In the last post I explained my reasoning behind the various ways that the grain can be oriented in an axe handle. However if the handle is straight then it makes no difference and any of the methods I described would work, you could even steam some curved branch wood straight if you really fancied a challenge.
Aesthetically I prefer a curved axe handle, however when you choke up on a curved handle it also brings your hand closer to the blade, effectively reducing the poll to edge measurement of the axe. I have found that axes with shorter edge to polls to be more accurate and easier to use. (3) shows this effect well, the curve puts the handle way below the centre line that a straight handle with the same basic geometry would have (1)
The main factor concerning handle shape is the eye orientation in the head. A handle in a carving axe works best for me when it points out roughly horizontally or slightly upwards ( handle pointing upwards is described as open) – this is the my major concern when laying out a handle. (1)
When forging an axe head I tend to orient the eye so it points slightly downwards towards the beard, meaning that a curved handle is needed to accommodate this overriding geometry. A head that has the eye in line with the edge will need a straighter handle. (2) shows a head that would I think be better off with a straight handle, as it is it has been fitted with a handle that curves the other way, making it point downwards. This type of handle orientation sometimes described as closed.
I prefer a shorter axe handles but like the counterweight effect that a longer handle gives, leaving an oversized bulb to help with the balance, French Clog makers axes take this to extremes. The idea of lead loading to really try and play with the balance point without resorting to massive bulbs is something I have intended to play with for a few years now.
I have been testing out this axe I forged recently, all the roughed out ash handles in the last two posts were carved with it. Although it works well the handle isn’t quite right, I think it needs to be more open. As I can’t easily alter the eye geometry I am putting more curve in the new handles to achieve this. Of the two roughed out for testing, one basically follows my standard design, the other is a nod to the bulbous French clog axes I mentioned earlier. These are now dry and ready to test, so there will be another instalment when I have some firm opinions on how they are working.