One day last Summer I decided to
beat the heat and stay in the shade and work on a project
involving putting a helve in a small bearded hatchet that I will
use in future Ozark traditional woodworking demonstrations.
The Ozark Border was logged off by huge lumber companies in the
1880's and 90's, leaving a wasteland of scorched earth after
wildfires consumed thousands of acres of treetops and
underbrush. Circa 1900 the ravaged land could be purchased for
fifty cents per acre.
Many families came to this land from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary through Ellis Island and
started a new life in the wastelands left by The the lumber
barons. They brought with them their cultures, languages, music,
and tools that were very alien to the Scots-Irish base
When I was a child I marveled at their tools, particularly their
axes which looked so different than the ones my family used.
Over the years I was able to acquire quite a few of the tools
brought from The Baltic States and continue to restore and learn
how to use them.
It was time to haft a little hatchet and get it ready to use to
inform the public of the migration of a population that has
fully blended with the Ozark lifeway. In the restoration of the
little hatchet I left as much of the patina on it as possible
and sharpened it so it can be used. I start many projects with
an axe or hatchet rather than a saw. It is the old expedient way
of working wood I learned many years ago.
A piece of rived wormy ash was selected for the helve. The
hatchet is rather small and weighs a little over a pound.
The ash was shaped with spokeshaves.
The final smoothing was done with a steel scraper and two pieces
of broken glass, one flat and one curved.