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Shrinking handles prior to installation

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Rmfcasey, May 13, 2018.

  1. Rmfcasey


    Jan 15, 2010
    I think handles might stay tighter if you could overdry or otherwise shrink the wood prior to installation. It should stay tighter longer. I think I will try this next time.
    garry3 likes this.
  2. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel

    Feb 11, 2016
    I don't know, wood can crack and check if it gets too dry.
    Plus a handle should soak up some blo anyways so I don't see the benifit.
  3. the possum

    the possum

    Jul 31, 2002
    I don't know about further drying out wood that's already "dry". But if you're carving a haft from raw wood, or just any kind of wood that was never kiln dried, they you definitely need to bring it in the house for a month or two after it's been rough shaped. We have lumber that was sawn 40 years ago in the shed, and if you start cutting and shaping it, it will still shrink and move.
  4. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    If the tailored haft fits in the oven of your kitchen stove (36 inchers usually don't) it's cheap insurance to forcefully dry it out against shrinkage due to seasonal ambient humidity. Leave it in there overnight at 150/175 F (below the boiling point of water) before putting the whole thing together and setting the wedge. A 'bone dry' handle that then swells-up irregardless is a whole different ballgame from one that always becomes loose during the winter.
    garry3 likes this.
  5. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    I put a handle in the oven once. It was a factory made kiln dried handle. I had it in for an hour at the lowest setting, around 170 degrees. I was warming it to then hit it with beeswax. It split. It's a bad idea.
  6. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    For you, maybe. An hour isn't going to do much except overheat the surface. Wood is a pretty good insulator. By the way, the common mistake of placing a piece of wood in an oven on a lower rack during the initial heat cycle can subject it to broil-type intense heat from the bottom element until the elsewhere-located temp sensor registers an overall internal temp. Oftentimes these units aren't very sensitive and take awhile to trip. Do not stick a piece of wood in an oven until it's already warmed up and to be absolutely sure take the wood out in between heating cycles. A 200 F pre-warmed oven will remain plenty warm for drying purposes for another 2-3 hours after it's been turned off.
  7. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    Gas oven, pre-heated, top rack. It split. Your mileage may vary. I won't do it again.
    Square_peg likes this.
  8. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    Yep. If I order some handles from House for instance, they are air dried. Their climate is not my climate and if they don't get further drying it will be a loose head when the haft does reach equilibrium with my climate. All kinds of ways to accomplish taking the haft down a percentage or two lower than equilibrium to your climate. Lots go into that, like the time of the year you hang your axe and how you store your hafts ect. Its a good practice to have your hafts drier at the time of hanging then they will be when they reach equilibrium during your driest season. Should be a best practice type of thing...
  9. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    Convenient memory jb. And sound advice derived from a wealth of experience. Sort of like saying "I put a wood handle on an axe once and it broke. I'll never use wood again".
  10. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    It sounds suspiciously like you are questioning my honesty, in an underhanded way. Again.

    I don't even know why, I'm just offering my opinion and experiences, just like you. But I don't care enough to go through this BS. I'll need to figure out how to block your posts (I found the IGNORE button, done), won't be an issue again.

    Maybe I'll suffer forum penance for it, but I don't hope to hear from you again. I don't know how else to say it, and although others will remain silent, many will agree. Some won't. I don't know what you are like in real life, but here at least you come across as completely and needlessly obnoxious. And almost always for no good reason.
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  11. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    First line of any weak defense is to evade the issue by invoking slight to 'personal integrity'. So this now becomes my fault and not yours? I wasn't born yesterday jb.
  12. A17


    Jan 9, 2018
    There's too much bickering on the photo thread, so argue on your conversation pages and don't mess this one up!
  13. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    What needs to be kept in mind is that getting the moisture out the wood, and thus constricting the dimensions, is a matter of migration, the water molecules in the center making their way to the surface and dissipating. Forced drying - as in putting the handle in an over, will dry from the outside towards the inside. Well, the wood has a self protecting mechanism to guard against drier periods in the living tree's growth. In these periods the wood will constrict internally and shut down the migration to preserve moisture and prevent drying. What you have done in the oven is to activate these mechanisms and contain the internal moisture temporarily, to be released later, so it accomplishes little to nothing by going this route, in fact it introducies unwanted internal stress if anything, weakening the structure of the wood. Probably my explanation is more confusing than clarifying but consider the techniques of kiln drying. It is a matter of evaporating moisture in cycles of heating, evaporation, controlling humidity levels in order to force moisture to the surface from the center, the opposite of heating the surface as in an oven.
  14. Lieblad


    Jul 24, 2015
    Since a seat of pants heating process turns out bad. Sounds like a freeze drying process needs to developed to satisify the Worshippers of Tight Axe Haft Perfection.
  15. Park Swan

    Park Swan KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 15, 2016
    I like the concept.. what about sticking the top of the handle into a bucket of rice or similar to draw moisture out of that end? Thoughts?
    crbnSteeladdict likes this.
  16. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Less aggressive than ovening, but how would you control the moisture loss? It's when the moisture loss at the end grain out paces loss along the grain that checks are likely to occur. In order to equalize moisture transfer, and prevent strange and unwanted things happening to your handle, the entire handle would need to be buried plus the end grains sealed. On top of that the capacity of the rice to take on the moisture from the wood would have to be gauged to the present moisture content of the wood and the desired moisture content.
    Some of this is very theoretical and experiments would have to be made to find out how effective the idea might be or not, sticking to what we already know from the science of artificially drying wood. With that in mind my guess is you'd want to do it in cycles and it would be somewhat complicated and while interesting not really worth the trouble. You would also have to be objective enough not to get a good fit initially and be satisfied only to find out in the long run you came out worse off than had you done nothing at all.
    In terms of the concept, rather than force drying in order to get an undersized fit that will later swell up to a tight one, I would think more about a pre-compression fit, something like clamping the tung in a vice over-night, or ramming it through an undersized die, who knows...but I will stick with preparing the handle in stages and giving the wood the time it needs to air dry to the condition I can judge is sufficient, not difficult but requiring some patience, planning and willingness. Lets remember the Japanese plane maker who keeps his blanks stored in the attic 40 years or the Bavarian violin maker who's doing something similar with that wood.
    Park Swan likes this.
  17. Kevin Houtzager

    Kevin Houtzager

    Jun 25, 2017
    I don't get a lot of comments? Why would you want to lower moisture in the axe? Moisture in itself is good, as without it the axe handle would break! Allways hang axes in warmer periods of the year. If it does attract moisture in the colder times it swells up, but does not shrink. Then again: If you apply enough oil on the handle moisture or shrinkage doesn't become a real problem. Most problems of loose fitting axes come from the fact of of the hang itself, or from an user handling it badly. T
    Park Swan, Miller '72 and muleman77 like this.
  18. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Why not just swell it with some Swel-Lock? Works for me. My handles don't come loose.

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