Making an Aluminum Battle Axe
My inspiration for this axe came from a book series that my brother enjoyed, called "The Wheel of Time". In fact, I made it for him for Christmas for that reason. One of the main characters, named Perrin, carried a battle axe and used it extensively in battle. So I did my research, found some images that looked how I imagined it to be, and the created a 3-D model of it in Solidworks. It didn't have a hole in the center in the beginning, but I'll explain why I did that.
After I had it how I wanted, I printed and cut the pattern out and traced it on some wood. I didn't have any wood wide enough, so I quickly glued some pieces together. I then used my handy coping saw to cut the outline.
I had to glue additional pieces of wood on either side of the thick part. I then cleaned all the edges up with an assortment of rasps.
Then the shaping began. I started with narrowing the blade, as I knew it would be the most time consuming part. I mostly did this using my Shinto rasp. I drew lines on the side of the blade so I could see where I was trying to get to.
I finished up the shaping by rounding out the middle, and then carefully shaping the spike. The only problem I encountered was a knot that was present on the spike. Everytime I tried to work on the spike, the area around the knot ended up lower than the knot itself. It was very tedious work. And it didn't turn out perfect. Oh, and I also shaped the edge of the blade.
After a quick sanding, a coat of varnish, and a coat of finish, the mold pattern was finally finished. It is now ready to cast!
Using the typical method outlined in my Making a Mold post, I made a mold for the axe head.
I then casted it, and got a (somewhat) successful casting the first time! However, the one defect cost me a lot of time and energy. I forgot to take pictures of it, probably because I wanted to get rid of it so badly. The defect was shrinkage that occurred in the thick part of the axe. It caused a very noticeable dent, but only on one side of the axe.
Here is when I explain to you why the axe head has a hole through it. I decided to cut out a rectangular hole big enough to remove the majority of the defect, while still maintaining some structural integrity. After looking at the result on the computer, I decided I liked it better anyway. Anyway, before any holes were drilled, I first needed to clean up the edges of the axe. I did this using a bunch of different files. Rough bastard files for heavy removal, and smoothing files for blending the edges. Once again, I forgot to take any pictures.
I know that I just said that I cleaned up the edges first, but that isn't quite true. That is just the way that I would normally do it. This time, however, I couldn't wait to get rid of the defect, so I did that first. I used the drill press to drill holes close together around the perimeter of the rectangle I wanted to remove. I then took a coping saw to cut through the thin walls left behind.
I did the same to the top. I had to get clever with the clamps so that I could clamp the axe head straight up and down.
The next step was file, file, and file some more. I filed the openings until they were relatively smooth and straight.
Then I sanded away. First with 120, then 220, then 320, then 800 grit sandpaper.
Polishing was next, and then I was done with the axe head. The only things left to do are make the haft and assemble the axe.
I started the haft by cutting an oak rod to length, and then thinning the end to match the hole in the axe head. The black line drawn on the top in the picture is approximately how small I wanted the diameter to be. The key is to make it a tight fit, so that the axe head sits on it without wobbling. I used the spokeshave for most of the shaping, but I occasionally used my Shinto rasp as well. I occasionally tested the fit to make sure I wasn't taking too much off.
After a while I got it so I could slide the axe head all the way on. However, there was still some wobbling. I then started the painstaking process of marking where the axe head was touching the haft, and only taking off wood at that point. As the axe head slid further down, I wanted it to contact more and more wood.
After I was satisfied, I marked where the axe head would be. I then cut the haft off a little bit above the top of the head.
The only thing left to do was to shape the rest of the haft. I decided on a plain hexagonal shaped handle, mostly because it seemed relatively easy. I started by drawing a sketch of the six sides on the bottom of the haft. This allowed me to see what angle I needed to cut wood off at. I used a spokeshave for this entire process. The spokeshave kept each side even and flat.
To finish up the haft, I quickly sanded, stained, and put finish on it.
The final step was the assembly. Because I wanted this axe to be realistic, I decided to put a wedge in to hold the head in place. The wedge is simply a small, tapered piece of wood that is jammed into a slot at the top of the haft to hold the axe head in place. There is nothing worse than the head of your axe flying off in the middle of battle. The wedge I used was made of walnut, because I happen to love walnut.
There are two wedges shown in the photo above. I only used the one on the left. I accidentally made the one on the right too small, so I couldn't use it. After cutting a deep notch in the top of the
haft, I put the axe head on. I then put some glue on the wedge (which wasn't necessary), and jammed the wedge into the notch as far as I could. I even split the walnut because I hit it so hard.
Last step! I finished it off by cutting off the excess wedge, and then sanding/ applying finish to the top. Here are some final pictures.