Modern Blacksmithing Rational Horse Shoeing and Wagon Making

with rules, tables, recipes, etc., useful to manufactures, blacksmiths, machinists, well-drillers, engineers, liverymen, horse-shoers, farmers, wagon-makers, mechanics, amateurs and all others who have occasion to perform the work for which this book is primarily intended. by J.G. Homstrom 1901

Making Axes and Hatchets


Dressing axes is quite a trick and few blacksmiths have mastered it. It is comparatively easy when one knows how. I have several times already warned against over heating and if this has been necessary before, it is more so now in this case. In heating an ax do not let the edge rest in the center of the fire; it will then be too hot at the edge before it is hot enough to hammer it out. Place the edge far enough in to let it over the hottest place in the fire. Go slow. When hot, draw it to the shape of a new axe, don't hammer on one side only. In so doing the ax will be flat on one side and curved up on the other.

If uneven trim it off; trim the sides also if too wide; don't heat it over the eye; be sure you have it straight. When ready to harden, heat to a low red heat and harden in luke warm water. The heat should be only brown if it is a bright sunny day. Brighten and look for the temper. You will notice that the temper runs uneven; it goes out to the corners first, therefore dip them (the corners) deeper when cooling and with a wet rag touch the place on the edge where the temper wants to run out. Some smiths, when hardening, will smear the ax with tallow instead of brightening it, and hold it over the fire until the tallow catches fire, then cool it off. This is guess work, and the axe is soft in one place and too hard in another.

The best way is to brighten the ax and you can see the temper, then there is no guess work about it. When blue cool it partly off and then while the ax is still wet you will observe under the water or through the water a copper color. This color will turn blue as soon as the ax is dry, and is the right color and temper. Cool it slowly don't cool it off at once, but let it cool gradually, and it will be both hard and tough. By this simple method I have been very successful, breaking only three per cent, while no new ax of any make will ever do better than ten per cent. Some will even break at the rate of twelve and thirteen per cent. The ax factories, with all their skill and hardening compounds, have to do better yet to compete with me and my simple method.