Oiling my axe handle

Feb 27, 2020
10
1
24
Herefordshire
So guys, I want to put a linseed oil coating on my axe handle, only problem is is I do not have a vice.

Would it be alright if I were to insert a screw in to the base of the handle (There is already a small indent there from during production) and string this up to the roof of the shed, to get full 360' access to the handle?
 

Mesquite

Anyone for sailing?
Mar 5, 2008
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~Hemel Hempstead~
If you don't have a lump of wood as Oliver suggests why not just hold the axe by its head whilst you oil it then lean out the way for the few minutes before wiping it off.

If you want to hang it up then make a suspension loop of cord round the handle under the head.
 
Feb 27, 2020
10
1
24
Herefordshire
Why not get a round of wood and lump the axe into it so the handle is sticking up?
If you don't have a lump of wood as Oliver suggests why not just hold the axe by its head whilst you oil it then lean out the way for the few minutes before wiping it off.

If you want to hang it up then make a suspension loop of cord round the handle under the head.

Thanks guys. Oliver, I'd not thought of that mainly because I was intending to remove the head (It's a tomahawk, head merely has a friction-fit) to get the entire handle, though I guess there's no harm in missing under the head - If tens-of-thousands of axes the world over can survive not being oiled underneath the head, then I'm sure my tomahawk can.

Thanks again!
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,907
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Mid Wales
Is the axe a user? If so, you don't want a slippery smooth finish that you'll lose grip of as soon as your palm starts to sweat; on the other hand, neither do you want a handle that's so rough you get blisters - it's a compromise. A quick rub down to remove any rough patches then oiling (though I finish with bee's wax which is less slippery) will do the trick.
 

Oliver G

Full Member
Sep 15, 2012
208
97
Melbourne, Derbyshire
I've only got limited experience but sand off any rough spots, oil, and then sand again lightly, the oil will raise little strands of fibre in the wood, (I think it's called the knapp). Others on this site will be able to give you much better advise.
 

Mesquite

Anyone for sailing?
Mar 5, 2008
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@Oliver G @Mesquite Should I go over the handle with a very fine sandpaper before oiling?

Is the handle brand new and never used before?

If it isn't and you've oiled it before then a light rubbing down with fine sandpaper or wire wool won't go amiss.

If it is new and you want to oil it for the first time then prepping it before oiling will go a long way. The way I was taught was to do as follows:

1. First of all if it's been varnished then remove all of that as it'll stop the oil penetrating. Best way I've found is to use a razor blade and scrape it off.

2. Once you've removed all traces of the varnish then take a wet rag and lightly dampen the handle and leave to dry. You don't need to soak the wood, it is literally just a wipe down to dampen the surface. This will bring up loose fibres that might have been pushed into the main wood.

3. Once the handle has dried out feel the handle and if it feels at all rough sand back down with either fine sandpaper or wire wool.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for as many times as it takes until fibres stop rising after it's been dampened down. It should only take 4 or 5 goes at dampening it down before the fibres lay tight and you can dry the handle over either a fire or with an alternative heat source.

5. Oil your handle, leave it for 20-30 minutes then wipe off any excess oil and leave for a day.

6. After a day rub it down with either fine sandpaper or fine wire wool and repeat step 5.

7. You'll want to do step 5 once a day for a week, then once a week for a month then once a month for a year and thereafter once a year maybe twice if you use it heavily.

Word of warning, be very careful with how you dispose of the rags you use to oil the handle. linseed oil on rags have been known to spontaneously combust and cause a fire. KHang them in a well ventilated area or dispose of by burning immediately to prevent any problem this might cause.
 
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Feb 27, 2020
10
1
24
Herefordshire
Is the axe a user? If so, you don't want a slippery smooth finish that you'll lose grip of as soon as your palm starts to sweat; on the other hand, neither do you want a handle that's so rough you get blisters - it's a compromise. A quick rub down to remove any rough patches then oiling (though I finish with bee's wax which is less slippery) will do the trick.

Yes it is, it's my pack axe.

I've only got limited experience but sand off any rough spots, oil, and then sand again lightly, the oil will raise little strands of fibre in the wood, (I think it's called the knapp). Others on this site will be able to give you much better advise.

Thanks Oliver

Is the handle brand new and never used before?

If it isn't and you've oiled it before then a light rubbing down with fine sandpaper or wire wool won't go amiss.

If it is new and you want to oil it for the first time then prepping it before oiling will go a long way. The way I was taught was to do as follows:

1. First of all if it's been varnished then remove all of that as it'll stop the oil penetrating. Best way I've found is to use a razor blade and scrape it off.

2. Once you've removed all traces of the varnish then take a wet rag and lightly dampen the handle and leave to dry. You don't need to soak the wood, it is literally just a wipe down to dampen the surface. This will bring up loose fibres that might have been pushed into the main wood.

3. Once the handle has dried out feel the handle and if it feels at all rough sand back down with either fine sandpaper or wire wool.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for as many times as it takes until fibres stop rising after it's been dampened down. It should only take 4 or 5 goes at dampening it down before the fibres lay tight and you can dry the handle over either a fire or with an alternative heat source.

5. Oil your handle, leave it for 20-30 minutes then wipe off any excess oil and leave for a day.

6. After a day rub it down with either fine sandpaper or fine wire wool and repeat step 5.

7. You'll want to do step 5 once a day for a week, then once a week for a month then once a month for a year and thereafter once a year maybe twice if you use it heavily.

Word of warning, be very careful with how you dispose of the rags you use to oil the handle. linseed oil on rags have been known to spontaneously combust and cause a fire. KHang them in a well ventilated area or dispose of by burning immediately to prevent any problem this might cause.

It's not brand-new but it is fairly new, though it came in not brilliant condition - Bone dry and with lots of fibres (Some fine and hairy, others tougher and more splinter-like) and could've done with a twice-over with some fine sand paper.

Thanks for that Mesquite, I'll get out there now and start on her. Thank you and thanks everyone for the help.
 
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Feb 27, 2020
10
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Herefordshire
Is the handle brand new and never used before?

If it isn't and you've oiled it before then a light rubbing down with fine sandpaper or wire wool won't go amiss.

If it is new and you want to oil it for the first time then prepping it before oiling will go a long way. The way I was taught was to do as follows:

1. First of all if it's been varnished then remove all of that as it'll stop the oil penetrating. Best way I've found is to use a razor blade and scrape it off.

2. Once you've removed all traces of the varnish then take a wet rag and lightly dampen the handle and leave to dry. You don't need to soak the wood, it is literally just a wipe down to dampen the surface. This will bring up loose fibres that might have been pushed into the main wood.

3. Once the handle has dried out feel the handle and if it feels at all rough sand back down with either fine sandpaper or wire wool.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for as many times as it takes until fibres stop rising after it's been dampened down. It should only take 4 or 5 goes at dampening it down before the fibres lay tight and you can dry the handle over either a fire or with an alternative heat source.

5. Oil your handle, leave it for 20-30 minutes then wipe off any excess oil and leave for a day.

6. After a day rub it down with either fine sandpaper or fine wire wool and repeat step 5.

7. You'll want to do step 5 once a day for a week, then once a week for a month then once a month for a year and thereafter once a year maybe twice if you use it heavily.

Word of warning, be very careful with how you dispose of the rags you use to oil the handle. linseed oil on rags have been known to spontaneously combust and cause a fire. KHang them in a well ventilated area or dispose of by burning immediately to prevent any problem this might cause.

When applying the linseed, could I use a heat gun to heat the oil and handle, to try and get the oil to impregnate deeper?
 

Mesquite

Anyone for sailing?
Mar 5, 2008
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~Hemel Hempstead~
Warming the oil won't do any harm but I don't bother.

If you want to go down the heating the handle route you can stick in your oven at about 80degC for 5 - 10 minutes then put the oil on. Most folks very rarely do it as it won't make that much difference to putting it on a cold handle

Only do this the very first time you oil it though and don't do it if it's already been oiled previously
 
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Feb 27, 2020
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Hm
Warming the oil won't do any harm but I don't bother.

If you want to go down the heating the handle route you can stick in your oven at about 80degC for 5 - 10 minutes then put the oil on. Most folks very rarely do it as it won't make that much difference to putting it on a cold handle

Only do this the very first time you oil it though and don't do it if it's already been oiled previously
Hmm, okay mate. Thanks again for all the help :)
 

Code 4

Tenderfoot
Feb 25, 2020
86
47
61
Shrewsbury
Is the handle brand new and never used before?

If it isn't and you've oiled it before then a light rubbing down with fine sandpaper or wire wool won't go amiss.

If it is new and you want to oil it for the first time then prepping it before oiling will go a long way. The way I was taught was to do as follows:

1. First of all if it's been varnished then remove all of that as it'll stop the oil penetrating. Best way I've found is to use a razor blade and scrape it off.

2. Once you've removed all traces of the varnish then take a wet rag and lightly dampen the handle and leave to dry. You don't need to soak the wood, it is literally just a wipe down to dampen the surface. This will bring up loose fibres that might have been pushed into the main wood.

3. Once the handle has dried out feel the handle and if it feels at all rough sand back down with either fine sandpaper or wire wool.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for as many times as it takes until fibres stop rising after it's been dampened down. It should only take 4 or 5 goes at dampening it down before the fibres lay tight and you can dry the handle over either a fire or with an alternative heat source.

5. Oil your handle, leave it for 20-30 minutes then wipe off any excess oil and leave for a day.

6. After a day rub it down with either fine sandpaper or fine wire wool and repeat step 5.

7. You'll want to do step 5 once a day for a week, then once a week for a month then once a month for a year and thereafter once a year maybe twice if you use it heavily.

Word of warning, be very careful with how you dispose of the rags you use to oil the handle. linseed oil on rags have been known to spontaneously combust and cause a fire. KHang them in a well ventilated area or dispose of by burning immediately to prevent any problem this might cause.
That's what I try and practice. I always wonder if those rags really do burst into flames as I have quite a few lying about. I hope that's not true.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,706
1,643
McBride, BC
Why do you want to oil the handle? I'm certain that you care for your equipment, not cheap these days.

I have a bunch of them, the little hatchets have fiberglas handles with enough elasticity that you can feel it in a strike.

My Sandvik axes got good scrapings with cabinet scrapers (made from hard steel lumber strapping).
Then, they got a bit of a scribble with bees wax, then a heat gun, then another scraper treatment.
They are soft in the hand and ever so slightly sticky.
That was a gift from family in the west coast mountain logging business, maybe 1977.
Nothing has changed in the decades since then.
 

mr dazzler

Native
Aug 28, 2004
1,712
79
uk
the way I do is scrape the old crap off with a turned over knife or shard of glass. Then wrap it with rags well soaked in whatever mix you use (I use a blend of danish oil wax and real turpentine) then shove the entire wrapped axe inside a sturdy plastic bag and leave it at least 48 hours. Then remove it, wipe excess and start using. I've never had any fires from it.
 
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Thoth

Nomad
Aug 5, 2008
328
18
Hertford, Hertfordshire
It must be something to do with not being able to do much at the moment, so I just decided to oil the handle of my GB Wildlife Hatchet this afternoon. It is about 12 years old and I've been meaning to do something about it since learning how to put a better finish on the Small Forest Axe issued to students on Woodlore's Campcraft course in 2010. I've reoiled my SFA several times, but never gotten around to doing the hatchet until today. Mesquite probably learned the method he described (above) on that course (I remember him giving me some advice before I attended). I seem to recall that we 'raised the grain' by actually pouring hot water from the camp kettle over the scraped back handles. I also recall that we warmed the boiled linseed oil by placing it near the edge of the fire and also thinned it down by adding a little turpentine, to help the first coat penetrate into the wood. Of course you need to be very careful not to let the mixture get too hot as you don't want it going up in flames! We hung up the axes by passing a cord through the lanyard hole and left them to dry overnight. Each evening an extra coat of oil was added. Despite the nighttime temperature being quite low (this was in April and there were frosts) the oil was dry by the morning, it had to be because we would be using our axes every day. To be honest I didn't reoil my axe for several years after the course ended but the multiple coats applied that week did a good job of keeping the axe handle in great condition.
 

MartiniDave

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 29, 2003
2,308
91
58
Cambridgeshire
Personally I use pretty much the method in Thoth's post, except I use boiled linseed oil and I don't bother with thinning it down.
In fact I try to wipe boiled linseed oil over all my wooden tool handles a couple of times a year.
Remember to dispose of any oil-soaked rags to avoid spontaneous combustion problems.

Dave.

PS - I think Ray Mears has an axe care video on you-tube.
 

LukeR

Member
May 9, 2020
29
46
28
E. Sussex
The finish I use for my hammer handles is linseed oil (ideally soak for as long as possible to achieve good penetration), then lightly char them in the forge (or with a blowtorch), and rub in beeswax while still hot, using a rag to remove the excess. This gives a really hard-wearing, grippy finish. The charring evens out the grain which helps prevent blisters, and provides protection against rot, but you can skip that part if you don't like the blackened aesthetic.
 
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