Thursday, March 10, 2011

Working on a Belt Axe - Part 1

Today in the News:  I'm back.  I know you come here to read about......axes?  But I wanted to apologize for the lack of blade related articles lately on my part.  Work has picked up in a major way and I have very little time to write.  I've been spitting out quantity instead of quality.  I'd like to thank all of the guest writers for stepping up and helping me out.  I appreciate it more than you know!  If you're interested in writing a guest article, send it to

Bernard Ten Bears' Link of the Day:  - Old woodsman flydope, hankies, felt hats - I bought some stuff there, pricey but they delivered the goods.  [Editors note:  They do, in fact, sell pee as well.  I bought a pint of coyote urine and nearly vomited when I opened it.  Rank!]

Working on a Belt Axe - Part 1

I've brought this head up before in this article.  I can't get over the look.  It obviously sat in water for a long period of time, but the edge.......really sharp.  I wouldn't try shaving my beard off with it, but still, dang sharp.

I've been wanting to put it into action for some time now.  I've been having issues with my new Snow & Nealley HB axe (I'll elaborate in a later article) and wanted something that I could fit in my packbasket for hiking or take on my belt, if needed.  The intent for this head is not to cut firewood.  I'm thinking more limbing and the felling of small trees for a shelter that I'm planning.

I went to several local hardware stores in the area looking for a new handle.  You have two choices in these parts - 28 inch or 36 inch.  Not much below that.  Not even a decent hatchet handle.  Beyond that, their quality assurance director must have fallen straight off the turnip truck and tumbled to his desk. 

On the left is the best 19" handle, or shall I say, the only 19" handle in the surrounding towns.  Look at the grain.  Someone fell asleep on the job.  I'd like to write to the company and ask them what business they think they're in?  For me, it is like trying to restore a '69 Camaro and putting a 1970's 4 cylinder in it.  Why even bother?

As I was standing in the store ranting in my brain (maybe out loud - the cashier was looking at me a little strangely - could've been gas on his part) I saw another handle.  I picked it up.  Same size, but different.  That is the example on the right.  No sticker.  None others like it on the rack.  I looked a little closer and found out it was for a hammer.  After looking at three other stores for a replacement handle, I was a little perturbed.  People that make hammer handles pay attention to grain.  Why don't the makers of axe handles?  So I bought the hammer handle.

I'm going to interject here and say that I know I could buy online. I don't like that.  I like to touch things before I buy them and I'm on a budget.  I also know that I'm taking a risk using a product in a way that it was not intended.  So be it.  If it doesn't work, I'll be out $10.00.

The hammer handle had a different curve to it than the axe handle.  I think this may have an effect on the balance, but I'm not sure.  Anybody ever use a handle that looked like this?

Looks like it would feel right, although a bit counter-intuitive.

So I got at trimming the fat.

I know, rasp.  I'm too lazy to go out to the shed and I just sharpened the EDC knife for the first time since August.  I couldn't cut hot ice cream with it, but my sharpening set from Harbor Freight got it back up to snuff.

I trimmed down the high spots.

I also filed down the slight mushrooming along the top of the eye.  It was stopping me from getting the handle all the way through the eye.

I have a ways to go on this.  The balance was/is a little screwy, but I'm working with it.

We'll see.  I have every intention of finishing this up this weekend.  In the following posts, I'll either succeed or fail with this venture.  If I fail, I'm going to hack a 28" handle into a 19" handle.  I'm also going to work on making a sheath that (might) attach to my belt.  We'll see.  19" may be too long to carry on my hip.Stay tuned for the follow up next week!

Thanks for sticking with us, folks.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

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


  1. The handle looks backward to me, but the old saying is, "Pretty is as pretty does." Also, "The proof is in the pudding." Can you tell I like cliches? The blade looks neat!

  2. I guess that's what I failed to elaborate, Gorges. It IS backwards!

  3. You can always tell folks that it's one of those ergonomically designed handles designed by the hippies back in the early seventies!

  4. I had the same problem finding a handle for my single bit, I can't understand why people don't carry decent handles anymore. I also wont order online because really ... if the store will let cross grained handles be sold ...who's to say they won't ship you an even worse one.

  5. I made a head just like that one from an ordinary hatchet head. But I also forged the eye oval like the old axes so the helve drops in from the top like a tomahawk (or pick axe).

  6. I like it!! On my Roselli R850 the handle is "backwards" like that but I'm getting used to it.

  7. Bit off topic but anyways,

    Here you see, quite often, knife blacksmiths using hammers with curved axe handles,they offer better grip and steering oh blows and are easier to keep in hand for longer perioids that all the way straight hammer handles.

    Nice project you have there. I have good selection of used Billnäs heads,plue several other old heads, too,so all the axe stories interest me.

    I am dreaming of a useful doublebit that would have different bevels,one for carving-like jobs and one for chopping down trees and such. But they never became popular in Finland before chainsaws came and quite quickly replaced the axe-workers in the woods. I have just one double bit but is ruined as its been used as wedge and the eye is cracked and such,its useless but my only one yet.

  8. Hmmm, the hammer handle looks like a mirror image opposite in the side-by-side pick. Would it not have been possible to just flip it around?

    Like Bob, I also had a Roselli axe, and the handle was a bit "backwards", but it felt completely fine to use.

    Hope the new handle works out for you!