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Author Topic: Making of an axe handle  (Read 45220 times)

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Offline isawlogs

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Making of an axe handle
« on: January 09, 2008, 08:26:24 PM »
  For those of you who would like to make your own handle(s) out of wood for that axe head that is laying around. I have put together a little how too.

   I use what we call here "Ostryer de Virginie" ( Ostrya virginiana ) Its a hard wood also called ironwood. I saw this 4/4 and let dry for two years. Hickory and white ash are also good wood for handles. I am sure that it is not limited to these type of wood, it is what I use.
 

 We will be needing one of these also. It is a Walter brand axe, these axe's where made in Hull Québec.
 

 I have different templates for different lengths and types of axes. For this axe I will be using a 34 inch fawn's foot axe handle template ( we will get back to the fawn's foot later  ;) )

    


  (  I would appreciate any spelling corrections to be brought to my attention in my learning English thread, Merçi.
    I will make a point to come and edit all corrections here as they are brought up 
  :P )


A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline WDH

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2008, 08:30:27 PM »
Good going, Marcel.  I made a custom axe handle out of hickory m(many eons ago).  It was a lot of work, but satisfying.
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Offline Coon

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2008, 08:46:14 PM »
By the looks of it you got enough material there for a few axe handles.  I'll be watching this thread cuz I know I gotta make few at some point.  Not going to buy any handles because they want nearly the same price as a whole axe.
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Offline isawlogs

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2008, 09:00:40 PM »
  
   My templates have been made of old axe handles that have been broken or that I have gotten with axe's aquired by different means. If the handle had a nice fit to the axe head, felt good, looked right, I made a templateof it. I am cheap  :-\  so I make my templates out of cardboard, simple and easily available. Hey it works.

  The axe I am using here is a 3lbs axe head.


   Once I have the handle chosen for the axe at hand, I outline the template by carefuly making sure of grain orientation. You would like to have the straightest grain possible. The board should be flat sawn and have no defects where the handle will be made. So there could be knots in the board, only not where you put the template down.
 
  

   As you can see here I am able to get a smaller axe handle by using the upper part of the board.
 
    

    You can use anything you have available at this point to cut the template to lenght, I use one of my chainsaws.

    


   Ya I know it's an old one ... I got this band saw on a trade. I made a guy a canoe paddle for it. It works good for cutting blanks out, that is about all it can really do, precision is not it's biggest feature.  ;)

    
 
     We are getting some where now. Here is the template cut out fresh off the band saw.

A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline Dan_Shade

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2008, 09:13:51 PM »
I made many axe handles when I was a youngan...  I found a horse hoof rasp to work very well for rounding everything over after the shape is roughed out.

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Offline isawlogs

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2008, 09:26:00 PM »
 Yes Coon, I can make a few handles out of this board. From start to finish, if I am not the picture taker, holder of whatever... I can get a handle done in about 40 to 50 minutes. Of course that depends on the finish some too.  ;)  This one took almost 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.

   Geting back to business....  First thing to do to the blank is make a refference mark.  ;)

 

   Mark the center of the blank all the way around. It is a very important step it will alow you to cut the excess wood evenly from all around and have a straight handle.

    

 For ruffing out the blanks I use many things, one of my favorites is the grinder with a chainsaw wheel attachement. This will eat wood and what ever it touches....   Do not ask how I personaly got to have this knowledge , just trust me on it being so. You can use what ever you fancie, I have done some with a chain saw, some with a grinder and 36 grit.. ya it is like having crushed stone to remove wood  ;D I have used an axe to do the ruffing in.. You can use a knife if that is what you are into... as long as you have something that will chew some wood off.

 
 

  Here you can see the center line. I always leave it till the last minute, that is the only way to make sure of the axis of the head to the handle.  ;)




  
A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2008, 09:28:47 PM »
Good thread Marcel. Looking great.  :)


What I used to do before I owned any wood working tools, was an ax itself and a bucksaw. I would take a sled into the woods and get a hard maple for my needs. My uncle would use ironwood. He would call it hornbeam, same thing. I would haul my maple home and split it green with the ax and a maul. Then I would carve out the new handle with my sharp ax. It was more work than the saws, but I was in no hurry. I found a spare one I made sitting up on the shop shelf. I still have the first ax handle I made in my old ax. That was at least 20 years ago.  :)

Mom's uncle make a lot of tool handles, including ax handles, from ironwood. That's all he used. My uncle used to keep him in business making handles, as he would bust up ax handles like no one else I seen. He used to split 4 or 5 cords every April for the kitchen stove.
Move'n on.

Offline isawlogs

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2008, 09:51:06 PM »
   Now that we have a center line, have used something to ruff out the blank, we need to start and polish it up some.

  

  

   Again many things can be used here, a file, a sander, anyhting that can polish up the mess you just made  :)  I like using these the top one is the one I start with, I set the blade to take a good bite, it takes less pulls to geterdone, then I will use the second one, this one is my great grand fathers spoke shave, it was broke when it got to me, but had both peices in the box. I took it and welded it back together with stainless steel rod. It is my favorite spoke shave.

    

   Shaping of the fawn's foot  ;) ( It gets its name from the shape it will take ,( you can put many shapes to the end of the handle , this is one of many ).  once the handle is all carved and the head is set, I will sometimes carve out the foot of a deer in the handle. )
   First I start with holding on to the handle and tracing the outline of the palm of my hand.
 
 

   I will use suttle lines and start to carve out the foot.

  

   I will use a draw knife at times near the foot, the grain change of direction here is hair pulling. This particular knife is a push or pull knife, it is short and narrow and is a nice tool for this end of the handle.

A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline isawlogs

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2008, 10:17:14 PM »
 The business end of the handle is what we take care of now.

 

 What is needed now is to locate the axe head to the handle in order to carve it out. I will use the center line and then draw out the axe  head hole onto the handle ( look at the pic )

  

    After shaping the head with the grinder, the spoke shave is used to touch it up a bit.  

 

 

  I will make a few dry runs and make sure of fit as I work the head in. To remove the handle, do not wack on the axe while having the handle in a vise .... use a punch to drive out the handle from the axe. To put the axe into the handle, use a wooden mallet, tap the axe lightly into the head, then turn the handle and with the mallet wack the foot, the axe will seat itself if the size of the head is correct. We have seated the axe and are satified that it is well seated.

    

    We will be needing a wedge to hold all of this together. In order to do this, we need another reference point. Mark where the axe is on the head of handle, ( red mark on the pic ) rull of thumb is 2/3 of the lenght of axe is the lenght of wedge, here it is give or take 3" so we will need to cut 2" for the wedge, band saw is good for me, any saw with a narrow kerf can do the job.

   

   Not the best looking wedge but will do the job quite well. Once it is cut off and polished up it will look real good. 

A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2008, 10:24:28 PM »
  The wedge in place, you should have an axe to show  8) 8)

   

  Oh, before putting the Axe into head, clean a spot on the cheek to sign and date your peice of art .  ;)  It will be there for as long as the axe stays on the handle.
A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline pigman

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2008, 10:46:02 PM »
 8)  I always wanted to make an axe handle. Now I have an idea of how to do it. Great lesson Marcel.
Things turn out best for people who make the best of how things turn out.

Offline metalspinner

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2008, 11:01:21 PM »
Well done! 8)

What is the best way to get the old bit of wood out of the head?  That has been a pain for me once. ::)
I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline Furby

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2008, 11:03:16 PM »
I drill holes in it and then drive it out Metalspinner.

Offline jrokusek

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Re: Making of a(n) axe handle
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2008, 11:04:42 PM »
Great tutorial!  Now I have a hankering to make a handle too......

Offline Bow Saw

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2008, 11:28:22 PM »
Marcel,
I can see that you enjoy teaching also! :D
It is great that you're willing to share your skills and ideas on how to make an axe handle.  You certainly have put a lot of effort into that project. :)
Mrs. Bow Saw

Offline isawlogs

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2008, 12:25:10 AM »
 
What is the best way to get the old bit of wood out of the head?  That has been a pain for me once. ::)

   Cut the handle at the axe, then set the axe in a vice upside down, clamp it good , wack the wood out from bottom to top using a punch slightly smaller then the opening that the handle is in . The eye of an axe is larger at the top then at the bottom ( this is for the wedge to expand the head of the handle and lock it in place )
  So you wack below the wedge , not on the wedge to get the wood out . 
A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline flip

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2008, 07:16:52 AM »
 smiley_clapping smiley_clapping smiley_clapping

Excellent job!
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Offline woodbowl

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2008, 11:29:51 AM »
Yea buddy, that's a good looking axe handle Marcel. What about the type of wedges up your way? Do you use hard wood, soft wood and do you use, or even need a lock? (metal wedge)

I've heard different things here in Fla. Some of the old timers like to use softwood wedges, but I don't know why. Then a couple of metal wedges are driven in the end at 45 to lock in the wood wedge and spread it the other direction.

An axe head sucks water quite a bit around here and dries out quick too, next thing you know ya got a loose axe head no matter how tight it was to start with. I've even thought about soaking it in antifreeze for a while to maybe fix this problem. Anybody had any success with something like this?
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Offline isawlogs

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2008, 01:10:58 PM »

 woodbowl,
  I use hardwood for wedges, usualy would be from same board as the handle was cut out of. I cut the wedge on the band saw, that is why the wedge on this axe is in two peices. I could buy them I guess and they would be wide enough. I'm just to cheap for that  ;D
 I seldom put locks on my wedges, as far I know it don't help all that much, if you are affraid of the axe head taking flight pin it through the axe into the handle , like the competition axe are.  ;)

  When your head (axe) gets loose and dry have you tried to rewedge it and letting it soak in linseed oil ??? 
 I once had an axe that for the life of me I could never get that axe to stay tight on that handle , till I did the above , now don't really know enough about your temps down there to think it might work , but maybe worth the try. 
  I will try the antifreeze next time  :P :P

   
A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

   Marcel

Offline woodbowl

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Re: Making of an axe handle
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2008, 02:02:16 PM »
Every handle on everything we have is loose, or getting loose. The kids use the rake hoe and shovel a lot and leave them scattered all over the yard. I tried a little motor oil on a hoe handle a few years ago, but can't really tell if it helps. A sledge, axe or pick handle would be a better test bed. We have rot too. The wood stays wet in the ax head, a miss lick is made, hitting the handle and then it breaks. Coppertox is a brush treatment in the can that I have been meaning to try. I'd like to try soaking it in coppertox for rot, let dry for several months, then maybe soak it in oil.
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