The drunk carpenter strikes again

Ok, so I’m not drunk (although that apple pie I made is pretty good, and I have a healthy snort setting my veins alight), but I am taking some shortcuts and doing a half-butt job. Do you remember the apple pie, from many months back? 6 months of cure time made it pretty potent – if you lay down a healthy batch now, your Christmas takes care of itself.

I went to the woodpile; scraps and pallet pieces. Perfect for what I have in mind.

Part of the laziness comes from intent. It’s a rough old map of the public utilities of Maine, from many years ago. I wanted to give it an unfinished look, like it had been framed with spare wood and hung on the wall of a workshop somewhere.

I think it had been thrown in a trunk, dunked in a river, drug behind a lumber truck, kicked down a flight of stairs, and then used as bedding for an incontinent pet crow.

This is where I grew up – the B&A railroad, a literal stone’s throw from the station house.

Mike Oscar spent his teenage years in this area, as did I, crashing on his couch. His dad always had a joke – there were 2 couches in the living room, kitty cornered. When Snuffy went to bed, Mike’s girlfriend was cuddled up beside him on one couch. When he’d wake up for work in the morning, she had gone home, and I’d have come off the late shift at the mill and be crashed out on the other couch. He would say, “I go to bed and you’ve got a beautiful women on the couch, I wake up and that homely thing is here! You’re trading down!”

Another one of my favorite (suitable for a family website) sayings of his – when I was too tired, he’d say my eyes looked like ‘two pissholes in the snow’. Very descriptive man, our Snuffy.

Next door are Masardis and Ashland, our hometowns.

I stripped out some pallet wood using my eyeball as a measuring tape. It’s less gory than it sounds. I laid them in place to ensure they were pretty much square.

Yep. Friggin run ‘er, bub.

I used the torch to bring out the grain, to make it look even more like scrap wood, and because Mike and I have endured our share of singed bits during our sojourn in that map.

Since it was somewhat squareish, I put some wood glue on the joints. And because I was lazy, I used the air brad gun and sunk some 2 inch brads in to hold it until the glue set. 2 inch overkill? It was what was left in the gun after my trim job at my mother-in-laws.

Here is the rough frame-in. Yup, it fits. I put three nice torch lines in one corner, for the number of times that Mike Oscar has fought a fire with me, or put one out that was on me.

I found a sheet of paneling that I was gonna use somewhere else, and just cut it up; when I remember what it was supposed to go on, I’ll go buy another one. But I’ve had too much apple pie to head out for a piece now.

I swapped out the 2 inch brads I had before and put in some 3/4 inchers, just enough to tack the back on. I put two in the lower left corner, so I could slide the map in, center it, and then I finished putting them in all the way around, to anchor the map in place without going through the map itself (which may have actually made it look better, but oh well).

There she sits! I hung it on the wall of my workshop – notice, it isn’t a man cave. It is a study/workshop, because I’m more interested in getting things learned and accomplished, then hunkering down and hiding from everyone. My son and daughter will learn and build, not hide from the world.

I made the hanger on the back by partially sinking two small nails, then wrapping some safety wire in a loose loop around them.

Here it sits, looking like it was pulled off the wall of a railroad station or the wall of a workshop in the GE manufacturing shop. I’m pretty impressed, but that could be the Crown Royal Black talking. As you can see, not only am I a fan, but I have another fan in the picture there, making it a total of 2 fans admiring the picture. One of the joints isn’t quite perfect, the wood is a little twisted (they don’t make pallets like they used to), but over all, I’m pretty impressed with my efforts.

I have another picture to frame, and I think I might do the same thing. I forget what it is, but I recall it being an older map of that area, that my wife bought me for a gift at some point. Speaking of gifts, it’s my birthday in a few days, so I think I’m getting myself a second hand Old Town canoe off a buddy. I’ll let you know how that goes. Have a great day, all!


Properly Defining the Anatomy of an Axe

All Terms Roughly Borrowed  from The Ax Book, by D. Cook

Axes.  If you’re going to use one, you should know what you’re talking about.  For me, it all started with a hatchet I got at Big Lots and has slowly exploded from there.   What I didn’t know is that there are words to properly define different parts of the axe.  You probably know them all.  I didn’t, so I’m sharing what I learned in The Ax Book.

Axe Head.  If you have trouble remembering this one, you should not be at this blog.


The “Bit“, otherwise defined as the cutting edge.
 Upper Corner or “Toe” of the Bit.


Lower Corner, or “Heel” of the Bit.


The Eye.


The Poll (or back of the axe), according to D. Cook, “a solid mass of metal that aids balance and control of the axe.  He also adds, “The poll should not be used as a hammer.”:

Axes are very simple tools, but you must always remember that they changed the world and society.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

Crafting a Leather Sheath for an Axe

A sheath is important for an axe. If you get your axe sharp, you can slice yourself open just like you can with a knife. I’m really cautious with my two camp axes. They’re so sharp that I’ve sliced open my knuckles with just a graze. My larger axes aren’t quite as sharp and that’s okay – I use them more for splitting.

I became interested in leather working a few years ago. My nephew, L.J., was reading  My Side of the Mountain and we were discussing the part of the book where the main character, Sam, made buckskin clothing. Very cool. I picked up some scrap leather at the hobby shop and got it into my head that I was going to make L.J. a sheath for an axe and another for a saw I was going to give him. It was easy. I had waxed string that I picked up at a yard sale for a buck. I made my holes and went to work. I didn’t know how to sew, but I just did what made sense and it worked. Since then I’ve made a few game bags, bandoleers, axe sheaths, and shoes (miserable failure). Leatherworking is fun, fairly affordable and somewhat easy. My stuff doesn’t look that great. It’s pretty primitive in form. I could probably make it look better if I didn’t use the faux sinew, but it is easy to work with and durable.  I think most people that make their own sheaths would suggest rivets over waxed string.  I’d agree with that.

Anyway, here is the process of making the sheath for my 3 1/4 lb. Snow and Nealley head.

First, the tools.  Left to right is a hole punch, scissors that I don’t really care about, but are sharp enough to cut leather, and the role of waxed string.
I don’t like leatherworking needles.  I use a darning needle.  It is sturdy with a big eye.
Then, choose your piece of leather.  Pink leather never looks good on an axe head.  Unless you’re a chick.
Next, trace your outline.  Make is slightly bigger than the head itself.  When you sew the two pieces together, the head will need room to slide into the sheath.  Giving it an extra inch for sewing helps with this.  Ask me how I know.
Cut the leather.
Match it up to the other side and repeat.
Punch holes in three sides of the leather.  If you punch holes on the fourth side, you’re a moron.  Try to space the holes evenly.  They sell a doohickey that’ll do it for you, but I’m too cheap to spend the seven bucks on it.
After you punch all holes in one piece, hold the other piece up next to it.  I mark the sides with a pen before punching the next batch of holes, so I know the two pieces will line up.
Commence sewing.  I don’t really know how to explain this part.  Okay, I’ll try.  The rabbit (needle) goes down through hole one and back up through hole two.  The rabbit then goes back down hole one and again out through hole two.  The rabbit then moves onto hole three.  Repeat.
And to think they don’t teach Home Ec. anymore!  Shame!  I honestly think I may have been one of the last kids in America to have Home Ec. class.  I looked hawt in a pink apron.
Try it out.  See how it fits.  If it doesn’t fit, don’t blame me.  I get enough blame.
Next, cut yourself a piece for the strap.  I’m using a snap on this one, but you don’t have to.  If you make the strap with a tiny bit of slack, you can just slide it up over the head.
I like to mark where the the strap is going to be sewn in, so it’ll be even on both sides.
Sew it.
Next comes the snap.  I bought a kit at Hobby Lobby that incldes what I’ll call a hammer and an anvil.  It basically allows you to put two pieces together and squish.
Give it a smack and you’ve got a snap!
Do the same for the receiving end of the snap inside the sheath pocket.
End result:
Add a little mink oil to keep the water off and presto, you have a sheath.

Any questions?

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…….out.

Free Education

Is anything really free?

I decided to jump on the free education bandwagon.  I put out an ad on a local forum and asked for something free – wood.  I asked that if anyone had downed trees on their property that they wanted rid of to please call me.  I got a few responses.  One from a lady less than two miles from our place.  She’s on 32 acres and had some fire mitigation done a few years back and they left all of the wood.  This load was all aspen, but she has spruce, fir and pine as well.  She’s got a lot of dead standing on her lot, so we might just have to become friends.  I clear the dead stuff, her land gets safer for the insurance company.  Win/win.


I brought the wood home and sawed it up.  Then I told the children that they were going to help me split and pile.  When the boys found out they were going to get to use axes, you would have thought Christmas was this week.

Child #2 (oldest boy) is a natural at all things physical.  I gave him my Snow & Nealley 2 1/4 lb. on a 28″ haft.  It seems to work perfectly for him.  He’s got good form and loves splitting aspen because it’s light, dry and easy.



He split a lot for a little guy.  His brother, who is a year younger, was hard at it as well.  Books are his thing, but he wanted to be like his big brother and split.  He struggled to swing the axe and I spent a lot of time with him working on his form.  He’s still a little young, though his brother was splitting at his age.  Kids are different, that’s all.


He got discouraged at one point and started to cry.  He said he’ll never be a good wood splitter.  I assured him that he had plenty of time in life to practice.  Then I offered to show him how to split kindling and explained that it was the most important part of starting a fire.  He relented and used the old Lakeside double bit to make some small splits.

We’ve had more fires this year than in all the other ten years we’ve been here combined.  So far we’ve saved $100 on our heat bill, and an as-yet undetermined amount on our electric bill.  In the process, the kids have learned how to split and pile wood.  I’d say that’s better than a free education.

Mike,Oscar, Hotel……out.










Lakeside Small Double Bit Axe Restoration

double bit camp axe

I picked this one up a few years ago.  It’s a small double bit, marked “Lakeside”.  My uncle told me that was the name brand for axes released by Montgomery Ward.    In my experience, old hardware store brand axes are worth holding onto, pre…..oh, let’s say 1990, give or take.


The thing that intrigued me about this one is the fact that it is a small double bit.  You can find them, but they certainly aren’t as common as single bits.  I would say that this is camp axe size with a 28″ handle.  The head weighs 2 1/2 pounds, though the head is marked with a 2.


I kept this in my tool box on the back of my truck and hadn’t done anything to it, other than put it in there.  It was my just in case axe.  I’m not a fan of double bits; I like poll weight on my axes, but I thought this one was worth keeping around.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, purpose-wise.  I hit a coyote with my truck on the way to work the other day and he was on the side of the road, not quite dead.  I went for this axe, but had already taken it out of the tool box.  Being that I only had my hatchet, Mr. Coyote got a painful reprieve.

So, this is the project.  I’m going to attempt to save the handle, mostly because small double bit handles aren’t that easy to find, and the ones that I have found have had grain issues.

I started by loosening the head off of the haft.  I did some wiggling and tapping with a hammer, though lightly.  I soaked it in a white vinegar bath.  If you haven’t heard about this method for rust removal, it works really well.  You’ve got your warning, though – wear gloves.  Below is the head soaking in vinegar.  12 to 24 hours is sufficient for most projects.


I donned my wife’s pink gloves and started in with 00 steel wool.  Notice the differences in color?  Those are temper lines.  I *think* the darker areas contain more carbon.


Vinegar bath for rust removal


When you finish with the scrubbing, you should have a nice grayish blue color.  Notice the bottle of WD-40 beside the head?  After the vinegar bath and scrubbing, it’s important to get some kind of lubricant on the head immediately.  Vinegar does a great job eating rust, but left to its own devices, it will flash rust the head.  I’ve used anything from olive oil to motor oil.  Just something to inhibit the rust from developing.



The haft isn’t in great shape, as I’ve already mentioned.  There were no obvious splinters and the wood is good wood, so I decided to sand it down.


I started with a really aggressive grit and moved smoother in succession.  It doesn’t look great, but the handle is smooth.


I threw it in the vice and lit into it with the file.  It is pretty decent metal and a worthy tool.


Hopefully we’ll find a few more coyotes to knock out with this one.

Mike Oscar Hotel…..out.