The DrillMaster Practice Ceremonial Fire Axe

DrillMasterHonor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional Leave a Comment

I thought the name, DrillMaster iAxe or iAx, (like the DrillMaster iDrill Rifle, because you, “I” make it) might just look weird, so I went with the longer name. Still, it works.

The ceremonial fire axe is the usual weapon of choice for firefighter colors teams. However, firefighters are paramilitary and some teams do use the traditional rifle. Other units use a real fire axe, which is really quite heavy. Still others use the lightweight brushed aluminum ceremonial fire axe. The axe that I own is from However, they do not sell it anymore. You can, however, can get them from I much prefer the look of the axe for a color team as the pike pole is a bit nondescript. Pike poles can be great for other ceremonial applications.

What you probably do not want to do is use your fairly expensive ceremonial axe during training. Using performance equipment equals wear and tear, dents, scratches, etc. Introducing the DrillMaster Training Ceremonial Fire Axe.

I’m not a woodworker, nor do I play one on TV, or anywhere else, really, but the 20 that I made fill the requirement just fine. Here is how I made them.

After ordering the wax finish hickory handles from Ace Hardware (Item no: 7020555 | 025545100954), I traced the ceremonial axe head that I had, marking where the handle inserted into the head. The wood I used was 2×6 pieces of pine for the heads.

I used a band saw to cut the heads after tracing them. It took me two lengths of board to lay up and trace 20 heads.

I also thought of tapering the pick and blade ends, but it just seemed to be too much work for being practice axes. You can see the practice axe head (lower left) that I used to see if a taper was worth it.

In the picture above, you can see my stellar routine job for the handles. I did know how to use the router, so I learned the hard way, but it was fun to learn and I patched several gaps in the heads later on. My original marks for the handle placement in the head helped me line up the handle so I could trace it for a routine guide. The routed holes are about an inch deep

I sanded each head so that each one was smooth and also lightly sanded each handle to remove the wax coating to prepare it for the stain that I had planned.

During some of the cutting and sanding, some splits occurred so I used a tiny amount of Titebond Ultimate Wood Glue and wrapped the area with a rubber band.

I cut about a half inch off of the end of the handles that fits into the heads. I held each handle in the routed hole while I drilled the holes for the wood screws – on one side I drilled toward the front and then toward the back on the other side. I put a generous amount of glue in the routed hole, inserted the handle and screwed it in place. I needed a couple more hands, easily.

Next came the wood filler and another learning process. While I probably didn’t have to do this, I wanted each axe to present a solid image. It worked out well, I used a Dremel with a drum attachment and then fine sandpaper. You can see waves on the bottom of the heads in the above picture, I didn’t have the patience or the proper tools to create a smooth edge with a slight angle to it.

My plan was to stain them in pairs which mostly worked. More lessons learned: I brushed on some stain and used a cloth for the darker stain and then wiped off some of the darker stain right away with another cloth (makes it lighter). The

I used four Minwax stains from my local Ace Hardware:

  1. Gunstock 231 (really light red I used a coat of Red Oak over it)
  2. Red Oak 215 (fairly dark)
  3. Sedona Red 222 (quite dark)
  4. Jacobean 2750 (very, very dark)

In this picture you can see the different finished stain colors and the first coat of polyurethane drying.

For each coat, I worked on the heads first, let them dry for a couple of hours with a fan on them, leaving them in the position in the picture, and then I worked on the handles and either rested each axe on its head or hung them from the rafters in my garage while the handles dried.

The finished product! I store them in the training casket that I have. They are comparable in weight to a brushed aluminum ceremonial fire axe. The first firefighters to use them during one of my academies was The Woodlands Fire Department Honor Guard. They seemed to like them.

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