Head removal advice

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Welshie12, Feb 17, 2020.

  1. Welshie12


    Jan 15, 2020
    I've only ever put a few axe heads on handles (so am probably not that good at it :oops::p ) but the ones I've done have been just heads or heads with broken handles so it didn't matter how I pulled the head off the remaining handle and usually ended up drilling it to loosed it or hammering the stump out from the bottom up. No idea if that's what your supposed to do bit it works so...
    However I've seen some on here removing heads off handles without damaging the handle and even getting whole wedges out in one piece. So how does someoneone go about doing that?
  2. Yankee Josh

    Yankee Josh Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    One way is to pilot a hole in the wedge and sink a screw into it and carefully back it out with a claw hammer or cat's paw. More often than not I end having to just use a drill bit and completely remove the old wedge that way.
    Another trick before even trying is, if you have forced hot air heating or a fan on your wood stove, is to place the axe with the haft still in it in the hot breeze from a heat source for a week before trying. That usually dries things out really well.
    Sounds like you've already got the right idea for removing broken hafts. Cut em off and bash em up through from the bottom. I've got pictures somewhere... If I can find em I'll post some up for you. It's definitely a skill you'll want to master! Good helves, especially vintage ones, are getting harder to come by.
    Hairy Clipper, quinton and Welshie12 like this.
  3. Welshie12


    Jan 15, 2020
    Thanks. I had thought of the screw trick myself but haven't tried it yet. I have a fairly modern hickory handled fiskars I want to rehang on the same handle but there is one of those round/pipe wedges in there holding it in and wasn't sure if it would work. It's currently sat next to my parents log burner (wife kept putting it in the shed when I tried at home :rolleyes: ) so hopefully it will have dried out a bit better by the time I get round to it.
    I was going to try soaking it in linseed oil but thought it was too far gone for that and I'd just be making life harder for myself.
    It's a lovely axe to use actually. I haven't done a lot with it but it's 3lb weight splits really well. I hid it in the wardrobe at home to keep it out of reach of my daughter when she had a bit of an obsession with it and it got pushed to the back and forgotten about for I think 2 years :oops::rolleyes::confused: probably why the head has come loose it never was when it was stored outside :rolleyes: a good chance for a learning experience and hang it really tight when I get round to it :thumbsup:
    Yankee Josh likes this.
  4. DB_Cruiser

    DB_Cruiser Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 17, 2018
    I was able to get one of those round steel wedges out recently. I happened to have a large eye bolt that fit the inside diameter of the wedge well, but not tight. I used a similar sized drill bit in a hand drill to remove about 3/8" of wood inside the wedge. Then I screwed in the eyebolt such that one side of the threads on the bolt were in contact with the inside of the wedge. After a couple of turns, the wedge began to back out. I was able to reuse the haft though it was probably about 3/4" shorter.
    Hairy Clipper, quinton and Welshie12 like this.
  5. FLINT77


    Apr 8, 2013
    I've been doing this a good bit. This is what I've found.

    I have had really good success pulling out OLD steel and wood wedges using the screw trick. I have 100% success on steel wedges this way.

    However, I've also recently been pulling some heads that I hung within the last year or two and I've had zero success pulling those wedges with a screw.

    For those I have to drill out the wedge with a drill bit - and then try to pry out the rest of it with a skinny screw driver.

    If you don't want to save the handle, then you don't have to be careful - but if I'm careful, I've drilled out a couple wedges with no damage to the hickory handle at all.

    once I get the wedge all or mostly out, I set the head across a couple boards and then drive the handle out of the eye with a drift. I have a wood drift made out of an old handle - and for really stubborn ones, I have a large bolt - the head of which JUST fits inside the eye of a full sized axe - and that will always get the wood moving.
    Welshie12 likes this.
  6. Hairy Clipper

    Hairy Clipper Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 28, 2009
    Since you mention it getting loose you might try Swell-Lock before doing anything that might be destructive. A google search will find places to acquire it. The link below will give some detail.
  7. FLINT77


    Apr 8, 2013
    actually I just tonight had success pulling a wedge that I had put in recently.

    I put a bigger screw in the wedge and deeper. then slid the nail slot on a big crow bar over the head of the screw and instead of prying with the crow bar - I drove it up from beneath with a hammer. I rapped it on either side of the nail slot and after a while the largest piece of the wedge came up out. Then I was able to drift the handle out of the head using my large bolt drift.

    zero damage to the handle. I've got it all rehung now and happy.
  8. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    Another way to remove a wedge is to carve away some wood below the head so that you can drop the head 1/4". Then you have 1/4" of haft protruding above the eye. Carefully cut off the 2 sides of the protuding haft with a fine tooth saw. Then you're left with 1/4" of wedge protruding. Grab that with your vise and yank it out.

    The wedge is even re-usable this way.
  9. muleman77


    Jan 24, 2015
    The best thing I did, for new or reusing handles was make some nice steel drifts.

    Whatever kind you use, one that fits pretty well really saves the top of those handles.

    I usually take them down as @Square_peg described to get the wedge but everybodys suggestions here come into play once in a while, depending on whats going on in there.

    Whatever the case there, though.....in the end it needs a drift.

  10. gben


    Nov 26, 2014
    A few years ago someone in my town removed their head by running into a light pole while riding a motorcycle.
  11. Peck Price

    Peck Price

    Sep 28, 2013
    I use pieces of old, unusable axe handles for drifts. I hit them with a belt sander until they fit. I can usually get numerous handles off before they split out. We have two vises in our shop and I have a pile of hickory drifts laying by each vise. Muleman hit on an important point. There isn't a magic bullet for handle removal. Every hang is different and saving a handle can be a chore. I have had ax heads fall off and I have worked for two days to get them off. It is like most other things in life, if I find myself getting frustrated I walk away until I am fresh and not prone to mess something up.
  12. Meek1

    Meek1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 11, 2019
    Yankee Josh and muleman77 like this.

Share This Page