Helko hatchet and axe heads are dropforged from C45 high grade carbon steel and crafted to meet stringent German DIN manufacturing standards.
Dropforging is a process in which the blacksmith uses tongs to hold hot steel as a drop hammer falls repeatedly onto it. This requires not only impressive hand/eye coordination, but the blacksmith must also have the experience and comprehensive judgment to make split second decisions which will affect the shape and integrity of the finished product.
After forging, the heads are hardened and cooled in a continuously running lukewarm oil bath. Unlike many axes which are cooled in a water bath, Helko tools are cooled in oil to avoid small chinks in the material. They are then heated to 400°C, relieving strain on the surface of the steel and providing the exact desired level of hardness. Helko hatchet and axe edges are hardened to approximately 53HRC (Rockwell) up to 30 millimeters from the cutting edge, while the eye is generally left unhardened to prevent cracks in the steel.
Rockwell hardness is an important factor to consider when evaluating the quality of an axe head. The steel must be tempered just right, without being too soft to hold an edge or hard enough to become brittle. A soft bit will lose its edge quickly, requiring constant sharpening and honing. Conversely, over-hardened bits are liable to chip or crack during normal use.
Afterwards, the tools are sandblasted to remove oil residue from the surface prior to grinding and finishing.
Helko have cumulatively spent hundreds of years perfecting the hardness and temper of their axes, creating an ideal balance between superior edge holding ability, ease of sharpening, and resistance to chipping.
The quality of the handle is a significant measure of the tool’s integrity. We equip our axes with some of the finest American Hickory and Swish Ash available.
American Hickory, growing between 60 and 120 feet high, is a hardwood that maintains remarkable bending properties and flexibility. Hickory is known for its shock absorbing and resistance capabilities. It has a coarse texture and a straight grain, and is highly receptive to stains and finishes. Hickory’s sapwood, or outer layer, is primarily white with shades of brown, while the heartwood is a pale reddish brown.
Similarly, Swiss Ash grows between 80 and 120 feet, and like Hickory, is a strong and shock absorbing wood with excellent flexibility. It is relatively lightweight for its impressive strength, and is typically straight grained with a coarse texture. Ash’s sapwood is shaded in pale whites, and the heartwood can vary from grayish brown to pale yellow streaked with brown.
Due to natural variations in wood, our handles may be lighter or darker than those pictured. We are unable to accommodate requests for particular handle color at this time.