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View Full Version : Best wood for axe handles besides hickory?



justin_baker
02-22-2011, 12:41 AM
What are some good alternatives to hickory for axe handles? I know that ash does pretty well. I know that many people in Scandinavian countries used birch. What are some other good options if hickory and ash were not available in your woodland?

Joezilla
02-22-2011, 12:54 AM
Ash..., walnut can work well too as long as you have a good piece. I'm not positive on this one, but I bet Dogwood wouldn't be too bad either, but I haven't tried that one.

skw
02-22-2011, 01:48 AM
Ash have similar qualities to hickory. Here in svk i have Fraxinus excelsior. It's my favourite wood for handles. But here is also an abundance of birch.

I see many native people here also using Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Neet to try this one as a handle.

matt

cbo
02-22-2011, 02:21 AM
we use white beech Carpinus betulus, mainly for handles and blocks for butchering, because it has chemicals in it that kill germs

other tough wood is blackthorn Prunus spinosa, we use it for fighting axes, you leve the bark on, it has alot of knobs, to help get a grip

vermillion8604
02-22-2011, 02:22 AM
i know seasoned oak is good if it is seasoned and treated the right way

skw
02-22-2011, 02:30 AM
we use white beech Carpinus betulus, mainly for handles and blocks for butchering, because it has chemicals in it that kill germs

other tough wood is blackthorn Prunus spinosa, we use it for fighting axes, you leve the bark on, it has alot of knobs, to help get a grip

I believe that Carpinus betulus is known as European hornbeam mate. I know that tree, it has very hard wood. You are right it's also used for handle making.

Just curious you call it white beech.

ATB
matt

cbo
02-22-2011, 03:19 AM
I believe that Carpinus betulus is known as European hornbeam mate. I know that tree, it has very hard wood. You are right it's also used for handle making.

Just curious you call it white beech.

ATB
matt

we call it Hainbuche, or white, besides the red beech Fagus syl.
I live n germany

Bax 40
02-22-2011, 08:42 AM
osage orange should make a good handle ,It is used a lot by custom maker Reeves.



Larry

BIGOX
02-22-2011, 10:07 AM
While I have never tried any of them I have read of Ash, Hornbeam, Hop Hornbeam, Osage, Black Locust, Birch, White Oak and Sugar Maple.

cbo
02-22-2011, 10:18 AM
found a picture of two of my hawks with ash (bottom) and curly maple

donk
02-22-2011, 10:25 AM
osage orange should make a good handle ,It is used a lot by custom maker Reeves.



Larry

+1 on the Osage, I've used it many times. Good handle and great looks.
Donk

Aguineapig
02-22-2011, 02:42 PM
Sugar maple, ash, hickory, hornbeam, osage are all good. The rest are more or less substitutes, and will work in a pinch.

BIGOX
02-22-2011, 08:01 PM
Sugar maple, ash, hickory, hornbeam, osage are all good. The rest are more or less substitutes, and will work in a pinch.

Hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana is what I grew up calling Blue Beech. My dad always said it was preferred for the tung on wagons, gluts and beetles but no good for anything else. We used it fore fire wood. I have made a few walking sticks from it and it is very strong but very "dead" or stiff. It seems like a axe with a hornbeam handle would be very punishing for the user. Also the grain structure would make it much more difficult to work into a handle.

I have been thinking of cutting a good hickory and splitting out a bunch of axe handle blanks. I might keep an eye out for a hornbeam or hop hornbeam to try. All the ash on my place is dead or dying.

Ironwood
02-22-2011, 08:26 PM
I'm sure white elm, or just about any elm, would work too. Good bow wood too!

Trekon86
02-22-2011, 08:38 PM
Osage, hickory, ash, locust, hop/hornbeam, and a few others come to mind.

Birch would be last on my list, lol. I think the main reason they use birch up there is cause it's one of the only hardwoods that survives the cold temps.

PMZ

Trekon86
02-22-2011, 08:39 PM
I've only used hickory, osage and hophornbeam, so those are the only ones I can speak well of personally, lol.
PMZ

Aguineapig
02-22-2011, 08:48 PM
Old timers used to thin hornbeam down to less then 3/4 of an inch to solve the problem of it jarring the hell outta your arms. Heck, they thinned hickory and ash to 3/4 of an inch, they coulda gone thinner with hornbeam. Stuff makes a fine chisel handle too.

briarbrow
02-23-2011, 09:10 AM
The hornbeam you guys are talking about from US is that muscular looking shrubby ironwood?

There are probably several shrubby trees that produce tenacious wood that should make a good helve. I dont know all the names.

From all I've read white oak typically follows hickory and ash.

Osage is good I agree, but I have seen too many pieces break with short fibers; like snapping in two, to feel good using it for a long handle.

the length of handle has a lot to do with what you choose.

Trekon86
02-23-2011, 09:14 AM
Hop/hornbeam is also known as musclewood, blue beech, ironwood, and probably a couple of other names.

About the only historical uses I've seen for it were the pins/pegs in barns (to hold the beams together) wagon spokes, and firewood:D
PMZ

samthedog
02-23-2011, 01:05 PM
In Norway Beech and Birch are used. The Birch used is harvested from the mountains though as it grows much slower and is much more dense. I am not sure if it's a different species to the regular birch. Maybe Jontok can shed some light on it. I have heard the tree referred to as Fjell Bjørk.

Paul

samthedog
02-23-2011, 01:10 PM
Found the birch tree I was looking for:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/olystad/2843482139/

You can't really use normal birch as the wood is just too soft however mountain birch is tough enough but still much weaker than hickory.

Paul.

wulfesinger67
02-23-2011, 02:11 PM
i have a few hawks with hedge in them and they really do well elm is hard to split i have a few of them in some blacksmith punchs

mikaelmazz
02-23-2011, 05:55 PM
I can vouch for white ash. I made a handle for a 2 1/4 1b. ax a year ago and its been holding up well. White ash can make some very beautifal handles.
Ash was the wood of choice in Europe for axe handles before they discovered the Americas, because hickory is not native to Europe.

I would imagine, if you use elm, you would be better off to use only sap wood because it is more flexible.

justin_baker
02-23-2011, 06:35 PM
Wondering how well bay laurel would work.....

Sav
02-23-2011, 08:40 PM
Justin....maybe this will help a bit...

http://www.raymears.com/blog/how-to-fit-a-new-axe-handle/1386/

Quill
02-23-2011, 09:04 PM
There are 17-19 different species of hickory and they cover a large area. Ash has several varieties too. Although I have to travel back to Illinois for Osage Orange, it is worth it. When I was young, they where used for fence posts and replacements for wood wagon tongues. You need to find a good piece what ever the wood.

briarbrow
02-23-2011, 09:29 PM
. You need to find a good piece what ever the wood.
:D so true.

One test you can try. with a section small enough to break in your hands- break it. It the break results in long splintery fibers it is a candidate. If it snaps with short ragged ends- no good.

Trekon86
02-23-2011, 09:40 PM
From what I hear, hedge/osage is a real PITA to find growing in straight lengths:rolleyes:

Gpa in Indiana says that he knows the location of the last osage tree in his town and he's not divulging the secret to anyone, cause people have been cutting em down willy nilly for awhile. He swears by putting the fruits in his garage, he says they keep the spiders at bay. Not sure if this is true or not...

PMZ