To remove an axe head, first remove the wedge by carefully drilling or chiseling it out. Next, place the axe handle in a vice with the head facing upward. Use a mallet or hammer to tap the handle downward, gradually forcing the axe head off the handle. Proceed cautiously to avoid damage.
Manufacturers make axe heads sturdily attached to their handles. That’s great when you need to use the axe without worrying about the axe head flying off and hurting someone, but not so great when you need to remove the axe head. If the handle is damaged, you can save the axe by putting the head on a new handle, but how can you do that?
There are a few methods for removing an axe head from its handle. One is to destroy the handle completely. If the handle isn’t damaged and you want to repurpose it for something else, you can remove the axe head by removing the wedge.
Here are the different methods you can use to remove an axe head.
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Before you get started, you want to have your equipment in place. Some of the equipment is only specific to a certain method of removing the axe head, while other tools are useful no matter which way you remove the axe head.
- Protective equipment
- A drill
- A hammer
- A saw
Method 1: Destroying the Handle
If the handle is already damaged or you don’t care what happens to it, then that makes your job easier because you can destroy the handle and salvage the head. You can do this if you have a new handle lined up, the old one is unusable, or you’re planning on making your own axe handle as a replacement.
Destroying the handle actually has a few steps, so here is the method you want to follow. Be sure you have your safety equipment on because you don’t want to cut yourself on the axe head or get splinters in your eye.
1. Cut Off the Handle
The first step is to cut most of the handle off. Make the cut as close to the eye as you can. The eye is the hole in the axe head where the handle fits in. While you can’t remove the part of the handle that’s inside the head just by cutting it, you can get as close as possible.
You can use a saw or another axe to cut off the handle. Make sure you are using a tool that is sturdy enough to go through the wood, but small enough for you to maneuver without hurting yourself.
2. Remove the Eye With a Punch
After you cut off most of the handle, your job still isn’t done. There’s still a portion of wood left in the axe head, and you need to remove this wood if you want to insert a new head.
To remove the eye, you need a punch and a hammer. Put the head upside down on a vice or two blocks of wood. Make sure there is some space at the bottom of your set-up for the wood to fall out. Then, place your punch on the side of the head where the handle used to be and hit it with a mallet or heavy hammer. The eye will pop out on the other side.
3. Remove Any Remaining Wood
Once you punch out the eye, look in the hole to see if any wood fragments are left. Usually, there will be at least some fragments left in the handle. Use a drill to loosen the wood, then pop it out.
Some people recommend heating the head and burning the wood out, but you have to be very careful with this method and it’s not worth it in my opinion.
Method 2: Saving the Handle
If you want to save the handle, removing the axe head will be a bit trickier, but still possible.
1. Remove the Wedge
Another method is to remove the wedge, which is a small piece of wood that keeps the handle in place.
First, check that the wedge isn’t glued down—if it is, you have to destroy the handle.
Then, use a chisel or pliers to pry up the cross wedge, an even smaller wedge piece held over the main wedge (not all axes have this).
After that, screw a few screws along the edge of the wedge. That gives you enough leverage so you can take your pliers and pull out the rest of the wedge.
If the wedge breaks or gets stuck, use a drill to break the wedge into fragments and remove it. This could damage your axe head, so go carefully!
2. Hammer the Head Off
If the axe head is already loose, or you removed the wedge and the axe head is still in place, you can try hammering the head off.
Hold your axe upside-down. You want gravity to work with you.
Then, use a mallet or dead-blow hammer and alternate hitting the blade and pole. Use a hammer you don’t care a lot about because you could damage it.
You can still salvage your axe-head if your handle is old or damaged. You can either destroy the handle, remove the wedge, and keep the handle intact.