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do you make your own hatchet or axe handle?

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by Saigashooter, Apr 30, 2011.

  1. Saigashooter

    Saigashooter Or coast Member

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    I got a US made hatchet head at a yard sale now I need a hatchet handle and was thinking how I would make one if the s.h.t.f. have you guys done it? how hard was it? and please post pictures. I want to see some of your tomahawks also.
  2. kenno

    kenno eastern WA Active Member

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    The prefered wood is Hickory but if your willing to put in the time find a Doug Fir sapling about 6" at the butt cut away everything that does not look like a hatchet handle, cut it so that the center of the heart wood is in the eye of the hatchet, cut it way oversize and let it shrink as it dries slowly in a dark place. trim to fit, wrap with twine and epoxy, replace as needed.
    Since you are on the coast
    Yew wood might work better, same proceedure, check with locals.
  3. Redcap

    Redcap Lewis County, WA Well-Known Member

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    Fir wouldn't work worth a damn. Too soft, even at the heart.

    As for the original question, Ash, Yew and Oak (heavy though) work very well for homemade handles. Same with fruit woods, though finding a straight piece is a little more difficult.
  4. speelyei

    speelyei Willamette Valley Active Member

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    making your own handle from scratch is possible, but it's an art in itself. I guess it depends on if you want something "field expedient", or something someone else would recognize as a legitimate piece of handiwork.

    Even a store-bought replacement handle often needs a fair amount of fitting and shaping to be a quality replacement. A good wood rasp and a very small block plane are handy tools.
  5. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Yew Wood would work very well. Fence posts made from it lasted half a century on dads place. Fir could be used but really it would have to be surplus old growth like the 2x4's in my house which are so dense that you can not drive a 16d nail into them without a pilot hole. Some have 75 years of growth across 4"!

    And yes it would be a matter of using a saw to rough cut the shape of the handle then a rasp or even whittling to reach the final shape. You would need to use the same process for fitting that you would with a new store bought handle. A proper wedge would be required. A stepped metal wedge works best. I have seen even fat bracket nails used but they are less then ideal. Soaking a axe/hatchet/tomahawk head in water over night will swell it up and can make a shrunken handle useable again for a period of time.
  6. Thebastidge

    Thebastidge 10411 NE Fourth Plain Blvd Vancouver WA 98662 Well-Known Member

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    Soaking an axe, hammer or hatchet overnight in a bucket of used oil will swell it up and work for far longer than water. Especially if you soak it in water first, and then soak it in oil, it seals in some moisture which makes the wood less brittle and lasts for longer.
  7. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    Having used an ax,shovel,sledge hammer,pick etc,etc,MANY times over the last near 50 years(my dad thought it good for small children to learn to work) I can tell you cheap HICKORY isn't worth a damn.So fir would be worth less than that. Most of these tools use hickory handles,BTW

    If you can find a good chunk of hard wood,you can make a decent handle.Just have to fit it to the implement,decide the right length for you and make a handle that fits your hand.
    That being said,I would buy a handle every time.Hard woods are hard to shape.Too much time involved in the first 3-4 handles.
    Lots of other moneymaking things to do.

    There was an article about gardens in some magazine at the doctors or such. As one executive out it,he could make more than enough money in the time it took him to tend a garden,to buy the vegetables. Forget the intrinsic value for a moment,we are talking preparedness.

    Take construction for instance.I run heavy equipment.I did it very well.
    I can cut a board and drive a nail,pour concrete,lay carpet,run ducts and install furnaces,everything but electrical and I can run wire.

    What is the difference? I can EFFICIENTLY run heavy equipment and do plumbing.Others can do the other jobs more efficiently,making it easier and some times more cost effective to pay someone else to do these things.

    So,I guess what I am saying is,sometimes it's better to let the professionals do it .
    Thebastidge and (deleted member) like this.
  8. TapRackNGo

    TapRackNGo PNW Well-Known Member

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  9. Ben Beckerich

    Ben Beckerich NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    i not only made my own handle, i made my own hatchet... as a professional roofer of many years, i couldnt ever find a roofing hatchet that really suited my needs- they were all too light and the handles too fat at the bottom. i wanted a heavier head and a skinner handle.... so i finally bought a gigantic 32oz framing hatchet, pulled the handle, chopped and sharpened the bottom of the blade for breaking glue lines and splitting shakes, ground in a nail puller, and notched gages in the top.. then i found a long, straight hammer handle, cut and beveled the bottom, and ground in deep, sharp grooves for grip.... POW, the perfect, heavy, roofing hatchet.

    then about a week later i found almost the exact same thing in a new-to-me roofing supply house.:banghead:
  10. Davenport

    Davenport Portland New Member

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    Go out in the woods and cut a piece of vine maple that allready has the crook in the handle that you need shape it with a small angle grinder with a sanding disk and rubber backup after letting the wood cure for a good wile make sure the head is right side up the larger side of the hole is up so when you put in the wood wedge ( with the grain so it slides in easy and out hard) it gets tighter as the head tries to come off. you should be able to do this in just a few minuts unless you want it really nice then use a rasp sandpaper and linn seed oil it should last a lifetime. I have set more handels this way than I would care to count out of the best piece of wood that I could locate in a hurry,works every time it is tried Oh be sure to split out the wedge and smooth it up before you drive it in If you lube it with glue it is even easyer. My dad ran a pin cross wise through the head and ground off both sides but it was kinda an overkill. If you find a good head that you like it is kinda like the differance between a 1911 and a raven 25. You may like one head and everybody else hates it but if it is hardened and shaped and sharpened the way you like it it is worth wile. If you get a better one they are easy to trade off
  11. Woodswalker

    Woodswalker THe great PNW Member

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    As Davenport Noted...Vine maple is the bees knees for handles. I learned from my grandfather, find a stem that has the right general shape, skin and clean it with a draw knife, be careful using a rasp as those tear the fibers instead of cut them. After shaping to about +1/4" from where you want it...wax the ends to prevent splitting, by rubbing them thoroughly with bees wax and heating it with a candle or near the wood stove until it seals the pores. Put it aside in a cool, dry place to dry for 9 months or so(6 through the summer) and then fit it. Always fit with the larger opening up so that the wedged handle will keep the head secure. Wedge should be of the same wood that the handle is...also shaved not rasped or sawn. Too much roughness on the wedge will prevent it from seating. I personally follow Granddad's advise and use a good grade of exterior, weather proof, wood glue to lubricate the wedge and to hold it solid. Granddad then used a brad driven in at an angle across the handle to make SURE that the wedge would stay put.

    Sand and oil with linseed oil and you will have a handle that will last a lifetime.
    Redcap and (deleted member) like this.
  12. The Cheese

    The Cheese somewhere special Member

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    dang, this almost makes me want to get an Axe head and go tear up some Vine Maple and make me an axe handle just for kicks.
  13. kenno

    kenno eastern WA Active Member

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    sounds good