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Wood for axe handle

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by JakeKnives, Oct 12, 2018.

  1. JakeKnives


    Jul 5, 2018
    I am new to axe restorations and picked up two old heads for $2. and I am wondering what wood I should use for a handle, But I have no access to Hickory in my area.
    Square_peg likes this.
  2. survivor45


    Feb 15, 2018
    Are you planning on making the handles yourself?
    Ash is one used a lot. Not sure what part of the country you live in but If you can find a good lumber store or a wood worker store. They should have a good selection of wood.
    Yankee Josh and JakeKnives like this.
  3. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    What types of hardwood trees are in your area? Besides ash which is a good choice, rock maple or other hard maple can make an acceptable handle. Black locust is great wood for handles though it has a tendency warp while drying. But if you find a good straight piece it can make an excellent handle. Plus it's rot resistant. Honey locust, birches and beech can all serve as decent axe handles. Osage orange is another excellent choice if you can find a long straight piece.

    Have a look at this chart.

    I think the key figure is the modulus of rupture - breaking strength. You'd like to stay above 9000 lbs. per inch^2, but can make do with down to 8000.

    Modulus of elasticity will make the handle more comfortable to use and more shock absorbing.
  4. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2017
    What size axes are we taking about? Pretty much any woodworkers supply store that carries lumber like Rockler, Woodcraft, a local similar place, etc. should have hardwood suitable to the task. Probably including hickory. I was in a Woodcraft several weeks ago and there was plenty of hickory, from 4/4 boards to big live edge slabs.
  5. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    When you fill in what you want to do Jake, and where you are it makes it more interesting. For example, do you want to run down to your local box store to get handle wood of go out in the hills looking?
    Uncle Timbo and Yankee Josh like this.
  6. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    I agree with Ernest. We gotta know where you are generally speaking. Plus if you go out in the woods and cut a tree down you'll have to buck it, split it, make a blank and wait a year anyway before its seasoned. I would recommend doing this! But in the meantime order some nice hickory hafts. I have had very good results from white ash, red oak, rock maple and white birch for smaller heads will do. A lot of lumber stores, even smaller ones, stock 2x4's in hard maple and red oak. Good luck man!
    Uncle Timbo likes this.
  7. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    In addition to those already mentioned, beech and oak can also be used. Oak is less-preferred to other options and white oak is preferred over red, but I have some red oak handles and they've done fine.
  8. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 10, 2015
    The three most common haft woods that I have found on vintage (1700-1950) American, full size axes are: Hickory (my choice), with White Oak and Ash tied for second. Historic American axes have had Hickory hafts about 75% of the time with White Oak and Ash combined at 25%.
  9. jblyttle

    jblyttle Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 3, 2014
    Also note that hatchets and hammers are %100 less fussy about the handle wood than full sized striking tools like axes.
  10. AndreLinoge


    Nov 20, 2014
    Get your ash wood now. In 5 more years it will be mostly gone from market.
  11. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Seasoning isn't as important as people think, at least not for a simple user handle. Forum member G-Pig used to regularly make axe handles from green wood and they held up well enough for him. Perhaps leave the wedge a little long so it can be driven even deeper for a couple months.

    The biggest problem with hanging on green wood is warpage. You can't predict how a piece will dry.
    Uncle Timbo, Moonw and Yankee Josh like this.
  12. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Interesting! Pray tell, what kind of wood was he using?
    As you mentioned shrinkage was the problem i ran into with wood not properly dried. The top of the eye was an easy fix but its the bottom of the eye that is the problem. Once loose you've got to remove the head completely and reshape etc. Personally, I'll never again take the time(waste the time in my opinion) to hang an axe on an un- seasoned haft.
  13. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    G-pig wrote in another thread, "Ive never had Ash warp, nor have I had Birch warp, despite carving both green. Sugar Maple will warp very readily, but I keep the handles hung and out of the sun..."
    How G-pig makes handles:
  14. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    This, (G_Pig method), is definitely a deviant approach and I would be weary of adopting it until I was 100% certain of all variables involved.
    Yankee Josh likes this.
  15. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    I read the post. Sounds like g-pig has a method that works for him! But i must respectfully disagree. But only with the drying and oiling part. From my experience it's not worth my time to do something twice. And while i do agree that ash does shrink more that hard maple, maple shrinks too! Everything shrinks once dry, it only stands to reason. And I'm aware that oil from your hands does leach into the wood but, if you're like me and have 4 or 5 dozen axes(at least) you can't swing em all! So i oil em with blo. The other info in his post was spot on though and i appreciate him taking the time to make it and share. The only reason i mention this at all is because i don't want newcomers(like the op of this thread) to put their all into a green haft and be disappointed in a week or two once it comes loose. Its discouraging and has happened to me! Just my two cents.
  16. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
  17. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Above you'll find my words below the quote of G-pig. I don't usually use the "quote" feature and i somehow messed it up. Lol.
  18. David Martin

    David Martin Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 7, 2008
    Haa. We've gone on with help for a couple of days now and Jake hasn't even returned. DM
    JakeKnives likes this.
  19. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2017
    Working with green wood is a pleasure, but other than for rapidly getting an axe hung for immediate service I'd stop at splitting to rough dimensions. We all know shrinking and checking and warps and bows happen in spite of whatever wood gods one prays to. I'm in Yankee Josh's camp, the time saved working with green wood is offset by a bend or warp etc that it's not worth it to me. I know my "do it right once" method and mantra, but different folks different strokes. That said I'd reiterate that a green handle probably isn't best practice for the uninitiated.
    Uncle Timbo likes this.
  20. Kevin Houtzager

    Kevin Houtzager

    Jun 25, 2017
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
    Moonw likes this.

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