Learn how to make a single bit axe handle! All the steps are covered in this tutorial from material selection to final finishing!
If you are thinking about building your own axe handle you will find there are two main choices of material, Ash and Hickory. Unfortunately for me, neither of these materials were available in 3 x 3 stock like I needed. Consequently, I went with a 3 x 3 piece of oak. I actually purchased two of these stock pieces and kept one for a backup in case something went wrong with the first one.
Below is a video giving you an overview of the build process.
Things I Used For This Axe Handle Project:
I started with an old handle to use as a template. I laid the old handle on top of the 3 x 3 stock and positioned it so that the grain that would be mostly vertical throughout the entire length of the handle.
Once I was happy with the orientation I simply traced the handle on all four sides of the square stock I was working with.
And then took the piece of square stock over to the band saw and began cutting out the shape of the ax handle. I started by first cutting the side profile and then rotated peace 90° and begin cutting the top and bottom profile. At this point I am just roughing in the shape of the axe handle and not trying to make very precise cuts. Just getting the bulk of the material out of the way.
The angled portion at the bottom of the axe handle is known as a “fawns foot”. Do not cut the funds foot at the bandsaw. The bottom of the axe handle needs to remain square so that you can hammer on it with a mallet when hanging the axe head.
The bandsaw removes a lot of material very quickly. If you are repeating this project, be very careful not to accidentally cut away too much material. The fine detail work can be completed with less aggressive tools.
There are a variety of tools which can handle the detail work of the axe handle. Unfortunately I had to make a second handle because I made a mistake on the first handle. For the second handle, I chose a belt sander to sand down the roughed out shape to the near finished shape. Alternatively, a draw knife or a spoke shave can also be used. After sanding down the rough shape, I moved over to hand sanding the handle down to 220 grit.
The top of the axe that the head hangs on is known as the “eye of the handle”. I used power tools to shape the eye of the first handle and it was difficult to precisely control the material removal. On the second handle, I opted for hand tools which were much more controllable. The tools I reached for on the second handle were a “rasp” and a “4 in hand”.
With a little patience, I was able to shape the eye of the handle perfectly. I then focused on hanging the head.
Much like shaping the eye, hanging the head requires a lot of patience. You will have to hang the head on the eye until it is seated, then tap it back off of the eye, examine the rub marks on the eye of the handle, then remove a little more material until you get nice even rub patterns from the axe head.
Once I was satisfied with the pattern of the rub marks, I took the handle over to the bandsaw and cut a slot into the eye for the wedge. The depths of the wedge cut should be three quarters of the links of the axe head itself; in my case, this was about 3 inches.
Now on to making the wedge. The wedge needs to be made from a soft material. I chose to make my wedge out of Poplar and just cut some material on the band saw in a wedge shape.
Before driving in the wedge, I covered it and wood glue to ensure that it will bond well to the eye of the handle. I then hung the head one last time. Slowly but surely, I drove the wedge into the eye until it would not drive any further. The axe head is now fully seated and mounted to the axe handle.
The excess wedge material can be cut flush to the top of the axe head with a coping saw.
The final step to shaping the axe handle, is cutting the angle bottom on the fawns foot. It’s easy to see now that cutting this shape early on would not provide a good square surface to hammer against when hanging the head.
After I little more finish sanding on the fawns foot, I applied boiled linseed oil to the handle as a finish.
Now, lets go chop some wood!