Axe Handle Knob Thread

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Glenn Bailey, Sep 14, 2020.

  1. jake pogg

    jake pogg Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 20, 2015
    Absolutely.As unsentimental as i like to remain i do think it gives the handle that extra bit of class.
    I think anyone lucky enough to have a COTS haft on their axe will be even more pleased if it had a neat maker's mark.
    A dedicated forged or fabricated mark is less of a challenge than for stamping metal,as it can be made out of mild,and no worries with ht.
    Alternatively there's a fairly long tradition of bending your signature in cursive of of thin wire,heated and pressed into the wood.Heimo Roselli's touch-mark stems from that technique.

    Nice to have input from Finland,thanks,Veeteetee.There has always been a right way/a wrong way/and a Finnish way:)

    Their "ponsi"-
    Noun[edit]
    ponsi

    1. (botany) anther (pollen-bearing part of the stamen of a flower)
    2. (politics) motion (parliamentary action to propose something)
    3. pommel (of sword, knife, axe or such)
    4. energy, vigour
    5. weight
    6. The part of a kantele that holds the varras.
    -are indeed very unique and practical and lovely.

    I looked up that video with Russian axes,thanks,guys.
    That smaller one by Toporsib is indeed fairly "traditional",one may say.
    (T. is a nice,small,humble operation,in Western Siberia(Krasnoyarsk),i used to talk with one of the two brothers that own it,Anton.Much of their design comes from feedback from their customers,much consensus involved).

    The second,bigger axe with that lovely knob is by Yuri Pereletov(his two sons more likely).
    In spite of their forge being in the heart of what really Is Russia-Kostroma,the center for carvers and wooden architecture,And in spite of the forge's accent on "historical",that knob is totally a derivation of an American idea,(just what you guys are discussing right now).
    I've never before seen or heard of a knob in Russia or any other parts of E.Europe.

    In the North-west,Karelia,et c. and stemming from there,there's Suomi-inspired "ponsi" swells that russians call "mushroom".

    And Glenn brings up a very good point-those cultures much given to a compression eye did not get into swells of any kind.
    In some(Bulgaria comes to mind)almost everything is hafted in a compression fit.
    Basques and Biscayne region aces are almost all compression,but did try to still have a hook-like swell in spite of that,often in two dimensions only(or as the size of eye permitted).
     
  2. Glenn Bailey

    Glenn Bailey Gold Member Gold Member

    120
    Jun 1, 2017
    As promised at the beginning of this thread, I just received this handle in the mail today. Old company, new-ish stamp, oldish style.

    [​IMG]

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    I didn't want to comment on it until I had it in my hand. Snow & Nealley, historic for sure. The stamp seems new-ish but the knob!? Aerodynamic?! I waited to get it in my hands to confirm it wasn't a modification before commenting, but the bottom is lacquered at the same rate as the rest of the handle, so this shape is from the factory.

    I'd like to bring this back to COTS's comment on one of my original pics (below). "Since they are oriented the same in the top two pics I'm gonna use the words top and bottom. The "top" curve leading into the swell matches the "bottom" curve leading into the swell in the vintage handles. It is two separate curves in the new production handles (the smaller handle is actually pretty decent but the upper one is rough). I'd call that "wrong" by what is "right" in my eyes. The rounded off swells doesn't look attractive (or maybe for some it does) but it is probably totally functional."

    [​IMG]

    For the record, the bottom knob is from a 1944 Rixford Michigan 3.0 lber on a 29" stick and the top is from a 1948 Rixford Dayton 4.0 lber on a 36" stick. They are both soo beautiful, and it wasn't until I looked at them through COTS eyes that I saw the flaws in the top handle (thanks for crushing love...jk).

    Actually, there may be more to my broken heart than there appears to be (like every broken heart, the justification). The bottom 3 lber stick is super thin! Easier to get those shapes to be pronounced and in a shorter space? The 4 lber Dayton on a longer stick may need to take a different approach. Much heavier head on a much longer stick may require a longer stretch for the top angle than bottom on a thicker stick?

    I feel like this is were it gets complicated in a way that we start to truly apprentice the craftsmanship of these old artists. I'd love to hear people further dissect at this level by bringing pics of as many old examples as they can.
     
  3. Glenn Bailey

    Glenn Bailey Gold Member Gold Member

    120
    Jun 1, 2017

    I forgot to mention, the Snow and Nealley handle is 29" (I'm official throwing length in as an important factor) and you'll see the story behind the head in the Maine thread when I get the chance (teaser- it's from Oakland, not Bangor).
     
  4. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014

    I was comparing the HH handles to those two handles - they are both nice and look traditional. Although the lower one in that pic does have a little more style going for it I'd say. It's so hard to put into words what I was describing - that was a fail on my part. I'll do an illustration tomorrow maybe if I get a free moment.
     
  5. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    Anyway, here is an illustration of the point I was attempting miserably to put into words. The two curves on this handle aren't the same and eventually they would intersect. Not what we're looking for exactly. Looking for a smooth curving handle.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  6. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    But in the vintage handles the curve is smooth and continuous.



    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  7. Glenn Bailey

    Glenn Bailey Gold Member Gold Member

    120
    Jun 1, 2017
    Ahhhh, got it! Sorry for the confusion.
     
  8. veeteetee

    veeteetee

    24
    Aug 9, 2008
    This is more or less the ultimate haft shape in Finnish axes, a Billnäs 1133 from the 1960s:
    https://postimg.cc/3k6cJXrx

    Please note how the knob, "ponsi" is shaped: it is long enough for a man´s hand in mittens, it is not curved as curvature would spread the fingers, it is thick enough to prevent finger tips from contacting the palm and its pointed downwards.
     
  9. Glenn Bailey

    Glenn Bailey Gold Member Gold Member

    120
    Jun 1, 2017
    That's a fantastic description of the functional choices of the crafter. One detail that I don't hear get discussed much is gloves (mittens) v no gloves. Not that I want to get too far into a discussion regarding the whole handle, but would a crafter build the handle (and knob) with the assumption that the user would be using gloves or not?

    So, vintage sticks are thin for lots of reasons, but is one reason the assumption that the user is working and they are wearing gloves? And modern hatchets and axes are like clubs because the assumption is that the use is more recreational/seasonal and without gloves? Am I giving modern crafters too much credit? I also know that European handles generally are thicker historically likely due to other reasons (I don't know them, I just know its different).

    I prefer not to wear gloves which may explain my preference for thicker sticks (and a knob to save me...stay focused!) It's kind of ironic that when I put a handle on, test it out, get a feel for it, I don't wear gloves. But when it comes to processing wood I'm wearing gloves. Sorry for the self-reflective moment. I hope there is something in there for everyone to think about.
     
  10. Glenn Bailey

    Glenn Bailey Gold Member Gold Member

    120
    Jun 1, 2017
    And keeping to the theme, does the assumption of glove wearing reduce the need for a pronounced knob, especially with the new grippy gloves that are around?
     
  11. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Because House lacquers all of their handles by default to help prevent warping in storage, so removing it is additional labor.
     
  12. Glenn Bailey

    Glenn Bailey Gold Member Gold Member

    120
    Jun 1, 2017
    That makes sense (I knew it would). Are there comparable themes with snaths?
     
  13. cityofthesouth

    cityofthesouth

    Jan 29, 2014
    Thin handles to me have much more to do with flexibility (and therefore "toughness") and shock absorption. There is a perfect example over on bushcraftusa in the axe picture thread of a handle that broke (in my view) because way too much material was left around the shoulder creating a stiff section butted against a very thin section where it went into the eye of a small hatchet.

    From a totally different field, but a similar concept, I compete quite a bit in competitive "action" shooting sports and reload 9mm. Somewhat recently (last several years), brass from a couple manufacturers began popping up on the range that has a sharp step inside the case - roughly the bottom half of the case walls are thicker and rather than thickening gradually (as they have in many cartridges forever), they thicken at a step. These cases notoriously fail at the step where the thicker material actually creates a weak point at the transition to normal wall thickness.

    I think there was (in heavy use) a lot less "gripping" the axe handle. A relaxed grip and steady relaxed body mechanics were the keys to swinging one all day long. I'm going to wear out of recurring theme here but the difference/reduction in professional or sustained axe use has left things forgotten or misunderstood as they aren't really needed anymore. Plus, there are many kinds of axes for many kinds of tasks and handles vary accordingly. Thick handles today are just a byproduct - I'd say there are lots of features of axes today are a byproduct of lost knowledge.
     
  14. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Not direct analogs, but to some extent yes. A common cost-cutting measure during the dark days of the scythe industry, when manufacturers were dropping like flies, was to skip the final rounding step, which is honestly the most labor intensive. Normally riven stock was turned into tapered blanks using a specialized lathe and then those blanks were steam bent in iron forms. During bending some degree of delamination and/or cracking often occurred at the surface and so these were then sanded away until they were at fault-free wood, but this egged-out the shape of the snath in these zones and also often led to uneven taper along the length. Normally one would shave/sand the snath back to true round and with a smooth and continuous taper from end to end, but when makers started a race to the bottom in the hopes of surviving in a period of sharply declined scythe usage, they just skipped that step and left them wonky. Combine that with the fact that by that point they were mostly selling them to railroads and folks who were using them to do heavy bush work with blunt blades and bad technique and the overall heaviness of the snaths increased drastically. I really consider the Seymour No.1 "grass snath" a bush snath by the thickness it has from the factory. The end diameter is 2" and most good grass snaths historically were 1.5" at their thickest.

    However, scythe snaths are nearly the opposite of axes in terms of their desired characteristics. While you do still want them to have some degree of shock resistance, it's more important for them to be rigid and light. So you're looking for something that has a good strength to weight ratio, which is why black cherry was used for the highest quality grass snaths. It's not as durable as ash is, and so can't handle the abuse that ash can, but it's able to be made lighter while remaining sufficiently rigid, and it handled steam bending like a champ. Adept mowers kept the strain on the snath low, and so didn't need the same amount of idiot-proofing that ash provided. Hickory, meanwhile, didn't see much use in snaths other than the European-style ones offered by Marugg, because it's so heavy. Not a problem when you're using it for flexibility, because you can use so little of it, but with rigidity you need a certain thickness for it to resist flexing, and in those diameters hickory becomes quite hefty indeed.
     
  15. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    This is what I was waiting for. There's nothing like those big French scroll end handles. It wouldn't come out of your hand and also counterbalances the head.
     
    cityofthesouth likes this.
  16. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    This design is well thought out. It has a swell that will feel good in the hand and incorporates a striking platform for hanging the axe without damaging the handle.
     
    cityofthesouth and Trailsawyer like this.
  17. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    It's ther same with concrete. When you form a slab if you leave a sharp transition it will surely crack there. Even dirt graded abruptly from 4" under slab to 6" under slap will produce a crack every time.
     

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