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Pulaski re-hang (pic heavy)

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Square_peg, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    I just finished putting together a Pulaski for doing trail work. A couple weeks ago I was out on a trail work party and had to suffer through using a dull Pulaski to clear a fallen tree from a new section of trail. That spurred me to get this one done. I've had a two Pulaski heads laying around here for a couple months now.

    I picked the one that has an 'FSS' stamp on it. Forest Service Spec - a high standard for carbon content and RC hardness.


    But this story is mostly about customizing my handle. Pulaski eyes are similar to double bit axe eye except a bit narrower. DB eye is 3/4" x x3". Pulaski is 5/8" x 3". I'm not sure why the difference.

    Anyway, modern axe handles are generally made too fat, much fatter than they typically were back when axes were in common use in industry. Again I don't know why this is. Maybe less break during manufacturing. Maybe the makers get less returns from home owners who break them. Bottom line is that if you want a properly shaped handle your best bet is to customize one yourself.

    Here's a comparison of the fat handle I'm starting with along side a double bit handle I slimmed and octagoned a few months back. The new handle is 1-3/16" thick in the smaller dimension. I'm gonna take it down to about 13/16".


    Another comparison. Note how I've made the swell more abrupt on the double bit axe handle. That gives you a more secure grip. I'm going to replicate that for my Pulaski.


    I needed to remove about 3/16" of material from each side of the handle to get it down to dimension. I started by removing 1/8" from each side with 24-grit sanding disc. Then I worked it down the last 16th with the spokeshave.


    This handle came with a swell that was twisted several degrees out of line with the eye. It's important that my octagoning work be aligned with the eye not the twisted swell. This helps you to register and orient the tool in the hand accurately and easily.

    To help me get that alignment right I set up the raw handle in the vise with the eye dead level and the twisted swell slightly off plumb. The original surfaces I cut with the 24-grit sander set the alignment of the octagoning. It's important for me to get that right.

    Here you can see the twisted swell. While I'm working my mind's eye will stay focused on the eye of the handle not this swell.


    Soon the octagon is taking shape.


    The spokeshave is limited by how deep of curve it can cut into. It can't shape the swell as abrupt as I would like it.


    To get the tight curves I want at the swell requires switching to rasps at this point. I rough in the shape with a coarse rasp and then smooth it up with a 4-in-hand rasp. Of course I'll finish it by sanding.


    Now I've got the new handle's swell shaped up like my double bit axe's swell.


    I was originally aiming for a handle thickness of 13/16". I ended up over-sized by 25/10,000" at .815". I can live with that. [​IMG]


    Once shaped the handle got one coat of boiled linseed oil followed by 5 coats of tung oil. Then it was joined with the Pulaski head.


    The head was in fair shape with the typical wear at the toe and a slightly thick bevel from repeated sharpenings. I straightened the bit and gave the cheeks a proper thin convex shape. Then I coated it with a beeswax paste mix that I make.

    Alongside the FSS stamp is a maker's stamp, the letters 'd.i.' in a box. I believe it stands for Dixie Industries.


    To protect the blades I borrowed a sheath from another Pulaski which a friend sent me (thanks, Moose)!

    The sheath was in very good condition. All I did was clean it up with a little saddle soap and glue down the end of the filler layer of leather.


    This tool is back in service just in time for a trail work party tomorrow. If anyone knows a good prayer to make it stop raining then I could use a favor.

  2. bearhunter


    Sep 12, 2009
    What a wonderful write up Pegs :)... nice photos too!
    That handle turned out amazing. I'm going to have to try my hand at an octagon handle soon. Hell, if I can make a bow, surely I can make an octagon handle. Right?

    On another note...
    You guys are getting rain, we got 1' of snow last night :eek: :D
  3. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Thanks for the inspiring post. I've got a FSS Pulaski head somewhere around here that I need to hang.
  4. CedarEater


    Aug 31, 2012
    That one turned out real nice as usual. Liked that write up. Top notch.

    It rained today? Musta been partially dry with scattered wetness. Forcast says its only 70% chance of precipitation for Sunday. What are you worried about, it should be beautiful.
  5. halfaxe


    Nov 29, 2012
    Thanks for the good write-up. I had one of those vises I traded to a blacksmith for some work. Now I wish I still had it.
  6. Operator1975


    Sep 24, 2010
    Man that looks great. Nice write up, excellent pictures, and the explanation as well. That tool will now be back in action and for years to come.

    Sadly I do not have a pulaski yet. I will look into getting one. The handle demo there was top notch - thanks!!
  7. coreboy


    Apr 29, 2012
    very nice looking work. as the others have said, nice pics, and splaining of procedures
  8. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    House sells Pulaski handles and I bet they would octagon one for you if you wanted. I wonder how fat they are without the octagoning?

    This handle came from Tennessee Hickory through a local retailer. The wood seems exceptional. I deliberately chose one with a grain about 20° off of vertical. With a Pulaski's narrow eye the handle is prone to cracking just below the head from only the merest amount of sideways prying. I think that what we consider 'perfect' grain for an axe isn't necessarily right for a Pulaski.
  9. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    Yeah, it's super handy. And it's non-marring so I don't need to pad it for wood work. It has 6-inch jaws, a massive screw and weighs 85 pounds.
  10. omniviking


    Feb 9, 2008
    Gee, You PEG'ed IT! :thumbup: Looks great.
  11. Cooter Brown

    Cooter Brown

    May 22, 2011
    Excellent. Interesting point about the grain direction.
  12. John Frankl

    John Frankl

    Oct 16, 2001
    Thanks a lot! Great pictures and info!
  13. moosecreektrails


    Apr 8, 2012
    Nice work. Great pics
  14. Double Ott

    Double Ott Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 3, 2011
    Great job, very nice write up and pics. Love the sheath. All is SWEEET!!!
  15. John Frankl

    John Frankl

    Oct 16, 2001
    Any chance for photos of the wedge going in, or at least in final position?
  16. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    I didn't take pictures of wedging it. I can take a pic of the final product, though. I used a home made wedge of London Plane. The kerf was a little tighter at the adze side of the eye so I belt sanded the wedge accordingly. Kerf and wedge got wiped down with generic Swel-Lock just before assembly. I left the wedge and haft 1/4" proud of the eye.

    I took it on my trail project today. The weather totally sucked but the Pulaski rocked. We were building a cedar log retaining wall for a collapsed section of trail. All materials came from nearby storm-fall cedars. I got to use the Pulaski for some limbing and a lot of peeling. It's so sharp that the cedar bark just came off like nothing. I loved it. I cut and sharpened numerous cedar stakes ranging from 2" to 6-1/2" in diameter and up to 6 feet long.. Plus I got to use it as an underbuck with a crosscut saw. The adze side only saw work as a prying tool - no earth work today.

    Despite the lousy weather we all had a great time. The Pulaski performed like a dream. It was very satisfying. If you haven't tried trail work yet you're really missing out.
  17. cooperhill


    Nov 14, 2011
    Nice work.

    Moosecreek, would love to get one if you ever have any spares that can't be used anymore.
  18. M3mphis


    Jan 13, 2011
    Very nicely done, Pegs! You've got me inspired to get my pulaski's cleaned up. I've got 4 just sitting around, but I haven't been very motivated to work on them till now.

    Your handle looks great. You definitely take a more calculated approach than me. I just wing it, but I probably make a lot more mistakes too.
  19. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    Calculated? I thought I was just being anal. [​IMG]
  20. SamuraiDave


    Apr 6, 2001
    I can't stand it!

    I'm off to get a bigger rasp. My 4-in-hand and my 1x30" belt sander isn't cutting it anymore!
    BTW, nice trick with the micrometer!

    I have one, but never would of thought to use it on a handle.
    I've been trying to copy a handle that came on a axe that was my grand-step-father's. It's long and thin and feels awesome in the hand.
    Problem is that the grain is the wrong way and it has begun to fall apart. My uncle, his son and the village idiot, helped it along with a bunch of overstrikes before getting bored and getting his chainsaw.

    I'm off for a larger rasp!

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