Over 20 years ago I bought a hatchet whilst on holiday in Canada (yes, wandering around hardware shops and supermarkets has always been on the holiday agenda.) I’ve got multiple other larger axes, but that hatchet has been my go-to tool around the workshop and garden. It’s been on camping trips, lived in the Land Rover when green-laning and probably produced tons of kindling over the years for the wood burner.
So when we decided that we wanted to make our own Tinker and Fix axe it made sense that it was going to follow the pattern of that hatchet. The plan for this hatchet formed over hours of long drives and whilst out on the bike. The head would be hand forged in the UK. The handle would be Ash. I’d make the leather sheath and it needed to have some detail, to set it apart and make it ours.
The catalyst to move things forward with these ideas arrived in the form of a Christmas present. Louise bought me “Blacksmith – Apprentice to Master” by Alex Pole. I was captured by Alex’s passion for the craft and his addiction to making and collecting axes. I contacted him describing what we’d like to achieve and when he responded with “that sounds interesting” the project was a go.
This project has involved four makers – each bringing their knowledge to an element of the finished hatchet.
The head – designed by Alex Pole (founder of The Forge Kitchenware) and made at The Forge, Somerset.
Our brief to Alex was simple – we’d like a 1lb hatchet head. A few weeks later we took a trip down to Somerset to look at some samples. When you enter a forge through a room displaying a collection of axes then you know you are in the right place. The sample head shapes ranged from classic Scandinavian patterns to more traditional English ones. The pattern we settled on has a strong Elwell influence (a well regarded 19th century British manufacturer of heavy hand tools), with distinctive asymmetrical lugs. Whilst we were both just drawn to it, aesthetically, most importantly its weight and feel was the closest to my favourite hatchet.
The head is forged from a single piece of EN9 carbon steel. The carbon content of steel alters its properties. EN9 gives the axe a bit more “spring”, being less brittle than high carbon steel. It’s therefore less likely to chip and holds a great edge. It’s also straight forward to sharpen at home - as with use, all axe heads will need sharpening. Each Blacksmith working at The Forge has their own touchmark - this batch were forged by Joe Garnett and feature his JG mark.
The haft (handle) – made by Sam Morris, The Axe and Edge Tool Co, Powys, Wales.
Sam takes making axe hafts to an art form. His knack of blending function and aesthetic made him the obvious choice to make the hafts for this project.
His signature style involves laminating contrasting woods into the palm swell on the end of the handle. This gave us the idea of how we would add a distinctly Tinker and Fix detail to the handles. Sam is meticulous in his selection of the Ash planks used to make his handles. He searches through timber yards looking for planks with the least grain run out and the right growth spacing. The result of that attention to detail at the early stages, are handles that have a great feel and are extremely durable. The handles are 13” long with a slightly overside shoulder, a curved belly and ending in a palm swell. The haft diameter is 23mm, increasing to 43mm at the swell. This size accommodates most hand sizes, with the large palm swell giving confidence in the grip whilst in use.
The Skatewood detail – provided by Ben Footlit, Afterlifebf, Lincolnshire.
We wanted to add a unique detail to these axes. Functionality of a tool is a given, but they can also be things of beauty. Knowing what Sam could achieve with the laminated palm swell and wedge gave us an idea. Could we incorporate a material we’ve used on a couple of other handle projects? That material is Skatewood – the term given to recycled skateboard decks. These are made of multiple laminates of coloured maple. We love the coloured effect using this material delivers. We worked with Ben on our Skatewood handled Hori Hori’s and he’s provided the wedge and palm swell material for these axe handles. Processing a skateboard into a workable block of material is a real skill. Prepping, glueing and clamping multiple layers together whilst all the time keeping an eye on the aesthetic of what the coloured layers will look like in the finished handle. It's an art form in itself.
The Sheath – made by Edd, Tinker and Fix, Rutland.
With an axe head of this quality and sharpness I wanted to make sure the sheath was durable and in keeping.
Although the heads are made to the same pattern, they have been hand forged so each head will be slightly different. This means that each sheath has been made to fit each individual axe head.
The leather sheath is made from 3mm veg tanned leather which is extremely durable and gives a chunky feel. The shape of the sheath reflects details of the axe head’s asymmetrical lugs. I always find deciding on the leather and stitching colour difficult. We’ve decided to go with two standard options – Black leather with contrast stitching and Brown leather with copper rivets and natural stitching. Some of the axes are easier than others to match up to sheath colour. These ones will be made up and held in stock ready to post straight away. The others will be left without the sheath being finished so if you are happy to wait then I’m more than happy to do a custom finish for you on these. (The rainbow multicoloured thread on Black leather is a strong look!)
And that’s it - four makers have come together to create our unique Tinker and Fix axe. We reckon it's a tool for life that should bring joy whether being used or displayed on a wall. And it would definitely make a perfect gift for a lover of axes, a user of axes or an axe collector.
Selecting your axe - each is completely unique and even the palm swell detail varies on each side. I'd recommend using the four group images to select the colours you are interested in. The letters allocated have no meaning other than allowing us to identify each axe! Selecting the letter in the drop down menu will show that axe in more detail and confirm its sheath option.
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