Saw shop questions and answers: Short handled axes, handsaw blade etches, and more!


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

It’s that time again, you ask ’em, I answer ’em!

1. (Question about effectiveness of short handled axes)

In most cases, axe handle length is tied to the head weight, heavier heads sporting longer handles for safe and efficient operation. In some cases, such as vintage splitting axes, this changes. In my stock, I have a vintage Craftsman boy’s axe (2 1/2lb head, 28″ handle), and a classic vintage poll axe set up for splitting wood (3 1/2lb head, also a 28″ handle). Basically, a shorter handle with a heavier head works well for tasks that don’t require a full swing of the axe, namely, splitting. The boy’s axe would work fine for chopping (albeit a bit light), the full sized head would have dangerous control problems doing the same task.

2. (Question about restoring a handsaw blade etch)

Handsaw blade etches can’t be “restored” as such. Once the etch has been worn (or polished) off the blade, it’s gone forever. It is possible to enhance a faded etch to make it more readable however. Simply oiling the blade can help. I’ve also seen the use of gun bluing recommended although I’ve never tried it.

3. (Question about preventing patina)

Patina is simply the result of the oxidation of wood, metal, and other materials over time. The only way to prevent this is to seal the material away from the air. Oiling or waxing steel and brass and clearcoating or waxing wood are just a couple of ways to achieve this.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

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