Handle Making Questions

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by MittensKitten, Jan 5, 2021.

  1. MittensKitten

    MittensKitten

    16
    Sep 30, 2019
    I found a couple of four foot lengths of eighteen inch diameter White Oak for free on Craigslist.
    Whoever gave it away had partially split it and had layout lines on the end like they were going to do some green wood working. The ends have checked a lot but there is a lot of solid material left to rive into handles. There does still seem to be some moisture in the wood as I split new sections apart.

    Being my first time attempting something like this, I have a few questions.

    When I'm riving a piece, how big should it be relative to the final dimensions of the axe handle?

    Does it matter if I use sapwood or a combination of both heartwood and sapwood or should I strive to use only heartwood?

    Should I approach the final dimensions of my handle and then let it sit and dry before the final stock removal and hanging the head?

    If there are any good online resources or books with this information I'd appreciate any leads.

    Thanks for any advice!
     
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  2. A17

    A17

    Jan 9, 2018
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  3. MittensKitten

    MittensKitten

    16
    Sep 30, 2019
    I'm not familiar with how you PM people on this board. Should I post on his profile post or is there a way to PM him?
     
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  4. catspa

    catspa

    215
    Oct 25, 2009
    Josh’ll be along in a while, but I can tell you about carving handles from maple.

    I rive green maple billets about 1/2” wider and thicker than I expect the handle to be, and 4-6” longer. Seasoned maple I increase to about an inch over, because the split is more likely to go astray (maybe due to my bad riving technique).

    I rive for grain orientation without regard to sapwood/heartwood ratio, but most of my billets favor the sapwood just because that’s where the rings are straighter.

    I rough shape my maple handles green, wax the ends, and dry them indoors til the weight gets down to about 1/2oz per cubic inch. Then I carve them to fit the head, then I finish shaping the handle.

    Split and dry more billets than you think you need. Some will become kindling for unseen flaws, excessive checking or miscuts.

    Making your own handles is fun, and it frees you from choosing among the dwindling commercial offerings. Best of luck.

    Parker
     
  5. MittensKitten

    MittensKitten

    16
    Sep 30, 2019
    Thanks for the reply catspa! Are you using hard or soft maple and what kind of wax do you seal with?

    I think I've made a mistake with the first pieces that I rived by splitting the pie into thinner pie shapes. I guess that is appropriate for a
    board, but for a handle I would want rive perpendicular to the pie. I want the growth rings inline with the axe head, correct? Does this make sense?

    I'm also a bit uncertain about riving vs sawing. I understand that with riving you are utilizing the weakness of the wood to process it while preserving the strength by retaining long fibers. After you begin to shape the handle further and remove more material with drawknives, spoke shaves, or rasps, does the initial splitting make any difference?

    I look forward to the guru sharing some of his knowledge and appreciate any information you guys have to offer.
     
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  6. rjdankert

    rjdankert

    Mar 10, 2011
    [​IMG]


    Bob
     
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  7. MittensKitten

    MittensKitten

    16
    Sep 30, 2019
    I want a bastard right? Haha. Are those the terms used to describe riven wood?
     
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  8. rjdankert

    rjdankert

    Mar 10, 2011
    Riving allows the long fibers to remain intact in the blank where sawing will almost certainly sever them (runout). So when you shape the handle from a rived blank you are starting from a better place.


    Bob
     
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  9. rjdankert

    rjdankert

    Mar 10, 2011
    I believe most prefer that orientation. There are other terms for the same thing. I got the term "bastard" from an article on splitting shakes.


    Bob
     
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  10. MittensKitten

    MittensKitten

    16
    Sep 30, 2019
    Thanks for the info!
     
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  11. catspa

    catspa

    215
    Oct 25, 2009
    Hey, MK. Bigleaf maple is fairly common in the coastal PNW, it is med-soft, because it grows fast in this climate. Doesn’t show much color difference between heartwood and sapwood. I’ve also used vine maple, which I think is stronger, but seldom grows over 8” dia. Neither is as strong as hickory or ash (which do not grow here), which makes grain orientation more important IMHO.

    Bob’s diagram shows the grain you want. In the trades, we refer to those orientations as “flatsawn” and “quartersawn”. Every other woodworker I know wants quartersawn and/or figured maple wood, better for furniture. I want the straight grain flatsawn pieces.

    If you’re making hatchet or hammer handles, riving may not offer much advantage over sawing, and I sometimes cut my blanks on the bandsaw. For a long thin falling axe handle, riving shows more clearly if a particular billet is a good candidate.

    Parker

    P.S. Paraffin wax, sold with canning supplies.
     
  12. MittensKitten

    MittensKitten

    16
    Sep 30, 2019
    Catspa, I'm in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have a lot of different Maples around me. I haven't done much research on it but I think a lot of them are soft. As
    I understand it, sugar maple is the hard stuff and referred to as rock maple. We have a lot of Ash that's been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer and there are also Shagbark Hickory trees. In an urban area that I live in I much prefer to see the trees growing and providing shelter and food for wildlife. Especially the Hickory seems to be a magnet for animals. There is a lot of Black Locust that was either planted purposely for erosion control or just thrives in the clay soil here. Many of those Locust trees are starting to die because I think they are at the end of there natural lifespan. I'm lucky with the variety of trees around me, but I don't really have access to them because they are all on private or city property.
     
  13. catspa

    catspa

    215
    Oct 25, 2009
    From what I’ve read, hickory is the strongest, followed by ash, oak and maple are pretty close to each other. Maybe you could make some hatchet or hawk handles out of that oak, and find an arborist who would get you a lead on some hickory. My arborist friends think custom handles are pretty cool...

    Parker
     

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