Removable wedging system for axes

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Feb 1, 2012
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This is a follow up thread on a post I made in another thread about slip-on type handles. See that post here:

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/s...-eye-vs-Axe-Wedge-eye?p=14306344#post14306344


This wedging system addresses a mythical scenario where you're isolated in the wilderness and have broken your axe handle. You need a functioning axe to save your life. We know this is never really gonna happen but for the sake of argument let's go with this scenario.

I discovered this system on a broadaxe I purchased a few years ago. I'm guessing that the previous owner had a second handle for this broadaxe which allowed hafting it with the bevel reversed from right to left. That's a handy thing and was likely the reason that some old boy came up with this. Here's the system as it came on that old broadaxe. This axe was solid as hung with this system.

2-part%20wedge.JPG

2-part%20wedge-2.JPG

2-part%20wedge%20assembled.JPG

2-part%20wedge%20assembled-2.JPG


So the previous owner could remove this haft and insert another one through the top of the eye and thereby change the handing of his broadaxe.

For some time I've had the idea try this system out with a regular axe or hatchet. The earlier thread gave me the nudge I needed to finally do this. Remember, this is an "isolated in the wilderness" situation so what I did was quick and dirty with only knife and a hatchet. OTOH you could do this carefully in the shop with power tools and make it a nice handle. The work could easily be done with just the broken axe if that is all you had. And we all know how to burn an old handle out of an axe head with the bit buried in the dirt to protect the temper.

So I started with this, a branch of big leaf maple which I dragged home a couple weeks ago.

1.jpg



Right away it split on me when I started to carve it. But since this was just to demonstrate the system I continued on. Hey, in the wilderness you may have no choice but to carry on.

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Here I've shaved off part of the handle to make room for what I call the side wedge. I'll also have to take off some material for the back wedge.

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It's important that the side wedge sticks further back than the handle. Imagine if this haft wasn't split. The side wedge would protrude 1/4" further toward the poll than the haft does. The back wedge will force the side wedge over the haft causing the side wedge to fill the eye side-to-side.

4.jpg



Here I've started work on the back wedge. Note how it pushes the side wedge over the haft.

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With the back wedge in I could swing this axe now. At this point I've got 25 minutes into carving this handle and wedge system.

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A bottom view of the wedged axe.

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Another 25 minutes of whittling and I have a functional axe. I did a little chopping and splitting with it to make sure it worked.

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I pounded the wedges in a little further after use. I might have to re-wedge it once the green handle dries.

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Here I've pulled the haft off the first head and put it on another head. I switched it back later.

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One of these days I'll take the time to make a nice one of these. If any of you try this please post your results.
 
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Mar 23, 2014
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I for one would like to thank you for the contribution. To be honest I'm surprised a manufacturer hasn't picked up on the idea. The back wedge could easily be metal (or something able to withstand the reverse pounding) and the maker would have a proprietary handle system.
 
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If you had a folding saw you could make the traditional center kerf for the center wedge and then add the back wedge. I'm thinking I would do it this way if I had a folding saw along. The brilliance of the back wedge is being able to undersize the haft both ways and then wedge it tight. This makes it a whole lot faster to make a handle this way than with a slip joint system where you need to shape the whole handle to slip through the eye. If you start out with an axe wedged this way for trekking you could potentially remove and reuse the wedges with a new handle making the process even easier.
 
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Sweet. I'm glad you recognized it for what it is and didn't disregard it as the work of some bubba. Really handy on a hewing axe. I will keep it in mind if my Vaughn needs a longer handle.
 
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That's clever, thanks for the demo.

Very clever. Strikes me a practical way to re-use hafts as well, especially ones that have had to be drilled out. Also an inexpensive way to ensure you have a spare on hand if the original breaks. An old junk handle in the back of the truck or lying under a bunk at the camp all of a sudden reclaims some purpose.

Also enables a man/woman to travel easier (haft separated from the head) with a backpack.
 
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Useful. Skilled. One of the best, well-explained, practical posts I have seen on this forum. I was looking at a Douglas broad axe head at a shop yesterday and wondering about what a user would do in the field to switch handing if forced to work from their weak-side (right or left).

Question answered - and well at that - thanks for this one.
 

lmalterna

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Square, you just saved some old hafts on my bench with rotted out tongues.

Gotta try some of this.

Bill
 
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Square, you just saved some old hafts on my bench with rotted out tongues.

It would also be a good way to use a haft where the kerf has been cut badly off to one side. You could just shave off the narrow side of the kerf and install this wedging system.
 
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This looks amazing. Can you finish the handle so it looks nice near the top? Do you have any examples of a better executed (prettier) handle that you can post pics of so we can see the potential of what a nicely finished handle with this method can look like?

Do you offer this service for people who are not skilled in fitting axe heads and wood working? If so what is the cost?
 
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Do you have any examples of a better executed (prettier) handle that you can post pics of so we can see the potential of what a nicely finished handle with this method can look like?

Not yet. It's on my to-do list.
 
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I gotta admit this novel approach thoroughly intrigues me. An auger hole in the butt or some other convenient method of storage for keeping the pieces altogether when the axe is apart would really make for an 'ezee-pack' system for travel in the woods. Somehow getting that taper wedge to firmly stay in place strikes me as the biggest obstacle in this whole business. Broad axe users weren't quite so prone to swinging really hard or using their implements as splitters to really tax the integrity of a hang.
 
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Can't say this any better tan it was done right here. Love this forum for the considerate place that it is.


Useful. Skilled. One of the best, well-explained, practical posts I have seen on this forum. I was looking at a Douglas broad axe head at a shop yesterday and wondering about what a user would do in the field to switch handing if forced to work from their weak-side (right or left).

Question answered - and well at that - thanks for this one.
 
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Messages
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Somehow getting that taper wedge to firmly stay in place strikes me as the biggest obstacle in this whole business. Broad axe users weren't quite so prone to swinging really hard or using their implements as splitters to really tax the integrity of a hang.

Good observation about a broad axe not necessarily being a thorough test of this system. I'll have to see how a good hickory handle holds up. I don't make any claims about the durability of this system. It's too early for that.

When you say 'taper wedge' do you mean the back wedge or the side wedge? Japanese axes have long been hung with a similar system using a back wedge or front wedge. But they don't use a side wedge like this. Their system has been tried and tested for several centuries.
 
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If you have a bit of heel on the handle below the head, when the back wedge is driven it will follow this heel bending the wedge towards the back of the eye and thus keep the wedge from backing out.
 

Old Axeman

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Jan 10, 2015
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The best way I found to allow removing and replacing a ax handle in a field situation was a removeable steel wedge instead of the wood wedge that you use to permanently hang an ax. This wedge had a tang that protruded over the pole. You could use a screwdriver or or any metal object the would fit between the tang and the top of the axe pole to pry it out and lift the steel wedge. This allows the hickory handle to slip out without any damage. The company name on these wedges was SAWILCO. I dont know how to post pictures and dont want to learn. Maybe somebody like Steve Tall can come up with a picture.

Broadaxes are the only real reason I ever had to switch handles from right to left handed. I am a lefty by nature. Most of you ( about 90% of humans) are right handed so I also use an axe right handed for instruction reasons. If you are in the 90%, you may not find a broadaxe easy to use left handed.
 
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The best way I found to allow removing and replacing a ax handle in a field situation was a removeable steel wedge instead of the wood wedge that you use to permanently hang an ax. This wedge had a tang that protruded over the pole. You could use a screwdriver or or any metal object the would fit between the tang and the top of the axe pole to pry it out and lift the steel wedge. This allows the hickory handle to slip out without any damage. The company name on these wedges was SAWILCO. I dont know how to post pictures and dont want to learn. Maybe somebody like Steve Tall can come up with a picture.
Sort of like this? Older ones that I've found up in this neck of the woods are made of steel and these current versions (Garant is a Quebec company) unfortunately are aluminum. If they're driven flush they're not real easy to remove but if left 1/8" proud they ought to lift out OK with a claw hammer.


axehafts1008Medium_zps55cdaf36.jpg
 
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The best way I found to allow removing and replacing a ax handle in a field situation was a removeable steel wedge instead of the wood wedge that you use to permanently hang an ax. This wedge had a tang that protruded over the pole. You could use a screwdriver or or any metal object the would fit between the tang and the top of the axe pole to pry it out and lift the steel wedge. This allows the hickory handle to slip out without any damage. The company name on these wedges was SAWILCO. I dont know how to post pictures and dont want to learn. Maybe somebody like Steve Tall can come up with a picture...

Here are a couple photos:

$_57.JPG


$_57.JPG
 
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