Ax Class Photos

Blade smithing classes - Ax Class - Brown County Forge

On May 11, Brown County Forge hosted its 4th Ax Making Class with guest instructor Benton Frisse of River City Forge & Tool. 

Here are some photos from the day in class. 

Blade smithing classes - Brown County Forge

The class involves hours of heavy hammerwork to create a functional, 1.5-pound camp hatchet out of a billet of 4140 tool steel. 

We use a variety of different hammers ranging from 6-pound sledge hammers at the beginning of the process all the way down to 2-pound ball peen hammers to refine the blade edge before air cooling and grinding.

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The basic process goes like this:

  1. Heat the billet to a bright yellow in the forge. Higher carbon steels require higher temperatures to make them easier to work.
  2. Punch your ax eye through a series of heats (upwards of 20).
  3. Spread the eye with progressively larger ax eye drifts.
  4. Fuller (spread) the area just behind the cheeks that surrounds the eye.
  5. Fuller the bit edge from toe to heel adjusting your blows to create your desired beard shape.
  6. Thin the bit to near its final thickness.
  7. Set aside to cool before grinding. This makes it easier to grind.
  8. Grind the bevel and clean up the eye, cheeks, and butt.
  9. Re-light the forge and gradually heat up the bit to just past magnetic. This is important for hardening (one half of the heat treat process).
  10. Quench the bit with slicing motions through vegetable oil in a tub.
  11. Set aside to cool.
  12. Polish the bit so the “silver” comes back out. This will allow you to see the temper colors come through (tempering is the other half of the heat treat).
  13. Temper by dancing the bit in the fire of the forge, checking frequently.
  14. As soon as “straw” color appears, quench in the oil again.
  15. Set aside to cool.
  16. Grind to finish
  17. Head the ax with oak, ash, or hickory handle. Rasp or grinder work will be necessary to get the right fit.

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This photo shows the original 4140 steel billet sandwiched between two student made, finished axes. Fully hung, heat treated, and sharpened. Ready for work. 

Blade smithing classes - Brown County Forge 4

This in-depth class is offered just a few times per year. The students who gain access to the class have taken at least one, and ideally two, classes at Brown County Forge first. 

The reason for this is so that I can get a feel for hammer skills, hand-eye coordination, ability to follow instructions, and physical/mental stamina. 

If you think you might be a good fit for this class, please take a look at our introductory classes here:

Looking forward to working with you!

-Terran the Blacksmith

Prepping for Ax Class this Weekend

Ax Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

Prepping for Ax Class this Weekend

The above photo is an example of student work from an ax class back in late March.

A few times a year, I like to invite past students who have shown interest in the ax class to come back and forge one themselves.

The ax above starts out as a 3.5-inch long, 1-inch wide, and 1.5-inch tall billet of 4140 tool steel.

Ax Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

To get the billets ready for forging, there’s a little bit of prep involved.

First, I measure 1 inch from the end and find center.

Next, I mark center with a center punch and a hammer. You can see the dimple in each ax billet in the above photo.

The corners of each billet can be rough once I cut them from their original 12-inch piece.

So they head to the Multitool 2×36 Belt Grinder for cleanup. The chamfered corners are visible in the above photo as well.

Ax Class Prep: Drilling Pilot Holes

x Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

After the billets have been cleaned up, I drill pilot holes in each one using the center punch dimple as my guide.

When you’re drilling out tool steel, even if it’s annealed (softened), you want to gradually move up in bit size.

Jumping right into the quarter inch holes that you see in the picture without pilot holes would create too much friction and heat.

So I start off with a 1/8-inch bit and work my way up using plenty of lubricant to reduce the friction (heat).

During forging the holes will be punched and drifted until they’re wide enough to fit the hickory handles later in the class.

Ax Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

Even with pilot holes, it takes a lot of heavy hammering to get the ax eye just right.

Students can expect to spend a full 8 hours at the forge during the ax class going blow for blow with friends (it’s more fun to work with a buddy).

After all that hammering we start to fan out the ax head into its iconic beard shape.

Once it’s fully forged, we set it aside to cool completely before diving into the heat treat and finish work.

Forging an Ax - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes Near Me

If you’re interested in taking an introductory class with us (that could lead to the ax class), please take a look at the Classes Page for all the details.

I’d be happy to have you down to the shop!