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In today’s world of throw-away tools and throw-away products, fixing a broken axe handle is a skill that not many people have anymore.
It’s really not a difficult thing to do, but something that was commonplace in years gone by.
This article will give you everything you need, to learn how to replace a wooden axe handle.
These days, it’s pretty difficult to find an axe of any quality, or even a hatchet, or mallet.
Most of what you’re going to find in your hardware store is going to be mostly rubbish, forged in Brazil, Mexico, or China with garbage steel.
These types of cheap and nasty axe heads:
- Don’t hold an edge very well
- Aren’t tempered correctly
- Essentially just a bunch of recycled material dumped into a cauldron melted down and poured in the form of an axe
- Some cheap manufacturers go so far as to simply fill the blemishes and the pits with resin, and then just paint over it
Honestly, at this point – if your axe shows signs of any of the above, I would think about getting yourself a new one or even better – a quality USED axe.
What you need to Fix a Broken Axe Handle
To learn how to replace a wooden axe handle you’re going to need a few tools.
Here is a list of the things you will need:
- Your broken axe
- 80 grit sandpaper.
- Standard premium wood glue.
- 2 x Metal wedges
- 1 x wood wedge
- a few basic hand tools.
- A Vice
- a large punch
- a Sharpie
- a saw of some sort.
- some boiled linseed oil.
In many instances, the handle of an axe can become recessed from the head and work loose (ie. the head of the axe appears to be coming off the top)
The axe head could break off in mid-swing. More than one logger or woodworker has been seriously injured or killed in this situation.
So let’s get to it,
Steps for How to Replace a Wooden Axe Handle
OK, I apologise the having 21 steps for how to fix a broken axe handle, but I wanted to give you more detail than you probably needed so you don’t miss anything. Good luck!
- Cut off the old handle underneath the base of the axe head
- With a large punch, drive the remaining handle out. Note that the hole in the bottom of the axe head, it’s larger than the hole on the top.
- So that you don’t forget which way up the axe head goes, take a centre punch on the top, and mark it
- Remove the metal wedges from the top of the old handle You’ll be needing these now that your axe head is removed
- Purchase yourself a new Axe Handle – See ‘What to look for in a new axe handle’ below
- Once you have the new handle, push the head down about an inch. You won’t get it fully on here though because the timber handle will widen. We need to custom fit it to the head.
- Place the new handle in your vice, it’s time to fit the head. Inserting it from the bottom slide it on and work it back and forth. Once you have pushed it on as far as you can, remove it.
- Take a good look at the timber handle. What you will see are the shiny points of contact on the timber where the axe head could not be pushed further. We are going to remove that material so that you can put the head on and slip it all the way up to where the handle is tapered.
- Use sandpaper of a pneumatic roll lock to slowly remove the excess wood to allow the head to slip on.
- Once you have enough of the excess wood removed, place the head on the handle and grip the head, whilst knocking the base of the handle on the floor – this will seat the head in tightly and leave some of the handle poking through the top of the head.
- An axe handle should come with an accompanying wooden wedge and a curf cut which splits the top of the handle in two, giving you a place to knock in the wedge. Place the wedge in the curf cut, making sure it’s not too wide apply some wood glue to the wedge on the bottom half and seat it in with as much hand pressure as possible.
- Use the old handle to place over the top of the wedge and knock it in further with a hammer.
- Use a Sawzall or hand saw to cut off the excess handle that is sticking out the top of the axe leaving about 3/16-1/8 of an inch above the axe head.
- Sandpaper down the top of the handle.
- Now we are installing the metal wedge. If you are working with a small axe, one metal wedge is enough, but two is appropriate on a larger axe
- Center the metal wedge right on the wood wedge and hammer it on in.
- Once the metal wedge is is flush, take a punch and knock it in just a little bit under the height of the wood.
- If you are working on a larger axe, evenly space the next metal wedge and repeat step 16 and 17 again.
- Use some 180 grit sandpaper and work the full length of the handle to remove any depressions, dirt or grease marks.
- Treat the wood of your new handle with the boiled linseed oil by using rubber gloves and wiping it over the handle. If you use a rag, you will find that most of the boiled linseed oil is wasted on the rag.
- Wait 15 mins and re-apply the boiled linseed oil 2 more times. Don’t forget the top of the handle.
What to Look For in a New Axe Handle
At some point, you will need to go and purchase a new handle for your axe. I would suggest that you visit a reputable hardware store to buy your new handle.
- Make sure you purchase a new handle that is either made from Hickory or Ash.
- DO NOT buy anything that has varnish on it. (Any manufacturer that would varnish on a handle clearly doesn’t know much about handles as you will certainly get blisters with any serious use.)
- Make sure that the new handle is a bright white color.
- If It has a lot of granulation, knots, or colors, avoid it.
Where to find a decent axe to repair
If your axe seems to be like one of the cheap and nasty ones described earlier, it’s possible that you may decide to just get yourself a new axe to work with.
One thing I like to do is hit garage sales and find old axes.
It’s possible to find some great quality second-hand axes around the place.
One thing to look out for are axes that have USA markings on them. Anything you find with, USA, German, or Swedish markings, is typically going to be good quality steel.
Now that you know how to easily replace the handle, don’t stress if the handle is in poor condition.
Even if the head is all rusty, The key thing to look for here is whether or not it has a ‘clean edge’.
In other words, are there chips, that are too large to be filed out?
If it has a good solid edge, even if it’s not overly sharp, that’s okay – I can tell you how to fix that.
As long as the head is in good shape, with a decent edge, no cracks, or anything obviously wrong with it -you have the makings of a fine tool that will not be replaced easily.