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Axe handle making, modifications, repair and more

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Maine20, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    A lacquer or varnish will hold up better. Many products sold "tung oil" are actually a blend of oils and wiping varnish. These hold up pretty well.

    Grip tape/friction tape can make up for small swell at the end of a haft. Mostly I just wear grippy gloves now.
     
    Fmont and A17 like this.
  2. Allan DeGroot

    Allan DeGroot

    165
    Jun 15, 2019
    When I last re-hafted my axes I committed what is probably major heresy in this group, I used Fiberglass replacement handles.

    I currently have a hatchet that needs a new handle, but it is an 80 year old Estwing that my grandfather bought sometime in the 1930's and the years have not been kind to the leather washers. (the hatchet was basically unused because sometime in the late 1930's he mis-placed it in the attic where it remained until I found it clearing out the Attic in 1995 while clearing everything out to sell the house outside the family.

    But I am in possession of an 20"x48" piece of 1/2" thick Red Linen Micarta, I was thinking of using a hole saw to cut washers to make a stacked washer handle more durable than leather, it should look snazzy too:)

    If nothing else it should be a good excuse to buy a belt sander...
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  3. Peck Price

    Peck Price

    37
    Sep 28, 2013
    Allan, admission is the first step to recovery...........kidding. My brother actually prefers fiberglass. He and my son have an excavation business and their hand tools stay in the bed of one of the work trucks. I actually have a fiberglass handled Pulaski that I paid the princely sum of $7 for at a flea market. It lives in the bed of my UTV and it has gotten me out of some major jams. Naturally I rib my brother some about the fiberglass but they have had good luck with it. I have never rehandled using fiberglass but it doesn’t seem complicated. I think Micarta would be the ticket for the Estwing. My Estwing from the late 80’s is laying on my workbench. It is there to remind me of my transgressions. I seriously abused and neglected it. The handle is toast. I have rehandled 100’s of tools but the Estwing intimidates me. I have been considering wooden scales custom fitted and epoxy and pins. Maybe some day.
     
    Fmont and A17 like this.
  4. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    I'm curious to know SP, and anyone else that may know, how you feel about the sheen present on a well used axe that has been regularly(yearly) treated with blo? Mine almost have a skin, or film, on them.
    The 3 most often used axes I have in the above condition haven't seen rainy conditions yet but I feel they would repel water quite well. Have you found this to be true? Or no it's just in my head?
     
    Fmont, A17 and ithinkverydeeply like this.
  5. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    This is certainly also a finish, one often neglected, but comes not from any substance applied to the wood it has a name, burnished. Heat and pressure and all kinds of other things go into producing this most attractive surface. Water repellant? Sure, a little bit as you can imagine it.
     
    Yankee Josh, Fmont, A17 and 2 others like this.
  6. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Gold Member Gold Member

    784
    Jan 10, 2015
    Repeated applications of BLO will "waterproof" wood, and even metal. I have a vintage Jackson wheelbarrow. I bought it in 1967-I take care of my tools. I leave it outside uncovered. It is coated, both wood and metal, with the left over BLO because I am too lazy to put the BLO back in the can. This wheelbarrow sheds water like a brand new car. The reason I use the walnut oil/ bees wax/ carauba wax finish on user tool hafts is because I dont like the BLO build up.
    My best BLO story--1987 I was working on the 1832 lighthouse on Ocracoke Island North Carolina. Ocracoke is a barrier island 26 miles off shore in the Atlantic. My crew was housed in the Coast Guard station. I noticed a whole stash of 55 gal barrels of BLO. The Coast Guard coated EVERYTHING with BLO. They had a lift for their vehicles where they sprayed the undercarriage, muffler, tailpipe and all, with BLO. Bottom line was that when locals brought a brand new car back to the island, the muffler and tailpipe would last less than 2 years. The Coast Guard told me they got about 10 yrs out of theirs. Your tax dollars at work! The only problem was that when it was time to spray the undercarriage you could smell, and see the smoke coming off, the fresh sprayed Coast Guard trucks.
     
  7. Allan DeGroot

    Allan DeGroot

    165
    Jun 15, 2019
    Well in my defense at my "heresy trial" I will say that TWO of the three axes were CRAFTSMAN Axes, that I bought at a garage sale with broken fiberglass handles and I was GIVEN the handles by a friend that wanted me to rehang his double bit felling Axe for him with a hickory handle that he supplied.
    (I had to clean it up, de-rust, hang and sharpen it) he had a new wife and a full time job at the time
    and I had free time, so it seemed like a fair deal to me.
     
    A17, Fmont and Yankee Josh like this.
  8. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    823
    Apr 20, 2017
    I'm not surprised, blo or tung that's fully dried is as tenacious as all get out. I let some dry on a white melamine counter once, getting it off was ridiculous. I think it was naptha that finally got it done, if I'm remembering correctly.
     
  9. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    I have not found a BLO finish to reper water well. And if you're using the tool in inclement weather then there's usually dirt mud and grit involved. The BLO finish tends to wear off quickly. For a fairweather axe BLO is great.
     
    Yankee Josh, Fmont and A17 like this.
  10. Old Axeman

    Old Axeman Gold Member Gold Member

    784
    Jan 10, 2015
    My experience is that it takes repeated application of BLO to get water repelency, but it does work. This build up of BLO, that makes it repel water, is exactly why I dont like it for a haft on a heavy use axe.
     
  11. KillerGriller

    KillerGriller

    163
    Sep 4, 2018
    this was s thought I had regarding my top hand which is slid up the haft on the upstroke, and slides down to my bottom hand at the apex before driving the head home; a more slick finish on the back of the handle where the slide occurs for added functionality/comfort? Just a thought...
     
  12. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    I've decided to use my last white ash blank as a helve for the new('39) E&S. This axe is in remarkable shape! The eye is perfect, just huge. 2-5/8"+ on the bottom and 2-3/4" on the top. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    After working 30+ days in a row I said screw it I'm staying home. Sore and tired but this is fun!
    I have yet to cut the kerf and it's about half way seated in this photo. [​IMG]
    As any of you who make handles knows it's not the easiest thing to get it hung exactly as you intended. But I'm taking my time with one. It's gonna be perfect! Haha. Here's what the swell will look like. Thanks for checking out my project! [​IMG]
     
  13. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Yes. It's frustrating when you see things coming together other than as you intended. I've found it helps fit eye to haft as early as possible in the process, hopefully before you have finished shaping the haft or re-profiling the bit. I like to align the bit to the haft and then trace the bottom of the eye on the handle blank with a No. 2 pencil. Watch the twist in the eye as you carve the haft back for it. Then once you have sufficient haft protruding from the eye you can shape both the haft and the bit to align with each other.

    It's a fussy thing. But when done well you end up with an that axe behaves extraordinarily well at work. The chopping is easier and more intuitive with close-to-perfect alignment.

    Also watch how open or closed the hang is. For a general purpose axe the recommendations in Bernard Mason's 'Woodsmanship' are excellent. For an axe mainly used for bucking fallen trees I'll set the hang a tiny bit more closed as it helps to finish the bottom of the cut. This can also compensate for a worn toe. For an axe used mainly for limbing I will open it up just a tad.
     
  14. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    823
    Apr 20, 2017
    Looks like it's gonna be a stunner YJ! That looks like a beautiful piece of ash, as well. Can't wait to see the finished product!
     
  15. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Got it finished. I don't go through quite as many steps as you do SP but I can appreciate why you do. I finish the haft to about 75% and then carefully hang the head to make sure everything lines up. It's worked out well for me except once. So I am careful and thorough these days. I haven't read any info regarding closed or open hangs. What I know about it either was gleaned from this forum or is intuitive. This one is hung slightly closed.
    [​IMG]
    This is how it started; [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] Here's a few prior to final seating. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    That's a 2-1/2" long wedge in a 2-1/2" kerf. So about 2-1/4" is in there which is a good result! [​IMG]
    This axe has a cavernous eye! 2-3/4" is one of the largest sb eyes I've come across. Especially for a 3-1/4lb axe. Should last a good long while and hold up really well.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    This shows the importance of sealing the end grain while seasoning... this is pretty checked.. Also this eye has the infamous bulge in the center of the back so I had to narrow up the tongue length to fit through. Hence the gap at the back. Unavoidable unfortunately! [​IMG]
    A few of the swell. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    It swings true and feels good in hand. Couple that with pride in workmanship and I've had a good day! Have a good one!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  16. ithinkverydeeply

    ithinkverydeeply Gold Member Gold Member

    954
    Dec 17, 2018
    Wow! A thing of beauty. True pride in workmanship. :cool:
     
    Hairy Clipper, Agent_H, Meek1 and 2 others like this.
  17. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    823
    Apr 20, 2017
    Gorgeous man, fantastic craftsmanship
     
  18. Malus

    Malus

    45
    Dec 24, 2018
    Beatifully done! Is there any better feeling in the world, after days of working on a haft, than finally driving that wedge in? I enjoy every step, but finally getting the head on and being able to swing it around a little without fear of the head falling off is the best. I have to say, I am jealous every time you post the shot of the fitment under the eye. It takes a lot of skill with card scraper/sandpaper to transition so smoothly from handle thickness into the eye, skill I have yet to acquire.

    I would say that ash tree had a tough struggle through life before it was cut down! Can't believe how many growth rings there are in there, but I bet it that handle is strong and will last a long time. A white ash I just cut was nearly a foot in diameter at the base and revealed only 30 rings!
     
  19. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Gorgeous!

    Very impressive work. You have really become master of the hang.
     
  20. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Holy crap! All these compliments are starting to get to my head! Haha. I got the hang of it eh?
    Thank you guys. Very kind words and high praise coming from you all. If you are going to take the time to do something you might as well do it right!
     

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