part 1: making a new axe handle

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part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby robin wood » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:44 pm

I have been asked a few times about how to do a new axe handle and was making one up last night so took some pics.

First wood selection. The perfect wood is nice straight grain ash fairly fast grown, if it gets more than 6-8 rings per inch it is much more brittle, 4-6 rings per inch is perfect. Having said that a hewing axe like this is nearly always used one handed and the handle does not get the same stress as a felling axe so I would use pretty well whatever wood you have though with a preference for more fibrous species, ash, oak, elm etc.

Split your log in half and half again then if it was a fat log you may be able to go down to 1/8th sections.

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What you are aiming for is to cut out a bit of wood that looks like this, just a bit bigger all round than the axe of the axe. Draw round the inside of the eye on to the end grain. Grain direction does not matter with ash. I often see it sugested that this orientation with the axe head tangential to the growth rings is good and that radial is bad. I find no difference and all the technical data on ash I can find gives the same info. I think the pics of grain direction that are often repeated probably originat from old American sources and are referring to old growth hickory. In my experience ash is fine either way I I more normally end up using ti the other way just because when I split the wood out that ends up closest to the shape I want. Bows are made that way on too.

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Next if you have another axe handle you like draw round it on the side profile, or just draw a shape you like. Straight handles are fine, I prefer this shape.

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Cut the side profile trying to keep the edges at 90 degrees, at this stage we are not looking for a rounded profile just a nice clean rectangle.

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Thin the sides down if necessary again aiming for a clean flat plain.

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Now work over the surfaces with a knife to smoot the curved lines and leave nice clean cuts on the flats.

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So now we have a rectangular section which is about 10-15% over size at the head and just a little over size on the handle. And we leave it to dry. This bit of wood was pretty dry already so 48 hous indoors will probably be enough. When it is dry if I tap it against something it wil ring rather than thud and feel nice and springy. You can just leav it a month and be sure but I am always impatient.

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This is roughly how it will look when done. This is a chep old head, I don't know what the pattern is or where they were made but I have a couple like this, they don't seem uncommon at car boots and I like the look of it as a carving hatchet. The other old head would make a perfect alternative to a small forest axe for someone on a budget.

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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby Nicola Wood » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:58 pm

So you have been busy whilst I'm away ... I thought you'd be out partying every night :wink:
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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby axel » Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:03 pm

Thank you, now how about Chapter 2 - Fitting an axe handle?
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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby jrccaim » Sun Mar 01, 2009 4:10 am

Thank you, Robin. A very clear tutorial. Drawing the eye of the head on the blank is a simple thing, but it never ocurred to me :oops: . I too would like to see the fitting of the handle. I have done it by guess and by gosh, but it's nice to see a pro at work.

I wish I had hickory or ash available. I collect broken tool handles to compensate for this. At least it fulfills my recycle quota.
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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby Mark Allery » Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:05 pm

Hello Robin,

excellent set of photos and write up - it should help to save more old axe heads from an unnecessary fate.

I notice from the very clear photos that your handle is with the grain down the head rather than across the head (ie at 90 degrees), which would normally result from using a triangular cleft. Is this intentional ?

cheers

Mark
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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby robin wood » Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:30 pm

Mark Allery wrote:Hello Robin,

excellent set of photos and write up - it should help to save more old axe heads from an unnecessary fate.

I notice from the very clear photos that your handle is with the grain down the head rather than across the head (ie at 90 degrees), which would normally result from using a triangular cleft. Is this intentional ?

cheers

Mark


There's someone that looks at the pretty pictures and doesn't bother with the text. :D A man after my own heart. Text below first picture should answer question.
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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby Mark Allery » Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:59 pm

robin wood wrote:There's someone that looks at the pretty pictures and doesn't bother with the text. :D A man after my own heart. Text below first picture should answer question.



Ooops. You are quite right. I thought I'd read it but clearly not. Seems you've got me sorted :D Thanks for the pretty pictures anyway,

cheers

Mark
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Re: making a new axe handle

Postby Robin Fawcett » Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:14 am

Yes - well done for that series of photos Rob . . . great quality.

I make my axe and billhook handles so that the bark is in your palm and the cutting edge points toward the centre of the log - it just seems "right".
Also do the major grinding of the edge before fitting the handle - it's not quite so easy with a lump of wood in the way.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Rob. N » Sun May 10, 2009 10:06 pm

After trawling through youtube I found this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcfwlfz_tGs
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People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately see's the results. (Albert Einstein)
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Ian S » Mon May 11, 2009 6:59 pm

Hi Rob

That's a cool piece of video! Far less fuss than it took me to rehandle my axes.

How are you getting on with handling yours?
How sharp is sharp enough?
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Rob. N » Mon May 11, 2009 7:33 pm

haven't got very far since I handled that first one and broke it :oops: . Uni work has now taken priority at the moment :( so once this week is finally over and all my work is finally handed in :mrgreen: I will be able to crack on with all my wood projects.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Robin Fawcett » Mon May 11, 2009 9:55 pm

Yes...Great video. He didn't exactly dress up for it did he ??
What wood do you think he was using ? - looked quite soft. It was interesting to see the way he used the knife and how he used inertia to bang on the handle and wedge.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Rob. N » Tue May 12, 2009 8:25 am

It does look quite soft because it dosen't like he's putting a lot of effort into the axing stage of it. Perhaps he may just be doing it to show how to re-handle an axe becuase the camera just happens to be there and shows you the whole process? just a possible thought :?:

Plus if you look carfully he's got a knot in the wood.
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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby Cracker » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:23 pm

Whilst felling in our woods last winter I discovered a rusty axe head just under the surface. It's been in the shed until yesterday when I decided to clean it and on closer inspection discovered it to be an Elwell. It took a lovely new edge so I thought it only right to make a handle from a bit of ash from the woods where it was found. Followed your instructions and here's the result 3 hours later. Many thanks.

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Re: part 1: making a new axe handle

Postby witt » Mon May 09, 2011 9:13 pm

French link, take a look at topics 1 to 5 in the table of contents
http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0129f/T0129F00.HTM
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