1. #1
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    Default Flathead Axe Maintenance

    Hi guys,

    I'm in a fire academy right now and each squad has been given an axe to care for and repair. Of course this is becoming competitive among squads and I'm looking for any advice on how to redo the axe for my squad.

    1) The wooden handle needs to be sanded and refinished. I'm planning on using linseed oil unless someone has a better suggestion. Also how fine or course of sandpaper?

    2) I've been reading that a dull edge is better than a sharp one in order to avoid chipping do you agree?

    3) What is the best tool to get the axe head to shine like a mirror? Also I saw a few suggestions for waxing the head to keep it from getting stuck but this seems like a poor idea. Any thoughts?

    Thanks guys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jwraider View Post
    Hi guys,

    I'm in a fire academy right now and each squad has been given an axe to care for and repair. Of course this is becoming competitive among squads and I'm looking for any advice on how to redo the axe for my squad.

    1) The wooden handle needs to be sanded and refinished. I'm planning on using linseed oil unless someone has a better suggestion. Also how fine or course of sandpaper?

    Boild linseed oil is what we use. As far as sandpaper, it seems like we use 80 grit. You just need enough to knock off the splinters and burs and have a smooth finish.

    2) I've been reading that a dull edge is better than a sharp one in order to avoid chipping do you agree?

    I think you're confusing a "dull" edge with the angle. You don't want a sharp edge like you'd have with a logging axe. You want a sharp blade with no nicks or chps out of it, but more of an angle at the tip.

    3) What is the best tool to get the axe head to shine like a mirror? Also I saw a few suggestions for waxing the head to keep it from getting stuck but this seems like a poor idea. Any thoughts?

    If you use the right angle while sharpening, you'll help prevent it from getting stuck. As far as finish, we knock off the rust and paint and give it a good rub-down with petroleum jelly or a light coat of 30-weight oil. It's not a mirror shine by any means (not going to get that without chroming it), but it looks nice.

    Thanks guys.
    I've always taught my guys to avoid sharpening axes with a wheel. I'd rather see them use a bastard file using a good technique. You can actually cause issues with th e metal from the heat of the grinding wheel. Plus, taking the time and effort using a file gives you more of a sense of ownership of the tool. The same goes with sanding the handle and oiling the head.

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    80 grit? are you sure? thats awfully coarse... I would say that if you use 80 grit to go back over it with 800 to 1000 grit to get a smooth finish. IMO the 80 grit will leave it too rough for what you're looking for.

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    80 grit is rather coarse. Unless the handle is in really bad shape, I'd start with 180 and then work your way up to the 320 range depending on how smooth you want it. Lightly sand with the grain (should be the length of the handle). Check your sandpaper often to make sure it's not clogged and replace if necessary. Wipe with a clean dry cloth to clean up the dust. 800-1000 grit is great, but that's so fine you'd use it for wet sanding. The differences above 300-400 grit range probably not going to be noticeable.

    Boiled linseed is the way to go. Apply a light coat and then wipe it with a dry towel to catch any excess.

    Agreed that the angle is important for the axe not getting stuck and also keep it sharp (although for the academy you may not want it razor sharp for safety). There are many ways to make it shine, but if the axe is going to get a white glove inspection, you probably don't want to coat it with anything as it will probably leave a residue, even though effective.

    Good luck and post some before and after pictures when you're done with it.

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    Wow guys thanks thats great info. Also thanks for the clarification on the edge. I went with a 60 course and nowhere near what you guys suggested on the fine side so later in the academy when I redo this I'll try a finer sanderpaper to finish with.

    No idea why I did not take a "before" picture. But here are some afters:

    In picture 2 you'll notice some of the old damage came back out. The entire handle looked like that before. The blade used to have black damage throughout as well.
    Attached Images Attached Images   

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    From those pictures, that axe looks way nice. I know if i got my hands on it, it wouldn't stay like that for long.

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    It is great to see someone taking pride in their tools. Nothing is better then a properly maitained handle on an axe. It is way better then fiberglass handle.

    As for the sand paper skip it all together. Use plate glass. Go to the local hardware store and ask for a few pieces of scrap (the thicker the better. Then (using gloves of course) wrap the plate in a towel and smash it with a hammer. Take the shards of glass and use it as a wood scraper to smooth out the wood. At first this will look like it is goughing the handle. however after awhilie that handle will be as smooth as a baby's bottom. it is going to take sometime however, the finished product will blow away the sanded handles. after it is smooth whip some boiled linseed oil on it. whip it off let it dry and reapply until you get the desired effect.

    For the head it looks like you have it looking pretty good. use a flat file to sharpen it. never use a grinding wheel. use a steeper angle then you would with a knife (like 40ish degrees). use steel wool and penitrating oil to take off the rust. for a mirror finish use never dull and start to polish away. then place a light coating of oil to prevent rust.

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    make sure your entire squad's axes look the SAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Thanks for the extra info guys. Someone els eshowed up with a better looking axe but he cheated and used power tools on the handles (that's just me wishing I had access to the tools!). We are going to work on the head this week and will try the method described above thanks again.

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    make sure you put the effort in the acadmey where it belongs!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustang42 View Post
    80 grit? are you sure? thats awfully coarse... I would say that if you use 80 grit to go back over it with 800 to 1000 grit to get a smooth finish. IMO the 80 grit will leave it too rough for what you're looking for.
    I forgot the "1" in front of the 80.

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