How to Make Ash Tool Handles

Written by patti perry
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How to Make Ash Tool Handles
Make ash tool handles to fit your personal preferences of weight and length. (axe image by Sergey Galushko from

Ash is a resilient wood and thus makes fine tool handles. The weight and length of a handle is important. Oval handles usually feel the best in your hand. If a curved handle is necessary, look for a curved piece of wood. The strength of the ash will diminish if the long fibres of the wood are cut while shaping a handle. You can fashion handles for all types of tools, from small hammers to shovels and rakes, using ash wood.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Greenwood ash
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Saw
  • Vice
  • Draw knife
  • Knife
  • Rasp
  • Sandpaper
  • Small piece of oak heartwood
  • Paste wax

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  1. 1

    Look for a piece of greenwood ash that has straight, tight grain.

  2. 2

    Measure an old handle for dimensions or design the tool handle so it is comfortable in your hand.

  3. 3

    Cut the rough shape of the handle with a saw.

  4. 4

    Put this ash blank in a vice and start to remove wood with a draw knife. Continue until you have the basic shape formed.

  5. 5

    Situate the eye of the tool over the end of the handle and trace around the outside contours with a pencil. This will give you an edge to use as a whittling guide for fitting the handle onto the tool.

  6. 6

    Make the head of the ash handle larger than your measurement. The head is the portion of the handle that is placed into the metal part of the tool.

  7. 7

    Use a knife and rasp to shave little bits of wood off the tool handle and head. Place the ash handle next to the metal opening to continually check the size, as you whittle it down.

  8. 8

    Place the handle partially into the tool eye to adjust for a tight fit. Shape the handle head so you can eventually pound it into the metal tool with a mallet. A tight fit is necessary.

  9. 9

    Rasp the handle to obtain the finished contours.

  10. 10

    Saw a slot in the tool end to make a slice for an oak wedge. This is how you will attach the handle to the tool.

  11. 11

    Sand the handle so it feels smooth in your hand. Protect with paste wax.

Tips and warnings

  • Electric tools help speed the cutting processes in handle-making.
  • Cut a hardwood wedge from the dried heart of an oak tree to fasten the ash handle to the tool. Do not make it too thick in proportion to your handle, as it will try to bounce out of the slot as you pound it in with a mallet.
  • You can use a heated 250-degree oven to shrink old handles and remove them or for expanding the metal to insert a new handle. Use pot holders when working with hot metal.
  • Remember, green ash wood will shrink as it dries.

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