Monday, April 4, 2011

Double-bit axe restoration – Part 3 - by bmatt, an American Bushcrafter in Finland

Today in the News:  bmatt is back!  His double-bit restoration has hit part 3 and, may I say, it is coming along nicely.  I really love his attention to detail on this project.  I've been looking at double bits myself.  I'm thinking a Kelly Black Raven - classic.

Link of the Day: - I saw yesterday that SG is now offering a Swedish hatchet, in addition to the Swedish Army surplus axe.  Looks good.  If anyone has one of those hatchets, drop me a line.  I've got an Army surplus axe on back order from them.

bmatt’s double-bit axe restoration – Part 3

In Part 2, I filed through the patina and pitting to restore the cutting edges of this axe. This made it functional once again, but it really needed more work to make it look nice and function better, so it was back to the workshop.

I like to sand down the entire area from the edge to the Hamon line. The Hamon line, or temper line, is the line between the tempered part of the blade and the non-tempered part of the blade (on my patina’d head, they were black and gray, respectively). There are a few reasons why I like to sand down this area, one being that it makes the bit nice and smooth, and thus less likely to stick in wood. Another is that it shows me how much good, tempered steel is left in the axe over the course of time. It also makes a nice contrast to the patina.

I started with 40 grit sandpaper and moved on to 60, then 100 and finally 240. There are folks who go much further and put on a real mirror polish, but I don’t feel the desire or need to do that personally – I intend to use this axe to its fullest, so I know it will get scratched, dirty etc. After I did the final sanding with the 240-grit paper, there was a very clear and sharp division between the patina’d steel and the sanded steel, so I lightly sanded along the line using very small, tight circles. I started from one end of the line and then slowly moved to the other end, going back and forth several times, always in small, tight circles. This blended the two sections nicely. You’ll notice that I left plenty of pitting on the sanded part of the bit. I don’t worry about this, as it doesn’t affect the performance of the axe (and I really don’t feel like sanding or filing it all away!)

In all, I spent 2 hours sanding. This step can be done much faster with power tools, but I almost exclusively use only hand tools. I forgot to mention last time that I spent 1 hour and 20 minutes on the filing step. So, excluding the multi-day vinegar bath, I put 3 hours and 20 minutes into restoring the head. Again, it does not need to take this long if you use power tools!

After I was finished sanding, I gave the edges a sharpen with a fine file. As you can see, it will easily cut paper now. As far as I’m concerned, this head is ready to be fitted to a handle. I managed to find a nice handle originally intended for another tool (double-bits are pretty much non-existent in Finland) and I think it will work just fine. Now I’m going to fit this handle to the head and add some wedges, which you’ll see in Part 4.


[ From MOH] - All I have to say is WOW.  That head has come a long (literally) way since I picked it up for a song at a yard sale last summer.  I'm very pleased that a.) it will be finding good use and b.)  It is in FINLAND! Great work, bmatt.  I have a feeling we'll have to start a page for "bmatt's technical axe and bushcraft terms" soon.  I had no idea what the Hamon line was called, officially.  Good to know. 
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel....out.


  1. Paper is a good idea. My forearms used to be chronically bald back when I used axes a lot!

  2. I find that, if an axe will cut paper cleanly, it will also cut wood well. :)

    Incidentally, I also sharpen my knives only until they will cut paper cleanly. This level of sharpness has always served me very well in my cutting tasks.

    Lots of folks in various forums, blogs etc. on the Internet obsess about different levels of sharpness, but I think when you can split a hydrogen atom with your Woodlore, that edge probably won't last too long doing real tasks under real conditions. I much prefer a good basic working edge for wilderness tools.


  3. Great post. Helpful as I'm currently restoring a Warren camp axe.