Broadaxe Handle Replacement (pt3): A Shapely Matter

Working within certain confines, it’s of course the nature of things and I won’t go as far as to deny that we all live lives of constraint and that the idea of freedom, it’s quite a fabrication anyway. The fly sitting on my knee thinks it’s free until I clasp my hands above it, anticipating it’s trajectory, knowing not to slap from above, and it is smashed between my palms.

And so it could be that I wish for slightly more material, with a bit more curve to it but what I have is less than that, still I find it worth going forward, even without complete freedom. Constraints often guide our actions, and it’s a good thing too.

ProjectionThe handle in profile is straight, (I come to a more subtle description just around the corner), meaning it veers neither up or down from the axis through the axe’s socket, which is skewed, the handle not needing it. In addition, as it is ideally with other carpentry axes, the straight belly once again gives a reference that is sound. I say it because in general in carpentry as opposed to, oh lets say carving or sculpture, we are dealing primarily with right angles and not curves so I always say, best to be consistent throughout.

SweepHaving a look from 90° to that position it’s another matter, though still related to this same conceptual framework which is the recurring theme, you will take note, that is to say the handle from this point of view does break from the axis in two ways. First there is the articulation at the knuckle, or where the handle exits the socket. Secondarily – and I say that in both senses of the word – there is the curve along the length, (at this point the stick is still long and not cut to its eventual finished length). The conventional thinking on this is pretty mundane, uninteresting and not insightful and is something I don’t share. It goes something like this, that this is a measure to keep the axe wielder’s knuckles from grazing the side of the timber. Believe it if you want to, try your best to rationalize but at least be honest and take the conviction to its logical conclusion. I take a rational approach and say that it is simply a continuation of the straight line, right angle theme,  extending it from the tool to the posture of the user.

Here are two hewers, one going at it in the right-handed way the other, in the left-handed way but that’s not relevant to what I’m going on and on about at the moment. The relevant consideration is the centering on the axis and aligning with the plane. I guess no further comment beyond the two images could add any more clarity. I could be wrong and then I would love to hear back any dissenting opinions.

Put in straightforward terms, the off-set in the handle if the breitaxt will facilitate squaring the shoulders of the chopper  close to 90° to the plane of the surface getting worked without  need for unnatural contortions as a means of compensation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Small though it may be I have gone to the effort of giving some graphic supplementation, shopping up the picture for the sake of clarity to point out a reality that may not be so apparent in the raw photo. The two points indicated are the positions of the articulation along the handles length as an entirety. In the old handle this point corresponds to the where the handle exits the socket, and this is how it should ideally be or how convention would dictate it be. In my replacement handle this articulation occurs further down the handle by about a centimeter. Well, like I tried to point out to begin with, I have been working under certain constraints regarding this particular handle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince I’m in this area I like to point out a further refinement or subtlety even, at the knuckle which is by no means necessary, only interesting if not to say pleasing to my eye. That is the reduction or the cornice at the transition from the socket to the grip, not only at the back, which is obvious  and essential, but the way it extends to three sides in a fairly consistent line.

Belly of handle

I’m here to make it plain that the belly of the grip is as straight as the edge of my measure, and that the back-side is curved. A means to give it the proper shape and size to fit your hand in cross-section.

Back of handle

Making it all the more suitable for an effective grip. Also, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call the end of the handle caulked there is a definite swelling there all around, giving you such an enhanced feel of security in these scary times we live.


8 thoughts on “Broadaxe Handle Replacement (pt3): A Shapely Matter

  1. hoping that this new attempt with holly will give more success than the first one. I went through the same route as you with hornbeam taken from the bottom of the tree stem, wholly twisted (and, you know, wavy stuff) grinding the “39” breitbeil on the lapping plate for ages, leaving greyish marks on the newly shaped handle


    1. Is there a way for you to find out between steps if and how much the edges are rounded from the sandpaper? It’s a shame only to know at the last step when your fine grits won’t reach these places without tipping the blade.


  2. A good flattened stone will show the structural high spots, or where the sandpaper wave effect has lead to any rounding. It’s at least a good way of checking/controlling the flattening process from time to time.


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