Monday, October 25, 2010

Yard Sale Axe

I love yard sales because I love junk.  The crap you think is useless I think is gold.  Paint a turd gold with a rattle can and I'd probably put it on my mantle.  Anyhow.....

I picked this axe up at a yardsale a few weeks ago for a couple bucks.  Handle was rotten, but what I noticed when I picked it up was that it was already sharp - usually yard sale axes look like they've been used to chop rocks.  So I went to the hardware store and picked up a new handle.  So far, out of hanging three handles, only one has turned out the way it was supposed to.  This is not that one.  Here it is:

 New Handle:

Do you like my shoes?

Enter the famous $5.00 yard sale DeWalt:

I drilled out the handle.  I didn't want to smack up the head, so I figured I'd get rid of as much wood as possible without drilling the head as well.

A little foot action to pry it loose......

...and VIOLA!  Here she sits on the new handle:

So it fit on the handle about as well as O.J.'s glove.  Suck.

Here's a lesson learned the hard way.  The only handle I've successfully hung was on the Snow and Neally mentioned in the previous post.  The head slid down over the handle like butter.  I added the wedge and it was great.  I should've taken the time to shave some off of this handle, instead, I hurried and jammed it on.  While I don't think it'll hurt function in the long run, as they say, "If it's worth doin', it's worth doin' right."
Well, uh, I've never been one to listen to good advice. 

I drove the wedge and here is the result:

Next time?  Take time.  Learn from my mistakes.  If you are someone outside of my ginormous group of followers (read: step mom and wifey) and you know about axes, feel free to chime in.  I'm not pretending I know anything about axes, the point is that I'm learning about something I'm interested in.

The end result:
Purty. I chopped kindling with it this morning.  She's a keeper.  It'll probably be my truck axe. Pax Domine sit semper vobiscum.

Mike Oscar Hotel


  1. Nice post. I've restored a few older axes over the past two years (most recently a 2 lb. vintage Gränsfors Bruks head). I've read just about everything I could get my hands on regarding the fitting of axe heads and talked to some experienced guys so that I could get it just right. Here are the main things I've learned:

    1) Carve or rasp the handle little by little and try to fit it in the head. Don't force it on too much. Knock the head off again and look at the handle to see where the head was scraping. Carve/rasp down these points. Do this repeatedly until the handle protrudes 1/4" to 1/3" from the top of the eye. Important: The entire eye should be filled with wood. VERY IMPORTANT: The fit of the handle inside the eye should be extremely tight, even without the wedge.

    2) Make sure the edge of the axe is aligned with the handle during the fitting process. There's a lot of info on the Internet about proper alignment.

    3) If you're using wooden wedges, don't be afraid to make it thick, BUT... tap it in very slowly using many light taps AND... tap the wedge in in-line with eye so that you don't break the wedge by knocking it over to the side (hard to explain). Also, I like to bevel the top surface of the wedge to prevent it from splitting.

    4) Once the wedge is in as far as it will go, saw off the handle and wedge at the top of the eye, leaving 1/8" to 1/4" protruding from the top and knock in one or two metal wedges.

    These are the main points. There are more details and additional info/tricks that I could write about if you want (guest post?).

    To be honest, if I were you, I'd take the head off the handle and reshape it just a bit so that some protrudes out of the eye. Then smack in a nice big wedge. I'd be afraid that the head would come flying off after a bunch of hard whacks, the way it is now.

    Hope some of this helped. :)


  2. I forgot to mention something. When fitting the handle to the head, push the head on with your hand as far as you can, and then flip the axe over and bang on the bottom of the handle with a hammer/mallet. This will inch the head on further. Once it won't go on any further, knock off the head (either by using a punch through the top of the eye or banging on the bottom of the axe head with some implement. :) ). Then carve the scraped/marked parts of the handle a bit and repeat.

  3. I never thought about using a rasp. Do you have any pictures of that process? I'd love to see pictures of the Gransfors! I think you might be right about remounting, just not sure how to get the head off the handle now that it is mounted. :( It seems pretty secure at the moment. Once the handle protrdes, do you trim that part off?

  4. Check YouTube for videos on axe rehandling. There's one on there showing a guy doing it. He just puts the handle in a vice and works the wood down with a rasp. Personally, I carve the handles to fit with a knife.

    I'll send some pics of the old Gränsfors.

    To get the head off the handle, try using something as a punch in the top of the eye and striking it with a hammer. It should be as close to the size and shape of the eye as possible. You can try carving a piece of hardwood, too. Another way would be to do some seriously hard (but careful)chopping on hard wood, stopping between each blow to check the head.

    You want the handle to protrude out of the eye in almost every case. Then you fit the wedge, then you trim them both so they still protrude a bit (1/8" to 1/4" above the eye). This bulge at the top helps keep the head on.