Refinished Handaxe of unclear origin

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Project by Will Mego posted 07-06-2009 08:10 PM 2089 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Not the most exciting thing, perhaps, but I do love tools, and refinishing them.

[first three pics are the “after”, and the last is the only “before” I had. Yes that’s yellow electrical tape around the neck, for some reason.]

For my entire life, my mother has had this handaxe knocking around the house, and she abuses it terribly. Hacking at roots into the dirt, beating on rocks, and generally just doing everything you probably should never do with it. Well, after 30+ years of this abuse, the head had become one giant block of not just rust, but dark, blackened rust. The handle was looking like it was going to rot in half, and had long since loosened enough that the head would slide off if you simply held it upside down. Inspired (I assume) by my taking a small handaxe head I found under the beat-to-hell workbench in the garage (that’s right….under) and taking it from rust to shiny and sharp with an entirely hand made handle, she asked if I could do something with her old beater. So, I set off…

A quick clean and polish of the head revealed a lot of pitting (eh, looks rustic) but a nice usable head underneath the rust, of which there was quite a lot. Also, some interesting symbols on the head, which on the large version of the first pic you might be able to get a closer look at..japanese, perhaps? The handle took to sanding nicely, and wasn’t in fact as rotten as first glance would suggest. After sanding, and applying 3 coats of arm-r-seal, finishing with rubbed wax on both handle and head after a quick visit to the grinding wheel to give it an edge, it was done. The symbols remain a mystery, as nobody can quite make heads or tails of them, and after wedging the head on tight with slivers of oak, it looks and feels great…so good in fact, she’s stood it up near her desk, and it’s not been used since! Oh well…at least it’s saved from beating on dirt for awhile.

The slivering of the outside, that is to say between the tenon and the head as opposed to a wedge inside a split of the handle is something I’ve taken to doing after watching some videos of old swedish craftsman posted on here months ago from around 1920’s-1930’s. I’ve put on a few handles this way so far, and they all seem super tight. My other handaxe gets regular (4-5 times a week) serious use hacking at logs and blanks for rough shaping, so far so good.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

9 comments so far

View thomasberg's profile


20 posts in 3248 days

#1 posted 07-06-2009 11:12 PM

She sure is purt., I’d love to see some up close pictures of how you wedged the head back on, and maybe some up close pictures of the symbols; I am decent at making sense of symbols on old coins, silverware, and furniture, maybe I’ll have some luck with this one.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3583 days

#2 posted 07-06-2009 11:16 PM

Hi that’s a nice tool.Question what is the thickened edge made of is it a harder material or just designed that way to be thicker?? I’ve never seen this type of edge befrore looks interesting.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#3 posted 07-07-2009 03:02 AM

Very sharp

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3686 days

#4 posted 07-07-2009 04:56 AM

Great job !

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3720 days

#5 posted 07-07-2009 05:17 AM

What a neat rejuvination to an old work horse of a tool. It’s now a pretty pony to be used another 30 years.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 3710 days

#6 posted 07-07-2009 11:14 PM

thomas: I’ll try to get pics of both sometime soon. I’ll also try to find the video of the Swedish guy making the axe that inspired it.

Scotsman: It seems to be a wedge of a harder material from which to form a better edge…what I’m not sure of is whether it’s prominence is deliberate or some result of it’s decades of neglect. It looks a little odd close up, due to how much it sticks out, but seems to work, the few cuts I made with if after sharpening.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 3710 days

#7 posted 07-09-2009 10:02 PM

Here’s pics, Markings

Good luck to anyone pondering the markings..your guess is at least as good as mine.

The wedging LOOKS like it wouldn’t work, I know. I rive slivers of oak, and wedge into place with mallets, getting it as deep and as tight as possible. The Swedish video is hard to find, here's a link of a man making wooden clogs on the correct site one of a guy making an axe handle and finally wedging it is on there someplace…at the very least you’ll enjoy the clog making.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#8 posted 07-09-2009 10:11 PM

The pictures.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View thomasberg's profile


20 posts in 3248 days

#9 posted 07-10-2009 12:00 AM

cool, much thanks.

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