Introduction: Hatchet Handle Replacement

Picture of Hatchet Handle Replacement

I had purchased a cheap hatchet at a local flea market but the handle was uncomfortable and a very loose fit in the hatchet head so it needed replaced. This was an exhausting project at times working only with hand tools but the final product was very rewarding and I am very please with how it turned out. The following instructable is of how I made a new handle out of walnut wood.

Step 1: Gather Tools & Materials

Picture of Gather Tools & Materials

I made this project without the use of power tools and so it was a relatively cheap but time consuming project. I only had to go out and purchase $3.50 in materials to complete this project because of stuff I already had before the project.

Materials

-Walnut Wood(17"x2"x2")-$2.50

-Step Wedges(5)-$1

-Boiled Linseed Oil

Tools

-4in1 File

-Coping Saw

-General Purpose Saw (dovetail saw, hacksaw, etc.)

-Rubber Mallet

-Chisel

-Clamp

-Sand Paper (150 grit)

-Rags

Step 2: Sketch Handle Profile

Picture of Sketch Handle Profile

For this step I knew I wanted a handle that I could get a great grip on at the end of the handle for more power swinging. I also wanted to be able to choke up on the handle and get closer to the head and have a little more control for finer detailed work. So taking those two things and the previous handle design into consideration I settled on a shape that some what resembles a coke bottle. I simply free handed these lines on as reference marks to try and keep the handle symmetrical during the process of making it.

Step 3: Rough Cut Handle Profile

Picture of Rough Cut Handle Profile

Once you have your handle design sketched out you want to remove as much excess wood as you can so that you begin to get a feel for the handles shape but also so that you save yourself from a lot of excessive file work. For this process I used a coping saw to cut first the side view that I had sketched and then the front view that I had sketched.

Step 4: File the Handles Profile

Picture of File the Handles Profile

Now its time to start giving the handle its curves. I started off by drawing a new reference line down the middle of the handle so that I had a visual guide to help keep the handle symmetrical. Once I had drawn the center line I begin filing.

WARNING

*If you attempt to do this entirely by hand like I did there will be A LOT of file work that will make you very tired*

I started by filing off the corners and then began rounding off the entire handle until every part was circular. Once the handle was circular it was just a matter of working it down until it was the size I wanted and it felt nice in my hand.

Step 5: Fit the Hatchet Head

Picture of Fit the Hatchet Head

This step is the most meticulous in my opinion but everything turned out fine in the end.

First I started by simply removing excess material and rounding over the head to get the approximate shape. I took great care to remember that it is easier to take away material than to put it back. Once I got the top of the head to fit in the axe head it was just a matter of testing fitting it, finding the high points, filing them down and repeating the process again. For this particular hatchet head I had to cut a curved recess at the top of the shoulder on the handle to allow the head to fit properly.

Once the hatchet head fit snugly I cut straight down the center of the handle. This is what will allow us to wedge the axe head on.

Step 6: Further Profile the Handle

Picture of Further Profile the Handle

The handle was a little thick in comparison to the hatchet head so I took off some of the excess making the handle flush with the sides of the hatchet head. I also refined the curve on the shoulder of the handle so that it fit the hatchet head nicely.

Step 7: Sand the Handle

Picture of Sand the Handle

I used 150 sand paper to take out any file marks and to smooth out any rough spots on the handle. I paid extra attention to the two main spots my hand would mostly be gripping.

Step 8: Cut Wedge

Picture of Cut Wedge

For this step I needed to cut a wedge that would be used to attach the hatchet head to the handle. My wedge is about a 1/2" thick at the top with a 2-3" taper. The width was cut down to be the exact size of my hatchet head eye. I used a speed square to mark where I needed to cut and I used a dovetail saw to make the cut. Once the wedge was cut I squared of the pointed end of it.

Step 9: Attach the Hatchet Head

Picture of Attach the Hatchet Head

First I applied boiled linseed out to the hatchet handle and to the wedge. Then I hammered the hatchet head as far on to the handle as possible. Once I was on I used a mallet and scrap piece of wood to drive the wedge as deep as possible into the wood. I cut off the excess handle and wedge with a coping saw and applied more boiled linseed oil to the top of the handle.

This is enough to hold the handle on but to go the extra mile in making sure the handle stays on I chose to use step wedges. I put two step wedges in the top of the handle and angled one slightly so that it would fit in the eye of the hatchet.

Unfortunately, I managed to break my rubber mallet in this process and now need a new one. I finished the process with an old sledge hammer head simply held in my hand since it has no handle.

Step 10: Oil Your New Hatchet Handle

Picture of Oil Your New Hatchet Handle

I applied boiled linseed oil to the entire handle and hatchet head being sure to leave excess on the surface for the wood to soak it in. After allowing the boiled linseed oil to soak in I applied 2 more coats and then wiped off any remaining excess from the hatchet.

Comments

JPM8 made it! (author)2015-10-20

Yeah! I finished mine up!

Thanks for your posts!

The firewood I used for the handle is White Oak I believe. I used my Shopsmith drum sander, disk sander, and band saw. I now have requests to make 2 more!

Thanks again!

JPM8 (author)2015-10-14

I am about to start the same project and have researched it a little to see if I could find store made examples. I believe what you have there is a shingling hatchet. The hammer head part of mine and the top sharpened edge is more even (in line) with the top of the head but so very similar otherwise. Mine would be referred to as a lathing hatchet, used in making lath and plaster walls. With the straight edge across the top the carpenter could easily pound nails in the corners of a room.

For the purpose of splitting shingles and pounding nails that are not so large (I would guess #8) I think you would be fine with your choice of walnut.

Beautiful handwork, you should be proud! Hope I am as successful.

bcavaciuti (author)2014-10-29

I found a hatchet head at my new house and a walnut(beautiful tree but blocks light to my grandparents house :c) is getting chopped and we are getting the wood :D . definitely going to do this... and will be checking this regularly to see if yours has any trouble...will post if Ido as well :S

awillybilly (author)bcavaciuti2014-10-29

Well isn't that lucky! I wish I had free walnut appear like that, take advantage of that free wood. Also be sure to let the walnut dry out thoroughly before making a handle so that you don't have any warping issues. I myself have never taken a project from live tree to finished project, but I would recommend doing research on drying your fresh sawn lumber. Be sure to keep us updated on how it turns out.

mshelato (author)2014-10-28

Great instructible, I'm working on one myself! You're right, fitting the head was a bear.

bcavaciuti (author)mshelato2014-10-29

Looks good but It is advised against having a shaft with knots in it as it causes weaknesses massivly increasing the risk of breakage...which wood is that?

mshelato (author)bcavaciuti2014-10-29

Its Bois D'arc, or hedge apple. Hardest wood in North America. It took forever to work, but it's beautiful. Also like you, I didn't want to go with hickory, and opted for something unique.

awillybilly (author)mshelato2014-10-29

I had never heard of that type of wood until now. I googled it and it looks pretty cool. Thanks for teaching me something new and as far as using a different wood for a handle I wouldn't worry too much about the handle breaking because of that, but I would keep an eye on the knots in your handle.

warehouse32 (author)2014-10-28

Beautiful handle! Gotta give you some respect for sanding and shaping all of it by hand...not easy work!

I don't know how he did it! I know I couldn't

bcavaciuti (author)2014-10-29

Nice job, one tip I have heard is that when applying oil do it bare handed or with latex gloves so that as little as possible is lost which normally goes into the cloth and is wasted.

Jobar007 (author)2014-10-27

With BLO, the old adage applies: Once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for life.

That's a nice looking handle. I'm curious as to longevity of walnut in that application though.

awillybilly (author)Jobar0072014-10-27

Yeah, I knew going into the project that hickory would be the best option but I wanted a darker wood purely for the looks and despite walnut being a little brittle at times this hatchet won't be seeing daily use so I expect it to be around for a long time. If it does break suddenly or begin to show drastic signs of wear though I'll add a note in the instructable. Thanks for your comment.

MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-10-27

That's a beautiful fix, it definitely looks like new to me! Hope it lasts you for years to come!

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