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Burning the haft ???

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Drum4fun, May 10, 2018.

  1. Drum4fun


    Mar 21, 2018
    So, I've seen numerous photos / videos of axe/maul/sledge/hammers
    that the owner / rehabilitation specialist saw fit to break out the torch
    and mark the haft with burn marks. Is this purely choice (i.e. cosmetic)
    or, is there added value (over-strike hardening, better grip, better "seal").
    I haven't seen this with vintage era hand tools , mostly with re-hafting....
    Never recall seeing this as I was growing up.

  2. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    Decorative! Once in awhile you see ads for flame-hardened handles on tools but I have a hard time believing it actually improves the wood.
    Miller '72 likes this.
  3. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    Agreed. Great at hiding flaws.
  4. muleman77


    Jan 24, 2015
    Hiding flaws or adding character without having to use the tool seem like the two main reasons.

    I don't think it hurts anything, unless you really cook it. Then wood can become more brittle.
    garry3 and Miller '72 like this.
  5. Drum4fun


    Mar 21, 2018
    Thanks guys.... didn't know if I was over-looking some new preservation technique.
    I appreciate the insights.
  6. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    If you flame the handle and then hand sand the surface there will be ample contrast for showing off wood grain but I like to think this can be better accomplished with a wiped on stain.
  7. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Weakens the wood. Trick used by makers to snazzy up poor quality handles.
  8. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel

    Feb 11, 2016
    I don't put spots on my handles, but I do often torch blacken them.
    For me the biggest reason is to burn off the varnish ( yes I do it outside ) as it's faster and easier that sanding or scraping it off.
    When I shape down a handle It may be different but on now I leave stock I just burn the varnish off.
    Park Swan likes this.
  9. Drum4fun


    Mar 21, 2018
    I hadn't thought of that Hickory n Steel.... I almost always sand off the varnish.

  10. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Interesting that the 1957 True Temper catalog specified "fire hardened" hickory handles for the Kelly Perfect, Red Warrior, and Flint Edge axes, while the Woodslasher and Champion axe handles had "white lacquer finish".

    Back in 1938, an advertisement for Kelly Perfect axes claims that "Fire Hardened Hickory Handles have superior hand [hard] surface. Flame sears the wood -- hardens it and seals the pores."




    from The Annual Ring, Volumes 1-7, 1938
    Drum4fun likes this.
  11. Drum4fun


    Mar 21, 2018
    Mr. Tall.... great stuff ! So, flaming the haft has been around at least 80 years...
    I was unaware. Maybe the current "trend" is part of the old "what goes around,
    comes around". Thanks for the history. I hope muscle cars are next ! :cool:

  12. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
  13. dirc


    Jan 31, 2018
    There is a practical aspect to firing the handles...

    After you fire the handle, (lightly so you don't actually damage the wood), you then finish it up with some linseed oil.
    The combination when done right creates a rubberized feel to the wood, and really does improve the grip in addition to sealing the wood.

    Try it and you'll understand :)
    Park Swan and Square_peg like this.
  14. skillgannon


    Apr 27, 2009
    It really will change the wood. It will make it harder and increase compression strength. I don't know if that's helpfully or not. I do think that a good toasting is a fast way to get a low friction finish as it burns of all the rough high spots. Done carefully I don't think it's going to hurt anything.

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