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Polishing of an Ax/Maul, Making ax handle - Original msg 1st posted by Thill

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#1 Irving Drinkwine

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Posted March 23 2009 - 2:51 PM

In one of his messages, Thill (a forum mod on this site) wrote a message about polishing an ax/maul to make wood splitting easier.
I've posted the message at the bottom.
I tried to send a message to him but was unable to and I lost the forum where it was posted when I was signing up on this site.

In polishing a maul/ax to a near mirror finish, I was wondering what grits of paper one would use.
-How could you tell if you jumped to great a "number" between grits?
-Is a random orbital sander better then just a vibrating sander?
-Does it matter if it is a pneumatic sander or electric sander?

Any suggestions on metal finishing & polishing would be much appreciated.
I ask the more as a practice exercise to putting a mirror finish on a piece of steel. I think a polished ax/maul would cut better but I'd not want to argue the point.

Also, I have a double bladed ax with a broken handle.
The top looks filled in with epoxy. I've drilled some of the wood out and some of the epoxy (using a masonry bit - unsure if it was needed but it worked.) Is there any easy way to remove the broken handle - I don't want to burn it out because that seems as if it might hurt the ax's temper.
Also, does anyone have suggestions on making a handle for it?
I'd like to try to make one from scratch - that is if someone has advice for me. I figure I'd get a piece of oak or hickory and let it season and then try to fit it into the ax head. Make sure I have a slit in the top so I can put a wedge in it. Is that all there is to it?

Irving Drinkwine
((I'm BRAND new to woodworking and metalworking so I realize that I may not know enough to ask the right questions. But please save the flames telling me how little I know.))

And what is with the "Men are Pigs" smiley icon?

Several notes:
1. I recommend you get an 8# maul as well as a 12# maul. In the end, I prefer the ones with a simple wedge shaped head. The 8 will take care of the smaller logs and feels like a feather when splitting all day. For SOME, the 8 works best for all splitting, because SPEED equals power, and they can get an 8 moving a lot faster than a 12. Me, I use my mirror-finish 12 90% of the time, as I prefer to find the biggest, densest wood I can.

2. If you have the tools, sharpen AND polish your mauls. Start with a grinder, then use a belt sander, then a random orbit sander. Finally, finish with rubbing compound and finally car wax. In the end, a cheap maul will look like something that cost a lot of $$$. Razor sharp and SLICK.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it only took me about 45 mins on a rainy day. And MAN is it worth the time! This maul simply won't stick in wood, and it BLASTS through it so easily, it takes some getting used to. You actually have to be careful, because it goes through like butter. When your FIL uses it, he will want you to do all of his, too! Once it's done, if you keep it out of the rain, it will stay that way for years, only needing touching up if you hit a stone or such.

#2 Ben Lippen

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Posted March 23 2009 - 4:15 PM

Welcome aboard Irving
If you were searching under the name Thrill, it's no wonder you couldnt find anything. His username is Thill.
I changed the spelling in your post, and bumped up the original post for you

#3 oldgoat

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Posted March 23 2009 - 5:46 PM

Irv IMHO i wouldn't bother with the polish. I would instead make sure i had a good solid base to slam your wood otherwise you energy will be wasted with a cushioned base.I think an 8lb Oregon mall should do the job. PS You might want to look for a piece of ash for that handle. I had the pleasure and the honor of working with a real woods man and let me tell you he used a single edge 4lb axe and as i cut the tree he would have it limb ed and topped as it fell and hit the ground walking the tree as it fell and using three edges of the axe. He also told me about making a draw shave out of old files by heating them in afire and making the handle curve and then sharpening it. Wellit didn't mean toblab on but anyway try a solid base under your splitting and you will be fine

#4 Somethingsfishy

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Posted March 23 2009 - 8:28 PM

A good solid base is very important as mentioned above. Polishing any cutting tool is also important. Sharp is defined by both the keenness of the edge AND the smoothness. Try sharpening a knife sometime with a stone and see how it cuts(I cut off some arm hairs to check) and then polish the edge and see how it cuts. The difference can be meaningful.
Having been a custom furniture maker for 25 years it's one of the best sharpening lessons I've learned.

(member formerly known as 'Abodeon')

#5 dogboy

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Posted March 24 2009 - 6:46 AM

ash or hickory both make good handles because they are both resilient

make sure you find a nice clean piece- not easy to do

most local sawmills don't cut hickory

i didn't catch your location, but you should be able to find a stand of hickory either shagbark, or pig nut without too much trouble

also, and this is very important: as you hold any tool like an axe or maul in the "user position", the grain should run vertically, not horizontally or at an angle

otherwise, it will surely break sooner than it would

there are a couple paperbacks worth looking for: green woodworking is the name of one of them

PBS had a program called "the woodwright's shop"- maybe google "woodright"

"riving green wood" "making axe handles", etc. for more information

as far as polishing the head- as long as the tool has a nice, properly sharpened and honed edge and isn't rusty, you really don't need to see yourself in it (unless you have the time and that is how you choose to spend it)

for the edges themselves, first-a good flat file should be used to get the proper "cheek" and bevel (the cheek is the thickness of the axe right behind the cutting edge- too thick and the axe will bounce out, too thin and it will get stuck- how thick you want it depends on what you will be using it on: hardwood versus pine, green verssus dry, etc.)

after the file, a series of increasingly fine honing honing stones should be used- the finest of these will give you a mirror finish

these stones can get expensive- google "arkansas stone" to get an idea
over the years i have picked a bunch up at yard sales and flea markets for far less than you would haver to pay retail

you can get a new axe stone for short money- a round stone with coarse grit on one side and fine on the other

with some honing oil and that you can get started

good luck

gotta go

to get the old handle off, get a punch with a flat business end
you could use a steel dowel or piece of re-rod
after you drill your holes, take your punch and hammer to it to drive the remaining pieces out

you are right to avoid heating it

#6 Ebbtide231

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Posted March 27 2009 - 11:32 AM

"Old Jimbo" in the google box should yield some good axe reading.

There is also an Forestry Service (IIRC) Axe Handbook available online.