Wednesday, October 7, 2015

making an axe

*NOTE: I NO LONGER USE RATTAN EDGES. I AM LEAVING THE INSTRUCTIONS AS THEY ARE FOR CONSTRUCTION DETAILS... BUT I NO LONGER FEEL IT NECESSARY. I STILL USE LEATHER ON THE EDGE TO PROTECT IT.*

The axe design I currently use is based around the axe heads produced by By My Hand Designs. They have a variety of designs, from simple axes like the one I use here, to Maciejowski bible choppers. 
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 Step one is the haft. Figure out what length is right for you. My primary axe I use for singles is between 4 and 5 feet long, my war axe is just over 6' long. Use thicker rattan... 1.5" minimum. You will need thicker so that you can shave the sides flat. Axe requres you to have MUCH better edge control, and a round stave can result in it rolling in your hands. You will also need to make a flat spot where the axe head will be glued to the rattan with the adhesive.
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For adhesive, I use E6000. It is a very strong adhesive brought to us by the same folks who make the GOOP family of adhesives. It holds fast, and cures relatively quickly (about 24 hours). It lasts well in high and low temperatures, and is somewhat flexible. I have literally had a weapon head rip before the adhesive gave way, and then used the adhesive to repair the rip. It is available at many craft or hardware stores, and through Amazon.
If you are going to use a rattan clacker on the edge of your axe, you must first curve the rattan to match the curve of the axe.
Actually, no... you must first check with your Kingdom Earl Marshal to make sure it's legal where you are. Sir Stephen approved it here in the East, and I used it at Pennsic with no issue. I have made a second one with a leather striking edge... mainly to provide protection for the edge of the head itself.
So... there are a couple of ways to curve the rattan. It is easiest with a long piece... simply curve it between two stationary points... heavy spikes, posts, or the like. Emphasis on the large... this will generate A LOT of torque. Bend past the point you think you will need... it will snap back. For smaller pieces, you can try bending it around a tree or stump with a HEAVY duty ratchet strap. This is NOT the optimal method... but can work.
Next, glue the head to the haft, and the rattan (or leather) to the face of the axe. You can do these steps separately if your rattan is not perfectly fitted to the face. Once it's glued, secure it snugly with a few strips of strapping tape. Now WALK THE F^CK AWAY! Seriously. You will be tempted to touch it, poke it, fiddle with and test it. Walk away for 24 hours. After that... we can continue. You have been warned.
Cat is there because... well, it's his house, innit?
I use another piece of the By My Hand architectural foam to the poll (back side) of my axe. I heartily recommend this... it is nice to have that backswing, and you can't strike with the back unless it's padded somehow. This will make it meet the letter of the law. Attatch with just a drop of glue... this won't have much stress on it... and tape it down.
Next, I add a strip of nylon webbing from the tip of the haft, over the head, and down to the haft right below the head. Tape down one end, then add tape as you go around the head. This helps keep the head from getting torn off if you get hooked on something, or it get's torqued when you strike. This doesn't mean you should take your axe out and get in a tug of war match with a dreadnought class shieldman. You shouldn't. It's an axe... it's meant to hit people.
Next, tape the head around the poll and haft with strapping tape. Get QUALITY tape. It makes a difference... higher number of threads in the tape equals more strength.
Then... tape it some more. No really. This is part of how I make my axe heads so strong. I have been fighting with axes for a decent number of years, and making them just as long... trust me on this.
Next, tape your axe with duct tape. Use many strips of tape, overlapping each. Don't try and spiral wrap it around like a sword or pole... use shorter strips, and have patience. Make sure they lay cleanly and are smoothed down. This is not just for esthetics, it is the last step in assuring a strong axe. Add edge tape, and cover over the strapping tape above and below the head.

The last step before taking your axe out and dealing wholesale violence with it is, in my opinion, the most important. Put on your gear, and have somebody who knows how to throw a shot hit you with it. If you are not willing to get hit by a weapon you have made... you should not be swinging it at another human.
After this, go forth and fight your axe. I do recommend that before you do, you lay hands on an actual version of the weapon you're using. I tried out a steel Dane axe, and it changed how I fought mine completely.
But that... is another blog post. :)




6 comments:

  1. Great post! I've been looking for something like this for ages! :-) Thank you!

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    1. Glad if it helps... feel free to share!

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  2. Everyone should take your advice and get quality strapping tape. The pressure-sensitive ones have fiberglass filaments that would add strength to the head. A tool that would last a thousand swings isn't made from cheap material, after all. Thelma@Quality Strapping

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  3. Architectural foam from http://bymyhanddesigns.mypinnaclecart.com/

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  4. About how long is the haft that you would recommend? Is there any sizing methods like there is for swords?

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