A Replacement Handel (Pt.1)

A few whacks with the revised blade in some truly hard oak reveal more of the internal condition of my axe and exposed the connection between axe head and grip to be tenuous. A whack or two more and what was tenuous is insufficient with the axe head rising off the tongue of the handle. The friction fit of the outward tapering socket is fine for transferring the shock of the blows, with all the information or feedback contained. Being literate in interpreting this feedback will provide you much helpful guidance in your work with axes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, when I removed its handle the reason for this dissonance was easy for anyone with eyes which are working to grasp. For one reason or those other it has been shimmed in excess and the continuity of the axe as a whole interrupted not to mention the vital friction holding the handle and head effectively to each other more or less rendered ineffectual.

As much as I prefer to keep such a fine old beech handle, (the common handle of Europe to the south of let’s say roughly Paris but even on up through Bavaria and the Alps), as this one is I like having a good axe and handle combination even more so the course of action is obvious and the work of a replacement now gets undertaken with no equivocation.

I have the luck of having a piece of holly for the handle which will work, given by Marc the axe handle wood expert of France. Holly like this is great fun to work. Take an axe, drawknife, knives even spokeshaves and planes, that fine structure it has makes it more pleasant than ash to me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And it seems to be a wood giving a good grip which you wont get with a handle from, oh say, elm for one.

To be continued, in my own good time.

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6 thoughts on “A Replacement Handel (Pt.1)

  1. and here I was just today looking out our motley beech trees wondering if there was anything useful that could be done with them other than firewood. Nice rays, I hadn’t realised beech was one of those woods. Any chance of seeing the cross-section grain of the old handle for a clue as to where in the tree it came from? Our beech are young and all have the waviness of a mirage. It’s hard to imagine anything straight enough for a handle.

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  2. Graeme, my excuses but your message never did register and I only come across it now and let it pass on through to the front page. As the 17 century English furniture critic once said, and I read it when I was at furniture making school, and still believe it now, ” Beech is the vulgarest of woods”. But I would still use it as handle wood if that’s what I had at hand. Give me the time and I’ll cut up that old handle to give a precise look at the end grain, the orientation and all that stuff.

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    1. “Graeme, my excuses…” As we say here – ‘You’re excused but don’t do it again’. Seriously though, no excuses required, appreciate the reply. However I’m not sure that ‘vulgar’ is a negative. It’s real meaning is the opposite of aristocrat – common, see your soy boy, run of the mill, that is you and I (as your post says). By extension taken as crude, unrefined and on down to rude and disgusting. In my world of plants so many species are vulgar in the latin but the common name is ‘common….’ such as that many footed wall fern you’d be familiar with Common Polypody or Polypodium vulgare.
      I digress, I take it then that beech is a serviceable wood for tool handles, but indifferent in it’s properties.

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  3. And I think the word as used by our 17 English century critic is closer to your explanation of it. Good, (or not), that he wasn’t friends with that Swede Lineaus.
    Make sure your beech is plenty dry when you fit it because as I know it this wood can have a high water content and go through dramatic dimensional changes on its way there.

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  4. Thanks Ernest, I’ll be sure to do that.
    Something wrong with my thinking though, could you strike out ‘hoy poloy’ please, it’s a negative in my thinking but the other way ‘snob’.
    Cheers Graeme

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