Sunday, June 23, 2013

My First Attempt at a Hatchet Handle

I'm feeling a little better and getting a little energy back after finishing radiation a few days ago and getting a drain removed which I'd had in for about 3 weeks, so I'm easing my way back into the shop.

I won an eBay auction last week for a really nice single bevel hewing hatchet head with no handle. It came in yesterday and since a hatchet head with no handle is pretty useless, I figured what better way to get back into some woodworking than to make one. The head was in really nice shape with just a little bit of mushrooming on the heel. I took care of this with the combination of the bench grinder, a belt sander, and a file. Everything shaped up quite nicely. Then it was on to the firewood pile to scout for suitable handle stock. The traditional material for axe and hatchet handles is hickory, but with the way a hewing hatchet is held and used you really don't need the springy whipping properties that make hickory such a good choice for say a felling axe handle. Really just about an wood would do for a hewing hatchet I believe. I chose white oak because that's the straightest grained piece of firewood I had; it even had a slight sweeping curve to it which will be beneficial to the way I want to shape the handle. Now to give this former piece of firewood a more noble calling. It was also a good chance to try out one of my Fathers Day gifts, a Drew Langsner designed Lie-Nielsen froe. ( The Woodwrights Shop seasons 7 & 10 were the other gifts. Now I have seasons 1-10 &  season 20. You can never have too much Roy. )

I placed the  hatchet head on top of the oak and oriented it so that the growth rings were perpendicular to the blade of the hatchet and traced the inside profile of the eye onto the wood, about 3/8" from the previously split edge of the log. Then I placed the froe about 3/4" from the outline of the other side of the eye, allowing extra room if the split decided to run the wrong way. It didn't. This was a nice, straight grained piece. Then it was on to the shave horse. I have two draw knives but only one was sharp enough to use, so the curved blade GreenLee with the folding handles got the nod. I had forgotten how enjoyable working on a shave horse can be. And what a nice shape and smooth surface you can get in just a short amount of time. In about a half hour I had a nice pile of oak shavings and a roughed out handle.  I took the handle down to about an 1/8" of my marks for the eye and then stopped to allow it a day or two to finish any drying and shrinking it may want to do. I don't expect too much, as this piece has been cut and split since last fall I believe, but better to make sure. I weighed the handle and it came in at 551 grams. I put it in the collar ties of my shop rafters and I'll weigh it tomorrow and see if it's lost any weight. If so, I'll keep replacing it in the collar ties and weighing it every day until it stabilizes at one weight. In the meantime, I think I'll put a keener edge on those drawknives and make sure my spokeshave is sharp. More to come later...

The hatchet head after some reshaping of the mushroomed heel. Can't quite make out the mark. Doesn't look as if
it was fully struck.

The non beveled side.

The eye required just a little bit of filing to remove some mushrooming on the inside.

The raw material for my hatchet handle, with the inside of the eye traced on.

Gotta love a shave horse and a draw knife. This type of woodworking is refreshing and fun.

Ready to weigh and put aside for final drying.

Just to get an idea of how it'll look.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Brief Explantation for My Silence

Well, I never wanted to talk about anything but woodworking on this blog, but I feel like I owe an explanation to the blog readers for my extended absence, so here goes.

Back in March of 2010, at age 41, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I was fortunate to find the right doctors and after a 12 hour surgery to remove 40+ tumors, a 23 day hospital stay, and 12 rounds of chemo, all was good until August of 2012. That's when a tumor presented itself in the area around the liver. Would not have been a big deal except it decided to nest itself amongst blood vessels so that it can not be surgically removed. Eight more rounds of chemo kind of held it where it was, but now I'm getting ready to start IMRT (targeted radiation) to try to fry this thing and kill it. Radiation is scheduled to start next week, 5 sessions spread out over 10 days. I thank God for a strong and loving wife and family that helps keep me going and keeps me on track.

So anyway, that's my story and the main reason for my lack of posting. I've been able to work out in the shop and even build the shop through most of this, but I just haven't felt well enough to get out there much in the last few months. I do get out there when I can, even if just to do a little light sanding on a saw handle or just to sit there and soak up some shop atmosphere.

I still have big plans though. I have a trip scheduled to Pittsboro in July to take a 2 day class at Roy's on restoring wooden planes. And I'm still asking for woodworking tools for birthday's, Christmas and Father's Day. :-) I've got a couple of panel saws that I got a start on and a hanging cabinet for the shop that's in progress. And I have to find some time to get on the spring pole lathe and get some turning practice in for some joynt stools/formes that I want to build. And some windsor chairs are definitely in my future. Hope to be posting again real soon.