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Suitable axe handle material?

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I will be making a small camping axe for a customer in the near future, and I'd prefer not having to use pinewood for the handle as he wanted the same handle material in the axe as the knife he will be ordering along with it. So - I need to find a wood that will look good both on a smaller knife handle, as well as an approximate 40 cm (15.74") long axe handle.

I was thinking of snakewood, but that stuff in damn expensive.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. :)

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I assume youre looking to buy already dried wood? As opposed to cutting and drying your own. 

Ash is my go to for hafts, its lighter than oak and suprisingly strong. Following that is maple, then oak.

I would say go with maple, its a bit heavier than ash, but makes a great ax handle, and will probably look better on the knife then ash as well, especially if you can get some curly stuff. 

Edited by Will W.
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That is a problem...  a wood that is suitable for an axe handle is usually not going to be very much of a standout on a knife.  I think Will's maple idea is your best bet, if you can get birdseye maple it is stronger than curly maple.  My go-to woods for axe handles that will be used are, in order, hickory, ash, and osage orange, with figured maple a distant fourth.  Straight grain maple is great for axes, but a bit plain for knives.  Ooh! If you can get curly ash that would be perfect!  Too bad you're in Norway, I can get excellent curly ash here in the eastern US.  :(

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I was thinking that you could just have a couple pieces sent here from the states to you, but i would imagine the cost would be prohibitive. Do you have any lumber dealers/saw mills or something of that nature near you? Might be your best bet, unless price isnt too big of an issue. 

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Figured maple or figured hickory is going to be your best bet.
Axes need to have strong wood for handles.
You can look up each wood you're interested in based on the Janka scale which is wood hardness.
You can compare each wood to hickory which is the American standard for axes and hammers.
Maple is a bit softer.
But still very functional.
You also need to consider the ability to source a long enough and wide enough piece of wood for the job.
Some exotics are actually fairly priced but finding them in actual boards is difficult.

Edited by JJ Simon

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Thanks guys!

I suppose I shall go for curly maple of some sort then.

This will be a short axe, for camping purposes, so I don't think it will need all that serious strength. The curly maple will also look good on the knife. Or I might suggest snake wood - and see if he is willing to pay the price for it. :)

I might check out that curly ash as Mr. Longmire suggested too. Perhaps I can find something on E-Bay. I will have to import it from wherever anyways... :)

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Ash is stronger, but any tightly curled wood is much weaker than straight grain.  I once made myself a hammer handle from really tight curly ash.  It lasted one forging session. :(  If you can find curly hickory it will do the job better.  It's just harder to find.

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I have some wood that looks like snakewood but is softer (lacewood maybe) for one of my forging hammer handles and its holding up fine. But I think that if I missed a swing and hit the handle on something it would break easily. It can be burned and wire brushed for a nice color and texture.

Same goes for oak, I have a hammer and a three foot long handled hatchet with oak that have been well used but could crack with a missed swing.

 

 

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Hmm, if I had the equipment and budget I suppose I'd make a laminated composite handle consisting of several different woods - stronger ones for the core, and perhaps an outer layer of softer but more aesthetically pleasing wood. :)

I'll have a closer look at the woods mentioned - and see which one I land on. It needs to look good both on the axe handle as well as the knife handle.

I suppose I could get extra curly for the knife - and a different less curly slab of wood for the axe handle.

 

So technically they would be the same type of wood, with an overall close similarity in looks - even though not "cut from the same cloth" as it were...

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Perhaps you could use whatever wood you like for a nice figured knife handle, and then do a shallow inlay of that same wood into an axe handle that is made from more typical materials?

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4 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

Perhaps you could use whatever wood you like for a nice figured knife handle, and then do a shallow inlay of that same wood into an axe handle that is made from more typical materials?

It certainly is a possibility. I will make sure to mention it to the customer when he comes to discuss the project. :) Good idea, thanks! :D

 

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