The lesson …

The lesson …

Earlier this year, Covid-19 struck the UK and we went into lock-down. The schools closed so I embarked upon a small project with my eleven year old son as part of his continued home education.

The Coronavirus has had a massive impact on humanity with devastating consequences in many cases sadly. However, it is essential that we, the human race, learn from this and take away the positives that have materialised. But more importantly we must not forget the valuable lessons we have learnt during this challenging time.

One of the immediate changes that came out of this situation for myself was that I was able to work from home. And since the schools also closed we have had significantly more family time. My wife and I were supposed to be homeschooling our children so I decided to teach my son the basics of sand casting.

The Pattern

After a quick discussion with my son we decided we wanted to make a Viking inspired axe. A little Googling yielded a Viking battle axe design and I sketched out a template on paper. The template was then used to cut out a piece of wood which I built up with additional pieces on each side where the shaft would go.

Roughed out axe head.

After marking up some guidelines this crude axe-head shape then underwent much cutting and chiselling.

Guidelines for shaping.

… and lots of sanding to arrive at the final shape …

Some 22mm copper pipe was inserted to make the slots for the shaft core mould. Lastly, a coat of wax was applied to make the surface a bit smoother.

Casting

When it came to casting the axe head I decided we’d do a little experiment. One of the axes was cast in a traditional sand mould with sprue, gate, etc. For the second we used a vertical bronzer flask.

Traditional mould.

In the picture above you can see the pouring sprue which gates into the back of the axe head. I also poked three small holes through the sand to act as vents – one was located at the highest point of the mould and the other two were at the blade edge where the mould was thinnest. The idea here being that these would allow any hot gases to escape and prevent air pockets. Lastly, you can see the core mould for the shaft hole which was shaped out of fire brick.

Bronzer flask.

The bronzer flask was a lot simpler, in that a pouring cup was cut into the sand at the back of the axe head. No venting was required and the core mould was fitted as before.

Now for the obligatory pour video …

 

The vents worked nicely – you can see one of these filling up with molten bronze which pools on top of the sand.

Both axe heads turned out well …

Axe head #1

 

Axe head #1 complete with pouring sprue, gate and vents.

The above picture shows the axe head as it came out of the sand mould before any clean-up.

And below, my son holding the bronzer flask axe head, also before any clean-up.

My son with the bronzer flask axe head. Look at that smile!

After a little bit of choppy-choppy with the reciprocating saw and some whizzy-whizzy with a sanding drum on the Dremel, we finally had a couple of roughly cleaned axe heads.

Cleaned up axe heads.

The shaft

A bit of time was spent cleaning up the axe head further in the usual way with hand files and silicon carbide abrasive papers.

Clean up …

We had already selected a piece of hazel for the shaft which was of about the correct length and had a nice curve to it. The bark was cleaned off this and the wood sanded. The end was shaped so that it would fit snugly into the axe head and a slot cut into the end. I made a small wedge to hammer into the slot.

The handle was decorated by wrapping some copper wire around it in a lattice pattern and the flame from a blow torch gently applied. This gently singed the wood except where the wire was located and so after removing the wire, the pattern was left on the surface. The shaft was then waxed and polished and we applied some leather strapping to the bottom end to form a grip.

Overall, we were very pleased with the result and I think I can safely say that it is my son’s favourite project to date.

Finished axe head
Completed axe.

Conclusions

The axe heads were a great little project to do, particularly with my son. But as you can see, we only completed one of the axes here … I have other plans for the second one which I will share in due course.

5 Replies to “The lesson …”

  1. That axe looks great, love the shape of the head and the lattice pattern up the handle. What a great lock down ‘home school’ project. Great work.

  2. Great project and great result, love the detailed explanation of your process. I look forward to the next project..

  3. Great project and great result, love the detailed explanation of your process. I look forward to the next project..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.