They say a high-quality axe head will last virtually forever, or until you wear it out with repeated sharpening. The same cannot be said of an axe handle. It hardly matters what material your axe handle is – it will likely fall apart long before you break your axe head.
When this happens, you can either buy a new axe or simply replace that handle. The process of replacing an axe handle, or rehanging, is undoubtedly the more practical choice and is a skill that any lumberjack worth their salt should know.
Curved hickory handle
10 inches to 60 inches
Curved hickory handle
What type of axe handle do you need?
Here are a few things to consider when buying a replacement axe handle.
When picking an axe handle, you have two choices when it comes to the material – wood or fiberglass. As we shall see later on, both choices offer benefits and drawbacks. By far, wood – particularly hickory – is the most common type of axe handle used.
If you’re going for a wood handle, then you’ll have to be a bit more discerning with which handle you pick. A good wood handle should have grains that run parallel to the length of the handle. It should also have no knots or imperfections, as these are natural points of weakness. We also advise that you don’t buy a handle that has been pre-varnished, as it is often a tactic to hide imperfections.
Fiberglass handles are a bit more foolproof. Just make sure to get a replacement handle that fits your axe head. It would also be ideal to buy a replacement axe handle that comes with a pack of a compatible epoxy binder.
Which material to choose is entirely up to you. If your axe originally came with a wooden handle, there’s really nothing stopping you from switching to fiberglass and vice-versa.
Just like the material, you don’t need to stick to the brand of your axe when looking for a replacement handle. What’s more important is that you make sure that the handle fits and that you get the shape and length you’re comfortable with. If you can get a good-quality axe handle from your local craftsman, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
Popular brands like Husqvarna and Gransfors Bruks offer replacement axe handles for their products. These are ideal because they should fit perfectly for the axes for which they are designed for. They also typically come with all the accessories you will need to make the replacement.
The fit of the handle to the axe head is probably the most important qualification of choosing a good axe handle. Ideally, you want the kerf to be snug but not too tight. This is less crucial in fiberglass handles as you will be filling in the gap with epoxy anyway. Wood handles can be sanded down if they are too tight, but a loose fit would be quite difficult to remedy.
If you’ve always felt like your axe handle was too long or too short, then a replacement would be the perfect time to get a handle that’s more your length. Comfort is important but remember that choosing the proper axe length is a compromise between power and control. A longer axe provides more swinging power and is appropriate for felling axes and splitting mauls, while the accuracy and control of a shorter handle are more useful for hatchets.
Curved or straight?
The debate between curved or straight handles is probably one of the most controversial in the community of axe users, so we’ll just go ahead and say that this is a matter of personal preference. Advocates of curved handles would say that it allows them to swing their axes more accurately, but some people have gotten used to compensating for the slight imbalance of straight-handled axes. Take note of what kind of handle you’re comfortable using so that you don’t end up having to relearn to use your axe when you replace its handle.
Types of axe handles
Whether you’re buying a new axe or replacing the handle of an old one, the material of the handle is something that you need to carefully consider. Each option has its pros, cons, and a fair share of fans.
Wood is the classic material of choice for axe handles. Inexpensive and old-fashioned, wood handles are reliably strong, provide ample impact absorption, and look great. Wood is a material that is quite vulnerable to moisture and other elements, so this type of handle will require a lot of maintenance.
Wood makes up for this weakness by being very easy to replace. You will have to do some due diligence when looking for a replacement wood axe handle as a lot of poor-quality axe handles abound.
Fiberglass is a high-performance material that is known for its top-notch strength-to-weight ratio. As an axe handle, high-quality fiberglass delivers strength and impact absorption that is superior to wood but at a much lower weight. Fiberglass is not as finicky when it comes to maintenance, as it’s essentially impervious to damage by moisture. However, replacing a fiberglass handle is a bit harder on account of the material itself not being as common as wood.
Steel handles are the least common of the three. In terms of sheer strength and durability, steel trumps both wood and fiberglass. Steel axe handles are typically stainless and require minimal maintenance outside of corrosion protection.
The drawbacks of steel axe handles are that they are extremely heavy and have virtually no impact absorption capabilities. Axes with steel handles are basically made with a single-piece construction where the handle and axe head are permanently welded to each other. This eliminates any possibility of a handle replacement in the future.
Why hickory is the best wood for axe handles
That heading may seem presumptuous but we’re sure that many lumberjacks would agree with us – based on many factors, hickory is the best wood for axe handles. Hickory has been used to create axe handles since ancient times. The fact that it has lasted through the ages and remains very popular today despite the development of high-performance engineered materials speaks of how reliable this humble hardwood is.
What is it about hickory that makes it the wood of choice for axe handles?
Inexpensive and easily available
Hickory is a domestic wood that is so common in the US that it is alternatively called “American Hickory.” It is widely used as a material for the handle of various tools aside from axes such as picks, hammers, sledgehammers, and knives. Name it and you can probably buy a hickory handle for it.
Being readily accessible doesn’t just mean that you can buy a hickory replacement handle for your axe quickly, but it also means that they are pretty inexpensive. Hatchet handles made from hickory typically cost less than $20, while longer axe handles can cost somewhere between $20 to $30. In any case, it’s much cheaper than buying a new axe.
Strong and flexible
Hickory is known as a long-fiber hardwood with grains that ideally do not break across the entire length of the handle. It’s a very strong wood, but it’s not even the strongest wood around. In terms of sheer durability, oak is superior to hickory because of its higher density. However, hickory has the advantage of being a bit more flexible.
When used as an axe handle, hickory bends just the slightest bit at the moment of impact. This helps in impact absorption and making sure that the grain of the wood does not split apart prematurely without compromising the axe’s chopping power. In comparison, the more rigid oak needs more frequent oil application to prevent it from splitting.
Good impact absorption
A major consideration when choosing any handle is how well the material absorbs the impact of each swing. This has huge implications on how much fatigue the user of the axe experiences. An axe handle with poor impact absorption may even cause long-term physical problems for its user.
As mentioned, hickory bends by just a bit at the point of impact. This absorbs a significant portion of the shock, thus reducing the impact that gets transferred into your hands and the rest of your body. Along with ash, hickory is considered as one of the best in terms of impact absorption out of all the common long-fiber hardwoods.
Take note that not all hickory axe handles are made equal. You will still need to be very discerning when looking at a selection of hickory handles, as there may still be signs of poor quality. Grains that do not run parallel to the length of the handle, knots, and imperfections, are signs of a poorly made handle. Even if these were made with hickory, they will almost certainly split apart early.
Best place to buy axe handles
Just because you can buy hickory handles anywhere doesn’t mean that you can just trust any store that sells them. To make sure that your replacement axe handle does not let you down, it’s worthwhile to get it from a reputable brand that specializes in either axes or axe handles. Here are some of our recommendations:
If it’s convenience you’re after, then it’s tough to beat simply getting your axe handle replacement via Amazon. Most of the axe handles sold on Amazon are made from hickory wood, but we find that is the case for just about every single retailer. Another advantage of buying from Amazon is that you can choose between several reliable and fairly popular brands including Truper, Council Tool, Seymour Midwest, and Link Handles. You can also buy tools for axe handle replacement such as wood wedges, metal wedges, wood glue, and epoxy.
Swedish brand Gransfors Bruk is already one of the more popular names in axe making, so it stands to reason that they are also one of the top choices when buying replacement handles. They offer a wide range of replacement axe handle with varying lengths and choices between straight and curved. The sole limitation is that all their axe handles are made with old-fashioned hickory that has been soaked in hot linseed oil and treated with beeswax.
Another big name in the axe industry, Hults Bruk offers replacement hickory handles for all of their products. Choosing which one works best is a lot easier as Hults Bruk axes have unique names – “Kisa” for their 26-inch felling axe, for instance. Even if you don’t own a Hults Bruk axe, their page helpfully provides detailed measurements of the appropriate eye length and width for each replacement handle.
North Carolina-based Council Tool offers a more diverse selection of replacement handles for their heavy-duty tools. Aside from a range of curved hickory handles, they are also one of the few brands that can provide replacement fiberglass handles. Each fiberglass handle comes with a compatible epoxy kit.
Seymour Midwest boasts of nearly 150 years of history in toolmaking, which is ironic since they are also one of the more innovative and forward-thinking brands we’ve seen. They probably have the most diverse range of replacement axe handles available with options between hickory, ash, or fiberglass and lengths that range from hatchets to splitting mauls. This is another brand based in Tennessee where high-quality hickory is particularly abundant.
No matter which type of axe you have, you’ll likely have to replace its handle eventually if you use it frequently enough. When this happens, it would be nice to already have the know-how of which type of axe handle replacement you want, where to buy it, and how to go about the replacement process.
What we have provided here is just basic information on how to pick the best replacement axe handle for you. You will still need to have the tools for the job – some sandpaper, a hammer, a vise, some wood glue, and a can of boiled linseed paper should be enough.
The 5 best replacement axe handles
Choosing the best axe replacement depends on your specific circumstances – which material you prefer, the length of your axe, and whether you’re more comfortable with a straight or curved handle. To provide more comprehensive recommendations, we’ve come up with a diverse list of replacement axe handles. There should be an entry on this list which perfectly serves your needs.
Truper is easily one of the most recognizable brands worldwide for long-handled striking tools. With more than 50 years of experience in the industry, this is a brand that knows what it’s doing. The handle highlighted here is a 35-inch curved hickory handle for a single-bit axe, but Truper also offers a straight handle for a double bit axe as well as shorter versions for camp hatchets.
This Truper handle comes with good grain in the ideal orientation, a set of wood and metal wedges, and a clear lacquer finish. It has not been pre-varnished, which is usually a good sign. The handle may still need a bit of sanding and treatment of boiled linseed oil, but that’s typically good practice for whenever you replace a wooden axe handle.
Curved hickory handle
10 inches to 60 inches
This hickory handle from Seymore is ideal for shorter axes and hatchets that put a larger focus on control rather than power. Light and well-balanced, Seymour recommends using this handle for axes that weigh around 1.75 lbs.
Although the overall quality of the axe handle is good, it might take a bit of work to get to fit your axe head. The kerf of the handle is too wide for most axe heads, which means that you’ll need to sand it down heavily. It’s unclear whether the handle comes with the needed wooden or metal wedges – the wooden edge seems to be included in most cases. There have also been cases of the kerf being split offset from the center.
Despite issues that can be attributed to quality control, this replacement axe handle from Seymour is still worth considering if only because this axe handles of this size are pretty hard to find.
Curved hickory handle
This is probably the smallest replacement axe handle that you can buy, which is ideal for light chopping work. Quality is our focus here and V & B certainly delivers in that department.
This axe handle is made of high-quality hickory has a very slight curve that helps in ergonomics. The kerf has been pre-split and works well with the included wood and metal wedges.
The only downside of the handle is that it has been pre-coated with a polyurethane substance which isn’t exactly the optimal choice for improving grip. However, this coating can be easily sanded off and replaced with boiled linseed oil. The texture of the grip also isn’t the best, so some heavy sanding may be in order.
Treatment woes aside, this axe handle from V & B is one of the most well-reviewed ones out there. It’s easy to install, handles well, and seems quite durable. It’s also very affordable considering its quality.
If you prefer the toughness and weather-resistance of a fiberglass handle, then this 36-inch handle from Nupla should be perfect if you have a felling or splitting axe. This is compatible with particularly large and heavy axe heads that weigh up to 3.5 lbs. The symmetry of a straight angle also makes it ideal for double-bit axes.
The bottom portion of the handle has a textured surface that enhances grip, while the rest of the body is smooth to facilitate the swinging motion. A tough molded slug helps strengthen the connection of the handle with the axe head along with the included two-part epoxy kit. The replacement process is fairly simple and basic instructions can be easily be found online.
In terms of quality and durability, this fiberglass handle should last longer than most wood handles on account of its moisture-resistant properties. Take note that this is a straight handle. It’s more suitable for chopping firewood but will take considerable skill if you want to use it to fell a tree.
Balance is particularly crucial when it comes to replacing the handle of a double bit axe. This replacement handle from Link Handles delivers on this area and is one of the most affordable axe handles at this size.
This straight handle works really well with double-bit axes as it means that the axe feels well-balanced whether you’re swinging with the dull or sharp edge. This handle is a little slimmer than most, making it more ideal for users with small hands.
Fair warning, though – this is an axe handle that will take a bit of work. It’s a tight fit for most axe heads, so you’ll have to do a bit of sanding, grinding, and hammering. There’s a wooden wedge included with the handle. Make sure that you have good wood glue on hand when you start with the handle replacement work.
The biggest flaw of this product is that it seems to suffer with the consistency of grain direction. This is absolutely critical in ensuring that the handle does not split apart prematurely, but the company has received several complaints about the grain not being perfectly parallel with the handle.