It’s sort of amazing, but the best way to attach an axe head to a handle hasn’t really changed for a few hundred years. That is, if you’re still attaching a metal head to a wood handle. Newer all metal and composite axes obviously work differently.
My axe handle split last summer right after I bought it (not a sign of a great tool!) and then split again beyond repair a few weeks ago. The handle was junk but the head was worth saving.
I bought this 36-inch hickory axe handle on Amazon, that came with a light wax finished - this is key - and went to work fixing the handle. If you’re looking to learn how to replace an axe handle, there’s a bunch of explainer videos and endless posts, but here’s one quick and dirty way. It’s a pretty basic process.
First drill out the old wood from the old axe head. For me, this meant in my bathtub in my Brooklyn apartment with a screw gun and wood spade, or paddle, drill bits. A vise would definitely come in handy.
Second sand the axe handle down so it accepts the head of the axe. I used a carving knife to speed up the process and some rough grit sandpaper. Make sure you’ve got the axe head right side up. Mine has a toe on it so it’s easy to figure out, but the openings will be different sizes. Larger hole goes on top.
Next slam the head down on the axe hard. The best way I found, again no vise, is to turn the axe over and place it on two surfaces bridging a small gap so you can hammer bang the bottom of the handle down hard without it pushing against the ground. A concrete step and a two by four should work fine.
Glue up the wood shim and bang it down into the opening in the top of the handle. Let it dry then saw off the top of the handle. Finish it off with a metal wedge hammered right down into the top of the handle. I got mine from the good people of Tools for Working Wood but you can also find them here on Amazon.
Let it set and finish the handle with a few coats of boiled linseed oil.