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Thread: How to choose an axe handle that would make Paul Bunyan proud

  1. #1
    Land of a thousand lakes Northern Horseman's Avatar
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    Lightbulb How to choose an axe handle that would make Paul Bunyan proud

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    Their was a time when wood axe handles were made by hand and you could always be guaranteed to get a good handle, but those days are gone.
    I'm a wood carver, I've been working with wood for 31 years and know it's strengths and weaknesses.
    I go into the average hardware store and I see axes and axe handles and I'm lucky if I see one out of 10 that I would buy.

    Very often I see people that work with wood that don't even know the right axe handle to buy. Just the other day I was at my neighbors place, he makes furniture and even kitchen cabinets and he had some spare Axe handles up on the wall that I glanced at, seeing the grain of the wood, I was surprised he had choose them.
    All of them had good potential for breaking or splitting, so not everyone that works in wood knows how to choose a good axe handle.

    So here is what I hope will be a good pictorial representation of the right and wrong way to choose an axe/handle.
    The right axe handle will last years of safe use, also at the end is a good site to show you how to make your own axe handle.

    In the first picture we will look at how the grain should be.

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    Holding the axe with the blade facing strait down. follow a grain line from the center of the axe head all the way to the bottom of the axe handle, if the grain veers off at any point you will have a week spot where the axe will split or crack and break.

    Now lets look at some bad examples, I've put blue arrows to show you the week spots in the grain.

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    The next one shows one good and one bad

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    Now test what you've learned, in this next picture which axe handle would you buy?

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    Follow this link to learn how to make your own axe handle.
    http://northernwoodlands.org/knots_a...wn-axe-handle/

    here is a site thats reviewing some axes and will back up what I'm saying
    Look at his picture to see what I'm talking about (I'm fussier than him)

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    Last edited by Northern Horseman; 03-13-2012 at 02:36 PM.
    The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    I guess i would buy SA.....?
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    Senior Member Sparky93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter63 View Post
    I guess i would buy SA.....?
    Ditto........
    "Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."
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    Senior Member natertot's Avatar
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    SA would be my pick of the litter.

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    Land of a thousand lakes Northern Horseman's Avatar
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    The question I gave was kind of a trick question, by that all of you would receive a C average.

    In the picture of the four axes only (LA) is not worth buying and even that axe would last longer than the examples of bad axes that I gave, because even with the grain going the wrong direction down the side of the axe at least it goes from center of the top to center of the bottom.

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    Another thing to look for is a tight growth ring pattern, here in the first picture above is the example that the axe reviewer posted, if you look at the handle on the left and compare it to my axe handle with the arrows you will see that mine has at least twice the growth rings as his handle.

    More growth rings means more strength, as the tree grew much slower each year. Think of the growth rings as being like laminated plywood the more plies the stronger the sheet, so same with an axe handle, the more growth rings the stronger the handle.
    So even though the handle on the left in the first picture has the grain going close to the right way it is still week compared to the three good handles in this picture.(16CX-SA-14CX)

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    In northern BC we don't find much for hardwood, just the very odd birch tree and lots of scrubby willow, for the walking staffs that I carve I tend to get mine from an area that was damaged by fire, this stunts the growth of the trees so much, that I have to use a microscope to count the rings for some of my Pine staffs.
    For example here is a willow staff I made with a Viking theme that was 47 years old when harvested.

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    Here is a pine spear that I made with the same size shaft as above, but this was harvested when it was 75 years old. As you can see it's not any thicker than the average Christmas tree thats probably no more than 7-10 years old.

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    The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.
    Marcus Tullius Cicero
    (106 BC - 43 BC)

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Are you sure it was a Viking theme? Reminds me of the dog in the movie The Mask.

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    Land of a thousand lakes Northern Horseman's Avatar
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    Well considering that the movie the mask is about a Magical wooden mask of Loki, the Norse god of darkness and mischief.
    Perhaps the artists were influenced by Norse Dragons as I was.
    The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.
    Marcus Tullius Cicero
    (106 BC - 43 BC)

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    Not a Mod finallyME's Avatar
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    Great post. This is a question that I have had for a while now. I know people look for a good handle based on grain, but I didn't know what they looked for. I guess is relates to how my dad showed me how to hold the ol' Louisville Slugger. If you held it correctly, the grain strengthened the bat and you wouldn't break it. If you held it wrong, then you could break the bat.
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    It is a good thread and applies to any type of wooden handle, not just axes. You also want to pay attention if the handle is made from hard wood or soft wood. Soft wood handles can be susceptible to wood worms (I don't know what kind, maybe Crash or someone does. [Powder Post?]) that will turn the handle to a powder inside. I've never seen that happen to a hardwood handle.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    It is a good thread and applies to any type of wooden handle, not just axes. You also want to pay attention if the handle is made from hard wood or soft wood. Soft wood handles can be susceptible to wood worms (I don't know what kind, maybe Crash or someone does. [Powder Post?]) that will turn the handle to a powder inside. I've never seen that happen to a hardwood handle.
    Ya gotta use them, Rick....it's the sitting around that causes worms....LOL.
    Still smarting over the trick question, though.....
    Survival isn't a game...it's what you do when the game goes sideways.

  11. #11
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I know how I got 'em but what about the handles?

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    You are correct with the common name powder post beetles. There are quite a few species (amborsia, lyctid, anobiid, bostrichid, etc). Some attack softwood, some rs attack only hardwood, while others still attack both.
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Well I'll be horn swaggled. I've never seen it in a hardwood handle. But I defer to your experience oh great slayer of all things bug.

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    Not a Mod finallyME's Avatar
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    Rick, just add that to your list of why you don't want to live in Florida.
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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