Home made axe handles

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Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 7:49 am

I have been making some of my own axe handles for a couple decades now, my local wood choices are limited to green ash ( indistinguishable wood difference compared to white ash) a couple oak species, hard maple, hop hornbeam (difficult to find but hard as hickory), white and yellow birch. Birch is most common, but due to its softness is only suitable for long socketed axes, such as Vintage Finnish axes, which were designed to use birch if necessary.
This first handle is birch, for a Finnish axe, a 1938 Kellokoski, forged in the Mariefors forge for the Finnish army, it is a 12-1 in size. That is one of the Finnish size designations. 12-1, 12-2 and 12-3 descending in size from the largest and formerly most popular 12-1, which is a general purpose felling axe.
Here is the head. Beneath it is a 12-3, a boys axe or pack size axe
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Here is the tree that had the proper curve, partially hewed in place
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Here the piece of wood is at home, roughed out a bit along with a similar one of hard maple
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I'll have to figure this out, the pics are not posting correctly
Attachments
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Dale Torma
 
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 8:24 am

This particular handle pattern was from a Finnish Army manual. Many Finnish handles were severely curved, historical records indicate the curved handles had been used in Finland and other northern countries for centuries, contrary to what some people are writing today.
I don't wish to get into a debate on straight vs curved handles, I, however, believe people that used an axe all day every day, had good reasons for the design of their axes and handles. As you will notice in this thread, many things about a Finnish axe are counter-intuitive to our present axe knowledge. If I could read Finn, I might be able to shed some light on this.
Anyway, anecdotal evidence supporting my preference of curved handles, my wrists are less sore after splitting large amounts of firewood with an axe with a curved handle. I believe this is due to the position of the wrists at the moment of impact. With a curved handle, the wrist is more flexed at the beginning of the swing and less flexed at the moment of impact, compared to a straight handle. Otherwise I can't tell a difference right now. I have straight and bent single bits, and use them all.
Dale Torma
 
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Gavin Longrain » May 14th, 2016, 10:37 am

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Location: Dalbeattie, near Dumfries, Scotland

Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 10:56 am

I will try just one attachment per post, and see if that works.
Here is the handle after a couple weeks of drying, roughed out and the warps straightened
image.jpg
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 5:04 pm

After some work with a drawknife, spokeshave and puuko
image.jpg
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 5:09 pm

Fitting the handle into the odd tapered socket. Surprisingly it is very hard to remove for more carving, the taper for the long socket of a vintage Finnish axe is very counterintuitive. Between fittings, I have to use a hardwood drift to drive the handle out of the socket.
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The hafting angle is too closed for my liking so I have to change the angle a few degrees by making a pattern of the fitted end and tracing it farther down the handle rotated a few degrees
Last edited by Dale Torma on May 14th, 2016, 6:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dale Torma
 
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 5:13 pm

Here is what the fitted taper looks like, and the redo of the angle.
The bit was steered straight so the edge lines up with the center of the bottom of the handle.
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I have a bit of room to work, with a factory handle sometimes you are stuck with what you get regarding the angle of the bit in relation to a plane from the butt of the handle to the bit
Dale Torma
 
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 6:24 pm

After refitting the handle, I sawed the kerf for the wedge and another for a cross wedge. The main wedge kerf was about 2/3 as deep as the socket. I use heartwood jack pine wedges mostly, they work well and stay in. I have had hardwood wedges come out at times. Anyway, I soak the axe end of the handle in hot pine tar, heated on a double boiler, I also heat up the head on the woodstove to expand it slightly. Not hot enough to affect the temper. The pine tar helps seal and lubricate the wood, and preserves it from rot. After a soaking in hot pine tar, the handle goes in quite a bit farther.

The pine wedge does an amazing thing when driven tight. The early wood rings compress and the late wood rings dig it, locking the wedge in place with a scalloped interface.
image.jpg

I learned to use pine wedges from writings about what the Finns used, they used fat wood pine wedges the pitch melt with the friction of driving the wedge and glues it in place.
Dale Torma
 
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 6:30 pm

After wedging, I had to try the axe. I found a 17" thick birch on my property that was starting to die at the top. I aimed the notch to work with the wind. The notch turned out a little bit oversized.
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With this large of a tree, I had to start with one notch above the other, knocking the wood out between. Chips in birch pop better in the cold winter and I don't sweat as much
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Re: Home made axe handles

Postby Dale Torma » May 14th, 2016, 6:42 pm

It didnt take much chopping on the back side to fell the tree.
image.jpg

The old axe is back in business after a 77 year rest!
The axe works very well, it weighs 5 lbs 6 ounces with the handle, 30 inches total length.
The handle needs the butt trimmed and sanded, then some boiled linseed oil, heated and mixed with some pine tar for a nice finish.
The tree and axe reminded me that I am not 19 years of age any more. But I enjoy it.

No power tools at all were used in this project. Just an axe, drawknife, spokeshave, and a sharp knife.

The tree will be milled into benches and an axe rack
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