Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Axe handle repairs

Some desperate person suffered this broken axe handle, he tried all the possible repairs, splinting with multiple dowels and the old standby- duct tape... backed it up with a section of shelf bracket and cable ties and more tape, Unfortunately, apparently it didn't work, my kid found it in a garbage can and brought it home. He doesn't know it yet but he's going to make a handle for it from a hickory I cut, it will be his heritage axe. After all, it is a genuine 3.5 lb. Norlund axe- who and what was Norlund? According to Yesteryears Tools it was a Pennsylvania company that was made up in 1968 to manufacture axes for the Canadian Tire chain of stores. 


Anonymous said...

For the cost of materials (and time) he could just have purchased a new handle.

And yes, we all know it was a he.


PeonyJim said...

A few handle thoughts and advice learned from my own Dad.
A) An easy way to remove broken wood 'stubs' from the eye of axe & mall heads, shovel sockets, etc. is to use the oxy-acetylene cutting torch to burn out the wood. Get a glowing ember on the wood then hit the O2 lever, Burns the wood out nicely without losing the temper of the metal. (Although, the photo shows this handle is already loose in the head.)
B) Never use a single bitted axle as a mall/hammer other than gently driving nails or tent stakes. The metal thickness of the sides of the eye are too thin and weak to prevent the eye from opening and becoming lose on the handle. Use a splitting mall or sledgehammer to drive wedges, stakes, etc.
C) When replacing wood handles,(most often shovels for me), the extra time spent carefully fitting the new wood to the socket by trial & error pays off well in the long run. Rust marks left after each test will guide where a little more wood should be be sanded or filed off. (Much as a millwright fits metal joints or babbit bearings w/ Prussian Blue.)
D) When making the final assembly of handle to socket, a coating of two part epoxy works great to fill minor gaps.
E) For axes, drive the head on snugly by holding the grip end of handle up with metal head hanging down. Then with a hammer tap the end of the handle while the head (the axe's, not yours), is suspended in air. The head will 'climb' up the handle much tighter than if done the opposite way of pounding the grip end of the handle down onto a rock. This also keeps the handle from suffering ring shakes or splinters. Hickory is great for shovels (if you can get it) but I prefer ash in axes for its denser grain & reputed impact/shock resistance. (Think 'Louisville Slugger.)
F) Soaking handles in water (axes, hammers,etc.) to tighten them is often counterproductive as the swelling crushes the grain only to have the handle become even more loose when it drys again. Inverted handle tapping, as described above, will often suffice to finish a project until a permanent handle fix can be made.
G) In spite of that old admonition,"Avoid tools with wooden handles!" I spend a lot of time with shovels, hoes, rakes. Most of these came from thrift shops, flea markets or garage shovels. New tools are horribly over priced and often inadequate quality or design. I don't like fibreglas handles, for their glass splinters, heavier weight and 'dead' feel. A good wood handle 'talks' to your hands. Shovel & pitchfork handles let you know if you're approaching their limits. The 'thinned profile section' of a good rake or hoe handle makes the working end lively and effective.
H) An aside: when spoons of shovels and blades of hoes are kept 'mirror shiny clean' they slice through the ground ( 'scour') with the greatest of ease. Slight exaggeration but you get the idea. A good way to maintain them is a rub down with a scrap of slightly oily burlap at the end of each use. Soil & grit trapped in the burlap will make it polish even better the next time. Never had a problem w/ an oily rag fire ( mineral based oils, petroleum) are generally safer than organic oils, but it couldn't hurt to keep the rag sealed into a bucket.

rats said...

Those are some topnotch advices, thanks.