Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Double-Bit Axe Restoration – Part 2, by bmatt, an American Bushcrafter in Finland

Today in the News:  bmatt returns!  If you think you have enough axes, you may want to click away from today's post.  I'm serious.  I don't want to be responsible for axe addictions.  Really, read on at your own risk!
Bernard Ten Bears' Link of the Day:  http://www.orvis.com/

bmatt’s double-bit axe restoration – Part 2
Last time, I showed you how I got started restoring an axe by giving it the vinegar treatment. This removed the rust and brought it down to the “healthy” metal underneath. Today, I’ll tell you about the next step: restoring the edge. This step takes a lot less time than the vinegar bath. ;) Please excuse the pictures. I’m not a photographer and had trouble getting good shots this time.

Here’s how the head looked before I started filing:

The first step is to secure the axe head horizontally to a workbench using clamps, etc. You can also just hold the head down with your hand, which is what I do (I’m kind of a shade-tree DIYer and improvise a lot). Using an 8” flat metal file (don’t know the roughness level, but it’s rougher than the fine files I have), I began removing material from the bit. Old-timers prefer to file into the bit, i.e. with your hand moving toward the axe head, as this creates less of a burr on the edge. They also only “cut” with the file on the push stroke, which means that they lift it off the metal when pulling it back and then apply it again for the next push stroke. I do these things as well, and they do work. As for the “angle of attack”, I like to hold the file at about a 45-degree angle to the cutting edge when seen from above and move the file up the edge during the push stroke, rather than just keeping it stationary on one section of the edge…kind of hard to explain. Anyway, I worked until I had removed the vinegar patina and the minor pitting in a section extending from the cutting edge to about 1/2” back from the edge.





While filing this axe head, I knew the steel and temper were good right away by the way the file was cutting. It was reasonably easy to remove metal, but the file didn’t dig in too deeply or remove too much. This means that the edge should sharpen relatively easily, retain that sharpness well, and hopefully not chip too badly should I happen to nick something hard. Now I’m really looking forward to getting this axe up and running!

At this point, the axe head could be fitted to a handle and used after cleaning up the edge just a bit more, but I’ll do some more work to it to improve its appearance and function. In the next part, you’ll see the finished axe head, ready to bit fitted to a handle.

As always, please feel free to ask questions or make comments below. Thanks for reading.

bmatt, an American Bushcrafter in Finland
Yeah, I've got nothing.  Except drool on my keyboard.  I may change my "no double-bits" rule soon.  Fan-freaking-tastic work, bmatt!

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel.....out.


  1. I always put the handle in first, THEN sharpened the bits - it just felt safer to me that way. As long as you're careful though, I guess it doesn't matter which way you do it.

  2. GS,

    Sure, that'd work, too. I've never had any problems or injuries working just the head alone, though. I kind of like to do all the work I'm going to do to a head before I fit it to a handle. Don't know why. Just seems easier to me for some reason.