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Hammer handle wood


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To save money, and since I seem to have too much time on my hands without handy projects, I was thinking of whittling out some hammer handles from blanks like Uri did in his one blueprint. I'm wondering what's some good woods for price comparison and availability. I know ash and hickory seem to be favorites of handle companies and Uri said he used maple, which is easily obtained up here, but what else is there for choices? Would oak work? I've seen lots of hemlock but is that too springy/soft?

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I like bois d'arc or Osage orange - partly because it's native here and partly because it is commonly used in bows and makes a really good hammer handle, it's also pretty. Fruit wood cuttings out of orchards work well also. I also have a couple of handles from Arizona ash and they work great if you don't cross the grain, otherwise they will split or break. Lots of species will work but hickory is simply a very good wood for hammer handles, which is why it is the classic choice.

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I'm just wondering for choices because Hickory seems to be a rare commodity in the area and i don't feel like looking all over the city if some others would be comparable. Or paying 2x as much for someone else to make it into a handle shape and then sit bored in the city while I should be studying.

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easilyconfused......I can't say about hemlock as a handle, since I've never tried it.
But you can use oak.Hickory and maple are a little harder woods, and might last longer, but they are also harder to work down with hand tools.

I've made a lot of handles from red oak. Chestnut oak and white oak are tougher than red oak,but red oak just naturally has a straighter grain in this area,(eastern kentucky)so it wins out due to availability and workability.

Last fall,while splitting firewood, I noticed some particularly straight-grained pieces of red oak in the stack. Long enough for hammer handles..........so I took a froe and split out some handle 'blanks'. 2x2 inch square(more or less)
So I've got about a dozen handles seasoning in the back of the shop.

I once made an axe handle from elm, and it lasted several years.
Right at this moment, my main smithing hammer has a sassafras handle.
Sassafras is not a strong wood, but very light,.......This is just an experiment I'm trying.

these are just some of the local woods I've tried because they are available.
You may have local woods available to you that will suit your purposes.

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Do not overlook used/broken pieces of shovel and axe handles. They are often free for the asking at construction sites and tool rental companies, along with usable steel such as dull or broken circular saw blades and pavement breaker bits.

Machinery pallets are often made from whatever local wood is available cheaply. I have seen them made from all kinds of north american and now asian hardwoods.My friend got some pallet boards that we think are some sort of teak that he is making small boxes from.
You can easily get a hammer handle length cut from between the nail holes, and the wood is usually already dry.

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I'm not going to mention any specific wood as there are many that will work well. Instead let me tell you what I look for when I make a tool handle.

First straight grain. Straight grain is less likely to crack or split. The less the grain curves and curls the better it will take the stresses of being a handle. If you can split out a blank of the right size then so much the better. There is one exception to this - elm. Elm typically has such an interlocking of grain it is slightly less likely to split than a solid bar of iron :) (ask anyone who has tried working well seasoned elm)

Second a little bit of springyness but not easily bent if in cross section of 1/2 to 3/4 inch or larger. If it is too stiff it is likely to split or crack, to flexible it just feels wrong when I swing the hammer.

Last hard enough to not ding easily, any such wounding of the handle makes it more likely to fail at that point.

In general hardwoods are better than softwoods.


ron

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Note that readitionally handles are made from air dried wood rather than kiln dried---supposed to make them less brittle. Pallet wood used to be air dried; but I haven't checked it lately.

If you are drying your own, winter is a good time to start as there is less sap in wood cut in the winter. Wax the ends to slow moisture loss and hopefully avoid cracking. Start it off drying slowly---when I lived in OH this meant I started the wood drying in the fieldstone basement and after a year or so would finish it off in the attic.

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  • 9 months later...

Interesting thread. I have always been under the impression that hickory was the best hammer wood due to its density and that ash was used for longer handled tools that required some spring.

The mention of fruit wood is intriging. I have some apple sections that I may have to check on.

The ax handle made of elm? Hmm. I had an axe handle that I broke last year that my Grandfather made of iron wood for me when I was 10. It lasted 40 years.

I don't think I'd trust a handle made from maple, except as mentioned for smaller tools. Maple checks easily and is lighter than hickory and ash.

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I make them all the time. Hickory is my favorite but lots of oak is fine, hackberry (elm family) is VERY good. Harder, stronger, springier is mostly better. You can make many less than optimal woods work though. I like kind of fatter handles because they give me more control with less effort and they are also stronger so that the wood choice is not as critical.

A drawknife and shaving horse are REAL helpful. I can do most handles in an hour or less, even allowing for very careful fitting. The ones that I have made are SOOO much nicer than the ones that come from the factories! Stronger, better fitting, nicer texture, longer lasting, WAAAY more reliably connected to the hammers(or whatever tool).

Maple is not one that I favor as it tends to be stiff and brittle (why they are having lots of shattered bat injuries in MLB parks lately), but it could certainly serve if better wood is not at hand.

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I use mostly fire wood,just whatever looks like it has a good grain and dried nice without alot of splitting.Also I'v tried apple ,it works very well for hammers that are used outside in the mud and rain ,but the only thing I didn't like is it's almost to hard for use at the anvil,it lets alot of vibration get to your hand.I don't know how good that would be in the long run.

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because my mame came up in the discusion I want to give some remarks and to make
things clear.
on BP 1012 as glen pointed I have explained my way of producing ''hammer handles''
and how I glue it and it was allready discused on another place on the porum.
as for the types of wood that I used and useing now.
I started with OAK wich was too brittle then went to RED MAPLE which was much better
but still I was not pleased with , later I came ecross the EPEA south american dark-broun
very beutyfull wood and I liked it but the problam was 1 very expenssive 2 very high
specific gravity the handle it self was too heavy.
I was still looking for another and may be better wood and found in GERMANY the
RUBBINIA ( A TYPE OF ACACHIA) which is very light strong elastic and cheap
used in many places in eurpe for handles.
the last 400 hammers I forged where handled with RUBBINIA until now no complain.
AS FOR THE GLUE IT IS PU GLUE ''SIKAFLEX 11 FC''
This was also discused on some forumes here befor
Hofi

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I have found Hickory to be the best handle material. I have all of my hammer handled with it. I didn't used to think that it would work very well until I got my first hammer from the Big Blu boys and have since switched all of my hammers over. It is an awesome handle material that is readily available and very affordable. I have found it to hold up over time very well.

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Taxus is a scientific name for Yew; now mainly an ornamental but once an important wood for making longbows and IIRC there is a bucket made from it found in one of the early medieval digs. It should make a good handle as most bow woods do.

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Thomas,
Your comment from January about cutting in winter helped tie some things up for me. My grandfather was a farmer and always said that if you want wood to dry so that it would not warp or split cut it in the winter. I have read this same advice many times with no explanation. The fact that your starting with less moisture makes perfect sense. Thanks.

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Any hardwood will do and I highly reccommend Is accacia because it is fibrous. All the tools I have have that as a handle. Don;t know if you can find it there tho.
Basswood also has the porperty of not cracking if dried suddenly so it can be usefull.

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  • 1 year later...

warning:Zombie thread

I like bois d'arc or Osage orange - partly because it's native here and partly because it is commonly used in bows and makes a really good hammer handle, it's also pretty. Fruit wood cuttings out of orchards work well also. I also have a couple of handles from Arizona ash and they work great if you don't cross the grain, otherwise they will split or break. Lots of species will work but hickory is simply a very good wood for hammer handles, which is why it is the classic choice.


now that some time has passed, how is the hedge working for the hammer handles? I need to rehaft some hammers,& I am not really fond of some commercial handles, not to mention you could go broke buying them from the hardware store.
as I am in Ks hedge is also very common here,& is hack berry.
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The hackberry is strong and hard but less stiff than oaks or hickory or ash. Straight grained pieces should work excellently for handles. Hackberry root was the most favored material for froe clubs many years ago when every homestead had and used froes. This flexibility makes hackberry a good wood for furniture too, especially chairs. I have made not only handles from it but hammers too.

For hammer handles there's no need to wait for air drying. Work them to rough shape green (saves a lot of effort) and learn to microwave dry them (not hard mostly patience).

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