protecting maul handle

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protecting maul handle

Postby rsk » Thu May 23, 2013 9:50 am

I am refitting a handle to a splitting maul and would like to give the neck some protection, similar to the steel collar seen on GB and other swedish maul handles. But I can't figure out a way of getting a collar to fit securely and stay in place: any kind of pinning into the handle is going to weaken it, and running the collar up between the handle and the head will surely mean the head is less secure on the handle.
Other options like taping rubber or plastic pipe around the neck are probably quite effective protection but sound like they'd look pretty messy. Anyone got any thoughts....?
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby Brian Williamson » Thu May 23, 2013 10:22 am

Hi rsk.

Protecting a maul handle really shouldn't be neccessary.

There are two reasons why axe handles get chewed up.

The first is that wood doesn't always split in a nice straight line, so that when the axe head sinks into the wood the handle sometimes hits into a piece of off-line wood behind it. This won't happen with a maul because the head doesn't go into the wood, it stops on the surface ( or when you stop pounding the wedge).

The second is over-reaching. This has to be pretty bad for the head to go beyond the target wood and miss altogether (thus alowing the handle to crash unimpeded into the wood). More often, it's just compounding the first problem. The further away from you on the target wood the axe head hits, the more scope there is for the split to run out of line with the handle. Either way, it should be just a matter of a little practice to hit where you want to fore and aft - and it's easier than hitting where you want to left and right. The same applies to the maul only more so. If you miss left or right you're unlikely to damage the handle. If you miss fore and aft then what you need is more practice, not handle protection.

So my advice is not to worry about it. Just put the handle in and start swinging!

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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby Brian Williamson » Thu May 23, 2013 10:38 am

Sorry, rsk, I realise that I've misunderstood your question.

You said a splitting maul rather than a wooden maul.

I'm afraid that I have no answer to the collar on the splitting maul. I do have one of the small GB splitting axes with a collar and rather like it (the collar, that is. I love the axe - use it almost all the time). I also have a big Muller splitting maul. It's a real big beast with a very wide head and no collar. I have no problem at all with handle damage on this; partly (I like to think!) because, over the years, I've become pretty accurate. But also because the head is wider than the handle, so the split in the wood is forced away from the handle. With the GB axe, head and handle are much the same, and the split in the wood doesn't open up so much, relatively speaking.

I did buy a cheapish second maul a while back for when I have help (the best protection for your handles is to never lend them to anyone else!). It had a heavy, foam protective collar, but it came off in no time.

So such advice as I could offer is probably along the lines of do it well or not at all. Tape, foam et all may help briefly, but they're not a good long term solution.

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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby ToneWood » Thu May 23, 2013 1:46 pm

Yes, I suppose overreaching or having the targeted block topple over are usually responsible for the dings in the handle of my maul :(. I have a big old 4x4 tyre (AmE. tire) screwed to the top of my chopping block which helps in 2 ways: 1. you can pack blocks in there until they can't topple over & (2) if you miss there is a fair chance you'll just hit the tyre. I did think about trying to do something like the Gransfors protective sleeve:
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- quite a lot of cheapish plastic handle mauls now include an eye-shaped profile rubber/plastic shaft protector just under the head too:
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It seems like getting a good fit might be a lot of hassle. Perhaps you could do something with a thin sheet or tube of copper/aluminium/steel from the side of big tin-can - or a can with the 2 ends cut off - then hammer it to fit? Another approach would be to just screw (& perhaps glue) a thin strip of metal down the front of the shaft, one of those "bracket strips" for example.

However, I enjoy making axe handles and have several spares in my garage now, so I figured why worry about it - when the current handle needs replacement, I'll just replace it and make another one for spare ;)

BTW One of Robin Wood's pictures of Japanese tools showed an interesting idea: they often wedge their handles into the shaft with an extra-long wooden wedge at the front of the handle/head, that projects down below the head, protecting the top of the shaft. However, perhaps not good for a maul, as you'll usually need to be able to slide you hand right up to the head. Also the wedge might become compromised
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby bulldawg_65 » Fri May 24, 2013 10:28 pm

I generally do not have a problem with my splitting maul primarily because I don't swing it. I place the edge of my splitting maul where I want the wood split to begin and then hit the back of the maul with a heavy wooden one. I have split wood up to 10" in diameter this way. Anything larger and I bring out my wedges.
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby jrccaim » Sat May 25, 2013 5:23 am

Hmmm interesting question. When using a splitting maul, one should attempt to hit the near edge of the log smack with the center of the maul. Under no circumstances try to hit the center of the wood. I confess to losing my "eye" for that (actually the hand-eye coordination) every time I haul out the maul and it takes me a while to get it right. Meanwhile, your maul has sunk into the wood without splitting it and you have to work it loose. Bad language helps not in the least, got to do it by force. This is where the GB et al reinforcements (collars) come in handy. They reduce the friction needed to work the maul loose. They also protect the ash or hickory handle. But in the end it is all technique. The best situation is when the log obediently splits on the first go. That means you put the center of the maul right on the edge of the log. In order to get there it takes a great deal of practice, and every season I go through this again. I have found the following helpful:

(1) Place the log you are going to split on a really, really immovable surface. Until I got my powered splitter (I put up 3 cords or more per year) I was considering pouring concrete. (2). Put the exact center of the maul on the edge of the log, the edge nearest to you. (3) extend your arms to where you think they will be at the end of the real swing. Do not lean forward as you do so. Keep that back straight. (4) Crucial. Adjust your stance. Move your feet until you think the arm extension you used to position will cause the maul to impact the edge of the log. Again resist the temptation to lean forward. Try a practice slow-motion swing if you like. Adjust stance as necessary. (5) Unlike other edge tools the maul swing is straight overhead. Bring the maul up until it is over and slightly behind your head. Do not for heaven's sake move your feet! (6) At this point start the maul swinging. Once it is past your nose do not use muscle force. Newton is on your side. Let it fall by gravity. Do not, I repeat do not lean forward in an attempt to get more force. If you do so you will change the impact point you just rehearsed, and you will miss the split and say unseemly things. (7) As you raise the maul, inhale. Hard. As you bring the maul down, exhale, also hard. Shout if you want. Anyone who took karate lessons will understand this. It is very important when you are splitting say 100 logs in one day, it does not suffice to split one log, still 99 to go. Breathing very important. Ideally you will run out of breath just when the maul strikes.

It really does take practice, and even then there are some absolute b**** logs that won't submit. Knots, winds, I've seen them all. For them, I use wedges and a really heavy mallet.

As to the original question: If you are handling a maul yourself, I would recommend no collar at all, it is a lot of trouble to fit a steel collar to a wooden handle. The time you save doing so can be profiltably spent in developing your maul technique.:)
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby Brian Williamson » Sat May 25, 2013 8:38 am

Good advice from jrccaim. If you want to protect your maul/axe handle, then accurate hitting in the correct spot is the way to do it.

However, I'd quibble slightly with one bit of his advice
jrccaim wrote:When using a splitting maul, one should attempt to hit the near edge of the log smack with the center of the maul. Under no circumstances try to hit the center of the wood.


The aim, when splitting, should be to burst the log in half with one blow if possible. The 'if possible' is the rider here, and knowledge of what is possible comes only with experience. There are two things you want to avoid: repeated, unneccessary blows or getting your blade stuck and then having to wrestle it out.

With smaller logs (maybe up to 10" - 12" diameter; you'll have to decide) of predictable splitting quality (and by this I'd generally mean trees with a strong leader and straight grain. So ash, sycamore, sweet chestnut etc in this country) I'd look to hit smack in the centre of the log. They should burst apart along the diameter with no danger to your handle.

With more awkward species (hawthorn, field maple, holly) this diameter would be much smaller. Maybe no more than six inches.

And as all these species get bigger, a blow to the heart of the log is likely to be ineffectual. Might get stuck; might simply bounce off. This is when I move to striking towards the edge. A single blow here won't burst the log in two, but it should start the split running and you can then follow that split across the log with as many blows as neccessary to separate the two halves. Again, the handle shouldn't be in danger.

The fly in my ointment is usually beech. This can be the very devil to split, even in less than enormous diameters. Here I have to resort to splitting 'flitches' off the side of the log (ie, along a tangent perhaps three or four inches in). Here the split won't run straight, and there is a danger of damaging the handle. Can't really be helped.

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned wedges at all. This is because I don't use them for splitting firewood. I split a fair amount of firewood logs to sell. I also burn some charcoal. I avoid doing so much that I need machinery - it has a habit of driving you rather than the other way around. If a log needs wedges it''s not worth my while spending energy on it It either goes into the charcoal kiln or it becomes habitat. If I was splitting a limited amound of firewood for my own use I'd probably use wedges as well as the axe. The other trick is too cut knotty/awkward logs as short as possible so that they're easier to split.

I also avoid using the big splitting maul as much as possible. It's heavy and it's hard work. I do most of my splitting with a small axe (about 3 1/2lbs with handle). It's easier to take two or three blows with that than one with the maul.

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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby ToneWood » Sat May 25, 2013 4:49 pm

Interesting insight. Most of the wood I get these days is small diameter and doesn't need any splitting, and I just cut enough for the family's little 4kW wood-burner. When I do split, I look at it as free exercise, and use my big (8lb), cheap American maul. If I did a lot of splitting, I might look at getting something lighter - mine is overkill for the small rounds I deal with these days; the maul was bought for big American conifer rounds. BTW I tried splitting with the vintage 4lb Kent-style axe that I re-handled and sharpened for my father-in-law to use - it felt so light, nimble and accurate by comparison - and v. effective on the small rounds. The sharpness probably helped too (I used to use my father's nice old felling axe as a teenager, not very sharp, nothing ever was back then, except perhaps the reap hooks & saws). I gave the Kent-style a 36" handle (as I made it, there was no cost penalty for using a long one :D) - a few inches longer than my maul's - which I found to be a very good size for splitting.

Great response Bill, thank you ;).
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby thefeckerwest » Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:06 pm

To answer the original question, get a length of clothes line and wrap it tightly around the handle starting next to the axe/maul head.
Where you begin, secure the first wrap with electrical tape.
Continue down the handle, making sure that each wrap is tight against the previous one.
When about six or seven inches of handle has been covered, cut off the remainder of the clothes line.
Finish the job by wrapping with plenty of electrical tape to secure everything in place.
It takes about ten minutes and is a simple and permanent fix.
There will be no more damage done to the handle.
Paracord or other similar material can also be used.
You are limited only by the limits of your imagination.
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby Billman » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:23 pm

My old splitting axe had much abuse and mis-hits over a 20+ year period - the handle was indented by about 8 to 10mm - I bent a piece of 1mm (approx 18SWG) steel sheet into a U section, and drilled a row of 1.6mm (1/16") holes along both edges, and nailed it on with short nails - that was about 20 years ago, and it's still going strong.....

It's not just a question of overstrikes, but when splitting large logs the top of the log can close around the head and touch the handle - probably less of a problem with a proper splitting maul......
Collector and restorer of old agricultural edge tools, especially billhooks
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby Jan Krobot » Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:27 pm

Maybe little off-topic but when you're spliting wood: green or completly seasoned splits good, partialy seasoned splits worse, bad or realy, realy bad :)
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby tagnut69 » Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:36 am

Wrap the area with a load of gaffer tape,
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Re: protecting maul handle

Postby ToneWood » Sat Mar 21, 2015 5:53 pm

...or leather:
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