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Re-quenching Mexican Collins Axe?

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by The Mighty Ginsu, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. The Mighty Ginsu

    The Mighty Ginsu

    151
    Aug 11, 2016
    I am suffering all sorts of travails as I try to get myself a couple of decent axes. Everyone says it's hard to get a good new axe without paying $200, so I am going vintage, and that means a lot of shopping and work.

    Question: what if I buy a new Mexican Collins axe, heat the edge with a torch, and quench it? Can I make it hard enough to compare to an old American axe?

    People have told me to sharpen axes with files. I bought two old axe heads, and let me tell you...there is no way. A file slides on them without making a mark. I used a belt sander, which took two minutes and gave a beautiful edge. After these experiences, I don't want to settle for a cheese-like axe that files easily.
     
  2. A17

    A17

    440
    Jan 9, 2018
    Most of my heads file pretty well except for one hand forged one that was so hard a grinder was the only thing that could give it more than a touchup on the edge. As for the question, bad metal is bad metal, 'nuff said.




    ....Not. I would see if the steel is good quality or not.
     
  3. The Mighty Ginsu

    The Mighty Ginsu

    151
    Aug 11, 2016
    I forgot all about tempering. That kills the idea. I can't put an axe handle in an oven.
     
  4. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
    There is a way. I haven't found an old axe I couldn't file. A couple things, first is the oxidation layer. It's quite hard and probably giving you most of the trouble. Slowly work thru it in one small spot and then work out from there lifting the oxidation layer along with the softer metal just below the surface. The other thing is you file. Unless you have a high quality file in good condition you will have a tough time filing a vintage axe. There are threads and videos on this forum about filing an axe. Read them. Then give it another try.
     
  5. The Mighty Ginsu

    The Mighty Ginsu

    151
    Aug 11, 2016
    The belt sander sharpened my axe in two minutes. I don't have any motivation to use files.
     
  6. Miller '72

    Miller '72

    Jul 25, 2017
    I find the filing of an axe to not only be rewarding but also very relaxing and almost a practice in patience and self meditation as it is just you and two pieces of steel.

    I would hope that you give the file another try, you may find it to be very rewarding and find yourself happy that you did.

    Give it another try and good luck! The first ones are always a learning curve, perhaps try the file and hone your technique on a more modern, softer steel head.

    I hope this is helpful and motivational to try again
    :thumbsup::cool::)
     
    DB_Cruiser, Agent_H and survivor45 like this.
  7. The Mighty Ginsu

    The Mighty Ginsu

    151
    Aug 11, 2016
    I gave the file several tries, using what I thought was extraordinary pressure, and it did absolutely nothing. Maybe if I clamped it in a vise and put all my weight on it, something would happen, but the belt sander is a joy to use, so I'm sticking with it.

    I was thinking of getting a puck, which would cut hard steel a file won't touch. I thought I would carry it around. My property isn't big enough for me to need one, though. I'm never more than two minutes away from the belt sander.
     
  8. Miller '72

    Miller '72

    Jul 25, 2017
    I certainly dont want to try talking you into something, however because I am a believer in keeping it simple and traditional... I will try taking and posting a picture here for you of a simple yet effective jig I made on my bench that will fit most axes, hatchets and boys axe heads I have in my collection.
    It has helped dramatically to maintain control of the file on the bit and much quicker and easier to install and flip than wedging wood or cloth around the head in my machinist vise.

    I also dont have a larger property here, but a puck is a solid investment for any tool kit when you require sharp tools, and I too need to just bite the bullet and get a puck for myself. I hope to motivate myself and contact one of the members here I have grown to trust in his opinions and products.

    Best of luck and when I can I will get a pic of that jig. I have found the jig also makes it safer and at the moment I have been allowing my boys, when we work together and I can supervise for their saftey, to file a Michigan patterned, older head I picked from somewhere along the way...I simply enjoy that they enjoy what dad enjoys:):thumbsup: even if it doesnt last with them, I am taking it all in now;)hoping to instill some of dads keep it simple, use some elbow grease, get it done without plugging in:cool:
     
  9. The Mighty Ginsu

    The Mighty Ginsu

    151
    Aug 11, 2016
    I'll tell you what would be a great traditional tool for sharpening: a huge grindstone. That would be nice.
     
  10. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
    A vise is a must. But extraordinary pressure isn't. Different files and different axes require different pressures and speeds. If the file is skating then try changing the pressure and speed.

    In regards to re-quenching a Mexican Collins, it might not make any difference. If the quality of the steel is low to begin with then nothing you can do will fix it. Some manufacturers use recycled steel which hasn't even been fully homogenized. It has hard and soft spots in it. Proper heat treat of one portion of the bit results in improper heat treat of an adjacent portion. There's no way to win.
     
    Yankee Josh and Agent_H like this.
  11. survivor45

    survivor45

    105
    Feb 15, 2018
    I would appreciate seeing your jig.
    This is how I hold my axe heads when filling. Of course, at this point they have no handles. So just a simple piece of hardwood through the eye and C-clamped to the bench. And a Heller Bastard file and Nicholson Smooth file.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Miller '72

    Miller '72

    Jul 25, 2017
    @The Mighty Ginsu
    As I said, simple yet very effective. You should give it a try. Of course if the axe is already married to a handle, you will need the vise, but getting some practice licks in on just a head should help.

    @survivor45
    I like your jig man!
    I simply used a dry wall screw to secure on one end, just loose enough that I can freely move the scrap wood and another at the "open" end with sometimes a wedge under to secure to my bench the whole jig when I have a head in place to file. It has worked great and I believe helped me improve my filing and grind attempts. Surprisingly the wood has yet to break, fortunately I have a whole box of screws...the one I use to secure tight to the bench always seem to roll off or run away between axe projects lol!

    My jig...

    [​IMG]

    :cool::thumbsup:
     
    garry3, Yankee Josh, Moonw and 4 others like this.
  13. survivor45

    survivor45

    105
    Feb 15, 2018
    Miller '72 likes this.
  14. junkenstien

    junkenstien

    531
    Feb 15, 2017
    If a mill bastard heller and a smooth dont do anything they are wore out,they would only do any good after you reprofiled it anyways they dont remove enough material.Try useing the belt sander to get to the shiny steel then see how your files cut.
     
  15. survivor45

    survivor45

    105
    Feb 15, 2018
    Oh they are my go to files. They work just fine for me :)
     
  16. Miller '72

    Miller '72

    Jul 25, 2017
    Ya buddy! :cool:
    I have been known to use that expression also:)
     
  17. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    I would be inclined to take the head off of the handle to do anything to it heat-wise. I'm not a blacksmith though.
     
  18. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    Split the difference and get a Council ... probably somewhere between vintage and Collins but perfectly serviceable. Mine has been good to go and I know I won't crack the eye like if it were say ... a frickin Plumb. Sharpen it however you like. I don't see how it matters. There are two goals; don't jack it up and get it sharp. Doesn't make much difference how you get there in my view. If you enjoy the filing then file it. If you get good results from your belt sander and would rather do it that way, then just do it that way.

    That's not to say it (the Collins) wouldn't be a fun experiment/project but I would also be inclined to just pull the head to do the work. If you're gonna make it a project then it might as well have a good handle.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018
    Maine20 and Square_peg like this.
  19. The Mighty Ginsu

    The Mighty Ginsu

    151
    Aug 11, 2016
    Let's say I went nuts and decided to try to harden a new Collins just for fun. I would have to remove the head, heat the edges, and quench.

    1. Should I assume oil is the right thing to use, and will any old oil work?

    2. What's the best way to temper it?
     
    Square_peg and cityofthesouth like this.

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