I found a Collins axe head at the flea market yesterday. For some reason I like axes so I bought it for $5. In my minimal experience with axes it seems the older ones are better than the modern day ones.
Here’s the axe head as I found it. It is sitting next to a nice set of Allen ball end drivers I found at the flea market as well.
There’s two things wrong in this picture. The first, is that someone tried to tighten the head by pounding a bunch of nails into the eye. Bad idea. The second issue, is that the bottom of the axe head is up in this picture. Yup it was mounted upside down. There’s a taper in the eye of an axe head that is smaller at the bottom to mechanically lock the handle in. Mounting the head upside down guarantees it would never be tight.
The back of the head is called the poll. It is not for hammering on with a steel hammer. Doing so just mushrooms the back of the axe head and makes it look like crap.
I took it to the grinder and removed all of the mushrooming and lips where the head had been hammered on. I’d like it if the color was even on the head but I’m not sure what I could do to achieve that other and paint. I’m sure it’ll even out over time though.
I ground a 25 degree angle on the edge and then refined it with a machinist’s file. Then I put a small primary bevel on the cutting edge and honed it.
When I was trying to insert the handle into the head it wouldn’t go. Inspection showed that hammering by the previous owner had also formed a lip inside of the eye. I used a Dremel with a stone to remove this lip.
I used a store bought handle that I had around the garage. This handle has a mix of heartwood and sapwood which isn’t ideal as it can cause the handle to fail earlier than it should. I also prefer the curved handles but figured I should do something with this one. Most store brought handles come with a varnish on them. I like to scrape or sand the varnish off and then oil the handle with Boiled Linseed Oil. The oil is better for the wood and isn’t as slippery as the varnish. I sanded the handle with 120 and then used 220 everywhere except for the lower parts of the handle where the stationary hand is placed. This helps with grip. After a little fitting, I cut a wedge out and then attached the head.
Once I’d oiled and waxed the head it was out to give it a try. The head remained attached and it chopped wood without wedging. Success!