What Type Of Wood Is The Best For Ax Handles? (With Pictures)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

The wood that an ax handle is made from is vital to how the ax is used and how effective the tool is. Without the right type of wood, the ax may break or be ineffective. This leads many to wonder what is the best type of wood for ax handles.

The best wood for ax handles is durable, solid hardwood. Typically, Ash and Hickory are the primary choices for ax handles. You can use many other types of wood to make an ax handle, as long as it grows long and straight with a straight grain and no knots.

The wood used to make an ax handle is ultimately a personal preference, but some are better than others. Let’s examine the best woods to use for ax handles and which woods should be used for various ax types.

What Type Of Wood Is The Best For Ax Handles?

What Type Of Wood Is The Best For Ax Handles? 

When making an ax handle, one of the most important factors to remember is that the wood should be freshly cut hardwood and that the grain is impeccably straight. This is why Hickory and Ash wood is generally selected for use in ax handle making. 

Hickory and Ash wood typically grow in straight segments, which means that these types of woods are ideal for crafting strong and straight ax handles.

The truth is, the type of wood used for making an ax handle is less important than the characteristics of the wood. Any type of hardwood with a strong, straight grain is ideal for crafting an ax handle.

Hickory and Ash wood are two examples of this type of wood, but other suitable woods will work just as well. For example, Red Oak, White Oak, and American Elm are types of hardwood that can be used for making ax handles in the same way.

An Ax Handle and Hickory Wood Bark

The key is that the wood should be free of knots and has a straight grain with as few imperfections as possible. This type of wood is suitable for making ax handles of all kinds. Any imperfections such as knots or uneven grains in the wood will cause the handle to be weak and may even result in the ax handle breaking when used.

Some hardwoods, such as Cherry or Birch wood, are less suitable for making ax handles. These are hardwoods, and they can be used for ax handles, but using these woods is a challenge because finding straight sections without any knots are rare. 

For these reasons, the best woods for making ax handles are Hickory or Ash wood, as they are hardwood varieties that are abundantly available and are almost always straight with very few knots.

The Ideal Length And Thickness For A Typical Ax Handle

Ideal Length

The length of your ax handle depends entirely on you and your preferences. However, there are some general guidelines that you can follow as a good starting point for crafting an ax handle.

Ideally, the ax handle that you use should be between 30 and 36 inches (72.6cm – 91.44cm) in length. Another good length to use is the height of the inner seam of your pants leg, as this will be roughly the correct ax handle length for you.

Ideal Thickness

The thickness of the main length of your ax handle should be roughly between 1 and 1½ inches (2.54cm – 3.81cm) thick. This forms the center of the handle and is a good width for holding onto and maintaining control while swinging the ax.

The top of the handle, the section inserted into the eye of the ax head, should flair out to roughly between 1½ and 2 inches (3.81cm – 5.08cm) wide, depending on the width of the main body of the ax handle, and the size of the eye in the ax head. This flair is to prevent the ax head from slipping down the handle.

The bottom of the ax handle, also known as the fawn’s foot, should also flare out to roughly 1½ or 2 inches (3.81cm – 5.08cm) thick, depending on the thickness of the main segment of the ax handle. This is to prevent your hands from slipping off the end of the handle when swinging the ax.

The width of the flairs at either end of the handle should be relative to the thickness of the overall handle. The ends should flair out about half an inch (roughly 1.27cm) wider than the main body of the ax handle.

Different Ax Types And Wood Options For Each Handle

While Hickory and Ashwood are typically the best woods for ax handles, this certainly does not mean that Ashwood and Hickory are the only woods you can use.

You can use any hardwood to make your ax handle, so long as the wood has a very straight grain and is cut so that the ax head is perpendicular to the grain in the handle once attached. Here are some types of axes and what wood can be used for their handles.

Felling Ax Handle; Wood And Dimensions

Felling axes are meant for chopping down trees. These axes are designed for chopping against the wood grain of a tree trunk. Felling axes are one of the most well-known and widely used axes in the world today due to their wide range of versatility and the various designs of these axes.

Felling axes have long handles, typically 30 to 36 inches (72.6cm – 91.44cm), to provide the maximum leverage for your swings. This allows you to transfer a lot of power to the sharpened felling ax head, which is typically heavier than most other ax head types.

This length will enable it to cut against the tree’s grain and fall it with relative ease. The best woods to use for a Felling ax handle are Hickory and Ash woods. Beech wood is a good alternative handle wood for this type of ax.

Double Bit Ax Handle; Wood And Dimensions

Double Bit Ax

One of the most versatile axes available is a Double Bit ax. As the name implies, the ax head has two sides, a sharp side and a blunt side. The sharp side of the ax is used for chopping wood, and the dull side is used for splitting wood.

The weight of the Double Bit ax can range from 2lb to 5lb (907g to 2kg), and the length of the handle of this ax type can range from 28 to 36 inches (71cm to 91cm). 

The ax handle of the Double Bit ax has to be extremely tough and durable. This ax must be more durable because of the head’s weight of this ax type and the force of the swing required for splitting logs and chopping down trees.

The handle should preferably be made out of good quality hardwood such as Hickory or Pecan wood to withstand the shock of the impact best when using this ax.

Hudson Bay Ax Handle; Wood And Dimensions

A Hudson Bay ax is smaller than Felling axes and Double Bit axes. The Hudson Bay ax handle is typically 18 to 28 inches (45 to 71 cm) in length and weighs 2lb (907 grams.)

The Hudson Bay ax is designed for chopping firewood. This ax can be used with one or both hands and is perfect for camping, but will be unable to take on the larger jobs such as tree felling.

Due to the intensity of the work you will be doing with this ax, such as chopping hard, dry firewood, it will need to be tough, and the handle should be made out of hardwoods such Hickory, Ash, or Merbau, provided that there are no imperfections. 

Splitting Maul Axes Handle; Woods And Dimensions

Splitting Maul Ax

The Splitting Maul ax is exclusively used to split wood and accomplishes this job through sheer force and weight, rather than cutting through wood as most other ax types do. This ax splits wood rather than cutting it, and to better accomplish this, the Splitting Maul ax is significantly heavier than other ax types.

Commonly weighing between 6lb to 8lb (2kg to 3 kg) with a straight handle length of 28 to 36 inches (71 to 91cm), the Splitting Maul ax is heavier than most other axes and as long as Felling axes.

Due to the intensity of this ax’s job, a strong hardwood such as Hickory, Ash, and Beech is best suited for this ax handle.


When making an ax handle, the best wood to use depends on the type of ax you want to make and what you will be using the ax for.

The best wood types for ax handles are Ashwood and Hickory wood due to their strong and straight wood grain, relatively few knots, and impressive rigidity. Making an ax handle is more simple than it may seem; just be sure that you use the best possible wood for the type of ax you use.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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