Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Will the Wooden Axe Handle Go the Way of the Dodo Bird? By Outsourced Andy

Today in the News:  The world is in a Recession.  No, really.  I mean it.  Stop laughing.  Go chop some wood.  Okay, the real news is I'm trying to start a facebook page to go with this.  Why?  I WANT viewers, readers, whatever - I want to learn from all of you and some of you (might) learn from me.  Check out facebook, search for thesharpenedaxe and LIKE! it.

Link of the Day: I'm gonna put this one under "head scratcher".  I'm not putting it down, it is a very interesting and well designed site, I'm just not sure what the overall purpose is?  Art a'la manly-man?  The thing that I do find interesting is the axe sling.  However, I'll use my pack basket until I find one necessary.  Then I'll build one for $10.00.  This is not a slam.  This is not a slam.  This is not a slam.  I just don't get it.  My grandfather saw a painted axe handle one time and said, "You know what's under that paint?  Grain, crooked as yer Aunt Tilley!"    Decide for yourself:  http://www.bestmadeco.com/

Will the Wooden Axe Handle Go the Way of the Dodo Bird?  By Outsourced Andy

I went to Home Depot today.  Walmart yesterday.  The local hardware store the day before.  I'm not really an "axe person" as the case may be, but I have been checking into this blog off and on and enjoying the content. 
I noticed several things.  At Wal-Mart, I couldn't find an axe.  Why?  I found spades, shovels and other hand-working implements.  I asked an associate about axes and he looked back at me kind of blankly and said, "Must be outta season".  I'll remember that when trying to shove a round of oak 16 inches on the butt in my wood stove over Thanksgiving.

At Home Depot, I asked the associate about axes.  He pointed me to 3/4 sized Estwing and stated that it was even small enough to us in his living room.  "Must be single", I thought.  Estwing does make a fine axe, but I wanted to see what else was available.  He pointed me to the hand tool section and off I went down the aisle as the dancers in orange aprons floundered around me as though they were in the Nutcracker.

What I found in the rack of axes and chopping implements was.......sad.  Everything had a fiberglass handle.  All heads forged in a different country.  Price tag?  Cheap.  But what is the real cost?  I read on here the other day that Mike Hotel was looking for a handle with a decent grain and couldn't find one - there wasn't even a handle to be found at Home Depot.  Why, I thought?  Because fiberglass handles will last until you decide you want to by a new axe or maul.  There is no art.  There is no grain.  There is no room for debate between straight or curved handle.  Just fiberglass.

So I went to my local hardware store.  More fiberglass, with a few replacement handles, but the pickings were slim.  The grain was off.  The quaility was lacking.  Who knows where it was made.  I struck up a conversation with one of the clerks about the poor quality in the handles.  His response, "Buy fiberglass, it'll last you until you need a new one."

I've seen axes on here passed down through generations. Why would you need a new one?  My question is, when will the beloved bushcraft companies start selling handles from composite materials.......wait.   I think that's happening right now.

Outsourced Andy

That's all for today, folks.  Email me if you want to shoot the breeze, steam off a complaint or write a guest article.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel..........out.


  1. I have to say, I have nothing against fiberglass handles. To me an axe is a tool. If someone can make a good axe with a fiberglass handle, then I have nothing against it. They are much stronger and lighter than wooden ones, and if it gets the job done, I am happy to use it. I think that as bushcrafters we get caught up too much in how our gear looks, and we forget to actually use it.

  2. I used a maul last fall to split up about a half cord of maple. It jarred like hell and It didn't have the right rigidity to it. It may well last for ever, but since I hate them, thats no good for me. Not to mention the effort of making my own handles with nigh about perfect grain orientation is pretty easy once you get the process down. And its an excuse to buy more tools.

  3. I am a traditionalist, I never use anything but wood helves and stails, and I make my own.