Thank you everyone for your kind words! I sincerely appreciate every single one. It has been quite the journey but it's only begun.
I've decided to move to 1084 from 5160 because of how nicely it heat treats, forge welds, and has a great edge retention for hawks and small camp hatchets.
The handles, I'm sourcing my ash from a local joint here in SW Indiana. Longer handles indont carve, but anything under about 20 inches i typically do. I can score 5/4 straight grain ash lumber for pretty cheap. Otherwise, a handle any bigger takes me longer to carve than it does to forge and finish the axe. I really, really like elm. It's my favorite to carve and hang axes on. Not as tough as ash or hickory but it performs well.
Should be ordering my motor and pump next week for our 25t press, and then the real fun begins. I've done some heat treat testing of 4140 from tool steel service of California, excellent stuff. I'm really impressed with how it has performed as an axe. Super tough, stays sharp. Having the hard poll is nice, too. Punching eyes, for my personal preference, makes a bit cleaner lines than I can do by folding or doing the asymmetrical weld style. And it also makes a monster axe.