Splitting ash to make hammer handles, advice needed...

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Imagedude

Full Member
Feb 24, 2011
1,966
7
Gwynedd
I've got some decent knot free ash that I want to use for making hammer and axe handles. What is the best way to split the wood to obtain the best blanks? The wood is approx 12" to 8" round. I also have some straight 4" branches, can they be used?

Cheers
 
Last edited:

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,177
2,349
Mid Wales
You maybe know all this but here's my thoughts. To be honest it depends on what tools you've got to hand. For tool handles I cut to approximate length before trying to split so, for hammer handles, I guess that would be about 40cm? That makes it a lot easier to split. I'm usually making axe handles so they vary from only 30cm to full felling axe length. Ideally you want the grain to be fairly horizontal as you look at it from a cut end:

end grain.jpg

I use a variety of tools from axe and wedges to a froe and, sometimes because a piece of wood is twisted, I'll saw it. So, depending on the diameter of the piece you are using, I would split it in half then split again (and maybe even again) - axe and wooden wedges will make a decent job usually. Getting the piece you end up with flat can be done with an axe, knife (battoning through), a draw knife or similar (that's where a shave horse comes in and why I've just made one :)) or even a plane - an electric one is great.

The purists say not to use wood in the round for handles - I think because it's inclined to split more. However, when I've needed to fashion a handle quickly in the wood I've successfully made a temporary one that way that's lasted years :). Just give it plenty of oil.

OK, safety does come into it; you don't want a hammer head flying off - but I like to try things out and see what works myself so just have a go :)
 

Dave Budd

Gold Trader
Staff member
Jan 8, 2006
2,759
192
40
Dartmoor (Devon)
www.davebudd.com
Cut the log a few ibches longer than needed. A froe is your best bet, but even a long blade like a cleaver or parang will do to get a straight split across. Radially split the logs, its easiest to half the billet each time rather than working around like a clock (the split is less likely to run off that way). Once split into wedges, you can try to split off the points, but it may be easier to chop or saw them depending on the wood.

The 4" logs could be split into quarters happily too.

Either splitbthe wedges and season before shaping, or roughly shape green (much easier) and then season. The latter will get faster results, but be prepared for some wastage due to warpage
 

TLM

Settler
Nov 16, 2019
613
204
66
Vantaa, Finland
If somebody wants to read articles on what happens to wood at various processes the FPL Wood Handbook is one of the better ones. Whole book is online.
 

Orhdposs

Tenderfoot
Mar 27, 2020
95
43
64
Essex
You maybe know all this but here's my thoughts. To be honest it depends on what tools you've got to hand. For tool handles I cut to approximate length before trying to split so, for hammer handles, I guess that would be about 40cm? That makes it a lot easier to split. I'm usually making axe handles so they vary from only 30cm to full felling axe length. Ideally you want the grain to be fairly horizontal as you look at it from a cut end:

View attachment 57859

I use a variety of tools from axe and wedges to a froe and, sometimes because a piece of wood is twisted, I'll saw it. So, depending on the diameter of the piece you are using, I would split it in half then split again (and maybe even again) - axe and wooden wedges will make a decent job usually. Getting the piece you end up with flat can be done with an axe, knife (battoning through), a draw knife or similar (that's where a shave horse comes in and why I've just made one :)) or even a plane - an electric one is great.

The purists say not to use wood in the round for handles - I think because it's inclined to split more. However, when I've needed to fashion a handle quickly in the wood I've successfully made a temporary one that way that's lasted years :). Just give it plenty of oil.

OK, safety does come into it; you don't want a hammer head flying off - but I like to try things out and see what works myself so just have a go :)
 

Orhdposs

Tenderfoot
Mar 27, 2020
95
43
64
Essex
Use a throw ? to adjust the split and stay with the grain, it not easy to explain but I have split Ash bow staves and Hazel 3-4 M long so 600-800 mm should be easy with practice.