Mosaic

The axe is a tool I venerate, they are able to perform a myriad of tasks in the woodworking shop, around the yard and in the forest.  When I lived in the city it was a tool relegated to the shop, definitely something you could not just carry around openly. Now that we live in the country it is a tool within arms reach and one that I seldom go without on my excursions. Each of my axes has a tale associated with it.

On walks in the woods I typically carry my 2lb Norlund Forest Axe.

forest-axe-1When we lived in Kimberley, BC  Hanna and Liam found this axe head in the dirt while playing with there friends in a vacant lot. It was dull and rusty but with a little grinding, polishing and a new hickory handle it has become the axe I now use most often.  An appealing tomahawk style blade forged in the 70’s with a comfortable 27″ handle. It’s design is ideal for slashing through brush on trails, and has just the right length to use as a walking support on steep climbs. It’s shape makes it an excellent grapple to pull with or hang onto trees. This axe is also my choice for limbing trees that I cut for firewood or lumber.

Around the mill I most often use my small Plumb broad axe. I grew up using this tool in conjunction with a draw knife when peeling posts, rails and timbers. small-broadIn the late 60’s my father purchased this axe, I believe at a Farm auction. At that time he worked in the woods as a Feller and as a side job he also peeled railroad ties for CN Rail. The axe did not have a proper handle on it so he replaced it with one provided by CNR. The handle still has the faint CNR logo imprinted on it. When my father passed away I inherited this little axe which I cherish every time I use it. It has the perfect weight for chopping small limbs and digging into areas where the draw-knife can’t reach. It’s shape also makes it a perfect tool for roughing out tenons and other joinery when I’m timber-framing or as a finishing tool on hand hewn timbers.

The patriarch in my axe collection is the Gränsfors Bruk Broad-axe forged by Lennart Petterson.broad-axe

I purchased this axe in the late 80’s after finishing my courses in Timber-Framing and Lofting.  This axe became very useful on many projects over the years including my first house and homestead. One of the least memorable occasions for this axe was when Tracey decided to use it.  We were living in a tiny house in Edmonton and Tracey had a keen interest in various home crafts one of which included making Mosaic Stepping Stones. She would purchase second hand glass and stoneware plates and smash them into pieces for the mosaic patterns on her Stepping Stones. I came home from work one afternoon and found the leather sheath on my axe shredded to bits. I pulled it off the axe and found the cutting edge also fractured and gouged out. She hadn’t been able to find a hammer so grabbing the axe and not thinking she mistakenly used the wrong end to smash her plates with it. I diligently honed the frayed steel back into a fine cutting edge The leather sheath remained tattered for several years until I finally met a fine leather artisan in Kimberley who was able to make a new one. He even repaired the old sheath so now I have a backup which I don’t foresee as ever needing ….. fingers crossed.

There are several other axes in my tool collection including a wonderful Fiskars splitting axe which I purchased earlier this year. It made light work of splitting the 5 cords of wood in storage for the coming winter. I also have another wonderful 2 lb tomahawk style axe head that requires a handle. Maybe a shorter handle on this one to use around the chopping block for kindling and other hatchet type tasks. My toolbox also has a carpenters hatchet which I seldom use. Stored away in the attic are a couple of Mountaineering and Climbing axes. One of the mountaineering axes was my companion to many of the highest peaks in the Rockies and it has traveled to the top of all the major Volcanoes on the North American West Coast ….. but that’s another story.

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Boat Anchor? ( maybe not yet! )

Last week I went on a road trip with Liam into Halifax. I’d discovered an old Steton Jointer/Planer for sale at a price to good to pass up. This is a 2 in one machine sporting a huge 15″ jointing table with an 8″ x 15″ capacity planer underneath.

jointer

 To access the planer the jointer tables swing back and out of the way. It’s a brute of a machine and weighs well over 1200 lbs.

planer

It was easy to load onto the trailer with a forklift, but once I got it home I didn’t have that luxury available. I took the whole unit apart piece by piece. This also gave me the opportunity to inspect everything and to see what needs replacing or repairing, which is usually inevitable with a machine of this age. There are several issues, some broken castings and worn out parts but with a bit of ingenuity and alterations this will become a central piece of equipment for the many tasks at hand in finishing our house. After that it can become a boat anchor.