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Replacing a Hatchet Handle

 Axe with old handle

I’ve always been fascinated with antique tools. They tell a unique story of accomplishment and progress of the people who lived before us. A tool was a precious thing, many times the difference between life or death, food or famine, protection from the elements or the key to saving hours of back breaking labor.  

 Axe with old and new handle

I find it especially interesting if something is known of the family or person who owned the tool. In this instance, this hatchet was my grandfather’s. My grandfather worked as a young man in the lumber industry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I don’t know if this particular axe was used in his time as a lumber man, but I know that any woodworking tool was dear to him.  

 Axe with Walters touchmark

The axe head is in marvelous condition. It is a Walter’s and by the style, could have been made anywhere from 1912 to 1969. Walter’s axes weren’t rare tools, but the identification of them is often difficult because the touch mark was stamped so lightly. In many of the axe heads the symbol wore off with use.   

Axe with handle

The original wooden handle of my grandfather’s axe was quite decayed and unsafe to use. The head of the axe was loose and may fly off mid swing. We had discussed replacing the handle and making the hatchet a useful tool again. The store bought handles were nice and convenient, but lacked meaning and sentiment.  

Traced handle

So Zach bought a piece of kiln dried hickory from a family owned mill by our house. Hickory is a nice wood for handles as it is a strong, durable wood with relatively straight grain. It can handle the shock of blunt force without splitting.

 Handle shaped

Zach used the old handle as a template but made it a bit larger, with more girth, to fit more comfortably in his hands.   

 Shaping the handle

He traced and cut the profile 

Shaving the wood

Then used a draw knife and spoke shave to shape the handle leaving the end. (Trusty helper always by his side)  

 Whittle line

Once he had a good start on the handle he traced the opening of the axe head as a guide line to whittle down to.   

Once the axe head would fit half way, he cut a slot in the end for the wedge and carefully drove the head in with a mallet on the fawns foot end. 

 Making the wedge

Here he is making the wedge using the axe. 

Wedge and axe head

Then drove the wedge to keep the head secure.  

 Finished axe

220 grit sandpaper smoothed the wood and gave the handle a very comfortable finish.  

For more about farming, woodworking and blacksmithing, visit our blog at Iron Oak Farm