Some fun destructive testing on an offset neck handle.

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by FortyTwoBlades, Jan 16, 2019.

  1. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008


    I had a bunch of copies of my custom handle made for Rinaldi's Trento axes (fits the No.3, 4, and 5 heads, as well as the "Normale" pattern in the same numbers) and they arrived yesterday. The quality of the hickory itself is quite stunning, and they're so dense they feel like they're made out of iron! While most of them had the nice vertical grain through the neck I'd specified, a few had nearly horizontal grain that caused a ton of runout. So I decided to have a little fun and see just how much abuse such a curvy handle with runout could handle. Turns out, if the wood is good enough it can handle a surprising amount of punishment!
     
  2. FLINT77

    FLINT77

    532
    Apr 8, 2013
    holy cow, those sledgehammer over strikes must have felt good to your hands and arms!
     
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  3. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Yeah, not gonna lie--my arms were simultaneously both numb and stinging by the end of that. 24 strikes before the dang thing gave up the ghost! :p
     
  4. Hacked

    Hacked

    947
    Jun 1, 2010
    I'm guessing the piece that popped out was overstrike damage connecting to a section of run-out? Just goes to show you how overblown the whole grain orientation is. Last handle I broke was "perfect".
     
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  5. ithinkverydeeply

    ithinkverydeeply Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 17, 2018
    Dang! What did that log ever do to you?!
     
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  6. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Yup--the piece that popped followed the grain from beneath the site of impact. :)

    Now, bear in mind that this hickory is top-grade and unusually dense, and you're not likely to come across wood this good in most handles. You'd probably experience failure a bit sooner with lighter-weight hickory, but it's nonetheless a significant testament to just how tough of a wood it is! :D
     
  7. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    What is the name of that handle pattern again? I have a nice ol mast axe and i saw this handle on a website. I've been wanting to recreate this on a new hickory stick. Or red oak. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I was worried about the run out a little too. I always suspected the grain orientation-train was a little over hyped. But it's probably more important on a haft such as this. It looks traditional? so i think I'll do it. Thanks for the video! Very helpful to know...
     
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  8. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    To the best of my knowledge there's no existing term for it. I'd say that calling it the "crook" of the handle might be appropriate, or perhaps the "counter-bend". It's a traditional feature on a number of different international patterns of axes, as well as on shipwright's adzes. It helps balance a swung tool that doesn't have the center of gravity inside the eye of the head. The main length is aligned to point towards the center of gravity without messing up the hang (hence the double-curved offset rather than a single curve.) It makes this axe balance horizontally in open hands rather than being bit-heavy and wanting to drop. :)
     
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  9. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Basic Member Basic Member

    866
    Jan 10, 2015
    Most of you know how I feel about grain orientation (remember the infamous grain orientation thread ?) I try to always use vertical on full size felling axes. In the days when you used an axe (or any tool for that matter) to make your living, or your in a wilderness situation, you want the best haft. Vertical grain has always been best. Vertical grain may be over hyped if you are a weekend warrior.
    42, for your test to really have any meaning on vertically grain, you have to repeat the results, identically, with a vertical grain haft.
     
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  10. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Basic Member Basic Member

    866
    Jan 10, 2015
    That is a great shipwright axe that Jim has for sale, and at good price for what it is. These axes were very single purpose tools, mostly mast work. They were also called mast axes. I have never found this pattern worked very well for me in hewing.
     
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  11. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    I thought it was a good price as well. I already have a nice one though. Found last year in a wall cavity in a mid 1800's barn in Sullivan Maine. No makers mark but it rings real perdy! It's probably going to be a wall hanger anyway. I totally agree with you. If my life or livelihood depended on my axe you can bet I'd take a vertical grained haft. But it is interesting to note how tough a horizontally grained haft can be. Also interesting is the haft on the Jim thode mast axe appears to be horizontal grain!
     
  12. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Ah, but did I say that it doesn't matter? Absolutely not. The only conclusion I've drawn from this experiment is that good quality hickory is able to survive a surprising amount of outright abuse even when the cards are stacked against it.

    The fact that from a structural standpoint this was about as bad as it could get just means that if the wood is of good enough quality it'll probably last longer than most of us would expect in normal use. But vertical grain will allow it to last even longer than that. There's a reason why I specified for my manufacturing partner to use vertical grain through at least the neck region to avoid runout like this example had. ;) And they largely delivered on that front, I'm pleased to say. There were only a handful of them that were off-spec like this one, and the testing was reassurance enough to me that I won't feel bad selling the off-spec ones at a steep discount. These weren't cheap to have made, so I imagine the blems will be more than good enough for a lot of folks who want to save a few bucks. :)
     
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  13. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Here's what the overwhelming majority of the handles are like, per specification. :)

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. flexo

    flexo

    317
    Mar 14, 2013
    it stood longer than i though ! i had one perfect handle once upon a time i stroke upon a felling wedge missed the aim and haft having a hidden knot broke down far more easily than this one!
     
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  15. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Basic Member Basic Member

    866
    Jan 10, 2015
    42- I will say again "to really have any meaning ON VERTICAL GRAIN, you have to repeat the results, identically, with a vertical grain haft"
     
  16. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Doing it once with a horizontally-grained one was painful enough, thanks. :D This isn't meant to be a definitive scientific test of any sort, and I never claimed it to be one. Just showing how much that one handle was able to take despite having the grain running the wrong way and having a lot of runout as a consequence. We know runout is bad. We know that horizontal grain in such a curved shape it going to almost inevitably cause significant runout. We know that vertical grain eliminates that runout. Nothing else really calls for demonstrating in this case. I'm not sure what you think I'd be proving by it...?
     
  17. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Basic Member Basic Member

    866
    Jan 10, 2015
    Yankee Josh-On the Jim Bode mast axe w/ horizontal grain haft--grain orientation on hewing axe hafts does not matter as with a felling/bucking axe. As a matter of fact, as quinton has pointed out, horizontal grain Hickory is strong and has more flex than vertical grain. As I have said before, for full size axes, American Hickory has no equal.

    I also have found axe, hatchet, and adze heads, and other tools, in walls and under early historic buildings that I worked on. I have always felt a connection to the original builders, and these tools mean almost as much to me as my grandfathers tools and my own work tools that I bought my self over 60 years ago. I should add that I also have found hidden notes from early tradesman.

    I want to say something else about the trades. In today's world, when someone uses the word "mechanic" everybody thinks auto repair. In my day, and for many generations, "mechanic" referred to any tradesman who worked with tools. This could be a carpenter, mason, etc., and you would often hear terms like "master mechanic" referring to a talented tradesman. The first definition in Webster Dictionary for "mechanic" is still "a manual worker".
     
  18. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Basic Member Basic Member

    866
    Jan 10, 2015
    42-you could prove the point about why you ordered vertical grain handles instead of horizontal.
     
  19. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    The reason for requesting vertical grain through the neck is to avoid runout. It's not about inherent strength of vertical vs. horizontal grain orientation in wood with continuous grain. And runout is a well-known factor that weakens wood. I don't need to do anything to prove that no/minimal runout is better than lots of runout. Hundreds of thousands of people working with wood and wood-handled hand tools have established that already, so if that doesn't convince anyone, me destroying a perfectly good handle isn't going to sway them. I'm personally indifferent to grain orientation so long as there's not much runout, which is the crux of the matter here. If the grain is horizontal or near-horizontal in this curved of a form, it makes for much more runout than, say, a pick handle or DB axe handle made from the same wood with identical orientation. So by avoiding runout, the vertical grain makes for a stronger handle. That's pretty self-evident and it'd be a waste of a good handle to destroy one for the sake of showing something that's already common knowledge.

    The only thing I needed to prove was that the ones that lacked vertical grain in the neck were still strong enough for most folks to get plenty of use out of them without them breaking at the first mis-strike.
     
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  20. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Forgive me o.p. a little off topic. My mast axe came up and i wanted to share a few thoughts related to what oldaxeman said. Thank you for sharing that info. I haven't found any in walls myself yet. The guy i got this mast axe from tore a short, horse stall wall down and in the wall pocket on the exterior wall was where he found it. Interestingly down the street a few miles from his barn there used to be a small edge tool maker called "Preble and Clark" Sullivan MAINE
    . I have a lipped shipwrights adze with a beautiful stamp of theirs. I've only ever been able to find one other edge tool stamped thus. Davistown museum has a photo of the axe in one of their publications. So i wonder if this was another example of their work. No way to know unfortunately! Barn was built 1830s if my memory serves. Here is the axe. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Long ago i wire wheeled it and it's nice n shiny now. I sharpened it as well. Double bevel. I will make one of those handles for it this summer probably.

    More related to this thread; is it the percussion from repeated whacks that weakens the different grain layers? Or just a physical ripping between the layers?
    Also is it really only runout that causes the issues? Say for instance you had a straight-horizontally grained haft would it be as strong as a straight-vertically grained one?

    Does anyone agree that runout is the issue? Or no and the two are inherently different in strength?
     
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