Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog re-run: Consignment Store/Gransfors SCORE! - by bmatt, an American ushcrafter in Finland

Consignment Store/Gransfors SCORE! - by bmatt

Back in July, I was perusing a consignment shop when I came across a rusty old axe. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a vintage Gränsfors Bruks axe! What a find. The head was rusty and had a badly-replaced handle, but it looked like it still had a lot of life left in it, so I picked it up for 10 Euros. :) ( M.O.H. adds - 10 Euros = $13.77 in Yankee coin)

First I removed the old handle by carving it down skinnier than the eye just below the eye and knocking it out from the bottom up. Then I soaked the head in vinegar overnight twice (using fresh vinegar each time). This was followed by removal of any last rust and paint with a soft wire brush. To finish up the head, I used orange and lemon juice to force a patina, sanded the cheeks smooth and filed/stoned the bevel.

When the head was ready, I fitted a 65 cm/26" store-bought birch handle (birch is the most common handle material in Scandinavia). I had to do a lot of carving to get the handle to fit right and to have the right shape. This was followed by sanding lightly with 100 grit sandpaper, one coat of walnut stain and several light coats of raw linseed oil.

Finally, I made a sheath using a belt from the same consignment shop, some waxed thread and a snap kit.

All in all, I'm happy with the end product. I wanted it to have somewhat of an old-timey look and feel, which is why I didn't sand down the entire head, etc.

I was curious to know what the stampings on the one side of the head mean, so I contacted Gränsfors. They went out of their way to help me out! It turns out that the head I found is a model 38, "Yankee" style head weighing 2 lbs. This model was discontinued in the 80's but I think mine is probably 40 - 50 years old because of the style of the stampings and the really aged look of the replacement handle. After sending some pictures of the finished axe to Gränsfors, CEO Gabriel Branby wanted to send me the Gränsfors Axe Book. I asked him to sign it for me, because I'm an axe nerd.

So far, I've used this axe for chopping everything from branches to 7" diameter dead pine logs. I've felled a 4.5" diameter birch and split many pieces of wood from kindling to 6" rounds. I didn't used to want to carry an axe like this on bushcraft/camping trips, but it's not heavy at all, doesn't protrude anywhere when strapped to my pack and has turned out to be a really powerful and useful tool. I think this one's a keeper. :)

BTW, you can see the cord wraps I did on the handle in one of the pictures. I decided to remove this a little while after doing it.

Thanks for allowing me to guest post on your blog, Mike. Keep up the great work!


  1. Looks good. I really enjoy tools with a little "experience" on them!

  2. What a find! I wish they had axe's in the little shops around here (or even decent handles). Even though it used to be a farming and mining town, people only buy new stuff here now and either throw them away or just leave 'em to rust. Good work!

  3. Very nice, I really like the sheath you designed for it.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. I got really lucky with this one because there is just so much usable blade left. Oftentimes, old axes are used up quite a bit. Not this one!