From The Art of Manliness: How to carve an axe handle from a log. (and a little gratuitous Hipster-bashing)


The Art of Manliness is rife with hipster irony, but it has some useful stuff too.

I have been an occasional reader of the blog “The Art of Manliness” but hadn’t checked it in a while. A lot of their stuff is geared towards a younger, millennial crowd who care way more about facial grooming than I do, but their “Manly Skills” posts are sometimes worth a read. A buddy sent me a link last week and it falls in that latter category. “How to carve an axe handle from a log” is an extremely well done step-by-step piece with great photography. It takes you through selecting your log, splitting it into staves, rough and fine shaping, fitting, and finishing. I am thinking that my splitting maul handle is starting to show its age (yes, the one that  I almost accidentally killed myself with), and if I decide to replace it I will certainly document it here.



The Art of Manliness walks you through the whole process with great photo-documentation.

“Long, straight-grained woods such as hickory or ash are traditionally chosen for axe handles because they are strong and produce long, straight staves. That said, there are other woods that work fine for axe handles, and because it’s my choice, I decided to make one out of cherry. I often work with cherry because I believe it makes the best canoe paddles, and when I started this project I had a good chunk of wood from a diseased tree we felled last year. The grain is reasonably straight and I can work around where it isn’t. I plan to use this project as a camp axe carried on canoe trips. I won’t be felling redwoods with it, so it doesn’t have to be indestructible.” (from TAoM)

The site is worth a look if you are time-wasting, There are some interesting and informative posts. However, some things boggle my mind that they are “lost arts” to millennials (How to Jump a Car – Really? My daughter won’t get her license until she can change a tire and jump a car. And probably learn to drive stick if they haven’t gone extinct ) . It reminds me of two of the greatest pieces of hipster-bashing I have ever read.

from The Liberated Mind: “Lumberjack Hipsters and Ironic Masculinity”:

“See, the ironic thing is, these guys sport the old-timey look and shun old notions about what it means to be a man. They don’t sport full beard because it’s manly, they do it for the irony. They’re not rugged manly men, they’re privileged, college-educated hipsters. They promote feminism, emotional availability in men, and a general sense of “it’s okay to redefine masculinity,” all while rocking super-manly beards and (stylishly) rugged clothing. Oh, the irony.

Most of these guys have never done any manual labor in their life. You can tell because men who do manual labor don’t try to draw attention to themselves by trying to look like they do manual labor. Make sense? A real lumberjack doesn’t wear expensive plaid shirts and groom his beard with essential oils. He doesn’t wear stuff like Dickies or Carharrt clothes to be ironic, he wears them because he actually works in them. Men are actually out there logging, building houses, fixing pipes, and working with their hands. The lumberjack hipster just wants to look like he does those things, and it is obvious he doesn’t really do them.”

And there is this “Open letter to bearded hipsters: Stop ruining my beard fetish“:

“Dear Bearded Hipsters,

YOU GUYS ARE RUINING MY BEARD FETISH.  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved a man with a beard. To me, they meant strength, power, MANLINESS. Someone who could protect me. Unfortunately, you guys have turned it into a fashion statement. The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy, but whatcha got under there? There’s a whole generation running around looking like lumberjacks, and most of you can’t change a fucking tire.

Look, I get it. I really do. I understand the motivation behind your beardedness. In fact, I even pity you. Thousands of years of evolution priming you guys to kill stuff, and chase stuff, and fuck stuff….and now what? You’re stuck at a desk all day. No battles to fight. No wars to wage. So you assert your masculinity the only way you know how. You brew beer. You grow some hair on your face. I’ve seen you, hipsters, sitting in downtown eateries, with your rock chick girlfriends, dipping your truffle fries, trying not to get the aioli in your mustache. I’ve seen the quiet desperation in your eyes. I know you’re screaming into the void.”

It is a sad state of affairs that the hipster class has to rediscover things that I have always taken for granted. To their credit, TAoM is trying to remedy this problem. I have found a few of their posts that I will probably reblog in the future.

The hipster-bashing was unplanned when I sat down to write. My muse just sort of led me that way this evening. I hope it brought you all a chuckle.


(Update 11/19/14: Welcome Instapundit readers. Our mission here at TTAK is to explore both the news/politics/culture of knives, as well as provide the most thorough and comprehensive knife reviews on the internet. Thank you to the Blogfather for sending you our way, and thank you all for visiting. If you would like to receive our latest updates, please “like” our Facebook Page, or follow us at @knifetruth on Twitter.)


  1. Roger says:

    Eh, Hipster bashing is the “cool thing” to do now about whatever anything is going on. In other words, it’s the hipster thing to do to complain about hipsters and their trends.

  2. Raina Collins says:

    Roger is right, hipster bashing is totally in right now, which is hilarious when you think about it. Hipsters bash hipsters occasionally, because part of being a hipster is denying that you are one. Also, who the hell doesn’t know how to jump a car?

  3. Sam L. says:

    Chuckle, I did.

  4. Hipsters are one of the few classes of people you an still make fun of without being called a racist/sexist/biggot/homophobe. And if someone is incapable of changing a tire, jumping a car, or some other really basic manual skills, they deserve whatever ridicule is heaped upon them.

    Besides, they effed up craft breweries with this never-ending dick-measuring of hops content. Sod them.

    I am a year from 40 now. I am getting curmudgeonly.

    1. Roger says:

      There’s people, where I used to work, who think I can’t change a tire because I called AAA to do that for me. I can, and have in the past changed tires and done most of my own mechanical needs and upkeep(changed my oil yesterday even). But if I *pay* for a service, I am going to use that service. Especially after working 14 hours in 100+ temperatures.

      1. No need to justify yourself to me. Smart strategy/value play with regards to AAA.

        My disdain is for people who are lacking in the necessary skills for self-sufficiency, and chose to remain ignorant and helpless.

        Not meant as a knock towards you at all. Thanks for your regular contributions to our discussions Roger.

      2. RonF says:

        The issue is not whether or not you choose to do a task rather than pay for it. Heck, I’ve replaced my own muffler and pipes on a car, but that was when I had no money. Now I pay for that, gladly. The issue is what happens when you are absolutely stuck and AAA says “Sorry, all our trucks are out, we can’t get to you for two hours.” Are you stuck? Or do you change your tire and then demand your money back from AAA?

  5. Q: How did the Hipster burn his mouth?

    A: He sipped his coffee before it was cool.

  6. Jack says:

    That’s hilariously true about the micro brews and hops.

    The Federal highway administration for some unknown reason has a good guide on putting a handle on an axe and sharpening. I keep it as a reference.

    1. RonF says:

      The Forest Service has a manual on how to sharpen, pack and use 2-man crosscut and felling saws – and carpenter’s and machinist’s plans for making the jig and tools necessary to do so. It’s on the FHA’s web site, too, for some reason.

  7. ChuckN says:

    The first thought into my head after reading the
    hipster bashing was “from the mouths of babes”.

    I make my axe handles a bit different. Instead of using
    a cross section of a large log I cut hardwood poles when
    they’re the width I need. I find this gives me two main
    advantages: almost no cutting, and no splitting just
    shaping; and the lay of the grain tends to give it a little
    more impact resistance. The downside is that poles are
    a little harder to dry/cure properly without splitting.
    Although I have found I can minimize this by only cutting
    poles in the dead of winter.

  8. ipolitics says:

    “The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy, but whatcha got under there? ”

    HAHAHAHA! Thank you. I needed that laugh. And it’s so true.

  9. mikee says:

    I knew a fellow who made his axe handle out of Osage Orange wood – bright yellow and harder than Hickory. Beautiful.

    1. We used to use a disc of osage orange for part of an award at scout camp. I have cut a lot of that stuff.

      IIRC, it makes a good bow as well. resilient wood.

  10. KD says:

    As a semi-senior citizen (late 50’s) I learned long ago that the only way to go with an axe is with a fiberglass handle. Have had my current axe for 30+ years without having to change a thing.

  11. Brian B says:

    As an actual lumberjack in the woods of Northern CA since 1985 let me say a few things;
    1. I haven’t had a beard for thirty years. They itch like hell.
    2. While I have made an ax handle or two (and numerous custom gunstocks) and am as retro as the next guy, anybody that doesn’t use plastic, fiberglass or composite ax, shovel, splitting mall, etc handles for tools you’re actually using is a bit of a dope.

    1. Mark Baker says:

      I would agree, with the exception of shovel handles. Wood is so much lighter than fiberglass it is not even funny. You can shovel all day long with a wooden shovel.

      While the cross sectional strength of fiberglass is greater, if you are using a shovel that way, you’re doing it wrong.

      A correctly used shovel will wear the spade out long before the handle. Broken handle = amateur.

  12. JorgXMcKie says:

    We used Osage Orange [commonly known as “hedge trees” where I came from for lots of things, but especially fences posts. Cut an appropriate sized limb, bury it deep enough and staple you fence to it right away. In a couple of years the outside [bark and some inner wood] will rot away and what’s left will be as hard as concrete and you never be able to drive a staple in it again. Repairs mean wrapping the wire around the post.

    I have seen fences where as far as we can tell the posts were near 100 years old and still standing strong.

    We also cut down most of a hedge tree [literally rows of them were planted to act as fencing for cattle but that doesn’t work for pigs] and leave the trunk and roots in place to use if for a corner post. If you ever want to remove it later, get some heavy equipment.

    Also, the women for years used the fruit [“hedge apples”] to repel insects. Put a couple of green ones under the counter and it seemed to keep roaches and such away. They last 2-3-4 years before they begin to rot and you need to replace them.

    I never thought of making handles out of them, but it ought to work great.

  13. unclebryan says:

    Osage Orange is North America’s hardest and densest hardwood. It is extremely resistant to insect infestation and rot. Very resilient. It is indeed bright yellow when first cut but will age into a deep brown color with exposure to sunlight and air. One could make a nice axe handle from Osage but it is extremely difficult to shape using edged tools. One is better advised to abrade away what you think doesn’t look like an axe handle in order to avoid “blowout” from catching the grain with a less-than-sharp edge. Or just use extremely sharp tools and hope for the best. I have a sawmill and wood shop and Osage is one of my favorite hardwoods. And I have had a beard since I was eighteen. I’m now mid-fifties or so. It’s gray. Not gonna color it. Nope. Not gonna do it.

  14. Sluice Box says:

    I have recently started collecting axes and hatchets. Most of the heads I get are just that, old beaters. I clean and sharpen them and am now needing to hang them. I’m in the Pac North West and our Native Wood is Red Oak, Big Leaf Maple and there is a type of Cherry. From what I have read none of those will work for long handle axes. I can use that for the smaller heads and hatchets. I am wondering about a species here called Madrone. I can buy Ashe from a local Hardwood Mill, but it is quite expensive. I need to hang about 30 heads. Most I will tune up and sell or give away to friends and family.

    Keep bashing the Hipsters they deserve it.

  15. John A. Marr says:

    The young lady who wrote the piece about hipster beard irony is an astute observer, acidic commentator, and general wag.
    The thing about hipster bashing for me comes down to this:
    You may notice a conterfeit, but beyond that do you even bother thinking about it?
    Hipsters are squibs, and not worth expending much thought over, even to bash (though I have just contradicted myself).

    And regarding axe handles, I have axes I abuse regularly, and some family antiques made of good American steel with original hickory handles, which I don’t abuse. When in the woods in very cold weather, I find that the “permanently attached” fiberglass handles work loose very often, whereas hickory does not if the axe was properly hung in the first place. Just my experience.

  16. Jonathan says:

    Yes, because from an alleged Christian, the Godly thing to do is definitely to be mocking those who are different from you and don’t fit YOUR standard of manliness.

    No, I’m not a hipster. But I HATE when people try to act superior, in any way. You’re not better than them.

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From The Art of Manliness: How to carve an axe handle from a log. (and a little gratuitous Hipster-bashing)

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