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Get 'Em While They're Hot! - Indiegogo Campaign Perks

Get 'Em While They're Hot! - Indiegogo Campaign Perks

Help us bring axe making back to Maine by supporting our Indiegogo campaign.
If you do you can get a lot of wonderful (and some exclusive) B&C swag!

$5  Support Level

B&C postcard featuring a historic photo from the collection of the Patten Lumbermen's Museum and your own spanking new B&C sticker with our iconic Maine logo!
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$10 Support Level

Get a set of 3 Brant & Cochran Beer Coasters.  Each coaster has our logo on one side and a different image reflecting our "Make*Educate*Curate" mission.  Have a cold one and learn something too!  Also comes with the postcard and a B&C sticker.

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$25 Support Level

Q:  What better way to open a coldie than with a hand-forged, axe shaped opener?

A:  None better

Get our hand made bottle opener along with the beer coasters, 4 stickers, and a complete set of the four postcards that ship with our restored axes.  Slainte!

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$45 Support Level

This campaign is all about bringing axe making back to Maine.  Our Maine wedge pattern camp axe is going to be called "The Allagash Cruiser."  The logo for the axe is based on the design of labels placed on Maine-made axes more than 100 years ago. 

Our Allagash Cruiser T-shirt will have the logo of the label on the front and a B&C logo on the yoke.  Exclusively available here!

 

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$75 Support Level

All of the Above+!  Get an Allagash Cruiser T-shirt and all the other stuff:  the beer opener, coasters (we'll add another set so you get 6), a set of 4 postcards, and 4 stickers.  Also get a magnet of the Allagash Cruiser label that will be stuck on all those axes we make.

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$125 Support Level

Join the team with a B&C work shirt!  We'll embroider your name on our short sleeve, Red Kap work shirt so you never forget it!  Also, get an Allagash Cruiser T-shirt and all of the other swag: the beer opener, coasters, postcards and stickers.  Stand out!

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$275 Support Level

Where it all began!  Choose between a lovingly, restored vintage single bit felling axe (3-4 lbs.) or a double bit axe.  It will be shipped to you with all of the swag that accompanies these beauties:  a set of four postcards, a two-sided poster with a picture from the Patten Lumbermen's Museum collection on one side and axe lore on the other, and of course a set of beer coasters!

$500 Support Level

When getting a beautiful B&C vintage restored axe is just not enough!  Get a vintage axe along with all the other perks:  an Allagash Cruiser T-shirt, a personalized B&C work shirt, beer opener, coasters, magnet, sticker and postcard.

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$1,000 Support Level

An Allagash Cruiser!  Be the first to own Brant & Cochran's Maine wedge pattern camp axe.  This beauty will have a 2 lb. head, 28" Maine ash handle and be ready for camp, hiking, canoeing or splitting kindling for the home wood stove.  Of course, you get all the other swag:  the work shirt, Allagash cruiser T-shirt, beer opener, coasters and postcard.  We will also throw in an exclusive B&C beer carrier! 

 

“True Temper” – Hardening and Tempering Axe Steel

“True Temper” – Hardening and Tempering Axe Steel

We know that “tempering” is an important stage in axe making.  It must be important for one brand to be called “True Temper,” companies like Emerson & Stevens to emboss the initials of the temperer right on the axe, and many companies to highlight tempering in their ads and labels.

Tempering is only one step in heat treating steel though.


Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon.  Iron alone is too soft to be of much use to the tool maker.  “High carbon” steel is considered steel with between .5% to 1% carbon content.  For example, 1055 steel has a carbon content of .55%.  What makes high carbon steel so alluring to the edge tool maker is that through heat treating you can make the edge harder and more durable.  In other words, less sharpening and more chopping!


The chemistry is really quite cool.  Hardening is possible due to two characteristics of the iron and carbon found in steel: (i) Iron can exist in different crystalline structures, and (ii) carbon atoms are 1/30 the size of iron atoms.  I know I lost you at “crystalline,” but wait it gets good . . .


At room temperature, high carbon steel consists of ferrite crystals which have iron atoms at each corner of a cube and one in the middle.  By heating the steel up to around 1500 F the carbon becomes dissolved in the crystalline structure of the ferrite creating a new structure referred to as “austenite.”  Another way to think of it is that austenite is a solution of iron and carbon.  If allowed to cool slowly back to room temperature the carbon atoms come out of solution and the steel returns to its original state.

But what if we cool the heated steel rapidly?  By taking the hot steel and quenching it rapidly in water, brine or oil, the carbon does not have time to escape the iron crystal lattice or otherwise come out of solution.  A new structure known as “martensite” is formed.  This structure is hard because the carbon atoms are more tightly packed in with their iron brethren making the steel harder.  But in this form the hardened steel is brittle.  To solve the brittleness of the steel at this point it is tempered.

Tempering is simply raising the temperature of the hardened steel to reduce the stress in the steel caused by heat treating.  This reduces the hardness a little, but reduces the brittleness a lot. Most steels need to be tempered at about 450°F for maximum usable hardness but every steel is slightly different.


Most axes are heat treated at the bit end only.  On many older axes you can see a clear demarcation between the steel that has been hardened at the bit and the softer steel making up the remainder of the axe head.  This is called the “hamon line.”

Of course there is much more to the chemistry (and craftsmanship) involved in heat treating tool steel.  Apologies to all the chemists, blacksmiths and metallurgists out there for this oversimplification of the heat treating process!

More information on heat treating (and great diagrams on the chemistry behind it) can be found here:

The Story of Lemuel Cotton and the

The Story of Lemuel Cotton and the "Ebonoak Handle"

Following the trend of our last blog posts on axe handles we thought we would share the story of Hiram, Maine’s Lemuel Cotton and his “Ebonoake” handles.  It is a story about unintended discovery, Yankee ingenuity, and clever marketing.

Lemuel Cotton began whittling oak axe handles at his house in Western Maine in the 1870’s.  The axe handle business got good for Lemuel and he moved his shop into the Village of Hiram.  By 1905 business was so good that he employed eight men making more 30,000 handles a year.

From old invoices, we know that Cotton sold axe handles made from white oak, red oak, and maple.  But they also sold handles made out of “Ebonoak.”

Of course, “Ebonoak” was not some new species of oak discovered in the forests of Western Maine.  The Cottons kept its white oak "seconds" handles in the sacks in the barn occupied by the family's horse.  When doing inventory of these seconds Lemuel’s grandson Raymond noticed that the white oak handles had turned rich dark brown.  Company manager, Raymond's uncle, Cad Lombard thought it had something to do with the ammonia fumes from the horse dung in the barn.

Raymond thought that these dark colored handles might be just the thing to fight off the rising popularity of hickory handles that was eating into company sales.   He experimented by laying a white oak handle in a sealed box with some ammonia poured into a tin pan.  Three days later he opened the box, and the handle emerged black.  When Raymond showed the dark handles to head finisher Almon Storer he said "Looks something like oak, but it ain't never seen no oak like that.  It kinda looks like ebony."  The “Ebonoak” handle was born.

His new handle needed a dramatic logo so Raymond headed to an advertising firm and worked on a label that would contrast with the dark finish of the handles.  While we are unaware of any still existing Ebonoak labels, Raymond describes the label to look something like this (apologies to Raymond Cotton!):

While company manager Cad Lombard did not think the new handles were “worth a tinker’s damn” Raymond decided to hit the bricks to try and sell his Ebonoak handles.  His success with Portland hardware stores and distributors such as Edwards & Walker Company and Talbot, Brooks & Ayer and throughout New England put the Cotton handle company back in the black. 

The double whammy of the Depression and World War II spelled the end for the Lemuel Cotton & Son Company.  Convinced that they could not make any money due to price controls put in place during WWII, the Cotton handle business closed.  John King of Oakland bought out the equipment (including an Ober duplicating lathe – see our earlier blog post about this unique machine). 

More detail on the Cotton handle company and the Ebonoak handle can be found in the booklet Split, Rive and Whittle:  The Story of Lemuel Cotton’s Axe Handle Shop by Raymond C. Cotton published by the Hiram Historical Society in 1989.

And if anyone out there has a copy or picture of a real Ebonoak label please share!