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Hammer handle material


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One wood that no one has mentioned yet is hackberry.  Elms in general are probably good.  The interlocked grain patterns of elms resist splitting and make for strong handles!  Hackberry is particularly flexible and springily compressible... making for good hammer handles that tend to stay tight... I have some that are proven in use!  Hackberry root was a traditional favorite for froe mauls.  

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Chris W:  Hmm, I am new here so not sure what is up with the link. It works for me - it actually shows the first page of the pdf as an image.  Here it is in a different format:

Good Reference for Wood Properties

It is not in the document unless it is in as a different name - it has scientific names you so could search for it. I do know mulberry has been used for bow staves, so I am sure it would make a good handle.

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Thanks. That link works. 

Based on Thomas Powers' recommendation some time ago in a different thread (repeated in this one) , I looked up that the local native peoples here used (local) red mulberry as a bow wood. I've got some (non local) white and black mulberry, and wonder how they compare. I'll check the scientific names against the list. 

I would just try them, but they aren't big enough yet to get a good handle from without cutting the primary trunk. :rolleyes:

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Glad it worked.  I see you are in Florida - way outside my neck of the woods so to speak.  In Ohio we are fortunate to be rich in good handle wood - osage orange, hickory, ash, locust, etc.  We have black mulberry all over here and I have been told it is good for handles. I have not used it personally. 

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That's a good question Thomas. What little I have ready access to has gone into the smoker,  but I did recently cut down a small kumquat tree with greening disease. If I didn't cut it into too short of pieces, I will make a handle or two from the trunk to see.  

All of my citrus is small, so I will need to find people trimming/cleaning up orchards to get big-enough pieces. I am certain that I could find plenty with a little effort. 

I just now found a reference from NC State talking about how citrus wood is sometimes used in tool handles (among other stated uses). The present uses prompted a study on orange wood from Italy to determine if it would make a good floor product. The test showed it to be the second hardest of (in order) ipè, orange, afrormosia, mutenie, cabreuva, beech, oak, merbau, teck, and iroko. Tensile, compression, and impact tests were not performed. 

I'm in zone 9b, so I can grow many sub-tropical and tropical species. I'm on Merritt Island, and have a slightly warmer microclimate than my zone. I must admit to not fully appreciating what all options are available to me. 

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So, I screwed up.... I gave all my pecan I had left over to a buddy for smoking meats. I thought i had a couple pieces tucked in the shed- turns out they're peach! I had a couple peach trees in the yard, they became diseased and died off. Been tucked away for a year or so.

Edit- I see I'm not the only one. Lol...

So I have three or four 6" diameter pieces. Whaddya think?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't have any hammer-experience but when it comes to axes I prefer the traditional finnish material of arctic birch. Certainly not as durable as hickory, but transmits much less vibration back to you. And it can stand extreme cold better than hickory I have read.

I am not sure if birch would be a good hammer material, the axes I use with birch handles have long collars made with birch in mind, hammers would not. Rowan wood is a traditional shafting material though, as is ash.

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If I recall, Rowan is one of the common names for the Sorbus genus, I think in your area is Sorbus aucuparia, other common name "mountain ash". Not a true ash, but I'm sure it has proved itself to be useful for you. Just saying.....

Steve

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  • 1 month later...

Older thread, but nice topic.

I had a few heads laying around that needed handles. So I tried a few different local, as in, my backyard, woods.

Whenever I have trimmed a nice straight branch of anything I store it for later use. So these woods had been air dried for at least 5 plus years.

By far my favorite is the Lilac. I have used it often before for spoons, etc. and it is probably the most durable wood we have access to up here in the North. With zero vibration. unfortunately it is really just a bush and doesn't grow that large. So cutting out appropriate size pieces without the pith can be challenging.

The Maple was surprisingly nice to use. I was expecting vibration, but no.

Same goes for the Plumb/Cherry

From left to right is: Yellow lilac, a purple Lilac, Maple, the last one I can't remember if it is Plumb or Cherry.

Yes, I like an octagonal type of handle in square or rectangle. Keeps the arthritis at bay.

1.jpeg

2.jpeg

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I love the smell of lilac when it is carved. It usually has some nice colors in it, too. Cherry and plum (no 'b') are both in the genus "Prunus" so wood characteristics should be pretty similar. Very nice handles.

Steve (plant geek and retired horticulturist)(long time woodworker)

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Frosty, that is a good one. I never thought of that. Often roots around here are gargantuan. Will definitely try my hand at one,

I wonder what drying times need to be like or if it is similar to regular wood. It would seem that roots should have a higher moisture content. Then maybe a very slow dry is needed to avoid cracking? 

Very interesting and thanks for the tip!

Thanks Steve. 

yes, Lilac is a terrific wood to work with and stays so true without warpage or splitting. It is incredibly hard and dense.

 

Cheers!

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Significantly different architecture to the root system.  Either lots of cross grain near the base or a distinct way the roots branch if you can find a straight run (like Stash, I am also a retired horticulturist--Extension Agent).  Be interested to see what you can find. We can find a three or four inch lilac in the Midwest in an old planting so one might find a 2" billet out of that.  I've also done some thinning on very large Euonymus.  That wood is also very hard but I have never kept any for handles. I find quince similarly tough to saw.

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