I recently got married and wanted to make groomsmen gifts that would be a bit beyond the norm and that my boys could use for a lifetime. Ended up making custom painted hatchets inspired by a gorgeous (but spendy) Best Made Company design.
Originally I had planned to buy antique axe heads off eBay to restore, but worried I wouldn't be able to find matching handles for the different styles. Ended up cheating a bit and ordered new Husqvarna hatchets (and the axe above for myself) from Amazon. Husqvarna is a Swedish brand that uses high quality steel for their heads meaning an edge should hold well. The leather edge covers were included which was a nice touch and had the added benefit of preventing "accidents" prior to the ceremony.
The handles are hickory but were delivered pre-oiled and were fairly rough. I had originally planned to buy raw handles and hadn't considered how much of a pain in the ass it would be to get these clean enough to paint. Like most painting projects it is all about surface prep so I took my time working from 60 to 120 to 220 to 320 grit sandpaper over a few summer weekends.
Once the sanding was finished I taped off the portion of the handle that would be painted with a primer. In hindsight I should have bought higher quality painters tape and wrapped the handle tighter to ensure a super crisp line. I had a few leaks in the woodgrain that was fixable with a razor and elbow grease but it's a pain and minutes in prep save hours in touch-up.
Garbage bags worked well to mask off the heads for painting.
A few notes on paint – I used Rust-oleum gloss spray paint and while that ended up working it is not the most durable. If I could do it over I would have used an epoxy based paint with sprayer as the rattle can stuff tends to run and chips easily. It worked fine for a first-time project but after all that sanding and surface prep the results were a but underwhelming. I was also lazy and just sprayed outside, if you have a garage and can make a temporary paint booth results will be far improved. Thin even coats are advisable but if you are like me you will get lazy and inevitably go too thick and get runs. Runs are the worst and are super tedious to sand down – THIN COATS, THIN COATS!
After a few coats of the cream base (which doubled as a primer) I masked off what would be the upper red band. I sanded lightly between coats and fully masked / unmasked each coat which was probably overkill but was worried about how well the layers would bond.
Neighbors were likely quite confused / worried at this point.
Nearly finished paint job – chosen in honor of the USA & GBR.
There are few things more maddening than forgetting to mask your last hatchet. Ended stripping that one down and repainting.
This was going to be the finished product but it looked a bit plain and lacked anything to commemorate the big day. One of my groomsmen's wife is a graphic designer and worked with her to design a logo for the wedding last minute (thanks, Jess!)
My wife and I met on the sailing team so I went full hipster with the anchor logo – turned out great! Found a place that did custom rubber stamps and sent them a PDF of the design and they made me a stamp next day. Major piece of advice – I used a normal stamp ink pad but it never really dried on the painted surface and bled when I tried to clear coat the final product. Would recommend using paint for any stamping needs to avoid those issues. I ended up getting the ink to dry enough overnight that it wouldn't bleed horribly but required some trial and error (and lots of acetone) before I was happy with the result.
Final step after clear coat was to oil the unpainted portion of the handle. I used teak oil which gave a nice sheen without darkening the hickory and overpowering the paint job.
Presented the hatchets along with bow ties and linen pocket squares for all the groomsmen.
Hatchets were a hit and fun for the photoshoot. Security guards at the venue were a bit on edge but no blood was spilled.
We haven't gotten wedding photos back yet so somehow I don't have photos of the wedding party with the hatchets so will have to settle for mother of the bride holding my ax during the "we can't have axes in all our wedding photos" portion of the shoot. Cheers!