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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Default Handle for the village axe - some shaping, some carving, some burning...

    Late last year I was traveling through Rajasthan, and came across a small village that had a working village blacksmith living on the outskirts. This was on the edge of the Thar Desert, northwest of Jodhpur. The blacksmith was a lohar (ironsmith) gipsy, but he and his family seemed to have given up the nomadic life for a more stable existence.

    When I arrived he was forging axe heads for local village farmers. I asked if he would make me one, which he was glad to do.

    The smithy - made of large slabs of local sandstone, (3 metres in length) stood on end and the gaps filled with the gaps filled with mud & mud rendered. (You can see construction in other photos). Traditional thatched roof:

    Working at the forge - you can see his wife turning the crank of a blower. The blower is embedded in the floor (seen just above the blacksmiths left elbow):

    Forging the iron. The women do a lot of hard work!
    Forging1 .jpg

    Shaping the blade of my axe head:

    I decided that I needed to make a handle that would be more than just utilitarian, as this was a memento of some wonderful travels.

    This is the result:

    As I didn't have any suitable handle timber, I found a brush hook handle in the two dollar bin at the big green shed. However it did not have the girth to let me add a swell at the bottom. I had some scraps of purpleheart, so laminated this to the bottom of the handle. To disguise the transition, I chose to add a cord wrap and impregnate it with epoxy. And to add an "Indian" theme I sketched out what I thought would be a suitable design for the top of the handle. This was relief carved, and then to make the design pop out I used a pyrography pen to "colour in" the symbol. The handle was finished with Livos oil & then rubbed with Gilley Stephenson paste wax. I baked the axe head in the oven for 3 hours with oil (in part to temper the steel, and in part to bake on an oil finish. (the head was wire brushed first)

    Despite drilling at the bottom of the main wedge kerf, the handle split a little below the eye - filled this with epoxy. The main wedge is pupleheart & the cross wedge is brass.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Brisbane (western suburbs)


    That looks like a very nice little axe, Ross, a useful memento of the trip, & pretty special to have had it made before your very eyes! A small axe is a very handy tool, I have a shingling axe that's vaguely similar to your axe & it gets a lot of use around my shed, roughing out turning blanks & so forth.

    I've got a somewhat less-refined memento of a working trip - a bill-hook that I picked up in Sa Pa in Vietnam - pretty sure it's from a recycled vehicle spring, & cost me less than $1, iirc. Bill hook.jpg

    I didn't get to see it being forged, unfortunately, I just saw them for sale in the local market. These are used by the Hill people, clearing areas to plant upland rice. The handle socket wasn't forge-welded closed, like your axe eye, just rolled over, & it wanted to spread in use, so I ran a bead of weld along the join, which spoils the hand-forged look, but makes it more robust. It's a very handy weapon in the fight to keep the Lantana & Asparagus fern that wants to take over our land at bay...


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