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Casting a 3,000-Year-Old Bronze Age Axe Head, Starting with Nothing

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This is a great example primitive skills in action: this man makes a beautiful bronze-age axe, from building the forge to hafting the handle.

A man cast a bronze-age axe head, but his process of making everything necessary to do it is incredible. From sharpening a digging stick and digging up the clay with which to make a forge, to the final securing of the finished axe head to a wood handle, the entire process is amazing.

Perhaps most impressive is the forge he formed from clay and straw. It looks to be a three-chambered forge, with a room for the fire, a room for the molten metal, and a chimney.

I wish he would have spent a little more time showing this part of the process and the construction of the furnace, as it is a complex structure.

Following the completion of the furnace, he builds a fire, using the friction method to produce an ember. He then transfers the ember to a small piece of punky wood, before producing a flame and transferring the fire to the first compartment of his clay furnace.

The fire is incredibly hot and the positioning of the chimney creates a draft that carries the fire through the furnace and over the smelting room. He stuffs a few pieces of metal into the small room and waits for it to melt.

Using a hole that he placed in the smelting room, he releases the molten metal to flow into the forms of two hollowed-out axe heads.

When cool, he disconnects the axe heads from the slag and sharpens one of them on a stone until it shines.

Then, using sharpened stone tools he hafts an axe handle, and ties the head to the handle with cordage.

This was surely a long process, but he condensed it all down to under five minutes for this video. His knowledge and ability to craft a beautiful and efficient bronze age axe using nothing but stone and wood tools is without par.

Check out Shawn Woods’ own successful attempt to cast a replica of Otzi the Iceman axe here and here.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

NEXT: Primitive Skills: Making an Ötzi the Iceman Copper Axe

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Casting a 3,000-Year-Old Bronze Age Axe Head, Starting with Nothing