Old Axe vs. New

Joined
Oct 16, 2001
Messages
1,916
Hello,

I have been buying some old axe heads on Ebay, usually U.S. made but some Bruks as well. The brands are stuff like Plumb, Kelly, and Collins.

I have the skill and equipment to clean them up and put good edges on them. My question is this: Do you all consider the steel and heat treat on these old axes better, worse, or the same as what is coming out now? Please include your thoughts on pricier brands like Granfors and Wetterlings. I am not asking about contemporary custom makers.

Thank you in advance,

John
 
Joined
Feb 9, 2008
Messages
1,397
well with the age and some use any defects or minor ship should have shown up and when you clean them up the should be ready to go

Pat
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2010
Messages
114
The old axes are excellent products. They were used in the days when chopping wood was a daily job and any defective ones were weeded out long ago. The survivors have proved their strength and should last indefinitely. Not to say good axes aren't being made today, but an old axe will do most anything required of it for much less investment than the better quality new ones.
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2008
Messages
2,672
In general the older axe heads have a better profile and weight per size than most modern ones in my opinion. Love my old Collins, need to rehandle it though. By the way some older handles have much better shapes than easily available ones today too, again IMO.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2001
Messages
1,916
Thank you for the replies so far.

Since axe handles were mentioned, what are some good options for hanging these things?

1. Who makes good "pre fab" handles?

2. What woods should I be looking at if making my own?

Thanks again.
 
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
836
You can buy axe handles of all sorts at local hardware stores like ACE or Big R if you have those. When making your own I think Hickory is the best example, I don't know if anyone has ever used a different type of hardwood, maybe oak.
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2008
Messages
2,672
http://www.tennesseehickoryproducts.com/index.shtml

These guys have been recommended to me before, but I haven't ordered yet since my handle is still in good shape.

My preference goes to a 3-5lb head on a 28" handle, which can make hanging a bit more labor intensive since most handles that length are boys ax handles with less room for the head. So if anyone else has another supplier please let me know, currently have a 36" link hickory handle on it now.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 9, 2008
Messages
1,397
Thank you for the replies so far.

Since axe handles were mentioned, what are some good options for hanging these things?

1. Who makes good "pre fab" handles?

2. What woods should I be looking at if making my own?

Thanks again.

As far as specie of woods go, hickory is what most handles are made, ash is a very sturdy choice, it used for baseball bats and use to be used for handles. and if you would like to work at is Osage Orange, B'ois D'arc (bow dark) Hedge Apple, all about the same tough as hell yellowish wood the devil used to make the hinge pins for the gates of hell and also used by Native Americans for bows, and farmers for fence posts that last ,bout fer ever.

several other choices but those aren't to hard to get and they can take the shock .

Pat
 
Joined
Jul 26, 2010
Messages
3
From what I've seen old axes cut MUCH better because they are MUCH thinner than modern axes, allowing them to chop like a dream :)
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2021
Messages
16
I agree nothing is better than a older axe head from the 30s if you can get one. I have some super cool Vulcan double bits I’m thinking about restoring but folks want the heads and not handles.
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2013
Messages
706
Thank you for the replies so far.

Since axe handles were mentioned, what are some good options for hanging these things?

1. Who makes good "pre fab" handles?

2. What woods should I be looking at if making my own?

Thanks again.
I've bought house, tennessee, seymore/Link, and do it best handles, and BY FAR in my opinion, the best shaped handles you can buy today are made by Seymore/Link. However, they are very hit or miss and you are best off if you find a store that stocks them so you can pick through what they have. My local ACE used to cary all Link handles but they have now completely switched over to those absolute garbage Truper handles. yuck.

The link handles are the closest to the old handle shapes, diameters, and swells.

House and Tennessee handles are great quality wood, but they are big and fat and horribly shaped with little to no swell. I've tried considering those as "blanks" and to refine them to a good shape, but ultimately the links are better. probably worse quality wood but I find it highly unlikely that a 3-5 lb axe head would ever break any kind of non-rotten axe handle when used properly.

as for making your own axe handle. I believe Ash and Hickory are the preferred woods. I may try black locust one day.
 

eveled

Gold Member
Joined
Mar 11, 2016
Messages
4,668
Nothing like a nice piece of hickory.

New handles are saw cut, the cuts go across a lot of the grain.

Old handles were split and rough shaped with froes and mallets. More of the grain stayed in tact. Running continuously from end to end.

handles made the old way were/are stronger.
 
Last edited:

Square_peg

Basic Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2012
Messages
13,074
It's still posible to find handles cut along the grain. But there's no doubt that the best handles are hand riven, air dried at least 2 years, and shaped to follow the grain either veritcally or horizontally. Vertical grain has the best strength while horizontal grain has the best flexibility. But so long as the grain is continuous either can be excellent.
 
Last edited:
Top