Looking sharp: Ax company lands in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — When Stephen Ferguson couldn’t find a Maine-made ax for his godson, who was attending forestry school, the idea of starting a unique local business was hatched.

With his brother Mark and friend Barry Worthing, Ferguson launched Brant & Cochran in Portland’s Open Bench Project, a maker’s space with tools at Thompson Point in August 2015. After outgrowing that space they moved to South Portland in January, at 110 Breakwater Annex. 

None of the partners have experience making axes: Mark Ferguson is an attorney, Stephen Ferguson is a school psychologist in South Portland, and Worthing is a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center.

The mission of the business is to “make, educate and curate:” They manufacture and restore axes, educate people on ax care and safety, and “curate” the history of ax-making in Maine.

Old steel is usually good steel,” Mark Ferguson said. “Many of the ax heads we find at tool barns, swap meets, garage sales and flea markets can be tuned up, a new handle put on them and they will provide years of service.”

Stephen Ferguson said his father was a furniture maker, and he and Mark did a lot of camping and used axes during their trips.

The company was named as a testament to the Fergusons’ grandfather, Leland Ferguson, who owned a tool supply company in Detroit called Brant & Cochran.

Worthing said he became handy as he grew up in a home where it was expected to “make do, redo or do without.”

“We’re not selling these for people putting them on their mantles,” Stephen Ferguson said. “We’re selling them for people to use.”

A typical ax restoration process involves cutting the handle off, sandblasting the head, resharpening the edge, and finishing the head of the ax with a cold patina process. A new ash handle, locally sourced from Bryant Pond, is added, along with a protective finish of  linseed oil.

The company buys, fixes and sells axes they restore and also restores axes for others.

Their tools are available online at bnctools.com, at Portland Trading Co., Shelter Tools in Woolwich, and at fairs like the Common Ground Fair in Unity.  

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Stephen Ferguson, co-founder and production specialist at Brant & Cochran, restores an axe at the South Portland business.

Axes that will be restored are stacked on a table at Brant & Cochran in South Portland.

Barry Worthing, co-founder and production specialist at Brant & Cochran, sharpens an ax head he is restoring at the South Portland business.

Barry Worthing, co-founder and production specialist at Brant & Cochran, sharpens an ax head he is restoring at the South Portland business.

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