Sharpening shop questions and answers: All axe edition!

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

The questions are flying fast and furious so it’s time again to make with the answers! I’ve been seeing a LOT of questions about axes coming in, so this is the “all axe” edition!

1. (question about using metal wedges in axe handles)

Without exception, the main wedge (running the long way in the eye) of an axe handle should always be a wooden wedge. In the past, steel main wedges made in a “T” shape (the flat top of the wedge covers the end of the handle) were popular, these were a terrible idea and should be removed from all axes where found. These wedges are almost impossible to keep tight (the top keeps the wedge from being driven in further to tighten a loose handle) and they tend to trap moisture, rotting the end of the handle.

The only type of metal wedge that should ever be used in an axe handle are the small cross wedges that drive in at an angle across the main wooden wedge. These are only needed if the handle is improperly fitted to the axe.

2. (question about removing a wedge from an axe handle)

Presuming you don’t care about saving the handle, the easiest way by far is to cut the handle off just below the head, drill as much as possible of the wedge out on a drill press, then drive the remainder down through the handle with an appropriately shaped block of wood. If you’re looking to replace a botched wedging job in an otherwise sound handle, you’re left with splitting small pieces off the wedge and then prying them out with a fine screwdriver. I’ve done this at times to save a great vintage handle but it takes a fair amount of time and patience.

3. (question about the heaviest axe head)

Only considering true axes and not things like splitting mauls, the heaviest axe head I’ve had in my inventory is a 7lb poll axe. This head has the same eye size as the common 3 1/4lb poll axe but it’s more than twice as heavy, I have no idea what the application for one like this might have been. I’ve since cut the head down to 6lb in the process of bringing the bit back into shape (the weight of a standard splitting maul).

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s