Axes, adzes and drawknifes #6: Restore an old French axe - handle and care detailed.

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Blog entry by mafe posted 05-13-2015 06:43 PM 2634 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: New handle for an old hand forged gutter adze. Part 6 of Axes, adzes and drawknifes series Part 7: Carpenters adze - making a handle. »

Restore an old French axe
handle and care detailed.

Some years back I bought a few wonderful axe heads from France, this is one of them and how it came back to life.
(This is a old series of pictures I just found on my computer from my old workshop. guess they never got out). ;-)

Here the tools that came from France.

Step one is to grind of any bend out edges, since these are potentially a danger.
(Yes I was a boy scout once and did get the axe medal – smiles).

This is what it looked like after.
Still traces of use, just as I like it.

Then a light touch with the brush to remove any loose rust, again careful not to remove the history.

Some pre work on the edge at the sander.

Then sharpen.

A good layer of bees wax for rust prevention.

I was fond of the shape I did for the other French axe, a small type, really handy.
Inspired by the Japanese I also like, so it is a MaFe hybrid.
Here making mi sketch on a piece of oak.
Try to look on both sides of the wood, make as much fibers go straight from end to end of the handle like this you get the strongest handle.

Cutting the rough shape on the band saw.

Then its just to spend some wonderful time with the draw knifes.
Be careful with the grain directions, if you dig in, then change direction, you will get it fast.

I also use spoke shaves for next level of finish, in this case you need a round sole version.

Cut a groove for the wedge and shape the end to fit in the axe head.

In this case I use a contrast wood color, just for the beauty of it.

White glue.
Bang it in place.

Leave to dry.

Cut of the extra.

I like to beat up the end grain a wee.

To get a look like this.

Plenty of linseed oil, plenty, let it suck until it cant take any more.

Then the handle can be finished up with a card scraper.

Nothing beats that finish.

Linseed oil and then some bees wax.

From a sweet little grease box.

Here it is.
I have used it since then and really love it here in the shop.
If it was a daily use forest axe I will recommend a thicker handle, both for better grip and strength.

I’m sure Mike can guess when I made this axe handle.

Hope again to be able to share some energy, to perhaps even inspire others to bring some old tools back to life,

Best of thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

11 comments so far

View Sodabowski's profile


2308 posts in 2250 days

#1 posted 05-13-2015 08:13 PM

Wow, that handle is gorgeous, you really gave those axe heads a new life :) I spy a Mike bucket! :D

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

16763 posts in 2523 days

#2 posted 05-13-2015 08:28 PM

Real nice handles, Mads. Do you put on the linseed oil straight from the can or dilute with mineral spirits?


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View shipwright's profile


7080 posts in 2215 days

#3 posted 05-13-2015 10:12 PM

I just love to listen to the pure joy that comes from your posts. You put a human face on the Zen of working with wood.

Be well,
Best thoughts

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View lew's profile


11261 posts in 3172 days

#4 posted 05-13-2015 10:33 PM

Nicely done!

The handle looks like it is a joy to hold.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Brit's profile


6569 posts in 2260 days

#5 posted 05-13-2015 10:35 PM

I recently looked at the French axe head you kindly gave me when I first visited you in your old workshop Mads and I thought to myself “I must put a handle on that.” Now I have no excuse. Thanks for another great tutorial.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View WayneC's profile


12642 posts in 3514 days

#6 posted 05-13-2015 11:01 PM

Well done. Lovely tool. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Don W's profile

Don W

17870 posts in 1985 days

#7 posted 05-14-2015 09:45 AM

Nicely done.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View madts's profile


1661 posts in 1757 days

#8 posted 05-18-2015 09:29 PM

Yes Mads you and I love axes. I only have one that is kept inside because of the humidity.
You axes are just wonderful, with the new handles.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View mafe's profile


11061 posts in 2506 days

#9 posted 05-19-2015 01:39 PM

Hi guys,
madts, yes there are something fundamental about an axe, like with this you can go where ever you want, with this tool you can make most of what a family needs, spoons, toys, tables and yes a house.
Don W, thanks.
WayneC, smiles.
Brit, it is now so long ago I forgot it, so I smile remembering your visit and yes the axe head from France, will look forward to see where you are going.
Lew, yes it is pure joy.
Shoipwright, and no one can give a compliment like you, thanks. Those were great words so I feel like a little bee on a jar of honey, you are so kind dear Poul. Honestly I had a tear of joy in my eye when I red it.
Jim, I put it straight from the can and like to leave it to soak for quite some time often several layers. I have experimented with the raw and the boiled and honestly on handles I don’t see it makes a difference, but the raw oil goes deeper and it’s important that you wipe of the surface otherwise it becomes sticky and sucks dirt. The boiled will go less deep and become a varnish (the molecules are ten times bigger).
If you use mineral spirits or turpentine in the oil, you will not get the oil deeper, it is only the turpentine that goes deeper and the turpentine dry out the wood and kill it’s natural oils, so this is an old misunderstanding, also turpentine are bad for the environment, so no reason for that. So I usually just use the raw, it is only important that you get a good filtered and aged quality.
Soda, you got it! Thanks, now that’s a compliment when coming from a French to my French axes. Smiles.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2751 days

#10 posted 05-19-2015 03:01 PM

Beautifully done handles Mads. Like you I love the artful shape of the axe heads and your handle designs work very well with them.

The bucket brought back a lot of good memories from our bucket project together. I am still mad at myself for accidentally deleting all my photos from the bucket blog. I hope I get inspired to make another one just just so I can document the work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View mafe's profile


11061 posts in 2506 days

#11 posted 05-20-2015 12:44 AM

Yes that was a wonderful time, I did enjoy and learned so much, thank you.
Don’t you have the photos here on LJ?
I have my bucket here in the workshop and always smile when I see it.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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