View Full Version : Hudson Bay axe find and question

Lil Red
02-27-2011, 01:17 AM
I've found myself periodically checking the Snow and Nealey website to drool over their Hudson's Bay axe. Something about it draws me to it, though I've never used one before. Well today I got a steal on a Hudson Bay style axe at a local antique store. Picked it up for $10! There is rust that will come need to come off, and it will have to get resharpened and hung, but then I'll have the axe I've been wanting! Needless to say, I'm pretty excited!

The handle that came with it was extremely loose (I simply pulled the head off of it) and much too short for the weight. The original handle was about 15 inches long...much too short for this head as it weighed in at 1 pound 13.8 ounces, so just shy of 2 pounds. So what size handle should I put on it? I'm thinking it should be right around 26 inches long. Am I correct on that?

Should be the perfect mid-sized axe I've been wanting :)

02-27-2011, 01:26 AM
I am thinking a 24 inch handle....

02-27-2011, 02:19 AM
I used to have a Council Tools Hudson Bay Axe with 26" handle. I thought it was a perfect length for the head and for limbing and general camp use. I plan on replacing it with something very similar. http://www.counciltool.com/product.asp?pg=product&item=175HB28

02-27-2011, 03:07 AM
I was thinking that since a GB scandi forest axe is 2 lbs and 26 inches, a 24 incher would be good. But you couldn't go wrong with a 26 incher. Just be aware that most hardware stores (in my observation around here) only sell 28 inchers. That might be a bit too long, in my preference.

02-27-2011, 07:17 AM
Handles lose about 2" during the hafting process. So a 28" handle will leave you with a 26" axe and so on. 24" handles are tough to find.

I use 28" for my hudson bay axe and I'm quite pleased. Below is a size comparison. Top is my Collins Legitimus Hudson Bay axe. Middle is a Gransfors Bruks small forest axe. Bottom is a True Temper Tomahawk hatchet.


02-27-2011, 07:34 AM
Do those hudson bay axes you al have, have a 'split tube', I can't think of what it is really called right now, that cross pins the head to the handle? I've got one from when I was a scout back in the '70's that I can't seem to keep a handle in, but I can say that the handle doesn't stay very long when I pin it.
Saline County MO

02-27-2011, 08:14 AM
You are probably thinking of a tapered eye. The eye should be larger at the top of the axe than the bottom so the handle can flare out and lock the head into place. My Collins also is also pinned.

I have a Norlund Hudson Bay head as well. The eye on it is not sufficiently tapered so it slowly comes off the handle.

02-27-2011, 08:32 AM
At that weight a 26+" handle would be near the small axe on a long handle scenario. Which is not a bad thing. At less than 2lb a helve 15-20 inch would work quite well I'd think. But if you want longer, and I would probably do the same, go for it.

Recent tours of local hardware stores have proved that axe, hammer replacement handles are not what they were a few years back. Some are truly beyond pitiful. Not just poor quality, but actually ugly: true temper, razorback are two i recall that are essentially flat boards with edges rounded over= ugly.
Remember you're not just looking at endgrain but the whole 3 dimensional. Random orientation, runout, and bow seem to be what replacement handles are about these days unless you can find a serious tool vendor

Mholder. You probably need to dig out the old wedge, which can be done. The handle reused if it is otherwise sound and you have split / damaged to tenon with so many wedges and spikes. make a new wedge. or maybe at this point hang a new helve. The wooden one fills the eye cheek to cheek. The purpose of the metal one is to fill the eye bit to poll.

02-27-2011, 09:28 AM
this axe has had several handles, so the original is long gone. the round pin goes through a hole in the "cheeks" of the head at right angles to the orientation of the handle. One handle I tried drilling out the hole first, then next time I just drove it through. I finally just took it out because when the head would fly off it would still be "cross pinned". I suppose I get in too big a hurry and sand it down too much.

I did see an article in an old Wilderness Way magazine where a guy had a straight handle made out of a hickory sapling that looked pretty long, but useful. I may give that a try and then saw it off bit by bit till I get the right (or wrong) length or the head goes flying and is forever lost.
soggy saline county mo

02-27-2011, 09:39 AM
Oh that. I was wondering if that is what you meant. Personally I do not see the hole through the eye as being a feature necessary to a real , properly made tool. Perhaps that was added later.

If the eye is not tapered enough, and I don't think it needs much, then fix it with a file(s) open the top a little bit. As well you can crush the end grain extending above the head sufficiently to cover the eye, adding yet another layer of protection from loss.

02-27-2011, 09:55 AM
I love Hudson Bay axes, I have got a Norlund HBC axe & hatchet & a Wetterlings HBC pattern. Im 52 yrs. old & have had the Norlunds since I was 14yrs. old.

02-27-2011, 05:27 PM
26" is about the shortest handle you can use without having to get on your knees, longer than 28" starts to get too long for finer detail work and is really cumbersome to pack.

A 26" Hudson Bay was the staple camping axe up here for almost a century before the current fad of Swedish half axes started in the late 90's.