping done.

criminalhate

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Re: Crafting a Medieval Axe Head
« Reply #14 on: 2012-12-31, 04:28:37 »
Ok since this thing has been sitting for a few months and time seems to flying by this year I finally spent a little bit working on it tonight. I didn't get much done before I decided I didn't want a thumbprint and sanded it of with an angle grinder, why wasn't I wearing my work gloves again =/

Anyways here's a few pics with some more of the shaping. I really think the overall shape is really close once I refine and square up the edges.



« Last Edit: 2013-04-21, 19:44:59 by criminalhate »