Wood for Ax Handle

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Adventure Wolf, Sep 15, 2012.

  1. rjdankert


    Mar 10, 2011
    Not sure who you directed the question to or where you are located. I am in SW Michigan. For information here is a price list from a mill that I get wood from:

    I've highlighted the price date and some items with blue. The current prices are close, if not the same. They saw their own logs and kiln dry the boards. They saw their boards thick enough so that after they shrink you get as much or more that you pay for. You can also select the boards yourself.

  2. ScooterJammer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Ditto on the 'Elm' suggestion. I have a Carving Axe and an historic Viking Battle Axe reproduction with beautiful Elm Hafts. Both of which have been soaked for 24-hours in a mix of Tung Oil and Citrus Solvent. I love Elm! But, as was mentioned earlier, "There's nothing like a good piece of Hickory."

    One day I'd like to try 'Desert Iron-Wood' for a Haft. I love the figure. I have several knife handles made from it. Although, I don't know if you can find it in large enough pieces to make a Hatchet or Axe Haft?

  3. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Another fan of elm here. It's beautiful and it's tough. Not as good as hickory for an axe handle. But it's great wood.

    I'm curious, did you get your tung/citrus mix from Realmilkpaint? I've been wanting to try that stuff.
  4. ScooterJammer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Mr. Square_peg...I have the RMP 50/50 Tung/Citrus mix I use for my own bowls and spoons. It's great stuff and smells nice for a few weeks until the Citrus Solvent completely out-gasses. However, both my Carving Axe and Viking Battle Axe reproduction came that way. I asked the Maker what the his 'secret sauce mix' was and he was kind enough to tell me: 70%-Tung Oil and 30%-Citrus Solvent. You could get some straight Citrus Solvent and add it to the RMP 50/50 and create your own 'secret sauce'.

    The European Elm, with the 70/30 Tung/Citrus treatment, brings out the reds, blacks, browns and even blonde in the wood's grain. Simply stunning! His technique is to soak the entire Axe after the Head has been attached and the wedge in-place for 24-hours. He says, it swells and seals the wood, so it will never shrink. I'm not sure I buy the whole, 'never shrink' part, but I would say the Haft is certainly well protected and will last a long time.

    All in all, this is my GOTO woodworking project treatment.

  5. jstare


    Oct 6, 2015
    Do you always buy 8/4 lumber? Unless you want a massive knob on the end 6/4 should be more than thick enough lumber, with a lot less wasted material.
  6. rjdankert


    Mar 10, 2011
    First my response was to this question:
    It was just a sugestion on where to look for wood. If Hickory logs were readily available to me, they would be my first choice. If thicker than 8/4 stock were avaiable, that would be my second choice. As far as 8/4 vs 6/4 "wasted material" question goes I think it is up to the individual to decide what will work best for them.

    Cost comparison of blanks using the price sheet I posted. One board foot is one foot wide, one foot long, and one inch thick.

    12" x 12" x 1" = 144" cu
    Hickory @ $5/bf = $5/144" cu

    Cost for blanks 3"w x 36"l:

    8/4 board: 3" x 36" x 2" = 216" cu
    216 x $5/144 = $7.50

    6/4 board: 3" x 36" x 1.5" = 162" cu
    162 x $5/144 = $5.63

    $7.50 - 5.63 = $1.87

    So 8/4 stock for a full size handle is about $1.87 more than 6/4. Probably a big deal for a manufacturer. As a hobbiest making a few handles, not much. But besides the pride in making your own, why make a handle at all? I suspect because of the poor quality so often expressed on this forum for mass produced handles.

    Some thoughts on blank size, assuming you are starting with a 8-12 inch wide boards.

    A 6/4 board is thick enough to make a handle. But how many "good" (grain runs the way you want it) handles are in that board?

    An 8/4 board will allow a larger knob. More important to me is that the thicker stock will be easier for me to get the grain orientation for the handle I want. Both grain direction related to the axe head and grain runout. There is more wood to play with.

    These are just my thoughts. How the two thicknesses net out I don't know.

  7. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    I like a swell 1-5/8" wide. Nobody makes them like that anymore - but they used to. 6/4 won't do it.
    Miller '72 likes this.

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