The axe is one of the most durable tool both literally and figuratively man has ever invented. It has been around for millennia and used for a variety of ways i.e. for wood cutting, harvesting timber, as a weapon, for ceremonial rites, you name it, it has been around and there are lots of other ways that we have been using it for.
Having said that, it’s not really every day that you get a chance or a need to repair it, it’s a simple straightforward tool that comes in handy for everyday tasks, it only has two main parts, the head and the handle, and this article will give you a step by step guide on how to replace an axe handle.
This here is a DIY guide, you can always get a professional or any woodworker to do this for you or you can always just go buy a new axe entirely, but where’s the fun in that? If you’re hardcore like us then read on!
Step 0 (Pre-replacement):
Look for a new handle.
Your local hardware store is most likely carrying a variety of standardized axe handles. There are varying sizes so you go need to look which one fits yours but as always if you’re just super hardcore DIY you can always go make even your own handle but take note that that would require a lot of work and accuracy in terms of the measurements.
- Get Hickory or Ash (highly recommended)
- Don’t buy a handle with varnish on it already and get a handle that is bright white in color
- You shouldn’t be able to push the handle pass the eye by an inch, this will prove useful later on for accurate stability when we’re fitting it in your blade.
Remove the old handle.
[Identifying whether you axe’s handle needs replacement is important to prevent untoward incidents]
- Cut the handle short if it’s not already, saw it off.
- You can either then push the handle out of the hole or eye of your axe out by using a chisel, or by drilling two holes into the tip of the handle through the eye before doing so.
- Make sure to clean the hole of your axe with sandpaper.
Fit your new handle.
[Kerf – refers to the saw wedge on top of your handle]
- Many axe handles from your hardware store have a pre-made kerf on it, this part is important as it will tell you the point as to how deep your handle needs to go. Mark it with a pen or pencil to have that visual reference you would need.
- You may need to give it a few tries before you get the exact fit for your handle, remember to only use a piece of blunt wood and not a metal hammer when pushing it in as it could easily damage your new handle, you can use your old handle for this even.
- Shave off a part of the handle if it doesn’t fit in correctly at first or you’re not up to the part you marked for the kerf or the tapered area of the handle. Use a wood brass or sandpaper if possible and be careful when using power tools as always.
- Cut the part of the kerf that’s sticking out accordingly after the fit. Also, shorten the; handle if necessary.
Insert your wedges.
[Wedges – secures your handle in place when you insert it on your kerf once the handle is fitted. These would also normally come with the handle]
There’s more than one way to do this next step. What we are going to illustrate is the most recommended and trusted way to secure your handle and prevent any accident from happening, your axe head dislodging from your handle is the last thing we would like to happen especially when you’re out working with it.
- Take your wood wedge, put wood glue on it, desirably around the bottom half that you’re going to fit into the kerf. Seat the wedge by using a blunt piece of wood.
- Saw off the part of the wedge or handle when necessary, leave about an 8th of an inch. Use sandpaper to smoothen the top accordingly.
- Then, install metal wedges. For smaller axes it’s fine to just use one metal wedge to secure the handle in place and it’s recommended that you install it in a certain angle, diagonal if possible to give enough stability. For larger axes it’s recommended that you install two metal wedges.
- Make sure to center both your metal wedges and hammer them down with the proper distance off each other, try not to install a metal wedge on the narrow part of the hole, keep it nearer the center of it.
- Use extra wood glue to further stabilize your handle in place, just put some on the edges of the hole.
- Saw off protruding wedge when needed. You probably don’t have to when you did a really good job of it.
Coat your handle for protection.
[Extra tip: Use boiled linseed oil for coating]
- Use sandpaper to smoothen the handle. Just the right grip perfect to your liking.
- Use mineral oil to coat your handle for additional protection. You can use your hands with a plastic glove on instead of a rag for a more economical way of applying oil.
- Not just for aesthetics, the purpose of this is to protect your handle from moist essentially waterproofing it to make sure it lasts a while as it will help prevent it from splitting easily. And also, it doesn’t hurt for it to add that extra nice brown luster.
TRY IT OUT!
By knowing how to handle your axe handle you don’t waste extra good quality steel. You’ve just given it a second, third life. It’s time to go out and chop that wood!
I’ve been cutting wood since I was 8 years old with my father. I have been using log splitters for 7 years now and have a great deal of experience with them. Now I’ve got my own wood cutting & logging business and want to share my experience with my readers.