An axe is a dual-purpose instrument used as both a tool and a weapon. Whether functioning as a tool or a weapon, the duties you perform with your axe are essential, and regardless of your axe’s designated use, one statement rings true: you do not want your axe’s handle to fall off or break mid-swing.
To prevent this occurrence, you need to construct your axe’s handle from the right wood for its expected workload. When determining the best type of wood to use for creating your axe handle, several factors should be considered before making your final decision.
Appropriately addressing the key required elements for your instrument’s handle will help ensure your axe won’t renege on you when you need it the most, and it continues to work for you for a long time to come.
Multiple kinds of wood are renowned for making world-class axe handles. The factors to keep in mind when deciding what type of wood is suitable for this all-important designation include:
- Accessibility – is that option readily available to you?
- Affordability – can you afford the cost of the material?
- Shock-absorption – does that wood absorb impact to your standards?
- Durability – will that wood withstand the conditions you have in mind?
- Strength – does that wood provide your handle with the strength needed to perform the tasks you require?
With those criteria in mind, let’s take a look at the top five most common woods used to make axe handles. Once you have looked at the wood options available to you and considered the criteria for what makes the best handle, you will be well-equipped to decide on the correct choice of wood for a long-lasting axe handle.
Hickory is the standard option for most American-made axe handles, and it has been for hundreds of years. Its popularity is because hickory checks off almost all of the boxes for the best wood to use for an axe handle.
Hickory makes a good, reliable axe handle because:
- Its price is right for virtually any budget.
- Hickory is readily available in the States.
- Hickory is very strong and extremely shock absorbent, and it is easy to fashion a handle because it is a straight-grained wood.
Aesthetically, hickory is not the most attractive wood available to fashion an axe handle. But, if you have to choose between appearance and functionality, it should be hickory wood for the win all day.
Ash, often referred to as “golden oak,” typically runs a close second to hickory when it comes to wood used to make axe handles. Commonly available in Europe and considered to be hardwood, ash checks off most of the same boxes as hickory.
Ash is a good choice for a reliable axe handle because:
- It is virtually shock-resistant.
- It is lightweight, making it easy to swing.
- It is not difficult to find; therefore, it is relatively inexpensive.
- It is good for woodworking, aesthetically pleasing, and takes stain well.
The area where ash falls behind is in its durability. It does not seem to withstand the elements as well as other woods.
Altogether, Ash is not a bad choice of wood for making an axe handle, provided it is not left overexposed to the elements.
Oak is another wood that is commonly used for crafting long-lasting axe handles. Also commonly found in Europe and America, oak checks off most of the boxes required to make it a quality handle for your axe.
Oak is a good option for handle making because:
- It absorbs shock well.
- It is commonly found, hence affordable.
- It is harder than virtually any wood available, thus making it very strong.
- It tends to react well to the elements, and it is durable for the most part.
Oak falls short only in that if it is not oiled regularly, it tends to splinter, thus taking away a bit from its durability.
Sugar Maple is a wood a decent axe handle can be fashioned from. It is native to North America, and it is well known for being used to make baseball bats.
Reasons for opting for sugar maple when making an axe handle include:
- It is a very strong wood.
- It resists the elements well.
- It is relatively inexpensive because it is not a rare wood.
The area where sugar maple is a let-down is in its ability to absorb shock properly. Commonly, it will shatter if met with a sudden impact, making it less desirable than other woods for the use of an axe handle.
If you are dead-set on making your handle out of sugar maple, there are ways in which you can make it more shock-absorbant. Ensuring that the wood grain has been appropriately cut and oiling it regularly to keep it more pliable are a couple of ways to make sugar maple more usable for a sturdy, long-lasting axe handle.
Native to Scandanavia, birch is the final wood on our list for the best options for axe handles because it makes for a relatively inexpensive, moderately long-lasting handle.
While other woods mentioned commonly make better handles than birch, some of the reasons it makes the list include:
- It is relatively strong.
- It is less apt to shatter than maple.
- It is readily available, making it cost-effective.
- It will resist the elements nicely, thus making it durable.
While this wood has its drawback, it is a reasonably reliable wood from which to fashion your axe handle.
While there is a vast world of wood available to you, not all woods are created equal when making an axe handle. If you consider the key components necessary to make a sound, long-lasting axe handle, you will see that it all comes down to what will work best for you in your particular situation.
Certain woods are better equipped as axe handles, but they are less attractive. Others are more attractive, but they will provide less reliability. Which is more important to you? Aesthetics or reliability? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.