How to Select and Replace an Axe Handle: Guide for Beginners

By the laws of regularity, you will eventually need to change the handle of your Axe. Except your Axe spends most of the day sitting pretty on a nail without being used at all, you don't need to change it anytime soon. But, woodworkers who often deploy the help of their Axe would inevitably change the handle.

Guess what? Replacing an Axe handle is a piece of cake - for those with solid woodworking knowledge. If you are new to it, all you need is the right tools for the replacement, our voice acting as a guardian angel in this article, and you're good to go. Now that introductions are out of the way (lol). let's get this show on the road.

 How to Remove the Old Axe Handle Step By Step Guide

 How to Remove the Old Axe Handle

The first step to rehanging your Axe is to get rid of the old handle. Unless you bought an Axe head from an online store or from a friend who would instead buy a brand new Axe than rehang his Axe, you would need to remove the old handle.

This process requires some tools. And no, fire is not part of the tools. Perhaps you've heard that using fire is a shortcut to taking out the old handle. Guess what? It's not.

First, there is no shortcut to removing the old Axe handle. Second, using fire to get rid of the old Axe handle is bad for your Axe head. It would, inevitably, damage the Axe head. Then, you would just have to get a brand new Axe.

So, to preserve the life of your Axe and recycle Axe head, we discuss the safest and healthiest method of removing your old Axe handle. To remove the Axe handle, you will need:

  • Woodworking Vise: To clamp the Axe head in place.
  • Hand Saw: To cut the handle.
  • Drill: To screw holes into the Metal wedge
  • Slotted Screwdrivers or Cold Chisel: For the Metal wedge
  • Pliers and a screw: For Metal wedge
  • Hammer
  • Small woodblock or old handle cut-off.

Got all these tools? Let's get down to business then.

Step One: 

Clamp the Axe head into the woodwork vise. Ensure that the handle faces upwards where you can see it.

Clamp the Axe head into the woodwork vise

Step Two:

Saw off the old Axe Handle. Reduce the length so that a small part of the handle remains. But, make sure the saw doesn't come in contact with the Axe head while you're cutting off the Handle.

Hand Saw: To cut the handle.

Step Three:

This step is vital if a wedge is in the Axe. To smoothly remove the remnant of the handle in the Axe, you have to pull out the wedge first. First, determine what type of wedge was used - a wooden wedge or a metal wedge?

If it is a metal wedge you would need to pull it out with the help of a screw and a plier. Create a hole in the wedge with the drill. Screw a screw into the hole till it is firm. Then, with pliers clutching the screw, extract the wedge. You can use this approach to get rid of a wooden wedge too.

drill into the  metal wedge axe

Step Four:

With the wedge out, you would easily take out the handle remnant. Remember that woodblock and the hammer we mentioned earlier in the tools section?

Here's where they come in to play. Place the woodblock on the Axe head still clamped in the Vise. Then, use the hammer to force out the handle remnant out of the Axe head.

Viola! You have successfully removed the Axe handle.

So, what next? You choose the perfect handle for your Axe head. You might wonder why the handle selection process comes second and not first.

Well, here's why: We need to measure the Axe head, without a handle, to know the handle is the appropriate size or fit for the Axe head. Keep reading to discover how to select a handle.

Axe Handle out

Selecting the Perfect Axe Handle for  Beginners Guide

 Axe Handle

If you want your Axe to serve you better than it did with the old Handle you just removed, it is important that you do not just buy any Axe Handle off the market. You have to be strategic when choosing your next Axe Handle.

Here are some of the tools you would need for this process to be successful:

  • Micrometer or
  • Ruler.
  • An eye to spot certain features.
Micrometer Ruler

Having the right measurement of your Axe eye is key to getting the perfect Handle replacement.

Step one:

Figure out which part of the Axe eye is the top and bottom. Do this by measuring the length and width of the two sides of the Axe eye. The side with the biggest length and width measurement is the top of the eye. While the smaller measurement makes the bottom of the eye.

Step Two: 

Decide what your preference is. Do you want a short handle? Do you want a long handle? Also, would they be used for heavy-duty tasks? Or light tasks? All of these should be put into consideration before choosing a handle.

If you are not sure of the dimension of your Axe eye size, simply purchase a handle with a higher dimension than your Axe eye. Why? You can easily shape it into your Axe size than when you buy smaller dimensions.

Step Three:

Pay attention to the grain orientation. The wood grain orientation says a lot about the strength of an Axe handle. Straight-grained wood is the traditional choice for Axe handles. They are considered strong and are able to get any hard-tasks done.

So, you can either buy a ready-made Axe Handle off the market or carve your own unique Axe Handle with a Straight-grained wood. Although it is not easy to come by a straight-grained wood, you can just use wood with an orientation that goes from the front to the back.

At all costs, avoid Axe handles with diagonal orientation. Diagonal grained orientation only means one thing: the handle is weak. It is bad news for your Axe head. Grain orientation that is parallel to the Axe head is also a great choice.

Step Four: 

Look out for handles made of hickory sapwood. They are traditionally considered a better option when compared to Heartwood. The difference between these two types of wood lies in their color. Hickory Sapwood has a lighter color shade compared to Heartwood that is reddish-brown in color.

However, modern-day woodworking experts do not believe that Heartwood is not a good option for Axe handle. These experts expressly state that Heartwood serves them well. But, the most important is the grain orientation.

Step Five: 

Avoid handles with varnish or paint. The reasons are, you could get blisters from using them because they are usually slippery and have excessive friction. Generally, it makes it uncomfortable for use.

Although companies use varnish or paint on their Axe Handles to improve the appearance of the Handle. It ensures that while these Axe Handles are being transported from the manufacturers to potential buyers, it looks attractive.

Now that you know what to look out for in an Axe Handle, here's how to install it.

How to Replac an Axe Handle: Guide for Beginners 

Like in the first two processes, you would require some tools to fix your desired Axe Handle. They are:

  • Axe Handle (obviously)
  • Hand Saw (it has always been a part of this journey)
  • Pencil ( There no special pencil. Any pencil will do)
  • A pocket knife (preferably sharp and not blunt)
  • Rasp.
  • Coping Saw.
  • Wooden Wedge.
  • Boiled Linseed Oil.
  • Wooden Mallet.
  • Sanding Disc.

Now that we have all these work tools, let's get down to business.

Step One:

Clean out the Axe Head

Clean out the Axe Head. The significance of thoroughly cleaning out the Axe Head is so that you do not experience difficulty while following some installing steps. Also, to prevent ugly accidents from occurring, secure the Axe Edge with a tape or something else.

Also, if you need to sharpen the Axe Head because it has been covered in rust, you could do it while cleaning it.

Step Two:

proceed to fit the handle into the Axe head

Now that you have a clean Axe Head, proceed to fit the handle into the Axe head. Gently slide the handle into the Axe head until the shoulder of the handle touches the bottom of the Axe Eye.

If the dimension of the handle is a bit more than the Axe Head, you might encounter some resistance while trying to fit it into the Axe Head. Do not panic, just measure the amount of extra wood you need to cut off to make it fit into the Axe head. Once it fits into the Axe head, push it in until the shoulder reaches the bottom of the Axe eye. 

Sometimes, you might have a hard time trying to get the bottom of the Axe eye to reach the shoulder of the handle. The reason is that there is dust or dirt that is preventing the Axe Head from reaching the Handle Shoulder.

Here is where the rasp comes in. Use the rasp to file off dirty or rust from the handle. Then, use your pencil to mark the extra length of the Handle that is protruding out through the top of the Axe Eye.

Step Three:

marking the extra wood length with a pencil,

After marking the extra wood length with a pencil, cut the marked region with a coping saw. If love to have a few inches of the handle protruding through the top of the Axe eye, you could measure a ¼ inches length from the pencil line derived from fitting the handle into the Axe head. Then, draw a new pencil line and cut it off with the coping saw.

Step Four:

putting the Hand saw to good use

In this next step, you'll be putting the Hand saw to good use. Since the handle has been cut off, the Kerf (that the cut down at the center of the top side of the Handle) would become shallow.

The ideal depth of a Kerf is ⅔ of the Axe's eye. It is ideal because it fosters a strong wedging. Take out the handle from the Axe head. Then, use your pencil to Mark the ⅔ depth and start slicing into the handle's head. Use a wide saw to prevent the Kerf from being too narrow.

Step Five:

Up next is the resizing and installation of the wooden wedge. Some handles come with wooden wedges. But, you would need to resize it to fit into the Axe eye and into the Handle Kerf. For starters, check the size of the wedge in relation to the eye.

Use a pencil to mark the extra wood

Use a pencil to mark the extra wood on the wedge after sizing it with the Axe eye. Then, use a coping saw to get rid of the extra length. If your handle does not come with a wedge, you don't have to panic. Simply create a wedge from any hardwood. Use the pocket knife to trim it to the required size.

Step Six:

Use the pencil to make markings around the extra material.

Size the Wedge with the depth of the Kerf. To get the accurate wedge length, size the wedge with the Kerf through measurement. Use the pencil to make markings around the extra material.

Step Seven: 

With the handle inside the Axe head again, push the wooden wedge into the Axe head and further into the Kerf. You can achieve this with the use of a wooden Mallet to make it firm.

 push the wooden wedge into the Axe head

Some people apply glue on the wedge, while others don't. If you had to create your own wedge, you would need to gloss it in the boiled linseed oil. Once it is covered in linseed oil, push it into the wedge.

Step Eight: 

After pushing the wooden wedge into the Axe head and Kerf, it is possible that the remaining part of the wedge is protruding through the top of the eye. With the coping saw, cut off the protruding wood of the wedge.

Cut off the protruding wood on axe head

You can make the edge of the wedge smooth with the use of a sanding disc. A metal wedge isn't necessary, but you can install it if you think it is. Hammer it into the wooden wedge after smoothening the edges of the wooden wedge.

Step Nine:

Apply the boiled linseed oil on the handle. Also, remove the tape from the Axe edge.

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Viola! Your Axe is new and ready to get back on the field. Now, that wasn't too difficult, was it? Since you made it to this section of the article, we believe you now know the process of rehanging an Axe. We promise it's not a scary, dreary process. You just need to put your heart to it, and you're good to go. Gather the tools required, and protect yourself.

You can wear hand gloves. Also, ensure the Axe head is safely secure so that it doesn't give you a cut or a bad injury while trying to fit in a new handle. Also, loosen up. Don't be uptight, and just enjoy the process. You'll get it done in no time. 
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