Sunday, December 5, 2021

Let me ax you two questions

This is what a 12" diameter and 7" diameter ash log looks like when split into manageable sizes and loaded into the back of the truck. The bigger log pencils out to about 300 pounds and the smaller one to 100ish pounds if dry ash weighs 50 lb/cubic foot

While winterizing the building on the hunting lease, I made a quick trip out to the woods to load some wood. My thinking was that I could pay for the trip if I loaded some firewood each time I went out there.

I had cut a dead, standing ash tree into 8' lengths. Of course I was not strong enough to muscle an 8' long, 12" diameter ash log into the back of the pickup myself. So I split them into a manageable size.

Why leave them 8' long? Because ash makes spectacularly good tool handles and it will be a long time before we see pieces this large again.

The wood on the shady side split easily.

The wood on the sunny side had more branches and the quarters had cross-grain stitching them together.

No problem. I had five wedges.

But I needed six.

Fortunately, I had a  small ax to separate the stringers.

I don't even recall kissing one of the wedges with the ax.

Crud! That did not work so well. Looks like I am in the market for a new ax.

Craigslist to the rescue.

Ten axes and one pick-ax for $70 plus drive-time

Does anybody have any opinions on the best way to protect my investment? Motor oil on the blades and boiled linseed oil on the handles?


  1. For storing, you can put boiled linseed on the blades as well. A little heat on the blade will help it flow into the pores? grain? Not sure how to describe that. I have used car wax on bare metal. I did that to the post on my drill press and in this humid environment, it's still in good shape.

  2. BLO for the wood. It's OK on the metal, too.
    Phosphoric acid to take the rust mostly off, then rinse with hot water and squirt with WD40. My climate is dry enough I don't bother to oil axes, hammers and mauls. When I lived on the coast, I'd usually squirt on some cheap spray paint as needed.

  3. When guys use axes for wedges and hammer on them it's usually the "eye" where the handle goes that splits, but axes should not be used for wedges or sledge hammers. Too narrow and tempered. As for rust prevention I clean off the head and put on some Cold Blue like you put on a gun then put on some WD40 or BLO.---ken ---ken

  4. My first question is "Are the handles still tight?"

    For rust, I use the same thing on tools that I use on guns-Eezox. I've not had a gun or tool rust, and you don't have to reapply it very often if the gun/tool is at rest.

    On handles, I've always preferred raw wood, well sanded. I don't generally use my tools in the rain or wet, which isn't an option for everyone.

  5. Concur on the Eezox. And a light coat of linseed oil.

  6. I am really really REALLY sorry about this ,but sometimes I just can't help myself. Being the end result of combustion you would think that the weight of dry ash would be much lower than 50lbs per square foot.

    1. Ouch!

      You are forgiven, my son. Go forth and pun no more for the rest of the day.

  7. I find that BLO works, and then a month or so later clean the surface with a bit of steel wool, wipe off with brake clean and coat with Rubio Monocoat floor coating. It lasts well, leaves a decent finish, and protects....isn't slippery and is durable. It makes an axe or hammer handle just the right texture.
    Plus it'll make yer ash handle look like a work of art.

  8. Heh. I seem to be following STxAR around the web today.

    Phosphoric acid--any cheap rot gut cola soda pop will work.

    WD40--Likely most here know that "WD" stands for Water Displacement. I used to wipe my guns down with it, but found that is became stick and a dust magnet over time. Well duh, it's fish oil. Not putting it down, it has served us long and well, even when not quite used as intended. I have since switched to this stuff--

  9. Hi Joe, just returning the courtesy of your visit to my own nestling of a blog and m'thinks that shall be a frequent visitor as your posts are right up my street.
    I have to agree with coyoteken48's comment regarding the right tool for the right job though I understand the need to sometimes have to make do with what is available. As for tool care the metal heads of tools I just brush the crud off and then wipe them down with an old engine oil soaked cotton cloth. The wooden handles are just kept clear of detritus throughout the season and at the end, cleaned thoroughly and wiped down with linseed or teak oil.

  10. Probably plenty of good wedges laying around- they are hiding inside 2" diameter limbs. Cut a foot long piece and bash it in behind the wedge to free it up.

  11. Replies
    1. Yes.

      They trees have been dead long enough that the roots are rotted and the wind is toppling them.

      Some woodlots look like a mess of pick-up sticks.

      The clock is ticking if I am going to recover the wood before it becomes punky.

  12. Go at it with a wire wheel to knock the rust down like carding it for plum blueing. Then warm it and apply some oil or wax. You don't want sticky but you don't want it so volatile or thin that it doesn't hold up to normal use and abuse.

  13. Used diesel oil is mo betta . That carbon gets into anything including old steel . When I was a young jacker my arms had that "used diesel oil " sheen . I scrubbed so hard trying to get it out of my skin I had no hair on my hands and arms until I gave up the trade for greener pastures .

  14. I prefer waxing metal to applying any type of oil to protect from rust in storage. The problem with oil is that it is lighter than water. Any condensation or other liquid water will lift the oil off the metal and cause rust. Wax is light also, but since it's a solid it repels the water so it can't be lifted off.

  15. Definitely boiled linseed oil for the handles, I find this drying oil makes them easier to grip once it's cured. For the heads, I would use a wire wheel on a bench grinder to knock of all rust, scale, dirt etc. and then I would wipe them with some Ospho - that's a compound that converts iron oxide to iron phosphate, preventing further rusting (phosphoric acid compound). Once it dries I would coat with some warmed linseed oil. This oil dries and becomes a little gummy on non-porous material - it will quickly scrape off when it's used next, but in the meantime will keep the heads pristine - easier than waxing. I don't prefer using petroleum-based oils because they either don't stop rust, or they make a mess.

  16. One other thought on the handles. You can use pine tar thinned out to coat them. I bought a quart a while back to test on a couple new axe handles. Thanks for the reminder to try that!

    Maybe you can try all these methods on the axe hoard and let us know what works best for you! Experimentation is always appreciated. Especially if YOU are doing all the work, and I get the benefit. ;)


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