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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Andy's Blacksmith Shop, Blacksmithing, Messages » Sermon of the Axe

Sermon of the Axe

I’ve been on an axe binge lately. I’ve made several tomahawks/hatchets and my current project is a double bladed axe I’ve been commissioned to forge. While forging towel holders and camping tripods is good, there is just something incredible about forging an axe from start to finish. Taking a piece of scrap metal and bringing forth a strong useable tool. I thought I would go through the process the best I can using text and try to bring the significance to anyone reading with a quick walkthrough.

First, I gather my materials: a 10″x2″ piece of steel(I like using old lawnmower blades and a piece of high carbon steel for the edge(piece of old file). Once my materials are ready, I get my forge burning hot and clean. After the old lawnmower blade has soaked and heated up, I pull it from the fire and hammer it around a round piece of steel called a drift to form the handle eye.

Next, after heating it up again, I’ll hammer the ends as closed as I can get them. Now comes the tricky part, I’ll heat up the piece just enough to barely bend it and set it edge up on my anvil or close the middle in my vice. I take the piece of file and using a hammer and chisel, wedge the file into the gap on the “blade” end of the hatchet. The spring tension of the eye will hold the file in place. I put the piece back into the fire to heat up. When the color reaches to an orange; I’ll pull it from the fire, wire brush it clean and sprinkle borax on and in between the file and the edges. The borax or flux cleans off the excess fire scale and prevents more from forming. Steel coated with fire scale cannot be welded. The joint must be clean. This is the most crucial part of the forging process and if something fails here, the forging will be wasted. I put the piece with the file inserted back into the fire and bring up the temp. Slowly, the color changes from red, to orange to yellow, then to a slick yellowish/white. This is right at the critical point, anymore heating and the steel will burn and be useless forever. At this time I’ll pull it from the fire and hit the end of the axe with sure and steady blows. The two pieces of steel weld together and become one complete piece.

When the weld finally sets, it can be quite a joyous experience. Now at my skill level, I’ll weld it several times to make sure I have a good strong weld, although some smiths better than I can likely do it on the first go around. But, even though the pieces are welded, my axe is no where close to being done. Now I put it back into the fire and heat it back up. Time after time I’ll pull it from the flames and rain down heavy blows upon it and watch it slowly shape up.

After a while and lots of pounding, I have something that looks like an axe. It looks like an axe, however at this point it is still useless. While it looks good on the outside, internally the structure is weak. I heat it up again, except this time I don’t hit it. While still glowing hot, I put it in a metal bucket and cover it in clean cat litter. The cat litter is made out of clay so it holds the heat in and lets the axe cool very slowly. This process is called annealing. It makes the axe soft, but also fixes internal problems and makes the axe stronger.

After a night of slow cooling, I’ll pull it out of the bucket. It’s annealed and now too soft to make a useable tool, so I put it back into the fire. I heat it up again and this time I dip it in oil. The steel cools quickly and is now very hard. However, too hard isn’t a good thing. While the axe may be hard, it is now too brittle to be used as a tool. It must be tempered.

When the axe is tempered, it softens somewhat, however it loses it’s brittleness without becoming too soft to use. I heat it up very slowly, watching carefully. As the steel slowly warms, a colored oxide begins to form on the surface of the steel. The hotter it gets the colors change and I can guess the temper. I watch as the steel on the blade turns yellow, and then purple and then I quench it in oil.

The axe has been welded together, annealed, hardened and tempered, but it still is useless. I’ll clean it up with a wire brush and then take a file and put a sharp edge on the blade. Next I’ll put a handle and wedge in it and finally the tool is complete. The final task that remains is for me to pick it up and use it.

The forging of an axe is a incredible process, however you don’t need to be a blacksmith to feel the effect. As most of the hand skills, blacksmithing has an incredible spiritual parallel. Time after time, I see the wondrous testament of God in the fire and I hear His voice in the pings of the anvil.

May I share with you, the sermon of the axe?

God is the Master Builder of all we see and know. I’ve heard Him called the Master Potter, but to me He is the Master Blacksmith. He works His smithy with perfection and unlike me He never misplaces a hammer blow. If God is the Blacksmith, we are the steel He forges.

Normal steel, called mild steel, is used by blacksmiths to create the objects you see, however mild steel lacks the carbon to harden and thus is worthless to be used for an axe. The edge will never hold no matter how sharp you get it. This is us as people. We cannot be used to create a tool used by God, because we lack the crucial element, righteousness. Paul says that our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of Almighty God. Worst yet, is we cannot change this ourselves. Mild steel left on the floor will still be Mild Steel tomorrow. Due to the fact that we are sinners by birth, despite all we do, we will still be sinners tomorrow.

To make us useable something must happen. God sent His only son to die for us so that we may be made righteous in Him and through His blood and sacrifice we may be grafted in. God takes us: unrighteous, dirty and useless and welds us to Christ! However before He welds, something must take place, we are heated. We must realize that we are sinners in the eyes of God and understand that we have nothing good in us! Only then can we see the need for Christ and accept His free pardon that is offered to us. After we are heated, flux is applied. As I noted earlier, the flux coats the steel and washes away the scale so the steel can be welded. This flux is none other than the blood of Christ which He shed on the cross. The blood cleanses us of sin and washes us clean! As some blacksmiths know, if you keep the steel clean you can weld without flux. But let it be known, we are not clean and in our flesh, we never can be. Unless you go through the blood, you can not be welded into Christ! When the critical temp is reached and the blood is applied, God welds us into Christ! What a wonderful moment!

If you are reading this and have been born again and welded with Christ, that is truly a glorious thing. But now my question is, have you been forged? I feel that this stage is as far as a good number of Christians get. Getting saved is wonderful, but to be used fully of God more has to be done. I can’t use a freshly welded axe to cut down a tree, neither can God use a new Christian to His deeper purposes. As an axe must be forged, a new Christian must grow in the Word and Knowledge of God. The problem is, being forged isn’t all fun. We are continually heated, placed on His anvil and hammered out. We face test after test, but as the blows come we can start to see the change in our lives as we are shaped. We start looking more like an axe. If you could see an axe just after I’ve welded it up, you wouldn’t know that it was an axe. But, an hour later you could tell what I was making. As we are forged, you will know the world will start to notice that we look more like a Christian, talk more like a Christian and act like a Christian.

Ok, you have been born again and you have been forged, now what? Once again this seams to be a place Christians get stuck at. They look like a Christian, and talk like a Christian, but besides this they have nothing else to offer. I am sure that all of us either know or have known someone we knew was a Christian and they certainly talked and acted like one, but we knew was too shallow to approach the deeper things of God. Maybe in their heart they struggled mightily with some sin or problem. We saw the good outside, but the cracks inside were hid from us. The next part of the axe making process, is the annealing process. Annealing does two things: one, it softens the axe and two, it fixes the internal stresses. To do this, the axe must be heated up and cooled very slowly. This maybe the hardest part in the whole process. When we are being forged, we can see the result of each hammer blow, but in this process the results are not quickly seen. One thing for sure, we feel the heat. David cried out to God to search him and try his thoughts. Paul said we are to crucify the flesh. This is the hard battle many Christians try to fight and many are defeated. Defeating our flesh requires time, lots of energy and a lot of pain. God through the Holy Spirit convicts us of our faults and failures. If we are resolved to crucify our flesh, through God we can succeed and fully surrendered our will to His. While we can never be rid of our flesh, we can keep it pushed in the grave if we remain sold out to Him.

Annealing fixes the cracks and defects in the axe, but it also softens the metal. After we sell out to Christ, we need to be hardened from the things of this world and so that we can be used. How are we hardened? Through reading the Word of God. The Bible shows God’s perfect Will and the things He hates. To know God’s plan, we must read His book. The theme of Christians today is to be tolerant, love and accept everyone, no matter their beliefs or lifestyle. The mindset today is that through being this accepting and “non-judging” person we can win them to Christ. The problem with this is, a soft axe will not cut down trees. As Christians, we must show the love of Christ, BUT we are not to tolerate sin and should be able to point to scripture as to where that road leads. If you don’t know what sin is, how can you preach against it? Secondly, if we don’t know what sin is, how can we stay out of it? I am not a Bible scholar by any means, but it astounds me to what I’ve heard Christians say was or wasn’t in the Bible. We need to know what the Word of God says. The second part to hardening is prayer. If we are too soft with sin or find ourselves in it often, it can no doubt be attributed to one of these two things. In the book of James, He says “we have not because we ask not” and He also states if we lack wisdom to ask God and He will give it to us. God’s Word is wisdom and to understand it we must ask it in prayer!

After an axe is hardened, it must be tempered. Most people mistake the word tempering with the hardening process. Why is tempering needed? Hardened steel is very brittle, tempering is the process of adding a little heat to the steel to allow it to soften slightly enough to take away the brittleness, while still leaving it very hard so that the tool can serve its purpose. We as Christians must be tempered. Tempering can be very un-likeable to just plain hard in our lives. I’m sure we all know Christians who were great men and woman of God, however something happened. They dug really deep into the Word of God and soon were so harsh they destroyed friendships and possibly even churches. They then cut themselves off from other Christians because they couldn’t be around those who would occasionally fall to petty sins. Soon after, they became alone and absolutely miserable. Those Christians were hardened, but could never accept tempering.

When I think of tempering, the first word that comes to my mind is patience. I have heard throughout my life to never ask God for patience. The thing we need to realize is patience is absolutely necessary in our Christian walk. We can never learn to love and help our brother who may be weaker than we are, unless we have patience. We can never face the world with a smile when we are mocked and ridiculed, unless we have patience. Through patience, we can win the lost to Christ because we never give up when knocked down. We need patience today more than ever and we must have it to be used of God.

Even when the axe is welded, forged out, annealed, hardened and tempered, it is still quite useless. We don’t want to hear that after all we have been through. What must be done before we can be used of God? Just like the axe, we must be cleaned up, handled and sharpened. This final step is often overlooked. We look like a Christian, talk like a Christian, read our Bible and pray, we love our brothers and sisters, and we witness to the world. Surely we can be used right? Not unless we are sharpened. Being sharpened and cleaned up sounds easy and simple, but it is just as important as the tasks before it. No one will use a dull axe. Would you? What makes you think God would? How are we sharpened? Paul says we examine and prove ourselves. If you want to be sharp and ready to be used, you will take time and examine every part of your life. Filing an axe sharp takes some time and careful movement. For us to be sharp, we must remove every sin in our lives, even the “small” pet sins. We must forgive the faults of our brothers while asking forgiveness of those we have wronged. We must humble ourselves before Almighty God and get a true perspective of who He is and what we are. Only then, in full fellowship with God are we sharp enough to be used.

Lastly, a fully completed axe is still useless unless in the hands of the Master. When we are in the position of being used we must find the Will of God and go to work and be used by Him. God has a different purpose for each of our lives. Some may be missionaries in far countries and some of us may be prayer warriors in our churches. Some of us may be preachers and some of us may be that one person who is always there to show God in their lives yet never be noticed directly by anyone other than God Himself. Whatever your purpose, find God’s Will and get ready to work.

This message covers a great deal in our lives. Where are you? Maybe you have never trusted Christ as your Savior? Maybe you believe you are good enough to work for God without needing Christ? You can never be used unless you have trusted Christ to save you with His righteousness. However, as a warning, when a piece of steel will not weld after a few attempts it can burn and oxidize so much that a weld is impossible. Right now Christ may be knocking, but He won’t knock forever. Maybe you have been born again, but have never come any farther in your walk, or maybe you have walked some and have stopped. As a blacksmith, occasionally I’ll be working a piece of steel that just won’t cooperate. Sometimes, I’ll take the steel and throw it in a unfinished bucket. I may not pick up that steel for days, months or even years before I pull it out and finish it. If you are a Christian and God is trying to work on you and you do not cooperate, he may do the same. Sure, several years from now He may ring your bell and finish you. The people you may have around you right now may be gone and your chance at reaching them missed. Maybe you need to be sharpened before you can be used or maybe you have been used before and the world has dulled you and you need to be resharpened. Wherever we are in our walk for Christ, let us lay aside our pride and go back under the hammer of the Master Blacksmith of eternity.


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"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." Psalms 42:11

Filed under: Andy's Blacksmith Shop, Blacksmithing, Messages

3 Responses to "Sermon of the Axe"

  1. Raymond P. says:

    Wonderful message, Brother. I can relate to it, as I too am a blacksmith, although not a very good one, yet.
    A big thank you and Amen.

  2. Virginia says:

    Thank you for this message. I’m not a blacksmith, but I am a spinner, weaver, knitter and crocheter, although not a perfect one, I can still relate to what you are talking about in your message.
    Thank you so much and Amen.

  3. Maudie Smith says:

    Awesome message! I really needed this today. Thank you.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Maudie S.

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