Turf to Tools : Bloom to Bar to Axe

The final stage of the overall Turf to Tools project was to take parts of the blooms created, render these down into working bars, then use those bars to create a replica of the Rhynie Man Axe. This work was undertaken July - August 2023 at the Wareham Forge.


Detail of the artifact from the Pictish carved stone

The following is a visual record of this process.
Three pieces would be rendered, two from Smelt 2.1, one from Smelt 2.3.

Section : Smelt 2.1 at 677 gm
Section : Smelt 2.3 at 628 gm
Section : Smelt 2.1 at 737 gm
After flattening, fold and weld.
Cut for next fold, along line of developing crack on one side.
At initial flattening, broken into several pieces
Note pieces MIG welded to bar for ease of holding (used for all blooms after flattening)
At initial flattening.
Note pillow shapes along lower edge, extruded slag


Pieces stacked for first weld

Resulting thick bar at 389 gm
Two welding courses
(note surface cracks remaining)
Resulting long bar at 258 gm
Three welding courses
Resulting thick bar at 525 gm
Two welding courses
Total return @ 57 %
Total return @ 41 % Total return @ 71 %

Folding and welding was only repeated until the bars appeared solid on the surface. In retrospect, the two pieces from 2.1 would have been better to have been folded and welded one more course.

As the material from 2.1 spark tested at almost no carbon content, and easily was shaped into two flat plates, these were used for the body of the axe. The material from 2.3 tested to a low carbon (about the same as mild steel at 0.2 - 0.3 % C) this bar was first forged out into a wide wedge shape for the edge, and cut into a short block with square cross section for the peen centre.

Pieces used for axe forming step @ 905 gm:
Two flat plates (2.1)
Edge wedge and peen block (2.3)
Pieces positioned for welding up into the axe blank
Note use of dots of MIG weld to hold in position
The forge welded axe blank
Note the gap showing from roughly 1 - 3 inches from the peen end, which will later form the eye.

An obvious 'cheat' through this process was the use of MIG to spot weld elements in place before hand forge welding. The construction method would create a somewhat harder inset 'steel' cutting edge and peen core, as well as ease in the final shaping of the handle eye.
Once welded together, the edge was drawn out to a suitable long taper, the area around the eye spread out and curved to create the top and bottom wings, and the bottom of the peen pushed down for the required profile.

Unfortunately, it was during the very last heat to adjust the cutting edge shape, a problem developed.

Axe at end of forging heat.
The crack is visible, as well as the shift in colour from the cold to hot end.
The two outside plates developed a crack, especially the right side. This crack corresponded almost exactly to the start of the wedge insert. Having seen cracks develop on other work where there was a difference in carbon content between layers, my best guess is that this was the cause of the flaw.
The ideal (if not only) way to correct this kind of flaw would be to cut along the crack, re-shape and re-weld the edge section back on to the axe body via a lap weld. This would most certainly result in considerable distortion of the desired shapes to this specific object profile.
Since the object was fully intended for what was in essence a 'ritual' use, I decided to make a repair using modern method, and just MIG welded the cracks over, then grinding clean. Despite this intervention, cracks continued to form in the same area of the body.

Finished, left side
Hot stamped with : T2T 2023
Note small crack remaining
Finished, top, showing long thin 'trimming' shape and relatively thin eye
Finished, right side (against Rhynie outline)
Hot stamped with : makers mark
Note small crack remaining, MIG marks

Because of the potential to distort future archaeology (?) the axe was deeply hot stamped on the left side with origin and creation date. On the other was placed my long standing makers mark.

© Darrell Markewitz - 2023