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How do I Replace an Axe Handle?

By Ron Marr
Updated May 16, 2024
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Some people, when confronted with a cracked or broken axe handle, succumb to temptation. It is a common practice to attempt to glue or tape the handle, but such a procedure should be avoided at all costs. To replace an axe handle is simple, and an alternative fix will be short-term at best and dangerous at worst. The axe head could easily fly off during use, potentially leading to severe cuts, bruises, or missing toes. It only takes a few minutes to replace an axe handle, which is much better than dealing with stitches or a trip to the emergency room.

The first thing you must do to replace an axe handle is remove both the head of the axe and any handle pieces which remain inside it. The simplest method of accomplishing this job is to place the upright axe head in a vise and tighten as much as possible. Next, take a hammer and chisel and pound away at the part of the handle visible through the opening of the axe head. Within just a few blows the broken handle should fall out.

To replace an axe handle, you must make sure that the head and handle are the same size. Take the axe head with you to the hardware store, and select a good, well-fitting handle made from hickory wood. The handle will generally be sold with several wood shims, but if the shims are absent they can easily be fabricated from scrap in your workshop. The handle should also have a small slit at its top end where a shim can be hammered in. This is important, for without shims the head will come loose from a new handle within a few blows.

When you return to your workshop, place the axe head over the handle. With a wooden mallet, pound the axe head onto the handle until it will go no further. If you have selected the correct handle, it should be almost flush, or just slightly below the lip of the hole in the axe head. At this point, since you are seeking to replace an ax handle on a permanent basis, your shims will come into play.

Place one of the wood shims into the slit in the handle. Pound it in until it will go no further. If part of the shim protrudes, cut it off with a small handsaw. The job completed, you should now try out the axe handle by taking five or ten blows against a convenient log. If the head seems a bit loose, you may either drive a second shim, or even a nail, into the top of the handle. This will expand the handle even more tightly against the axe head, and it should be totally secure.

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