There is often a correct, conventional way of doing things which
merits careful description, particularly where safety issues may be
involved and sometimes where the sheer practicality of an
undertaking requires that only a particular course may be followed.
The recent suggestion that the offset handle to a broad axe may
be side-wedged is a case in point where, for the sake of not
appearing too censorious, I pointed out that there is only one end
of the eye of a single-beveled broad axe which may receive an offset
handle if it is to be capable of correct use.
The reversing of such
a handle would bring the axe man's hands over the timber being
squared, rather than away from it as the handles are designed for
one attitude and may not be turned upside down for the same reasons
that an ordinary axe handle may not be fitted turned upside down,
where the thick top of the handle would have to be shaven to fit the
narrow bottom of the eye and a large gap would result along the
sides of the handle at the top of the eye.
I confined myself to the broad axe question because the
configuration of the axe head and the handle enabled me to
demonstrate the impracticability of reversing the handle, thereby
obviating any suggested advantage in using a side wedge to fit the
My real concern, however, is that the side wedging of any
handle to any axe head is an inherently unsafe practice although I
have seen it adopted on a number of occasions. Side wedging is
regarded a lazy man's way of wedging an axe. The practice is adopted
by some because, as stated in Mr. Koonz's contribution, it enables
the relatively easy removal of the axe handle when the time comes to
However, the adoption of such practice results in that part of
the handle within the eye not being mechanically gripped on both
sides by the eye's waist where the eye is wasted (rare) or by the
far edge of the eye where it is not (common) as is the case when the
wedge is driven down the middle slot of the handle.
One side of the
handle is gripped by the waist or eye's edge and the other side of
the waist or eye's edge merely grips the wedge and the result is
that the whole set-up then relies on the friction between one face
of the wedge and one face of the handle.
between the mating faces of the handle and the wedge during the
axe's use result in these two faces achieving a glass-like
smoothness which can result in the razor-sharp head flying from the
handle without warning to the likely maiming of any person in its
When I was a boy side wedging was never tolerated by men who
worked full-time in pairs or larger groups with their axes in tree
felling, ring barking or cordwood cutting but seemed to be the
preferred fixing method of some farmers who took occasional jobs in
these occupations and brought their woodpile axes to work with them.
Very few axes are constructed with eye waists and it has always
been considered advisable to permit a little of the handle to
protrude from the far end to the head so that the edge of the eye
may bight into the handle as the result of the wedge's pressure.
notice that the Chinese axes available these days in hardware stores
do not have the handles protruding a little from the far end and
seem to be fixed by some sort of epoxy glue. I doubt that the eyes
are wasted but would hope that the handles are wedged and can only
speculate as to how the epoxy will hold, particularly if the handle
I hope this finds you well.
Regards from Brisbane,