Hatchet Restoration

I'm very happy to unveil this restored old hatchet. The head was found in an antiques shop in Bonners Ferry, Idaho for $15. It was rusted over completely, but since there appeared to be no serious pitting either on the outside or in the eye, I decided to purchase it and bring it back with me. I figured that it would be a fun project to clean it up and give it a new sharp edge, and I ended up being very correct.

I first soaked the head overnight in plain vinegar to help remove some of the rust, mainly from inside the eye. The next day I gave it a pass with the angle grinder and a polycarbide abrasive wheel which shined it up pretty well aside from the minor surface pitting that you see in the photos. I cleaned up the eye as best I could with a round file, then I filed in a keen edge which got cleaned up with various grits of sandpaper up to 1500. It's not shaving sharp, but it's pretty damn sharp anyway, as evinced by the long, clean slice that I inflicted on my left forefinger while preparing the handle later on.

Due to the unfortunate slicing of my finger I decided to delve back into leatherwork and craft a sheath before continuing the handle hanging. I wanted a sheath that covers just the blade edge; I don't prefer full coverage sheaths for axes like the one that came with my Estwing which requires you to slide the handle through it. It's unnecessary and takes longer. I know I'm talking about a matter of seconds here, but why fiddle around with a thing when there's a better design to be used? Anyhow, I learned a few things from the project. This was the first where I've done any sort of edging process, so I picked up an edge beveler, nylon edge slick, and a bone folder from Tandy Leather. I tossed in some edge coat as well for the pretty black edge. The rounding and smoothing process takes some time, but it's well worth it to get a tidier edge that'll hold up better to wear. For the amount of rounding that I achieved on this project I lost about 1/8" in surface area, so next time I'm going to have to take that into account and offset my rivets a bit more so they're neither flush with nor over the edge. It just looks amateur (fittingly). Regarding the strap that snaps the sheath closed, I used some guess work for the proper size and hole positions for the riveted snap. The problem there is when the snap was finally attached, I gained some slack since it's no longer flush with the rest of the piece. This means the sheath doesn't fit as tightly and therefore if it's pulled in the right direction it will reveal the top tip of the axe head. I'm displeased with that and I may try building another sheath for that reason alone. The misplaced rivets I can handle; a blade edge sticking out just irks me too much.

The handle is a random American made hickory 14" handle from Fleet Farm. It's a fine enough handle for the $6 or so that it cost, but I did sand off the slick coating that came on it. Hanging it was an easy enough feat, though I did learn one thing that you shouldn't do. I pounded the wedge in with the handle end on the work bench and that worked out fine. My problem was that I clamped the axe head in the vice in order to pound in the crosswise metal wedge. When you're hammering a wedge downward into a handle that's just hanging there with nothing beneath it you may force the handle down out of the eye a bit. It only moved maybe a millimeter, but that's the exact opposite of what you're trying to achieve in the first place. Lesson learned. The head is very securely mounted, nevertheless, and there's no chance of it coming off without a hard fight.

After some initial testing, the edge retention seems really good. The head is narrow enough to handle splitting thin slices of cedar at the growth ring without breaking them off weirdly, but it has plenty of heft enough to wail through the stringy birch for kindling. I won't bother with oak since I never find that out in the woods while camping. I can definitely do some roughing for wood carving with this tool if need be. I don't know offhand what angle I filed the edge to, but it's consistent all the way down. I have plenty of practice from knife making sans a belt sander; you get used to filing straight. It should be easy enough to hone with a Lansky puck or similar as needed.

This was a fun project for all of $21 or so (yeah, yeah, I'm not counting the leatherwork stuff). This little axe should last me well into the future for all my bush choppin' needs. I have no idea what its history is, nor can I find much worthy information about the Eclipse branding, but I'll be sure to add to its history in my own way.