needed some hammer and ax handles.
I live on the west coast. There is no hickory
growing within 1500 miles from where I am writing.
Even when we do get a factory handle here, it is
often number 6 or 7 grade. Tool handles come in 8 distinct
grades. From the lowest, (8's), to the highest (number 1's).
Grade 8 will have knots and will be undersized and
the grain will be oriented any old way and sometimes, it will even
run out. Pitiful...
People used to know about handles but that has been
slowly forgotten in most circles. Have you ever bought a new
tool or changed a handle on a sledge or hammer and had it snap off
first time you swung it in anger? This is why. Low grade
The other thing, as fewer and fewer people know what
to look for in a handle, the handle companies have lately been
simply sawing out a crude handle shape from flat plank lumber and
rounding over the edges with a shaper.
A ONE (1) dimensional tool handle!!! As if!!...
The oldest handle mills, like O. P. Link, still make
higher grade handles for the few who know enough to demand them.
But most hardware dealers simply order handles now. Generic one
word. They can't even begin to specify and wouldn't know if
they were sent the proper grade if they did order something else.
A proper hickory handle should be full 3d carved
with a wide comfy fawns foot on the bottom to a narrow throat up
top. It should be snow white, fine grain and free from defects.
The grain should be oriented to run the same direction as the eye of
the tool all the way to the bottom. Try buying one of these in
Home Despot or Blows, go ahead...
So anyway, I have trouble getting real handles
anymore. Besides I personally like a little different style
than anybody on this side of 1840 has carved.
Well, 3 years ago I got a load of firewood. I got it
cheap because someone had ordered oversized wood for a large
fireplace and then folded on the deal. So my guy was stuck
with extra large pieces. I'm thinking "Hey I have a big stove
and I can split wood all day, this is a sweet deal!!"
It wasn't. Not for firewood anyway...
Part of the reason the pieces were cut long and left large was
because it was a "defective" tree. Some trees lean and some
trees are backed up against the forest so all the limbs are on one
side. Some grow up in the thick so there are no real major
limbs until they reach the canopy. Trees that grow up alone in
the middle of a meadow have major limbs on every side all the way
up. Nothing but knots. But sometimes something else
happens. Something that alters the way a tree grows all its life.
Some people say genetic defect and some say fungus or other natural
attack, or injury early in life. Truth is, humans don't get to
know why this is, yet. But something happens and the tree can
grow twisted or all bunched up inside instead of straight. Its
called figure or curl or quilt.
My load of firewood was from such a tree. A
Pacific Madrone tree, which hardly ever happens to this species.
This tree grew "all wadded up" in a random pattern all the way to
the top. You can see it from the outside. And when you try to
split it, it is quite clear. Well, once you get it split.
You can take an 8 pound splitting maul and place the
piece on a chopping block, and use every bit of the handle, reach
all the way back to your full extension and even rise up to your tip
toes for every last crumb of leverage you can muster, and give as
mighty a swing as you have. A short wedge shaped edge with 8
pounds of iron behind it, producing literally many thousands of
pounds of force. A full stroke straight and true... And
it will bounce harmlessly off without hardly a scratch, the round of
wood laughing right in your face.
Hit it again, and again. Until, with 3 or 4
strokes in exactly the same place, it will finally crack. This
is tough wood ladies and gentlemen.
I had nearly 3 cords of it. I split part of it
with a maul and wedge. I had to break down and borrow a
hydraulic machine for a lot of it and believe me, that machine