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Remove an axe head and reuse the handle

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Steve Tall, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Peter Vido taught me this way to remove (or tighten) an axe head. Maybe this info will be useful to some others.

    This Swedish military "hand axe" had a good handle, but the head needed a little work, and I wanted to see how much the head actually weighed.


    It's easier if the head is slightly loose and a couple good chops will raise it a little, say 1/16", exposing the tiny "shelf" that the head normally rests on. The idea is to lower this shelf by 1/4". Using a knife, I scored a line around the handle, 1/4" below the old shelf line, and carefully removed wood above the scored line, to match the dimensions of the eye.


    I then put the axe head on the ground, with the metal supported by wood blocks, and tapped the bottom of the handle with a hammer until the head was seated on the new shelf. This resulted in the top of the handle extending out of the axe head by 1/4".


    With a saw, the two sides of the handle are cut flush with the top of the head, while the wedge is left uncut.


    I clamped the protruding wedge into a vise and yanked the axe straight up, and with some luck the wedge stayed in the vise.




    In this case, there was no metal wedge, which makes the job easier. A similar approach can be used if there's a metal wedge, with some extra work with pliers, perhaps after modifying the protruding metal wedge with a hacksaw, to get a better grip.

    Lowering the head a little bit, as shown, before pounding an existing wedge in some more, can also be a good way to tighten up a loose head.


    The cleaned-up head back on the cleaned-up handle:



    More info about this axe here.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2011
    Java_Dude likes this.
  2. Pipeman


    Dec 2, 2004
    Great tip Steve. I'll give it a try on the next axe I find with a loose head. Thanks


  3. dogstar


    Jan 23, 2011
    Fantastic how-to!:thumbup:
  4. gregorio


    Nov 9, 2007
    thanks for sharing
  5. G-pig


    Jul 5, 2011
    Handy. Similar trick has saved me a boatload of handles.
  6. Operator1975


    Sep 24, 2010
    I have done that also. Side tip, if you have a metal wedge in there, you can take a small small drill bit and drill beside the metal wedge, just enough to properly fit a pair of needle nose firmly around that wedge. This will let you "work" it a little more. This seems to work ok, unless for some reason you really need the wedge.

    Thanks Steve for this, it was informative and usefull. I do a hybrid of this to "save" and handle, can't wait to try your approach.
  7. rjdankert

    rjdankert Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 10, 2011
    Good info thanks for posting
  8. PayetteRucker


    Aug 4, 2009
    Thanks for the review, just put one in an order. I received the smaller Swiss surplus axe in the mail a few weeks ago and have been letting a buddy use it as he learns basic bushcrafting. Have been having never-ending camera issues but will do a review on that guy. Heck I might just order the big one and do a review of them both.

    I have a 1KG Wetterlings head on a 26 inch handle, and a brand new 32 inch handle and an empty .85 kg wetterlings head. Ideally I'll try to remove the 26 inch handle without damaging it, and switch the heads-that's the next axe project, hopefully will get done before the Arvika double bit that I won on ebay last night gets here :D
  9. Dusty One

    Dusty One Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    I agree....Great tip thanks for posting info !
    And nice axe !
  10. bearhunter


    Sep 12, 2009
    I know this is an old thread Steve but, thanks!
    I used this tutorial this afternoon to save and remove an old (possibly) original haft from a nice TT 'Flint Edge' Kelly Works DB 2^2 cruiser.
    I guess I should have taken some pics.
  11. markv


    Sep 8, 2004
    this thread should be a sticky.

    excellent explanation of the process.

  12. A Visitor

    A Visitor

    Jan 19, 2009
    I missed this the first time - good information. I was luckily able to drift out a couple of handles without damaging them- would have tried this if I saw it.
  13. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Thanks for all the positive comments.

    I've used this method about 4 or 5 times now, without a hitch (although I didn't have any gnarly metal wedges to deal with).
  14. bearhunter


    Sep 12, 2009
    The one I did had two little hatchet wedges in it, but I was able to chisel around them and get them out with my vise and a jerk or two.

    Another thing that may me helpful for someone here;
    After I removed the wedges, I discovered that the wooden wedge had been beaten down into the kerf too far for me to get out without cutting more of the handle eye off. So I just sawed thru the kerf, cutting thru the wooden wedge and all was good with my little world :D
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
  15. sashae

    sashae Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Bump with a question. I've successfully removed two of the little spade-shaped metal wedges from this loose haft, but they've left a not insubstantial void in the helve after being removed. They're small/short wedges (only 1" deep) in a head that's almost 4" deep, so not very large. Does anyone have recommendations as to a technique to properly fill that left over space when re-wedging? I'm going to use a much larger wood wedge for the fore/aft wedge, but the side-to-side spaces I'm worried about filling properly.

  16. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    How much shoulder do you have left on the haft? Can you reset the head low enough that you could cut off some of the gaps left by the steel wedges? Another option is to cut those steel wedge gaps all the way through the haft and then fill them with wood wedges. Then your main wood wedge would have to be installed in 2 or 3 pieces. Like this:

  17. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    After the head and wedge are removed, I would probably just glue in a piece of wood into each gap, and trim to size after the glue dries.
  18. Square_peg


    Feb 1, 2012
    That's a very good idea, Steve.
  19. halfaxe


    Nov 29, 2012
    That's what I did with this hatchet. It has a nice old octagon handle I wanted to save so I removed it and glued pieces in the side spaces and then used a main wedge like usual.

  20. Win3855


    Sep 14, 2008
    Nice looking job.

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