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how to restore a rotten ole’ axe in 5 steps.

My granddad bought me this from a shed clearance at the market he goes to.


From looking at this blunt little hatchet, I can tell that not only is the axehead upside down and rusty, but the handle is split and on backwards. That said, the head is in good condition, however the handle will need replacing. Worth noting before we kick off.


After separating the head from the handle, spray with WD40 to loosen some of the rust (If you have white vinegar around, a soak in that will do the same job). Using the coarsest sandpaper through to the finest wrapped around a block, work off all of the orange-brown rust from the steel until you are happy with the overall appearance - I quite like leaving the surface a little pitted and black for effect.


Clamp the head into a vice, and using a bastard file, grind the cutting face on both sides to a point. Once you have a nice straight edge, use wet and dry emery paper to bring the cutting faces to as smooth and shiny a texture as possible as this aides the splitting motion when chopping wood.

When happy with the level of shine, use a whetstone or diamond sharpening block to hone the edge and gently run a fingertip across the blade to test.


With the head finished, and the handle beyond repair, I purchased a new handle to affix.

Making sure the head is on the right way up, and the handle is ready to go in the right way around, shape the top of the handle with a knife so that it fits into the head, as snug as you can. Once the handle is in, drive the wedge through the slot in the very top of the handle as far as it will go, and cut the rest off flush with the handle.


This bit is totally up to you, design embellish it as you please; Peppa pig stickers, Swarovski crystals, or whatever tickles your fancy.

I chose to burn a little tree icon onto the handle with my pyrography iron. Sometimes dipping the handle in paint looks good or using some kind of lacquer or varnish, but I just rubbed the whole thing down with a little olive oil, which will preserve the wood and prevent the head from rusting.
I also drilled a hole through the handle and fed some orange cord through, to use as a lanyard or hang it up with.

Isn’t she beautiful.

Go on - Have a go!

- Ben Tanton