When we do events and show off axes that we have restored we invariably get a few questions about how we decide which axes are worthy of restoration. Many folks have old axes lying around in their garages, barns or camps. They may be tempted by seeing a pile of axes for sale at an antique store, flea market or yard sale. We know that steel doesn't go bad, but is it worth the effort to restore an old axe? The answer is not always yes.
Here are a few tips to help you decide whether to put in the effort to restore the axe yourself (or send it to us here at B&C to do it for you)
1. Leave the Severely Mushroomed Heads Alone.
This advice given you by your tie-dye t-shirted friend at a Grateful Dead concert is easily applied to axe restoration. All of us are guilty of using the poll of the axe as a hammer at one time or another. How can you not? It is so hammer-y. Like anything done in moderation, using the poll as a hammer is not in and of itself a problem. But repeatedly doing so can distend the eye making re-handling impossible (and dangerous). It also can cause cracks in the eye. Check out this poor old guy below . . .
2. Chips Are for the Poker Table Not the Bit of an Axe
We see a fair amount of axe heads with small chips in them. The initial thought is "well I can just grind this down and re-profile the entire bit." Not so fast. By re-profiling an axe with a chip bigger than 1/8"or so you run the risk of removing the hardened bit steel thereby reducing the usefulness of the axe. Leave axe heads like the one below be.
3. "The Right Profile" is not just a great Clash song.
Even if an axe bit is not chipped the hardened steel may have been removed by improper sharpening. A bad habit is to sharpen blades from only one direction. This leaves the bit more worn on one end. Sometimes this is just a cosmetic problem. The bit will still bite. However, asymmetrical honing (what happened to the axe below) sometimes results in the hardened steel part of the bit being removed.
4. Beware of Poison Eye-vy
One other tell-tale sign of potential problems with the eye of the axe is the number (and type) of wedges jammed into the axe handle. You know you have seen it: the eye of the axe jammed with metal screws, nails and wedges - anything to snug the handle to the axe head. While certainly this can fix a loose axe head in an emergency, resorting to such extreme measures may indicate an unseen defect in the eye of the axe. This may indicate that there is no good way to keep the axe head securely on the handle. Be careful!
5. That's the Pits!
Don't reject axe heads out of hand just because they have excessive rust or pitting. We have restored axes for clients which are severely pitted from rust and corrosion. If the bit steel is still good and you don't mind the look, a pitted axe that is restored can still provide years of service. It is all in the eye of the beholder.
Questions on whether to restore one of your axes? Give us a call (207) 730-2929 or email us at email@example.com.
B&C Restoration Services
If you aren't that adventurous, without the right tools, or strapped for time B&C can help with your axe restoration project. We have restored dozens of axes for clients. Send us a picture of the axe you want restored and we'll get back to you with a quote for restoring, re-handling, and making a custom leather sheath for your treasured axe.