Ever since I started restoring axes about five years ago I’ve had the opportunity to restore quite a few. But my favorites to restore are the dirtiest, nastiest, most rusted and neglected axes I can find. Most collectors (and I do consider myself to be a collector) would pass these tools over for those in better condition. But the shiny, unused vintage collector axes, which have a beauty all their own, never really appealed to me. For me, seeing the transformation from rock-bottom neglect to beautiful utility is much more exciting.
I’ve taken to calling these axes ‘Ugly Ducklings.’ Just like in the children’s story, they’ve been cast off and deemed outcasts. But within them lies the beauty, and in some cases, the bloodlines, of a great axe. One of my favorite ‘ducklings’ is show above. It was purchased for about $10, and it was badly rusted with deep pitting in the steel. After a vinegar bath to remove the surface rust I found the letters ‘SHER’ on one side of the poll. It was a Kelly Woodslasher! The rest of the letters had been eaten away by rust long ago, but I was certain of its maker. The Kelly Axe Co. had a long history as one of the premier axe makers in America, and with the Kelly heritage this axe was certainly worthy of both restoration and use.
The pitting and markings these Ugly Ducklings carry have a beauty all their own worthy of preserving, and I like the contrast of the craggy, pitted steel, and the shiny surface of the sharpened bit. With a little love and a sharpening stone, I’ve simply added the next chapter as caretaker, and with any luck it won’t be the last.
Nick Zdon is Best Made’s resident axe and restoration expert. He has taught numerous axe restoration workshops and taught many people how to bring old axes back to life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and comments regarding axes and restoration projects.
There are a good number of beverages that can be enjoyed in our Steadfast and Seamless enamelware. But one of our favorites, by far, is Swedish Coffee. It’s an almost alchemical process of using a beaten egg to settle the grounds in a pot of coffee. It’s been enjoyed at community centers and campfires alike for a good many years. Our good friend Cee Dub was kind enough to share his recipe with us.
Recipe courtesy of our friend C. W. “Butch” Welch
2 quarts water
½ cup regular grind coffee
1 egg, well beaten in a cup of cold water
1 cup cold water
Heat the water. Add the coffee grounds to one half of the egg/water mixture. When the water boils, slowly add the egg/water/coffee slurry to the pot and stir gently. Watch closely and remove from heat when the coffee returns to a boil. Let steep a few minutes, then add the remaining cup of cold water to settle the grounds. Serve in enamelware mugs, with bacon and flapjacks.
Cast iron cookware saw its heyday in America’s late 19th century and on into the middle of the 20th. High quality ore from Ohio and Pennsylvania was cast into skillets, dutch ovens, waffle irons, and a whole lot else. These pieces were finished by hand, their cooking surfaces were machined smooth and the iron’s rough cast texture was removed. This removal of metal also made for lighter pans that were easier to use, were faster to season, and more non-stick. This finishing process is a thing of the past, and is one of the main benefits for collecting and using vintage cast iron.
There are many ‘recipes’ for how to season a cast iron pan. Many of these recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. Our process, which we’ve tested extensively, yields excellent results provided you use the right oil, and don’t rush the process.
What you need:
Freshly cast iron pan cookware
It’s important that the pan be as cleaned down to the bare iron if possible. All prior seasoning should be removed with a lye solution, and any rust must be removed with vinegar, or electrolysis.
The choice of oil is very important. It’s necessary to choose an oil that will polymerize, harden, and adhere to the pan. Flaxseed oil is a common choice, but we’ve also gotten satisfactory results from shortening (Crisco).
Your home oven will heat the oil that’s been applied to the pan and cause it to harden and darken. This is the part of the process that can’t be rushed, it takes some time.
You should always heat cast iron with something in it, even if it’s only a bit of cooking oil. You can damage the seasoning by overheating it. Avoid cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes or citrus in the pan for long periods of time. They’ll react with the seasoning and the iron and impart an unpleasant flavor.
To clean, deglaze the pan with a bit of water while it is still hot. Let the pan cool and use your hands or a plastic scrub pad to remove any stubborn bits of food. A bit of kosher salt can also be used to soak up excess oil, and to act as a mild abrasive. Many folks advocate for not using any soap at all, but we’ve found a small amount of dish soap won’t harm a well seasoned pan. But do avoid using harsh abrasives and cleaning detergents. Wipe thoroughly dry, or heat on the stove top to dry, and store in a safe, dry place.
With proper seasoning (don’t rush it) and proper care a vintage cast iron pan will last for generations to come.
It used to be that the options available for heavy duty, high grade, powerful flashlights were limited. Old incandescent bulb technology eventually gave way to xenon and then LED technology; and alkaline batteries gave way to lithium. This means that today the newest flashlights are smaller and brighter by several orders of magnitude than those of just ten years ago.
The chart above compares the maximum and minimum lumen output for five Foursevens flashlights, each using LED emitters. While lumens measure overall brightness it’s useful to note that other factors can greatly influence illumination characteristics. However, when you realize that just a handful of years ago comparably sized flashlights would have output just 10-15 maximum lumens you can see how fast the industry has improved and why it hasn’t looked back.
Since 2008, Foursevens has been one of the industry leaders in high-performance LED flashlights. Visit foursevens.com for more information.
Learn more about the Foursevens flashlights shown above at bestmadeco.com
Special Announcement: Free Shipping February
Workshops: The January Axe Restoration Series
We’re proud to offer another major installment of our popular axe restoration workshop series. Over the course of 2 weeks, we’ll be hosting 4 workshops at 2 different skill levels at Best Made Company Headquarters at 36 White Street in New York City. These workshops are sure to sell out quickly so reserve your spot today.