West handles

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by jblyttle, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. jblyttle


    Sep 3, 2014
    This fine, creamy white piece of hickory arrived today. Here is my review.

    You can't expect to find a nicer handle available for commercial purchase. It is straight, slim, very nicely shaped, symmetrical, has a straight kerf etc etc. Everything that we complain about regarding the general state of handle quality is addressed in this product.

    I support making your own for fun and experience, but the fun and experience are the goal. I can make a serviceable handle that would not embarrass me, but I am not capable of producing the equal of this one regardless of the amount of time that I invested.

    If you need or want to purchase a handle for your next project and you want it to be worthy of your efforts, buy one of these.

    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_191915 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_191957 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_192028 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_192100 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_192111 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_192158 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
    [​IMG]IMG_20180326_192142 by Justin Lyttle, on Flickr
  2. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    Wow, the quality looks amazing.
    It also looks like I could get the fawns foot shape I like out of it if I bought one.
  3. jblyttle


    Sep 3, 2014
    I'm thinking about doing a side by side comparing this with an equal sized House handle that I have. I'm not sure I'm feeling cruel enough.
  4. Miller '72

    Miller '72

    Jul 25, 2017
    Thank you for buying, showing it off and giving us a personal review.
    I have been thinking myself to give West a try, having heard much good talk about him and now seeing the product and hearing your thoughts.
    Thanks for pulling the trigger and the review.
  5. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    It's as good of 'as-is' handle as I've seen. If you want an as-is handle then this is a great choice, maybe the best choice.

    That said, the wood doesn't look any better than Tennessee Hickory Products wood - both being top notch. Such wood is occassionally found in a House or Link handle. I'm looking for white second growth hickory with 5-20 growth rings per inch. I think 12-15 gr/i is premium. That particular piece of wood is closer to 5 gr/i which is great but not premium by my reckoning.

    I'd count myself lucky to find such a handle available commercially.
  6. Drum4fun


    Mar 21, 2018

    That is a beautiful ax handle... very pretty. Today I dropped in to the local
    ACE Hardware and picked this Link Hickory up. I lack the sophistication in
    evaluating that you describe. I thought it was in reasonable "off the rack"
    condition. Feels good in my hands. Please let me know what I overlooked
    in my selection.

    BTW, the fellow at ACE told me they have a hard time getting Link ax handles....
    "they never have any in the "warehouse"". Selection was limited.

    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
  7. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Yes, you can run down the check list and check off all the qualities and that one measures up on the face of it. What about drying I wonder KD or air dried? To be right up front about it as well, the thing that struck me right after I notice the nice light and consistent color was the vigorous sanding to the handle diminishing the features like the shoulder, the swell at the end, though they have as a final treatment provided a crisp bevel there at the end. One thing we all like so much in the Cooper Hills and cityofthesouth handle is the clarity of the lines.

    Drum4fun this handle has some coloring that is eye-catching for sure - you see this streak from top to bottom extending across the thickness - but I would stay away from such wood. It probably is a mineral drawn up into the tree as it grew and the effect depends on exactly what the substance is but could also be an infestation and an indication of a weakness. Actually I am surprised that wood got selected for a handle, musta been one that slipped by. It's the consistency in the handle above that makes it such a high quality wood - if also maybe a bit boring.
  8. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Drum4fun, that axe handle is poor. It's mixed heartwood/sapwood and may fail along the boundary. As Ernest pointed out the streak going down it looks like a weakness.The grain oreintation is not good and it has a high degree of grain runout. Lastly, it's been fire hardened to try to hide its flaws which makes it more brittle and prone to failure.
  9. jblyttle


    Sep 3, 2014
    Tough crowd! ;) Like I said, this may be the best "buy it as it is" handle that you can find. If you are a master craftsman and make your own, nothing can compare.
  10. junkenstien

    junkenstien Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 15, 2017
    Says air dried on ebay.Wish they sold straight and longer ones hopefully they get there.Paying more for the stick than for the steel is tough.
  11. jblyttle


    Sep 3, 2014
    I haven't ever had one in hand, but I know that you like them. I've avoided them because I have heard of sizing discrepancies and that they need to be hit over the head with the customer service manual.
    Square_peg likes this.
  12. cityofthesouth


    Jan 29, 2014
    I'd call this a positive for everybody. Based on what I am seeing of their other products the shape appears to carry over from one length to the next which suggests consistency to me. And that's pretty important in my eyes because it's one of the primary problems with other outfits.
    FortyTwoBlades and Square_peg like this.
  13. Ernest DuBois

    Ernest DuBois

    Mar 2, 2013
    Don't get me wrong and especially now, in light of the clarification over the drying - anyone using air-dried stuff is way out in front, next you'll be telling us they are riven fgs! The softening of the form just comes with the territory when they turn to sanding and besides in large measure we have become conditioned to this look through its widespread use. I think what you've posted represents really an improvement in events (what do I know of these events though anyway?). I agree, not much even comparable with cityofthesouth's stuff though.;) Just wanted it understood, while I stand with all the positiveos here above some healthy criticism cannot be out of place.
    quinton and jblyttle like this.
  14. Agent_H


    Aug 21, 2013
    West handles seem to enjoy the support of the community of the "Axe Obsessed" at large (of which I figure I am a member).

    As far as paying more for a handle than you did a particular axe head might just mean you got a good deal on a head - that is becoming a little less common in many areas. A quality, easy to work piece of pre-shaped wood is what a lot of folks find harder to come by than a good axe head. If you have a gross number of tools to hang for "hangins' sake" - maybe they are a touch expensive. Large producers may have lower prices due to larger stock and shipping contracts than a small outfit.

    The majority of consumers using an axe today have no care for the quality of handle. The casually interested in finer quality care more, the guys posting here have standards well beyond the "norm". The reality is that there is a small number of a very small subset of users who will ever collect, rive to staves, cure/dry, and then carve up their own sticks from a tree.

    Our discussions about how much a guy's time is worth with a skillfully hung axe comes to mind as well...

    I haven't seen one of their handles in person but the idea that it is a small outfit with connections to members here and other places is a plus in my eyes. There is a certain level of accountability being built into their business model whether they/we realize it or not.

    Thank you for sharing what you were sent JB.
    quinton and Square_peg like this.
  15. jblyttle


    Sep 3, 2014
    I agree on head pricing. Even so, if you combine the cost of a premium handle and an excellent vintage head, you can have a tool that is equal to any for under $50. When you consider what some pay for new "premium" axes and hatchets, these prices look even better.
  16. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    They'll be adding longer handles to their line eventually--I just know the owner has been having trouble finding the time to make the patterns for them since he's still dealing with the recovery from having a tornado severely damage his house.
    Batmanacw and Hacked like this.
  17. Drum4fun


    Mar 21, 2018
    Ernest and Square Peg...thank you very much for the input and pointing
    out characteristics that are important in handle selection. As I am just a
    "seasonal" user I hope to get some good use out of this handle. It appears,
    as with most things...you get what you pay for. I try to make a more informed
    decision next time. (might just take it back for a refund). Thanks for sharing the
    knowledge. (ha! I did think it looked cool !).

    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
    Agent_H likes this.
  18. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    I'm blessed to have 2 local suppliers that stock TH products. Nearly every one I see has excellent wood. Many have acceptable grain and a few real gems are usually found. Every single one comes fat as a bat and requires a lot of thinning to be a decent handle. If you're not handy at shaping wood you're better off looking elsewhere. House Handle stuff typically has a decent shape but it's hit and miss with the quality even if you pay for select handles.

    Westwood appears to have both quality wood and an acceptable shape.
    quinton and FortyTwoBlades like this.
  19. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    We can wish it had a nicer fawns foot or we can just acknowledge that they don't come that way anymore and shape our own on the end of that haft. The lack of a shoulder at the eye shows that who ever designed this haft gets it. That is as good or better than anything made today and is top quality in every way.
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.

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