Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Boy Scout Axe - Handier Than A Pocket On A Shirt (w/pics)


Click images to enlarge.

 Boy, I sure showed my age with THAT title; didn’t I? Heck, I’m so old that I remember when the Boy Scouts was made up of BOYS! And those boys were more manly than 90% of today’s college students. The boys were taught camping, survival and life-saving skills, among other things. And one of the first things most scouts wanted was their very own Boy Scout axe.

I was in the scouts a short time, but I never got an official BSA axe with the insignia on it. I took an old pole hatchet that belonged to my dad to camp with me the first time. After that, I didn’t bother, as our wood was provided, probably to discourage a small army of boys from cutting down or ruining every tree within walking distance of camp.

My mom’s brother had been a scout 20 years before me, and he’d apparently splurged on an axe, because I ran across the head in my granddad’s barn when I was in my early teens. I took the head to an old gentleman in the neighborhood who made handles for things, and he made a plain straight handle for it for the grand sum of $2. After that, the little axe was my companion while deer hunting, camping and later, backpacking in the mountains. I took it with me one morning on my trap-line, but discovered that the pole was a little too soft for driving re-bar trap stakes. I smoothed up any burrs, but it still bears the small scars from the incident.

Several years ago, I came across it in the basement and found that the handle had shrunk enough over the years that it was going to take a fair amount of effort to snug it up. Besides, though serviceable, the handle was no thing of beauty. So, I knocked the old handle out and put in a 14” stock handle from the hardware store. It’s seen a lot of use since then, sharpening tomatoe stakes and bean-poles, lopping the limbs from the bean poles and cutting and trimming hot-dog sticks. It done a few tasks of green wood-working, too.

Normally, I like to leave most of the patina on a tool, as that’s part of its history. When I found that it the other day, though, it was starting to get a slight dusting of rust, from being carried under my truck’s tonneau during this humid summer, so I decided to clean it up a little, sharpen it and oil it.

I was surprised just how much of that patina was ancient rust, rubbed smooth by use and preserved with oil over the years. I took most (not all) of that patina off with light use of 220 sandpaper and discovered some minute pits in the blade. I also found that the blade had been thinned some, probably on my granddad’s old grindstone from the look of the marks remaining. I didn’t polish them off, that’s part of its history, too.

I sharpened the little axe with a scythe stone, then the small stone I use for my knives, since I’ve misplaced my sharpening puck. It’s got a couple tiny nicks in the edge, but I didn’t try to take them out. They’ll come out in the next few honings anyway. Besides, the rest of the edge will now shave you, and that’s good enough for me.

I noticed that the Boy Scout emblem on one side, and the words “Genuine PLUMB” on the other, were stamped deeper towards the eye than the edge, leaving the images less noticeable on the lower side. I thought at first that the thinning might have affected the stamps, but most of the scratches from the grindstone stop just short of the embossing.

After sharpening, I put a little WD-40 on the head and some boiled linseed oil on the handle. I’ve always just carried it in my belt, like the old-timers did their tomahawks, but I’m thinking about making a sheath for it after all these years. It’s a good little tool; it deserves one. Copyright 2018


Ralph Goff said...

I was never in the boy scouts but I think my dad might have been briefly. Somewhere I have a boy scout handbook that he had when he was a kid. Very interesting little book. Speaking of axes, I found one of mine hanging in a tree fork today. Apparently I forgot it last fall when I'd been doing some branch trimming. On the good side, at least I didn't run over it with the mower while cutting trails.

BW Bandy said...

A good axe is one of those must have items.

Gorges Smythe said...

The old manuals were neat, Ralph. The last one I saw was a joke. Good that you found the axe.

Absolutely, BW!

Unknown said...

I just picked up an axe just like yours. I really enjoyed reading your blog.