I’m going to go off topic today in part at the request of my father. Granted I am going to tell a story so in that I am on topic. Years ago, Dad picked up a hatchet at a yard sale. He was very excited about his find, exclaiming “Look it is a Boy Scout Axe.” Dad it’s a hatchet. The sheath covering the head is heavily worn, showing signs of extensive dry rot, the handle is in fine shape, just needs to be refinished, the head has seen some use but otherwise in good shape and finally there is the BSA logo on the clasp, it must be a Boy Scout axe! Keep in mind my wife says I have “selective hearing” so the entire Boy Scout axe recollection is most likely wrong. Finally, at the risk of offending a tool nerd lets just say a hatchet is a one hand small axe for chopping while an axe is a large two hand tool used to fell trees.
I took the hatchet and headed to the crafting room. My wife saw me and more importantly saw the hatchets. “Ah you are taking an axe upstairs, is there something I should know?” I replied “my name’s not Lizzy Borden.”
Before I started the restoration I did some research on the hatchet, working with what little I knew which was the name stamped on the head, “Companion.” Turns out Sears coined the Companion name circa 1933 as one of their private labels, later incorporating Craftsmen into their hatchet line. As for BSA implications, their hatchets have the BSA logo stamped on the cheek of the hatchet, thus clearly this hatchet is not affiliated with the BSA and the sheath was used simply because it fit.
The restoration began with the blade cover, I did some research on how to clean leather and soften it. A quick search using Duck-Duck-Go I found DIY cleaning and leather softening options. Turns out a mixture of 1 part dish cleaning liquid and 8 parts warm water is a good leather cleaner. Which then makes the leather stiff as a board so after another Duck-Duck-Go search I found some DIY leather softening tips. Even after cleaning the leather mostly remained dark so I opted for a treatment using rubbing alcohol and Vaseline. This process tends to darken the leather so beware. I also, found that a fresh banana peel is a great option for polishing leather. Yup, no kidding, just rub the inside of the peel on the leather, and it will condition, protect, and polish leather. Apparently, shoe polish active ingredient is potassium and so do bananas. What the hell, so I gave it a try. Have to admit, overall the sheath looks and feels better but it is still far from good.
Lets turn our attention to the hatchet, the head was loose on the handle so separating the two was simple enough. The handle as mentioned, is in good shape, I just sanded it down. I considered a couple options relating to a new finish. I initially thought about applying varnish but it’s not like the hatchet is going to be exposed to the elements for prolong periods of time. Instead I opted to finish it with many coats of Danish Oil. The oil darken the wood, and brought out the grain. I am very happy with the results.
The head was a little dirty. I didn’t want to damage the steel, so erroring on the side of caution, i sandpapered the head with the same paper used on the handle. This worked out great, I removed the dirt, grim, some rust as well as the faint black paint originally applied to the cheek. The latter provided an unexpected opportunity. It occurred to me I could repaint the cheek any color I wanted. So I opted for a glossy fire engine red. Next I looked at the bit, it is rounded and in short it needs to be sharpened so I applied a grinding stone to the bit smoothing out the dings and making the hatchet usable again.
Finally, the time came to put the head on the handle, it is still loose so I ordered conical wedges plus I need to address a loose 2 lb head on a mallet so it’s all good. But anyway.