Axe handle question

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by JD Spydo, Sep 25, 2007.

  1. JD Spydo

    JD Spydo Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2004
    I just learned to hang an axe handle correctly a couple of years ago by obtaining the video and book called "AN AXE TO GRIND" by the National Forest Service. The narrator was a guy name Bernie Weissgerber and he did the step by step video which was quite good IMO.

    Now for you guys who are a lot more experienced with axes than I am I have a question to ask all of you and would value your feedback.

    I just hung a double bit axe on a hickory O.P. Link handle and I think I did fairly well at it. I just got given 2 one gallon cans of older linseed oil and I was wondering if it would a good thing to do to soak the head of the axe and where the handle meets the head in linseed oil?

    Also are there any treatments or maintenance you can do to the handle to increase it's longivity?
     
  2. CaptInsano

    CaptInsano

    Apr 11, 2007
    You could wrap the haft right beneath the head with paracord or rawhide to cushion a wayward blow.
     
  3. thechuck

    thechuck

    71
    Apr 4, 2007
    First, make sure there's no varnish on the handle, nothing will wreck your hands faster, then make sure you have done any shaping of the handle you intend to. You will be oiling the whole handle, and freshly oiled wood will gum up your rasps/files/whatever if you decide you don't like the handle taper right after you oil.

    Before you oil anything, drill one or two holes, (I like a 3/16 in bit, but that isn't critical) a few inches deep in the end of the handle. Be carefull not to drill out the side. Now, rub the whole handle with raw linseed oil, and fill the hole. Lean the axe up against the wall for a couple of days. Repeat, but this time, after filling the hole, tap in a small, tapered softwood peg and cut it off flush with the end of the handle.

    Your handle should last a good long time.

    I vary this method slightly, depending on conditions. Extra dry handles get more coats of oil before capping, etc.

    And remember, by far the most important factor in maintaining your axe handles is learning to swing accurately.

    Hope that all helps,

    Charlie
     
  4. JD Spydo

    JD Spydo Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2004
    Hey thanks for the great feedback guys. I'm also wondering if you guys have any sharpening stone preferences. I have an old Norton stone that looks like a Hockey Puck and it seems to do all right. I'm wondering if there might be something better out there?

    Also is hickory the very best handle material?

    Again I thank you all for your quick and informative responses :)
     
  5. Erasmus

    Erasmus

    Jul 15, 2002
    Yes, straight grained hickory is great.
     
  6. aburton

    aburton

    17
    Sep 26, 2007
    yes, but is it the *best*?

    I'm thinking of making a handle out of black locust, which is nearly as hard, but has a much higher modulus of elasticity. with an isotropic material, this would mean better impact toughness, but I'm not sure what the deal is with wood. Does anyone care to comment?
     
  7. CaptInsano

    CaptInsano

    Apr 11, 2007
    My comment is that you should try it out and see. :)
     
  8. Blue Sky

    Blue Sky Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 16, 2002
    A higher modulus of elasticity implies increased stiffness, all other things being equal. Not always the best thing for an impact tool, or the hands that hold it. I also don't know that I would assume it would be "tougher" (resistant to splitting?) just because it was stiffer, you might find just the opposite.

    It would be fun to compare them both side by side and find out though.:)
     
  9. aburton

    aburton

    17
    Sep 26, 2007
    I read up a little more about it, and shellbark hickory is by far the best handle material in terms of impact strength (for the north american woods). Locust is advantageous if you need rot resistant wood, otherwise shellbark is the best. Even better than shagbark.
     
  10. thechuck

    thechuck

    71
    Apr 4, 2007
    Where is this info coming from? Some general wood properties text, or from a source specific to handles for striking tools?

    It is important to remember that impact strength is not necessarily a good indicator of desirability in a handle for a striking tool. For example, Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood) is an incredibly hard wood. However, it is not a particularly desirable wood for axe handles (even if you can find a straight piece of proper size), as it transfers far too much shock to the users hands. Additionally, something about the grain structure seems to make ironwood handles very slippery. Ash, another common handle material for rakes, shovels, etc. similarly transfers more shock to the user than is desireable for a dedicated striking tool handle. (Caveat - I have many ash axe handles, as I have a distributer that will mill custom orders, of any size, to my specs.)

    Second growth american hickory has long been the unanimous choice for the best overall combination of strength and flexibility in an axe handle.

    You should never store your axe in a manner that would allow the wood to rot, as the head would quickly rust beyond useablity, so that will never be a problem. Additionally, your handles should recieve a good oiling (raw linseed oil is best) to protect from drying, and that will prevent any water damage, if you use them in rain/snow.
     
  11. aburton

    aburton

    17
    Sep 26, 2007
    -thechuck

    I got the information from general wood properties text. Keep in mind also that hardness and impact strength are two totally separate properties, especially when dealing with anisotropic materials such as wood.

    a.) There are four types of "American Hickory", so even then, there's some discussion as to which one is the best

    b.) when considering the popularity of a wood for a particular use, besides a combination of strength and flexibility, you also need to factor in cost and producibility. Black locust would be a much more important n. american lumber if it weren't so susceptible to different pests. Perhaps it would also have a place with tool handles? I mean to explore different possibilities for my axe handle.

    c.) dry rot can damage a handle in a climate where an axe blade will do fine. Especially if you're expecting to keep your axe for a long time.

    I've also heard that tung oil is better for the wood, and gives it a nicer finish.
     
  12. aburton

    aburton

    17
    Sep 26, 2007
    two things-

    let me clarify- I said "impact strength" when I meant "impact toughness". Also, I'm not quite sure why ash would transmit more of the impact when compared to hickory, as it has a lower modulus of elasticity, and lower shear strength. I would imagine that ash would absorb more of the impact at the expense of its durability.

    Anyone care to comment?
     
  13. Shotgun

    Shotgun

    Feb 3, 2006
    I just bought a Gransfors mini that has what looks to be a small plug in the end just as you describe. Is this the method they use? If so how often should one rub it with linseed? And, does the drilling process need to be repeated?
     
  14. Glock17JHP

    Glock17JHP

    621
    Aug 23, 2007
    Good question, Shotgun... I would like to know the answers, too...
     
  15. MidwestDave

    MidwestDave

    679
    Oct 3, 2006
    The only answer I know is how often to reapply the linseed oil. The old addage used when finishing rifle stocks is....once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, then once a year thereafter.
     
  16. CaptInsano

    CaptInsano

    Apr 11, 2007
    I would use tung or true oil rather than linseed.
     
  17. MidwestDave

    MidwestDave

    679
    Oct 3, 2006
    I have always had great results with DeftOil Danish Oil Finish, usually with stain mixed right in.
     
  18. SBloke

    SBloke

    5
    Aug 15, 2007
    Exactly how DO the grains on an axe handle have to run. I've read all sorts of advice but those are never accompanied by pictures of what they mean.

    "vertical" for instance. The grains should run from the head all the way down to the end? Or should you look at the butt-end of the handle and should the grains all run perfectly straight back to front through the handle? Or both? Grains close together, or far apart. Questions questions. :confused:

    Does anyone here have a few pictures of good handles, perfect handles, poor handles and something that you'de not even use as a toothpick? I've exhausted my "google" inventiveness and can't find anything that really helps me.

    I've read Gransfors makes "the best" axes and the same goes for their handles. But even in those there is a difference in good and great. I'm planning to buy myself a Gransfors in the near future, but seeing as the local store has several in stock, for that kind of money I want the best one they've got. :D

    Thanks for your help in advance guys!
     
  19. Glock17JHP

    Glock17JHP

    621
    Aug 23, 2007
    Capt... since I am sorta new to this, can you tell me why?
     
  20. Blue Sky

    Blue Sky Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 16, 2002
    The grain in the handle should run parallel the head. Also, the fewer rings that run out of the the sides, the stronger it is. If it is crosswise to the head, it is much more prone to splitting.

    Some good pictures here:
    http://www.oldjimbo.com/survival/axes.html
     

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