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West Woods Handles

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Hacked, Jul 11, 2017.

  1. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
    So a friend of mine has been working on bringing some handles to market. He met an Amish wood worker through work who made some smaller handles on a copy lathe and finishes them on a belt sander. He's been working on getting templates for additional sizes available so we have options not currently available in high quality handles. He made the templates for 20" and 24" handles himself. A 28" boys axe based on a NOS Link handle is in the works, as well as a full sized 28" based on an old Elwell (English axe company, top notch axes) handle. There will probably be additional options in the future if things go well.

    I have been talking with him about this project for a while. He's put a lot of time, money, and effort into getting templates together, working with the maker to ensure they are high quality, and purchasing stock to get things going. A while back he sent me a 14" and a 18" to check out and get my opinion on, mainly because I'm very picky about axe handles for my personal axes. These are probably the best current production handles I've had the chance to get my hands on.

    Here is the 14" hatchet handle compared to a vintage haft on my favorite carving hatchet. The vintage haft is very thin with an excellent palm swell/fawns hoof.

    [​IMG]Hatchet Handles by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Hatchet Handles 2 by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]14" with vintage by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    I added in a 16" hatchet handle from House Handles to the mix.

    [​IMG]Hatchet Handles 3 by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    You can see just how much of a fat club the House Handles are from the factory here. The one sent by mister West in comparison has far more in common with the vintage haft.

    [​IMG]HH VS Amish by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]HH VS Amish by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    Here is the 18" haft compared to a 19" house axe handle from House Handles. Keep in mind that the HH handle here is sized for a full sized eye. Still the comparison is night and day here.

    [​IMG]CT VS Amish by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]CT VS Amish by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Palm Swells by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    Here is the 18" next to a Council Tools Boy's Axe handle. CT is known for having nicely shaped handles, and they are a cut above a lot of the competition. You can see that the 18" is a slimmer handle though both are nicely shaped.

    [​IMG]Shoulders by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    Here is a comparison of the shoulders on all of the different handles. Left to Right, 16" HH, 18" West Woods, 28" CT, 14" West Woods

    And some pictures of the finished product after hanging two heads on the handles.

    14" handle on a Plumb National BSA hatchet head

    [​IMG]BSA National Side by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]BSA National BSA Stamp by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]BSA National Profile by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    [​IMG]BSA National Side in Block by MJGEGB, on Flickr
    schmittie likes this.
  2. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
    Bimjo and Agent_H like this.
  3. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Nice handles and I applaud your friends efforts. It would be great to see first quality handles made again. We need to get your friend some patterns with a long fawnsfeet that can be cut to angle after they comes off the lathe. To be able to buy something like COTS makes would be amazing.
  4. Sjostygg


    Oct 6, 2013
    Would your friend be interested in getting a handle pattern for a 28-30"~ full size from an old Legitimus axe? If so please PM me and we'll get the details sorted.
    Yankee Josh and Hacked like this.
  5. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    I may be able to provide a slim 28" NE Handle Co handle.
    Agent_H and Hacked like this.
  6. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
    I'll ask about what templates might be needed for future patterns. Since there was some interest in the templates I went back through our conversations and grabbed some pictures of the templates he has worked on or found.

    [​IMG]West Woods Handles by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    Here are the original templates for the 20" and 24" that he made himself. Also in the picture is a NOS Link 28" boys axe handle that was used to create the template for the 28" boys axe handles. I believe these will be available soon.

    [​IMG]West Woods Handles by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    In this picture is a full sized 28" Elwell handle, note the Bondo to fill in the gaps for using it as a template ;-) Also two prototype 28" boys axe handles based on the Link above. Apparently the finished product will be right between the two. The maker can only go so thin while maintaining consistency on his lathe, but I think the outcome will be quite nice.
    schmittie and Agent_H like this.
  7. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
  8. Whiskey_Jim


    Feb 21, 2017
    Flip flops in the axe shop.

    My man.

    Does batman post here?
  9. Moonw


    Nov 19, 2014
    Is it too dangerous even for taking pictures in some? :p
  10. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    where can i buy these
    jblyttle likes this.
  11. Whiskey_Jim


    Feb 21, 2017
    phantomknives likes this.
  12. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
    Haha, personally I perfer my Crocs. Haven't trusted flip flops since spraining my ankle in a pair a few years back.

    As for where to get them yea searching eBay for West Woods handles should bring up his listings. He's looking to see if he can find a distro for them at some point as well.
    junkenstien likes this.
  13. junkenstien


    Feb 15, 2017
    Crocs really make you pay attention when your chopping.sure hope your buddy makes big handles can't find 40 or 42 inch handles.
  14. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
    i prefer generic leather-ish slip ons, mostly water proof and break in pretty fast
  15. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    You're (or he is) definitely on to something. These are custom handles and there's no reason why customers shouldn't be able to submit their own blanks on top of this. It's a labour of love (and elbow grease) to whittle your own and if for the sake of $50 you can mail off a piece of what-you-believe-is-perfect wood and receive a mostly finished handle that would be wonderful.
    Only minor suggestion I have is for him not to bother sawing the wedge kerf.
    Square_peg likes this.
  16. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Hacked, I know this is probably premature or even a non-issue for most but there is a hole in the market for certain handles. After reading 300Six's post above there, I got to thinking.

    1. The over-sized eye handles for the older import Swedish heads,
    2. broad axe handles that are not 36" long,
    3. the Russian Topor style eyes,
    4. the D-shaped German style eyes,
    5. and of course the Finnish socket style eyes.

    I have tried contacting two distributors for current production handles for the Kemi in Finland and neither will ship to the US nor will they share where they are coming from. This is fine as I can make a handle but most folks can't, they could but don't know where to start, or don't have the time - we all know that story.
    @Kevin Houtzager also has experience with those modern production handles and says they are pretty hit or miss and not always made from good materials or that they are shaped improperly.

    Oh, and let's not forget all those Frisian axes popping up everywhere ;)!

    Some of those above mentioned handles would need originals made for copies - that might be a constructive project to have go on here as well.

    Batches of any of those handles in Hickory would surpass what is available for most of them.
    Square_peg and Kevin Houtzager like this.
  17. cityofthesouth


    Jan 29, 2014
    I'd be happy to make a pattern or two for you. odell dot studios at gmail dot com.

    Also, what do they look like straight off the lathe? I dunno about the rest of you but in my case, just getting a decent piece of wood is hard enough, I really don't need a finished handle. A guaranteed good piece of wood roughed into a handle shaped object with plenty of material for the swell, would be 100x better than anything we have available now.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  18. mhutch

    mhutch Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 1, 2015
    Found him on ebay and ordered a 24" handle. Excited to see how it compares to others. Thus far I've been happiest with handles from Beaver Tooth but they are a bit thicker than I prefer sometimes.
    Agent_H likes this.
  19. Kevin Houtzager

    Kevin Houtzager

    Jun 25, 2017
    Uhm, more then a bit of experience actually:
    1. I made the one for the danish axe. Triangular shape you won't find anywhere.
    2. These are difficult. I just make them myself, as I haven't found a company that makes these.
    3. I know the type of axes you are talking about. I've seen them just as Japanese axes with square/rectangular handles. But i dont know where to get them.
    4. D-shape handles: I could get you those. But you need to look for the big ochenkopf handles or the ILTIS/oxhead ones. They should have the D shape, but only in full size. eeven regular german axes dont use these anymore, so its a dying breed.
    5. You need to be careful with the finish ones. I have an original handle. But I also had a couple of reprodction ones: Those tend to be horrible. They or to wide, so when splitting you will hit the handle on the wood if the axe goes through the wood. Besides that, those axes weigh something in the 2,5 pound and up range. Birch could be fine if it was grown close to Lapland in hars climates, but not the birch from the warmer climates, where it grows much faster. It's also colder in that region, so that makes wood a little harder in general. When you use it in warmer climates (lets face it, thats almost everywhere else) I really wouldn't recommend those birch handles. It's just to soft for the weight of the axe! You best bet would be to reproduce one of hickory or ash. Way stronger material!

    So yeah, there really is al whole market, because it's kinda no existend to find the right handles!
    Agent_H likes this.
  20. 300Six


    Aug 29, 2013
    Ain't that the truth! It's largely unaffordable for an ordinary Joe to commission an entirely hand-made product modelled on a classic haft but there are lots of folks on here that know how to select and judge blanks and could be prompted to produce/provide some for others, and having a copy-lathed handle made out of one of these would certainly reduce time and effort to result in a premium product.
    Back when I was 18 years old and actually working full time with an axe I went through commercial axe handles 'like poop through a goose' but half century later (and now for recreational use) a premium air-dried piece of wood with an optimum fit would last more than a lifetime and it wouldn't bother me at all financially to support such an endeavor.
    quinton, garry3 and Agent_H like this.

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