When Axe Handles Break . . . .
Two things have caused most of the broken axe handles in human history:
1. Overshooting the target and smashing the handle.
2. Getting an axe stuck and trying to lever it loose again.
If you crack, split or break a handle doing either of those things, the only safe solution is to replace it with a new handle. Since that can be a difficult afternoon’s work, many people have tried other solutions such as wrapping the handle with tape, pouring epoxy glue into the socket of the head, and numerous other foolish things that don’t work. The first rule is: replace the handle.
Sometimes — if the handle is only loose in the axe head — you may be able to tighten it up with a new wooden wedge and steel wedge, but the chances are that if you’re having trouble you’ll continue to have trouble until that new handle is fitted properly in place.
If you own a standard axe, a replacement handle will probably be available at your local hardware store. By that I mean a real hardware store, not the kind you find in a mall. There will be lots of pipe, rolls of fence wire, and probably the place will smell like feed and fertilizer. Somewhere in there they’ll have a rack of tool handles.
Ash or hickory make the best handles and few store clerks will know what kind is in stock. If you have a choice, get ash. Hickory is more prone to shatter, although it’s a tough and durable wood. If you have a choice between finished handles and unfinished handles, get the unfinished. Lacquered handles are not any better and blister hands much more quickly. If the company put lacquer on the handle, they probably didn’t know much about handle making.
While you’re there, get a couple of wooden handle wedges and twice that many steel handle wedges. They come in different sizes, so don’t be shy about bringing in the old axe to match up to parts.