Attaching An Axe Head To A New Handle

One of the more difficult steps in attaching an axe head to a new handle is removing the old handle first.  If your axe handle has been broken or splintered, it may make the process easier.  If the shaft of the handle has broken and the axe head is still intact at end of the handle, then prepare yourself for some fun.

Removing the axe head from the old handle 

One of the easiest ways to remove the axe head is to drill out the wood thru the eye of the axe head. Before doing so, make sure to determine whether there is a metal wedge in the wood.  These wedges – which can be wood or metal - help secure the handle to the axe head. If there is a metal wedge, be careful and drill around it.  You can substitute a slim chisel in lieu of the drill.  The goal is to remove some of the wood at the end of the handle and allow enough slack to allow the axe head to come off.  If the axe is very old, you might find that rust has strengthened the bonding between axe and handle. Don't forget to use eye protection for drilling because the debris can harm you.

Saw off the handle close to the axe head, and clamp it in the vise. Knock off the remaining handle from the bottom of the axe head using a hammer or a broad piece of steel or wood. Work around as much of the wood as possible to jar it loose; don't stay in one spot for too long.

Once this is done, take the time to inspect the axe head. You can choose to sharpen the blade now or after attaching it to a new handle.  A light coat of oil will help prevent rust.

Attaching the axe head to a new handle

Axe handles can be found at many hardware or home improvement stores. They’re usually made of ash or hickory.  It’s preferable to get an unfinished handle, as lacquered ones tend to create blisters.  Many handles come with their own wedges. While stock handles will fit most axe heads, antique axe heads may be more difficult and require customization of the handle to a much greater degree.

Fit the axe head onto the handle, making sure the axe head is right side up. The fit should be very snug. Be prepared to whittle or sand the handle to allow it to enter the axe head – but be very careful not to take too much of the handle. You can always remove, but you can not add wood.   

Once the handle has entered the axe head, start tapping the other end of the handle shaft on a solid piece of wood or surface.  This will seat the axe head onto the handle. If you see a slight bit of shavings begin to form on the handle (under the axe head) you’ll know that the axe head has seated properly.

The last step is to hammer a wedge into the center of the handle through the top of the eye of the axe head. This will wedge the wood against the axe head making for a secure bond. If you’ve done all this properly, you shouldn’t have much handle or wedge left sticking out of the top.