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close this bookBasic Techiques of Blacksmithing: A Manual for Trainers (Peace Corps, 1982, 102 p.)
close this folderDay 4
View the documentSession: 13. Bellows and forge design
View the documentSession: 14. Forging an African tang-type axe
View the documentSession: 15. Case-hardened African field hoe with collar

Session: 14. Forging an African tang-type axe

Total Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes


* To make an African axe
* To build endurance by working heavy metal in several consecutive heats

Resources: Attachment 14-A, "African Tang-Type Axe"

Materials: One section of leaf spring (car), ¼” thick per station; prototype axe with handle; several branches of wood suitable for handles (see Step 13).


Step 1. (5 minutes)
Briefly explain the objectives and pass a prototype axe among participants for observation.

Step 2. (10 minutes)
Ask the group to identify the metal source and components of the axe, and list on newsprint the
steps involved in its production.

Trainer Notes

* Be sure the following components of the axe are mentioned in the discussion:

- cutting edge
- tang
- handle

* Participants, at this point in the training, have 1 earned and used most of the techniques involved in making an axe. As they identify the steps involved, assist only at points where new techniques are being introduced; e.g., forming the tang. Their list should include the following steps:

- hot-cut the leaf spring
- upset the blade end
- partially fuller the stock
- draw out the tang
- cut the stock
- finish forging the wedge tang
- grind the blade
- anneal
- temper
- make a handle and burn the axe head into the burl on the end of the handle
- quench immediately to prevent over-burning of the tang

* Mention that in a more industrialized situation, the axe surface would be finished using a flatter, but for training purposes, this is not necessary.

Step 3. (5 minutes)
Distribute Attachment 14-A, and ask participants to refer to it as they watch the trainer's demonstrations and during their forging process.

Trainer Notes

Explain to the group that since axe forging entails considerable labor, only one axe will be made per team.

Step 4. (10 minutes)
Discuss the leaf spring as a source metal and demonstrate how to hot cut it.

Trainer Notes

* Ask for a volunteer from the group to test the leaf spring for hardness and discuss its properties.

* Have the group discuss the local availability of leaf spring and suggest alternative materials for axe-making.

Step 5. (15 minutes)
Have the teams go to their stations and hot-cut their leaf springs.

Step 6. (10 minutes)
Explain and demonstrate the upsetting of the work-piece and peening of the axe head.

Trainer Notes

Be sure to discuss the following points:

* proper techniques for using cross- and straight-peen hammers

* use of quick, light blows to keep the heat in the metal, to allow longer workability and to reduce bending.

Step 7. (30 minutes)
Have the teams upset the blades and draw-out the tangs on their axe heads.

Trainer Notes

* Circulate among the stations providing assistance when requested.

* Pay particular attention to participants' hand hold on hammers, force of blow, quickness and posture.

Step 8. (10 minutes)
Demonstrate how to finish the axe surface and forge the wedge tang.

Trainer Notes

While forging the wedge tang, mention the danger of burning the small tang in the forge.

Step 9. (20 minutes)
Have participants finish and forge the wedge tang.

Trainer Notes

Assist any teams who appear to be experiencing difficulty.

Step 10. (15 minutes)
After the teams complete the forging process, have the participants, as a group, identify problems encountered in each step and discuss possible solutions.

Trainer Notes

To provide structure to the discussion, chart their responses in the following manner on newsprint:



Avoid By

Correct By

upsetting etc.

Bending, folding etc

light, quick hammer blows etc.

corrective, quick straightening etc.

Step 11. (25 minutes)
Have the teams grind and temper their axes.

Step 12. (5 minutes)
Briefly discuss the handle of the axe and demonstrate how to align and mount the axe head.

Trainer Notes

* Have the group identify suitable wood types for making handles and discuss shaping techniques.

* Explain the significance of the burl on the end in keeping the handle from splitting and adding weight to the axe.

* Mention that axes may be soaked in mud to keep handles from splitting and to keep the axe head secure.

Step 13 (30 minutes)
Have participants find suitable wood for handle-making, form the handles, and mount their axe heads.

Trainer Notes

* If appropriate wood types are available in the vicinity, ask the teams to explore the area and find branches from which to form the handles.

* If wood is sparse, provide the group with several pieces of raw material from which to choose.

Attachment 14-A


African Tang-Type Axe

1. Material

2. Upsetting

3. Spreading

4. Drawing Out Edge

5. Drawing Out Tang

6. Mounting Handle