Loose Axe Head?

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Wayne

BCUK Welfare Officer
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Dec 7, 2003
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Hi All.
I have a much love small hatchet on its original helve.
Recently the head has come loose.

I soaked the head in a bucket for few hours that worked as a temporary fix.
The wedge is fully home. Not able to bash it in any further.
The axe is used most days and has a hard life.

I’d like to keep it on its original handle if possible.
Ideas?
 

bobnewboy

Native
Jul 2, 2014
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North West Somerset
If water worked temporarily, then you might get a longer lasting fix by soaking the head end of the handle in boiled linseed oil. Water evaporates out of wood until a balance with the local environment is reached, but oil will be absorbed and remain.
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
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I never have seen a loose Ochsenkopf hatchet and they are very popular among German boy scouts.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
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Whatever you do, make sure you let it dry out fully first or, when it dries, it will just be loose again (but, you knew that).

I have successfully managed to extract an old wooden wedge and put in a new one but it's rarely possible to do a tidy job especially if it's glued in. The reality is an additional, secondary, wooden wedge would have to be so thin it just wouldn't take the force needed to get it driven home. Consequently, a standard steel wedge driven in at an angle (so it expands the wood in both directions) is the best solution IMO.
 
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Erbswurst

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In my little experience the standard steel wedges were very complicated to add and if I got them in they didn't do the job.

But in this case I am no specialist.
 

Tonyuk

Settler
Nov 30, 2011
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Scotland
I'd pay £20 plus postage to have someone re-handle it tbh.

If your willing to pay a bit extra, wait a bit longer and find a competent woodworker they could likely carve a new handle down into the old ones shape and size.
 

Dave Budd

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People (especially on or thanks to the the internet) get too precious over axes and how the wedges look. To me even the finest handmade axe is still just a tool and if it needs a load of ugly extras added to make it work, then it saves me replacing or totally repairing it for that much longer.

If this were MY axe, then I would dry it out and then look at extra wedges (shape, type and orientation dependent on how much space there is).

Kitchen oven, set to low with the door open at least enough to leave the handle sticking out. Put the axe on the shelf near the top (assuming the oven is heating from the bottom only) and leave it in there for 4 or 6 hours, or over night if you've had the axe in a damp place. The handle will shrink to as small as it will go and not be weakened (it will be the same temperatures and final moisture content as when the wood was kiln dried before going to the handle makers).

The head might drop off at this point, in which case remove the wedges and start a fresh, you may need to reseat the head a little further onto the handle (especially if it has a barrel wedge). If there is a large gap (2mm+) but the head is still on, then drive the head on until tight, use a blunt chisel to open a split to get a wooden wedge in at 90 degrees to the gap. If less than 2mm, then a metal wedge or two might work instead.

Saturate the top with thin super glue and nothing will slip out.

In future, don't soak handles in water though. Not only is it always a temporary fix that always makes the problem worse in the long run, it breaks down the cell walls and weakens the wood once it has dried out. ;-)
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Whereas I totally agree with you Dave about people getting too precious about their tools - especially what make it is as opposed to how capable it is to do a job, I still believe a good craftsman takes pride in his tools, their maintenance, and their condition. As an apprentice I was told that badly maintained tools were a sign of a lack of attention to quality and that a person will judge me by the state of my tools before they look at my work. I think there's probably a balance to be achieved however.

I probably sounded a bit negative about the 'secondary' wooden wedge - here's an example (not a brilliant one) of a second wedge fitted. I've also fitted a third in the past forming a cross - in a contrasting wood it can look quite good - but probably one for the 'show axe' :)

Wooden Wedge.jpg
 
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Dave Budd

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Whereas I totally agree with you Dave about people getting too precious about their tools - especially what make it is as opposed to how capable it is to do a job, I still believe a good craftsman takes pride in his tools, their maintenance, and their condition. As an apprentice I was told that badly maintained tools were a sign of a lack of attention to quality and that a person will judge me by the state of my tools before they look at my work. I think there's probably a balance to be achieved however.
In that case, I suggest you never visit my workshop and look at the tools I use every day! :D lol Same goes for the whole 'tidy space, tidy mind' attitude to a workspace. I clear up enough to work and not be a safety hazard; I only go to any extra effort when I'm teaching (I need more space cleared)

I save the pride for the tools I make to sell and I use whatever works and takes the bare minimum of time for me to make or maintain in the process. Most of my turning tools, files, etc have bits of hazel shoved on (most without ferrules or glue), gouges, turning tools, drawknives, etc are wonky, dented, chipped and rusty (they are sharpened quickly when needed, but a 5mm chip in a 150mm edge on a drawknife isn't going to bother me, I'll just not use that bit!).
 
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Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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In that case, I suggest you never visit my workshop and look at the tools I use every day! :D lol Same goes for the whole 'tidy space, tidy mind' attitude to a workspace. I clear up enough to work and not be a safety hazard; I only go to any extra effort when I'm teaching (I need more space cleared)

I save the pride for the tools I make to sell and I use whatever works and takes the bare minimum of time for me to make or maintain in the process. Most of my turning tools, files, etc have bits of hazel shoved on (most without ferrules or glue), gouges, turning tools, drawknives, etc are wonky, dented, chipped and rusty (they are sharpened quickly when needed, but a 5mm chip in a 150mm edge on a drawknife isn't going to bother me, I'll just not use that bit!).

To each their own :) - I certainly don't mollycoddle my tools, but I don't abuse them either (not that I'm suggesting you do). But then, I'm not selling my time these days.

My workshop is rarely, if ever, tidy I must admit. I often have to 'clear up' from the last job before I can start a new one.
 
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