In days past, to replace your axe handle you had to know a carpenter. Now, thanks to modern technology, a replacement handle is just a mouse click away. Choosing a good quality replacement axe handle can prove to be a daunting task. There are different shapes, sizes, and materials. Each of these characteristics is going to affect your axe’s performance.
If you notice your axe handle is becoming a little loose, you may be ready for a new axe handle. This can happen because your handle was still drying out when it was fitted to the blade. Once the handle dries out completely, it will become loose.
Although there are some temporary fixes, like soaking your axe handle in water, nothing is going to permanently fix your problem. The last thing any of us wants to see is your axe head flying through the air. In the best case scenario, you are going to look ridiculous and, in the worst case scenario, someone is going to get hurt.
An axe handle that is not cut properly can also cause unwanted deflection. Choosing the right replacement axe handle can improve your performance and decrease the amount of strokes required.
An axe handle has 5 major parts.
The cheeks are the pieces that go into your axe blade. They are usually split down the middle.
The kerf, or slit, is the split between the cheeks. The term kerf is commonly used to describe the thickness of a saw blade. The kerf on an axe usually has the thickness of a single saw blade.
The wedge is slid in-between the cheeks. This splits the cheeks and adds the extra force necessary to keep your blade attached.
The shoulder is located just below the cheeks on the front of the handle.
The handle is the part you grip when using your axe.
Axe handles today can come in many different materials including wood, steel, and carbon fiber. Wood handles are still the most popular on the market. They provide good results and they are much more affordable than other materials. Before you choose a wooden replacement axe handle, it is important you check a few factors:
- how it’s cut
- what part of the tree was used
- what kind of tree
Tennessee hickory, elm, and ash are the most commonly used woods on the market today and most people consider hickory the premier choice. When looking for a wood handle, you are also going to want to examine the finish.
It is important to note that you should try to avoid a varnished handle. Varnished handles can cause user fatigue, because they are known to start chipping after extensive use. Boiled linseed oil is a great alternative to varnish. You should apply linseed oil to your handle at least once a year. This routine maintenance can help keep your axe handle tight and strong for years to come.
You need to examine the handle to make sure it is all one uniform color. This will help you avoid any knots or discoloration. You should definitely avoid handles that have miss cuts and tool marks. These can significantly weaken your handle.
Grain orientation is also very important. The grains should be very close together. Take a close look to make sure you don’t have any heartwood. Heartwood is the center of the tree and it can be a lot weaker than other parts. You can examine the grain of your handle by looking at it from the bottom. Your axe handle’s grain should be running from the top of the oval to the bottom. This will increase the handle strength.
There are many different shapes you must consider when choosing a replacement axe handle. Splitting mauls and double bitted axes usually have a straight handle, because they are swung in a downward motion. Whereas, falling axes usually have a curve in them. This curve is there to help your hands not slip when chopping large trees or limbs.
Installing a Replacement Axe Head
When replacing your axe handle, it is important that it is as dry as possible. It is recommended to leave your new handle out for 24 hours to ensure it has completely dried. Many times it is necessary to whittle the cheeks a little bit to get a perfect fit. Once you get a good fit you want to hammer the head on.
To avoid damaging the head use a piece of wood to buffer the blow. Place it on the top of your axe head so you can avoid any metal on metal contact. Now you can hammer the wedge into the kerf.
Make sure to get the wedge in deep enough to lock the axe head on. Cut the excess wedge off, making sure it is flush with the axe head.