Tool Handle Woods

Really no current topic on this my latest interest area.
As North American it is easy to just say hickory, hickory - nothing better.
But for this North American, hickory is an exotic that “lives” at least 1500 miles away.
Should-be some local/regional woods too!
Here PNW woods once used/currently recommended to me for long tool push-pull handles are vine-maple, big-leaf maple, rarer yew wood.
And I finally did find a traditional handle maker guy at the county fair who said for hammering/pounding the only thing to use here comparable to hickory is eastern dry-side Washington/Oregon ash woods. Only they had the no-fracture shock resistance and vibration self-dampening ability. Maple will fracture just up next to the heads he said. He was a real wood-DOer. Had two old restored working gasoline powered drag saws set ups. One crosscutting doug fir logs demonstrating his cross-cut saw sharpening… The other drag-saw set-up was rip sawing ash wood trunk blocks into handles blank stocks.
He made a BIG maple slab table with his rip drag saw from a last winters big-ol aged-out wind fell down yard maple tree. Got a craftsman blue-ribbon award for his table, project pictures.

Net searching shows some highly recommended European “local” tool handle woods. Some South American used/recommended woods.
I expect North American hickory would be a rare (expensive) import into Australia, New Zealand, South Africa too.

Some interesting ideas on handle woods, forming and best-practices drying curing can be Net dug up.

“learn before you need” is my motto/ethic. Later will be much, much harder. With lots of not-quite-good-enough attempts.
tree-farmer Steve Unruh

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A topic people often neglect. With unwanted consequences.

Here we tipicaly use ash for the toughest job tool handles. Hammers, cant hooks, picks, the part where the horse is bond to the wagen (dont know the word for it, dont eaven know the official Slovenian word for it :smile:)… tough and elastic.
Rake handles are traditionaly hazel bush branches, but its a trend to use machine made tilia handles. Superlight, but weak becouse of the interrupted grain.
Shovels and similar, l like elderwood. Light, elastic and it usualy has a natural bend to it.
Ha, l broke a handle on one of my picks the other day. I hadnt had time to make a wooden one so l just welded it on a 3’ peace of 2" steel pipe :smile: it works fine, a few more calories burnt, but its practical since no dissasembly is neaded at the dayly reforgeing.

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This book goes on and on about the science of the axe.

He says Hickory. But some will do, black locust, hop-hornbeam, white ash, white oak, and sugar maple. Use the sap wood

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Locally here different handles where often made of mountain ash. I hope that´s the right translation. Red berries which birds love. Leaves look simular to the ones to smoke. Stringy and hard wood. Dries slowly. Ok when shunked. I run quite a lot of in the gasifier.

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I have one of those handles on a dung fork I made as a kid water pipe with a round stock bent into a triangle for you to hold. It is heavy but still here 30 years later. The only dung fork that ever lasted. I did the same for a hoe but I think after the cows left that one grew legs and walked away.

I was alway told the best handles where ash. I always wondered about Elm the stringy grain seems like it would be tough and take alot of abuse.

Mountain Ash is something I have heard of we don’t have any here but I wanted to get some for the berries. I want to setup an orchard of all kinds of non common fruits someday.

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Ha, we have mountan ash too, but it realy is a voriety of ash. Hard core premium wood, but wery rare.
The tree that you call mountain ash is called differently here and is actualy not in the ash family. The berrys are made in to a jam and are cconsumed in times of sickness, to boost health.
I recently heared schnaps made out of it sells for 100€/liter. I am planing to plant a profitable tree pmplantation in the near future and these guys are one option. Together with elder and some other.

As for handle wood. When l was in to knife makeing a few years back, l used mainly Laburnum (latin name). It ts a incredibly tough and resistant, yet butyfull wood but it is rare to find one of sufficiant thickness. If you google it, you see wood consists of about 3/4 sap wood. Useless for anythyng. Disolves to a spunge on plain air within a year but it is the core inside that is amazeing.

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Plenty of mountain ash here. I have two right next to my chunk storages.

If I get my old still going I guess I could easily finance a trip to Slovenia :smile:

About Laburnum. Swedish name translates “Golden rain”. I can’t recall seeing it. Wife says we have it around here. So does Wiki.
Apparently it’s poisonous. Especially the seads, but also the wood.

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Go ahead and start picking :wink:
If you are unable to sell it, spare it for my arrival :smile:

Laburnum is poisonous yes. It translates from our language to “no manure”. Not sure why but it sure has a meaning.
I know Romans feed it to goats in order to produce nore milk.

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Ah! Ha!
Mountain ash is also a non-native here. An Aunt relative way back introduced this onto our properties as two cast off trees working at a commercial nursery. Now 60 years later with birds seed-berries spread become a semi-invasive “unwanted”.
The berries on ours are small, dense and very seedy. Berry juice WILL take the stain the paints on cars.
Yep. Cut up OK. Burns in woodstoves OK.
Another two of her invasive introductions (she loved wild birds apparently) were berrying holley trees and hawthorn (Jesus crown) trees.
Stoopid-me. I never thought to use these mountian ash a handle wood.
Thanks guys
tree-farmer Steve Unruh

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Those of us tasked with teenager boy training learn to keep a set of iron handle made-up’s for after the second valuable wooden hanlde gets broken.
The misery of a too cold, too hot, always too heavy, and too hurtful jarring stiff iron/steel handles will usually finally get the youth to appreciate quality and knock-off horsing around.
S.U.

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Agree on that one Steve. We say iron handles are for young, strong and stupid. I qualify in at least 2 categories :smile:
But it is allso worth mentioning both my 30 and 20 pound hammers are allso steel handled. Simple reason. No matter how carefull you are, after a few hours of non stop hammering you WILL lose hit accuracy. And with a 30 pound hammer, you only miss once. Then its time for a new handle.

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Yep. Yep. Overstrikes we call them, wood rounds splitting with steel wedges.
Copper wire wrap the handle to head area before, or after the damage to save.
Or slip on aluminum, or thin steel pipe sleeve. Vee-notch the sleeve opposite the head end to distribute out the shock forces. Look at bicycle brazed lugged frame joints for examples.
The new highest quality Stihl branded mauls are all metal sleeved now.
http://www.stihlusa.com/products/hand-tools/axes/prosplitmaul
S.U.

I use to make split maul handles from ash, or hickory, then cut about a 6’’ piece of black plastic water line, slide it down to the head, heat with torch, or heat gun to shrink tight. Makes them last a lot longer

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I won’t mess with anyone who swings a 30 pound hammer even once. I have a 15 and a 20 and don’t like using the 15. Hydraulics are my friend when it comes to splitting wood.

I bought one of these a few years back.
Fiskars Chopping Axe (2.3 lbs) with 28" Handle

They are not cheep but they swing like an axe and split like a maul. The best way to split wood by hand I have ever seen. Of course mine gets little use these days I bought it when I had an office job and wanted the physical work out now that I farm again I don’t need to add any workout time to my schedule.

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This year I bought a new draw knife wood shaver. Made proudly-in-Germany. Wooden handles. I now realize they are European Ash wood.
Yesterday wife and I were out high mountain lake canoeing. First time with the 2 1/2 year old god-child. Our canoe is a made in Minnesota Winnoa. The seat thwarts? cross bars are two 1"x3/4" pieces of a tight grained white-ish wood. Manufactures says ash-wood. Wife and I weigh 200 pound +/-. Verrry interesting watching those ash wood crossbars flex. Flex, but not break or even crack.
Old books do show that ash wood was the preferred for sleigh, dog-sled, and stage couch building.
I dug out my Fodars copy of Trees and Bushes of the Pacific Northwest. N-o-w I am seeing the mountain ash, European ash growing around us.
Much respect now.
I will be encouraging allowing growing some of these trees on our 17 acres.

tree-farmer Steve unruh

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Well . . . as would have it; it was the not been drought used rider lawnmower, that I needed NOW, that has the dead battery from no-use for 60 days.
(Sorry for the “drought” comment south-central Texans. I have two branches of 1st cousins down there sloshing/pumping dealing with Hubert too.)

My needing lawn mower problem was I’d let the pet cemetery up on the hill overgrow and I could not find through the knee high tall thick weeds the previous bury spots.
My black Lab dog with cancers, I’d been getting through one-last-summer . . . . it was finally time to buck-up and do the humane thing.
Falder-crap. The sealed lead acid jumper box battery has aged out and will no longer hold a set-aside charge. Jump-start from a vehicle the lawn-mower. Full charging RPM, and try hard not to overload kill it.

On topic wood-for-tools I am negotiating with a neighbor to keep their wonderful European mountain ash tree. It is in the way for a PV solar install. She is a Green and want to save the planet with Fed-hog-troughing-incentive-installed, local Grid buy-back solar power.
She did promise I could get the now berry filled out mountain ash branches at least.
And she did promise to read J.M.Greers book I gifted to her.
Really a nice gal. Drive a 2014 Prius. Heats with wood.
A decades ago Seattle-lite seen the future, move out to our small rural town. Back home to her roots.

tree-farmer Steve Unruh

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Some hope ?

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Excellent.Excellent. Jeff Davis. Best read clear down trough all of the comments for the full wisdom’s.
Exactly the ethics that I wanted to convey.
“Use what you got, in the best of ways”
Do not pine over what you do not have.
Your lust for “the best” perfection drives bad boats into impossible, unsustainable situations.
Regards
tree-farmer Steve Unruh

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I have found that tamarack (larch) will make good handles. At least the kind that is close grained, having grown in overpopulated bogs. The grain tends to be very straight, and if grown slow, the density is good, yet it’s reasonably flexible. And rot resistant, an important detail in shovel rake and hoe handles where joined. One day I will have to try it for an axe handle. For a pick handle or cant hook it should also be fine.

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