The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Axe

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Edition of 1879. See also Axe on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

AXE, an instrument for cutting down trees and chopping wood, usually formed of iron and steel, with a handle or helve, of suitable size and length for wielding with both hands, inserted in an eye running horizontally through the head. Smaller instruments of similar form, for use with one hand, are called hatchets (Fr. hachette, diminutive of hache, axe). The axe is one of the earliest tools suggested by the needs of man, and among all antique relics we find almost invariably some species of axe. The bone and flint tool of different Indian races; the metallic axe, mixed copper and tin, of South America and Mexico, sufficiently hard to cut porphyry and granite; the similar tool of the Romans; the Druidical copper axe, and the rough iron instrument of northern nations, all witness the primitive use of this implement. The increased science of more recent times constructs the axe of iron edged with steel; but anciently the use and combination of these metals were comparatively unknown. With the progress of civilization, the increasing wants of the race, and the colonization of new and fertile countries, the use of axes has proportionately increased with that of various other edge tools. In the most recent American processes, the iron used in making axes is hammered bar iron, the bars of different lengths, but definite sizes, differing for different tools; it is heated to a red heat, cut of the requisite length, and the eye which is to receive the handle punched through it; it is then reheated, and pressed between concave dies till it assumes the proper shape. The Spanish axe is made by the old process of hammering out the bar and turning it in a loop to make the eye, as this kind of axe has no head. The axe is now heated and grooved upon the edge, receiving in that groove the piece of steel which forms the sharp edge; borax is used as a flux, and at a white heat the axe is welded and drawn out to a proper edge by trip-hammers. The next process is hammering off the tool by hand or machinery, restoring the shape lost in drawing out; it is then ground to form a finer edge. The axe is now hung upon a revolving wheel in a furnace, over a small coal fire, at a peculiar red heat, judged by the eye, afterward cooled in salt and water, then in fresh water, and removed to another furnace, where it receives the last temper at the hands of skilled workmen. Then it is ground upon stones of a finer grain than before, and is ready for the polishing wheel. Next it is polished to a finish that shows every flaw, and enables it to resist rust and enter wood easily; next it is stamped, the head blacked with a mixture of turpentine and asphaltum to prevent rust, and finally weighed, labelled, and packed for sale. — Formerly the consumer depended upon the rude forges and limited skill of blacksmiths to supply axes, but since the increased demand there are many small manufactories in different parts of Europe and America. The largest establishment in the world for manufacturing axes and edge tools is that of the Collins company, situated on the Farmington river, at Collinsville, Connecticut. Here, by means of machinery invented for the company by Mr. E. K. Root, the processes of axe-making are brought to extreme perfection. The establishment was begun in 1826, on a small scale, by Messrs. S. W. and D. O. Collins. After some years it passed into the hands of a company, known now as the Collins company. The amount of capital invested here is $1,000,000. Eighteen hundred tons of iron, 350 tons of cast steel, and 7,000 tons of coal are consumed annually; from 450 to 500 men are employed; 13 large water wheels and two engines supply the motive power of the machinery; and from 1,500 to 2,000 edge tools and other implements are made daily. The largest American manufacturers after the Collins company are the Douglas axe company of East Douglas, Mass., and those of Cohoes, N. Y.