Recasting Rubber Axe Handles
This is a detailed instructional on how to recast "Estwing" 16" Camper Axe rubber handles using our Axe Handle Recasting Molds.
How-To Video on the steps for recasting the rubber axe handle
Looking to repair or embed your company name into the rubber handle of your steel tanged throwing axe. The Axe Handle Casting Mold by maker86 Industries is a great way to recast the rubber handle on your steel tang axe. This solution offers a cost effective way for Axe Throwing venues to recast certain steel tang axe handles and give the axe a 2nd, 3rd, 4th... life.
Worried about casting a new handle? This will walk you through the tools/casting supplies you need, how to prepare your axe, preparing the mold, and cast a new axe handle are all available to make your axe handle casting experience seamless.

Note: All tools, activities and actions displayed or represented on this site are done at your own risk and the Author cannot be held liable for any damages.

We have no affiliation with "Estwing" / "WATL" or any of their products. A need was identified in an industry that uses their products and all of the designs that have come out of this project were organically derived. This is simply enabling users to repair the products they own and give it a second life.

Mold Types

Low Contrast Mold

This is a FDM 3D printed ABS mold, printed at a standard layer height with a 0.4mm nozzle. Layer lines will be visible in the cast, text is readable, and dimples will show print resolution limitations. This is a suitable mold for functional use of the axe. NOTE: this option does not allow for a customized logo plate, to put your custom logo into the mold. You will need the High Resolution Mold with the "Axe Handle Cast Logo/Branding Plate" found on the maker86 Industries store.

High Contrast Mold

This is a FDM 3D Printed ABS shell mold with an 4 piece SLA resin printed sleeve (interior mold). FDM printing is printed at a standard layer height with a 0.4mm nozzle. SLA resin printing is printed at a layer height at or under 50 microns. The resin core will give you a near perfect result on all contact surfaces. You can order custom branding plates to be included in this mold. Custom logo/branding plates can be found in the maker86 Industries store, listing "Axe Handle Cast Logo/Branding Plate".

Samples - Contrast and Materials

If you are unsure what molds would be best for you or you want a sample of the two urethane rubbers hardness's. A sample set of handles can be found on the maker86 store ("Axe Handle Casting Samples"). The purchase will provide you with with 2 sample handles (Low and High Resolution) that have a core that simulates the metal tang that runs down the handle. The low resolution sample is casted in Smooth-On Vytaflex 50 - 50A hardness urethane rubber and the high resolution sample is casted in Smooth-On Vytaflex 60 - 60A hardness urethane rubber. Substitutions are available for the KX-Flex 90A semi-rigid urethane.

Safety

The following processes use tools and supplies that can create various hazards. Please take the proper precautions for the processes used in this article. Stripping the axe uses blades and spinning machinery to clear the existing handle materials. Mold Releases an Urethane Rubbers create odors, vapors, and aerosols, please read precautions with the various products. Cut resistant coverings, reducing loose clothing, ventilation, and respirators are all things to consider as these processes are executed.

BE SAFE!!!!

Tools and Supplies

As we guide you through the process of recasting your axe, below you will find the molds, supplies, tools, and where to find the products for the prep, pour and post processing of the casting.

Molds and Mold Accessories

maker86 Industries Shop (Axe Throwing)

Supplies

  • Soft Non-Hardening Clay (Sculptex® at Reynolds / Sculptex® at Bentley)
  • Mold Release (Ease Release 200 at Reynolds / Ease Release 200 at Bentley)
  • Smooth-On Vytaflex 50 or 60 Urethane Rubber [200 grams / mold] (Smooth-On / Reynolds / Bentley)
    • Vytaflex 50 is softer than the original grip and has a bit more tackiness at first. This seems to have a similar reliability as the original axe handle foam rubber material.
    • Vytaflex 60 is roughly an equal in hardness to the original foam rubber used on the Estwing handles.
    • KX-Flex 90A is a semi-rigid urethane. This is the resin to use, if you are looking for a more durable handle to hold up better to the abuse of axe throwing. Molds are not guaranteed above 60A hardness but the mold appears to hold up with multiple pours of this resin. Triple check with every pour you have mold release adequately covering the inside of the mold.
  • (Optional) Smooth-On SO-String Color Tints (Smooth-On / Reynolds / Bentley) - See 'Color Chart' below.
  • (Qty 2) 5oz cup ("dixie")
  • 12oz or 24oz cup - Larger cup is needed if you plan to degas the rubber before pouring.
  • Stir Stick
  • Isopropyl Alcohol (>90%)
  • Paper Towels
  • Disposable Gloves

Tools

  • Digital Gram Scale
  • 5mm or 6mm Allen Wrench
  • Putty Knife
  • Utility Knife w/ new blade! (Trust me... new blade)
  • Wire Brush and/or Wire Wheel
  • Cut Resistant Gloves
  • Respirator Mask
Disposable Gloves, Mold Release, Wire Brush, and Paper towels are missing from this picture.

Stripping the Axe

There really isn't a science to this process as you really are going to use a utility knife to strip the existing rubber from the handle. Remember all your your safety techniques and wear cut resistant gloves to not get hurt while removing the rubber.

Removing the Bulk

The easiest way to start is to use the utility knife and strike deep in the rubber along letting the blade rub against the side of the tang. See image below.
Scoring the Rubber Handle
Once you have scored the rubber now is when its just brute force to peeling the rubber off the handle, periodically scoring the rubber and cutting off pieces where it seems fit. The goal is to have a majority of the rubber cut and peeled off. See image below.
Before and After stripping the rubber from the handle

Cleaning the remaining

At this point it is up to you how much cleaner you want the tang to be of the existing rubber. I typically wire brush the shoulder of the neck where it meets the handle to have a clean area where the steel transitions to handle. The biggest focus with this step is clearing off any loose rubber from the tang.

Preparing the Mold

In this section of the casting process you will be applying mold release, assembling the mold to the axe and then applying mold release again.

Spray it all down

For this process you are going to want to put on disposable gloves and a respirator mask. The rule of thumb for applying mold release is anywhere you do not want the rubber to stick you are going to want to spray with mold release BUT before you go crazy spraying things there are an order to things so the right things get mold release applied and other things that shouldn't don't. Be generous with the mold release but don't go overboard with the spray.
Spray The Following things...
  • Inside of both halves of the mold, pour spouts, inside face, vent lines.
  • 3mm Allen Wrench

Putting the Mold Together

Now we assemble the mold. One thing to note, the 3mm allen wrench is used as a locator pin that is easier to remove during demolding, it has no functional purpose beyond that
(1) Place the 3mm Allen Wrench (longer side of the allen wrench) through the small hole in the clamping plate and then with one half of the mold thread the small hole over the allen wrench. Make sure you match the profiles of the plate with the mold half. If you do not the clamping plate, place the 3mm Allen Wrench (longer side of the allen wrench) through the small hole in the back of one half of the mold.
(2) On the inside of the mold with the allen wrench poking through, thread a spacer over the allen wrench.
(3) With the half of the mold that has the allen wrench and spacer, lay it flat on the table. Place the axe into the mold, locating the hole in the tang over the space. Then press the neck of the axe into the mold, understand this will be a tight fit and might cause grooves in the mold... this is normal.
(4) Take the second half of the mold and place it over the mold and axe that was set up in steps 1 through 3.
(5) Holding the two halves together as best you can, push the M8 Cap Screw Bolt through the mold/plate holes.
(6) If you have the clamping plates, place the other clamping plate over the bolt.
(7) Apply a washer and wing nut over the bolt and hand tighten.
(8) Repeat step 7 and 9 for each remaining bolt hole in the mold.
(9) Alternate tightening each bolt and progressively tighten down the mold, the goal is to apply even pressure as you tighten the mold down. Be careful to not over tighten. If you do use a cordless driver... Be careful... this is a tool I use to speed up the casting process but you can easily apply excess torque quickly and deform/damage molds.
(10) Place soft clay around the neck of the mold, pressing the clay into the axe neck and the mold to create a seal so the mold does not leak.
(11) Place the axe head into the axe mount to position the axe in a vertical orientation.
(12) Take some extra clay and a small cup and position the cup using the clay under the side of the mold that has the vent holes to catch any drips that will come out of the vent holes.

Spraying it down again

We now need to spray down the areas of the mold, axe and stand that if rubber leaks or drips on any of these surfaces it is easy to remove. This list can be adjusted as you become more proficient at the casting process but if this is your first time, spray everything on the list below.
Spray The Following things...
  • Exterior of the mold, all sides.
  • Axe neck, head and mount.

Pouring the Handle

During this part of the process make sure you have adequate ventilation, disposable gloves and a respirator. Safety first! This will take you through prepping your parts, applying color, mixing and pouring your mold. Read your instruction and read through this section before you start dispensing anything.

Color Chart

Coloring your urethane rubber is more art than science and single drops of SO-Strong color tint go a LONG way! Naturally the rubber is yellow in color. If you order from any of the sites listed in the supplies section of this article, ask for a sample of the Vytaflex 50 or 60 rubber you want and they typically will send a poker chip size sample of the cured product. If you are figuring out the right mix of color, I recommend getting the Smooth-On 0.2oz SO-Strong Color Tint Set with 9 colors and to help dispense the colors get 1 Ounce Needle Tip Glue Bottles to transfer each color into. If you are looking for a color that is more UV stable substitute SO-Strong tints with Smooth-On UVO color tints.
A color chart is currently being put together to help you navigate tinting your rubber... Color Chart Coming Soon!

Measure Your Materials

Prior to measuring any materials please read the instructions included by Smooth-On. The Vytaflex Urethane Rubber is a 1:1 ratio by volume but you will need a total of 200 grams (0.45 lbs). Before pouring any materials, mix the materials in their bottles. DO NOT CROSS CONTAMINATE WHAT IS IN YOUR BOTTLES. By contaminating what you don't intend to mix will ruin the parts for future use. Once the Part A and Part B are combined the clock starts ticking to get it poured!
  1. 1.
    Mark your two smaller 5oz cups with an "A" and a "B". Each cup getting a single letter. This is to help you know which is Part A and Part B.
  2. 2.
    Grab your gram scale and place two smaller 5oz cups on the scale and zero it out.
  3. 3.
    Using the first 5oz cup, pour 95 grams of Vytaflex Part A into the cup.
  4. 4.
    Using the second 5oz cup, pour 95 grams of Vytaflex Part B into the cup.
  5. 5.
    Next you will need to add small amounts of Part A and Part B into their respective cups to even out the volume. Once you have equal volumes you are done pouring the parts.
  6. 6.
    Put the appropriate amount of color tint drops into Part B and mix thoroughly with a stir stick until the color is consistent. Making sure as you mix you are scraping the sides and the bottom.

Mixing and Degassing

Lets first talk about degassing. Degassing or vacuuming out the bubbles of the urethane rubber is not necessary for the Vytaflex rubber as it is designed to reduce the bubbles naturally as it cures. If you do degas the urethane rubber it will reduce even the small bubbles that might appear in the butt of the axe handle. So if you have the equipment do the degassing of the bubbles but if you don't no need to worry.

Mixing the parts together

Always be aware of your time when mixing resins, silicones, rubbers and urethanes. The Vytaflex Rubber has a pot life of 60 minutes and a cure time of 16 hours. What that means is you have 60 minutes to mix, degas and pour your mold. Then 16 hours for the urethane rubber to fully cure.
Taking the parts poured earlier, pour both parts into the larger cup, scraping the sides and bottom of each smaller cup. Then start stirring the parts together, making sure you scrape the sides and bottom of the cup to get a thorough mix. Now your Urethane Rubber is ready to pour

The Pour

There is not a lot that goes into the pour but there are a few things to remember.
(1) Pour a consistent thin stream of Urethane Rubber as you pour.
(2) Elevate your pour 8-9 inches over the mold and create a thin stream of rubber to stretch and break the bubbles as you pour into the spout on your mold.
(3) Scraping the cup when you are done pouring into the mold spout is okay to do.

The Reveal and Cleanup

This is the exciting part!!!! You get to see the fruits of your labor. The first time I poured an axe handle, I couldn't sleep... It was like waiting for Santa to deliver presents on Christmas eve as a kid.
Lets get started!

Demolding

Remove the bolts. As you remove the bolts you will notice the mold starting to split. When the bolts are removed try to split the mold by hand. DO NOT USE THE POUR SPOUT AS LEVERAGE, you could damage the mold. Remember using the mold release during the "Preparing the Mold" step, this is where that step pays off. If the mold will not split by hand, use a putty knife between the halves and gently pry the mold apart.

Cleanup

Pour Spout and Vent Holes

Using a pair of flush cutters (side cutters), cut the vent lines and pour spout flush with the handle. That's it.

Trimming the Flashing

There is never a good way to trim rubber flashing with retail products that I have found, so I usually resort to using the exacto knife. Some molds I have been able to use my fingernail or in some cases the flush cutters.

The Result

KX-Flex 90A
Vytaflex 60A
Vytaflex 50A

Resources and Shout-outs

Reynolds Advanced Materials (Website / Twitter) - Smooth-On Distributor and Materials Consulting. #RAMaterials
Green Gate 3D (Website / Twitter) - Filament (PETG) - Thank you for your filament donation to the project at #MRRF2021!
IC3D (Website / Twitter) - Filament (ABS)
Fulament (Website / Twitter) - SLA Resin
Smooth-On (Website / Twitter) - Mold making and Casting manufacturer. #smoothon

Disclaimers

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