How a Master Blacksmith Turns Metal into a Beautiful Axe

Watch a blacksmith create an axe from scratch.
Christopher McFadden

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If you've ever wondered how axes are made, you are in for a treat. 

Watch a master blacksmith apply his trade and create a pair of wonderfully crafted pieces. 

axe making complete
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 1: Heat the metal and begin the shaping

As you can imagine, the very first step is to place the metal of choice (in this case steel) into the forge to heat up the metal. This is done using a pair of sturdy pliers, and rest the metal in the forge until it gets white-hot. 

Using the pliers, the blacksmith removes the hot metal from the forge and begins to work it on the anvil using a metalworking hammer. He hammers the metal as flat as possible and shapes the metal into the rough shape of the axehead on your first passing. 

Other tools are also used as a steam hammer or grinder to flatten, compress, and shape the metal with each working. 

diy axe hammer and anvil
Source: Interesting Engineering

Unless you are experienced in metalworking, this can take a lot of trial and error. Metalworking is a very skilled trade and takes years of practice to master. 

As the axe head needs to fit on a wooden shaft once crafted, a wedge of metal is used as a substitute to form a hole in the metal for the shaft. 

Making something as "simple" as an axe head takes several phases of heating, working, and heating again to thin the metal blade down and make it strong. This is very much a labor of love, but one that is incredibly satisfying for any blacksmith. 

Eventually, the axe head will start to take shape.

diy axe head rough shape
Source: Interesting Engineering

Step 2: Sharpen the blade

Once the axe head has reached an approximate shape for the final piece, the next step is to hone the edge of the axe. This is done using a specialist grinding wheel. 

The axe head is progressively thinned and sharpened against the grinding wheel until the cutting edge is as sharp as can be. 

axe making sharpen
Source: Interesting Engineering

The rest of the blade head is sharpened and its shape refined using other tools like belt sanders, etc. This is also a good opportunity to polish the outside, non-cutting edges of the blade to really make it stand out. 

The last phase is to heat treat and strengthen the axe head to ensure that it remains strong and holds it a sharpened edge for many cuts to come. 

Step 3: Make the handle

With the main axe head pretty much complete, the next step is to make the handle to bear it. This is done using, obviously, a length of timber. 

A template is usually used to trace out the shape of the handle on the new piece of wood. Once this is complete, the shape is cut out using a saw or jigsaw. 

axe handle
Source: Interesting Engineering

With the piece cut out, the wood piece is then transferred to a belt sander to refine the shape. This will also remove any barbs and allow the blacksmith to give the handle a curved and comfortable shape to wield. 

The axe head end of the handle also needs to be thinned down and shaped. 

Once happy with the shape, the blacksmith will then prepare the axe head end of the shaft ready to fit the axe head. This is done by cutting a small groove into the end of the wood so that it can be jammed into the axe head as needed. 

axe making handle and head
Source: Interesting Engineering

With that done, a small slither of metal or wood is then gently hammered into the wooden shaft at the top of the axe. This will ensure the axe head is firmly secured onto the shaft and won't come flying off over time. 

With that done, the axe is basically finished. Other decorative flourishes can then be added to the axe head and handle as needed. 

If you enjoyed this guide on how to make an axe, you might be interested in watching some other master craftsmen complete their tasks? How about, for example, making our own longbow from a piece of a fallen tree?

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