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Sourcing wood for handles


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Hi all,

First of all, I know it is probably easier and less time consuming to buy pre-made handles, however, since I like to do any type of crafting as a hobby, I'd like to make my own wooden handles for hammers and top-tools.

Now I unfortunately have a problem, I cant find wood suitable foe hammer handles.

I know hickory is favorable, but I found virtually no supply of unworked hickory in the Netherlands. I then though Ash, but I am having trouble sourcing that, most people sell oven dried ash for use in the fireplace, is that suitable for handles?

Hardware stores nearby only seem to sell fir and oak wood.

So how and where do you source wood for hammer handles? and what kind would be good for use? I know chestnut and birch grow locally, so if that is suitable i might have better luck finding that.

And if anyone has tips for sourcing handle wood, or know a place where I can buy ash in the Netherlands or Belgium, that would be great!

Thanks for your replies, 


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From the internet

Hickory wood is the most common type of wood used for making axe handles. Since ancient American times, hickory is the domestic wood worth using. People trust the wood for years as it is strong, efficient and convenient to use. So, this wood provides the best backpacking axe to you.

Ash wood is commonly accessible in European countries. The wood is reasonably easy to work with due to its key traits – flexibility and strength. The only problem with ash is that it does not last well outdoors.

Axes made from birch wood are cheaper. However, the wood is less strong in comparison to other wood types. Also, axe made of birch are not much reliable in nature.

Carpinus betulus is typically available in European countries. Particularly, people in the ancient era made axe handles from this wood being the most popular in those times.

Yellow birch wood is also slightly shock absorbent and relatively sturdy, allowing you to work on demanding tasks such as demolition as well as driving nails through concrete and hardwood.


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Glenn, thanks for the additional info, I'll have a look if those trees grow nearby and if any of them get cut down soon.

Deimos, thanks for the link! I'll give them a call and see what they can offer me.

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The quality/type of wood isn't as important with top tools as it is for something like a hammer. When used properly, most of the force is going straight down through the tool and the handle doesn't take too much abuse. That is unless you miss the tool.

With a hammer handle, it has to be strong and flexible to withstand all those swings since the head is coming down, hitting something and then bouncing back up. So that handle has to absorb a lot more force perpendicular to the shaft/eye. I use ash for all my handles since it's what my lumber supplier carries and it's inexpensive. I try to remember to use a linseed oil/turpentine mix on them every several months to keep it from drying out and weakening from being outdoors(ish).

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What are baseball bats made from over in the USA? Over here the cheap ones ($25) are made from beech or "wood". The rest is about $80 and up

The only sport that gets real media coverage is soccer (which is funny since we are not really good at it, while we are very good at field hockey and volleyball but the media does not care about that), there are some baseball teams but it is not given the respect it should. 

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Baseball bats are generally made from ash, although major league players have mainly switched to maple in the last twenty years or so.

Beech is actually decent for strength and impact resistance, so you can certainly give it a try.

Soccer balls make LOUSY hammer handles.

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Looking at field hockey stick they are made from "wood" reinforced with either plastic or fiberglass. Its a nice idea but also 3 times as expensive as just using a existing axe or sledgehammer handle.

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Reverse engineer the problem. 

Choose your wood and then figure out what that wood is used to make.  Try to find a source for that product and then use that product to make the wood handles.

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I've used European Oak, Walnut, Beech, Elderberry wood and Robinia pseudoaccacia. many others too, but these i keep around.

Oak is good for things you don't hold in your hands for long, as the wood will blacken your skin. sooo chisels, punches ...

Walnut is good for knifes & such, as it's pretty, not specifically strong.

Beech is like cheap ash :-) ... it's not as strong, but it absolutely loves danish oli; and becomes watertight and dark brown. So short handles, like hammers.

Elderberry, walnut is really light but still flexible, makes good broomhandles and things like that.

Robinia is harder and stronger than hickory, less pretty tough but more difficult to find. makes great axe and hammer handles.

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Full stop; step back:  What have local people been using for handles for the last couple of thousand years where you are at?  Got any old craftsmen you can ask?  Museums?  I know that fruitwoods were often used as handles in Europe; especially springy ones like crab apple.

And yes dry firewood can be used as a source of handle materials, split it into handle billets and draw knife it to shape!  (Split wood makes a better handle than sawn wood anyway as it follows the grain!) Shoot for top tools I have sometimes bought them in Germany with tree branches used for handles.

Pallets used for *expensive* heavy items often have quite strong wood in them. Nobody wants to drop a million dollar machine because the pallet broke!

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Hi all, thanks for your replies!

Thomas, unfortunately I don't know many craftsmen around me, there used to be a farrier in the village but I don't know if he still lives here. My father's a carpenter so I might try asking him when I see him again, maybe he knows. Searching online for local handle wood didn't give any results beyond ash.

Now that I think of it there is a wood mill a few km away, I'll ask them too, maybe they have some cutoffs I can get.

BartW, when searching online I read that oak contains acids that corrode metal, is hardware store oak (praxis) good enough for that, if yes I'll try buying a piece of that.

Glenn, I understand what you mean, and I have been trying to find old handles (including shovel and broom handles and things like that) that I can reuse, but this past year there has been virtually no garage sales or the like, and I haven't found anything in the local thrift shop. 

The hockey stick is a good idea however, I have an old ice hockey stick lying around, so I can get maybe 3 handles from that, that will at least get some tools handled.

I'll keep this thread updated on my finds, maybe other NL people will find this useful in the future.

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In the past I have visited cabinet shops, particularly those that specialize in butcher block style counter tops. They receive rough cut lumber and plane it to the sizes they need - as a result they have multiple random sized cull pieces.  
If memory serves there are traditional ship builders in the Netherlands that may have access to different species and sizes of hardwoods. I believe there was a historical recreation ship project in Harlingen with piles of timber strewn about the grounds. 

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Mr. J T.,

It pays to frequent the various playing fields regularly during the year. 

Baseball diamonds, cricket pitches, tennis courts, hockey rinks, playing fields,  etc. etc. for broken equipment of many types.

The wooden pieces are usually made from quality hardwoods.

Even outdoor bowling pins can be turned into excellent hammers and, less often, tool handles.

Let your imagination wander beyond standard ideas, outside the box, and you will find all manner of suitable handles,  etc. etc.



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Praxis Oak might be fairly low-grade oak; which may not be dried for the required amount of time. You'll have to see for yourself. I've found usefull pieces of Afzelia, padouk and beech in praxis-like shops in Belgium. 

So i'd say; it depends. I usually test with my tumbnail; if I can dent it easily, it isn't good :D


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As a kid, now over 40 years ago, I found a couple 2x8 hardwood planks that I think were used as a ramp to drive a piece of equipment onto a trailer.  After some study I determined they were hornbeam.  Heavy...and harder than the back of my head.  I have found it to be most excellent handle material. There is a European variety.  Possibly similar use there, or perhaps as trailer decking nowadays.   

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Good Morning,

I use Western Maple, Pallet wood. My neighbour receives all his Plexiglass and other plastic sheets on long pallets, about 6 feet/2meters. I make special bars for stripping hardwood floors when houses are being taken apart. The pallets come apart very easy when I use one of my bars. The nail holes left behind are considered as 'Patina' for no extra charge. LOL

I have seen pallets that are mahogany or very hard wood like ironwood and everything in between. One of my friends make all kinds of trinkets and furniture from the same pallet wood, I get his broken pieces. I cut them rectangular and turn them between 2 centers on my metal lathe. This leaves 2 flats, so you always know which way your Hammer is. I prefer a slightly larger diameter handle than commercially available.

The idea of drilling 2 holes in the handle and making a long cut between the holes, is returning. This makes the head a little more flexible, or, not as much energy back to your wrist and elbow.

This topic is like, "What is the best colour?"  I like a medium blue with an accent! LOL



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