Axe care

Topic:Do I need to treat the axe head or the handle with any oil?

  • By axewomen, on 12 March, 2015 at 11:09

    Do I need to treat the axe head or the handle with any oil? Which oil should I use on the axe head and the handle?




  • By Emma, on 12 March, 2015 at 11:11

    Hi Johanna,

    To keep the axe in a better shape and keep the rust away, you may treat the axe head and the handle with some oil. In general it´s hard to say when you have to do this since this is very individual and it all depends on how long you have had your axe and how you have had it stored. For the axe head you can probably use any oil, everything from cooking oil to engine oil. The most common is probably W40 or a thin oil, like sewing machine oil. For the handle you can use teak oil or any other oil for wood – such as boiled linseed oil diluted with for example gum turpentine.


    Best regards,

    Emma Carlsson.


  • By Arfwid, on 16 March, 2015 at 10:34

    A good “general rule” with boiled linseed oil is (for un-treated new handles)

    Once a day for the first week, then
    Once a month for the first year, then
    Once a year as maintenence.

    It has been working well for me and my family for  a long time, a small note can be that the once a day -part might be somewhat excessive depending on the handle, I’ve varied from 5-7 times during a 7day period since the oil just hadn’t sunken in yet.


    • This reply was modified 4 years, 6 months ago by  Arfwid.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 6 months ago by  Arfwid.
  • By BBH, on 10 August, 2015 at 07:49

    This may seem fanatical, but it works well and has roots in Sweden, anyway. Pine tar + beeswax.

    In the U.S. you get a quart or so of Finnish or Swedish pine tar for less than $20 from…I think “AUSON”. Brush it on, burn it in with a propane torch on low, fast sweeps, twice over each side, total time two minutes or so. Don’t dwell and burn.

    Wipe off with a rag, squeezing hard and pulling it down. Then get a chunk of beeswax and lightly rub it on, pressing lightly and taking no more than 15 seconds. Then get a wine cork and spread around and rub in the beeswax using hard pressure and lots of repetition–takes about 5 minutes and it’s a (first world) pain. Use your fingernails to scrape off any beeswax that didn’t get rubbed around.

    If the handle’s too sticky it’ll pick up dirt, and if that’s the case, you didn’t pull off enough of the excess pine tar, or you overwaxed it or under-corked it. You can fix it by rubbing the wood with a rag wet with denatured alcohol, or spray it with window cleaner and rub.

    It sounds like a hassle, but I’ve done it to fifty axes (in my store, and my own), and it’s good because it beautifies the wood by a factor of four, and makes it far more waterproof/weather resistant than a normal (but perfectly good) linseed  oil treatment. Plus, it smells good. You do it once, it lasts for years.

    This is basically how the wood bases of cross-country skis were treated…in the days of wood cross-country skis. I supposed they did it with downhill skis, too. Skis live in a much wetter and more abrasive environment than ax handles do, so from a purely protection perspective, this is unnecessary overkill. The beautifying effects on the handle and the smell, though, is worth it. I use my ax (in dry conditions) almost daily. A #420, mostly, and mostly for carving projects. A carpenter’s too. I’m sure I’m doing everything wrong, carving-wise, but I like the bigger heads for even tiny carving.

    The length of my response is embarassing, and I’m not at all trying to turn anybody on to the secret best way. It’s one of many ways to do-up handle.


  • By E.duBois, on 11 August, 2015 at 20:08

    Don’t you find that tar gives a hard covering that gives you blisters?

  • By BBH, on 12 August, 2015 at 06:25

    Is THAT what those bleeding, juicy bubbles on my palms are? Hmmm..

    Sorry, no snideliness intended, it’s a good question..but no, the handle feels smooth and just slightly grippier than a stock handle.

    I get this:

    But the same maker has several, and they’re probably all fine. I have discovered (experience), that some “BICKMORE” brand pine tar made for horses hooves smells nasty.

    Try it on a junker ax handle, or a baseball bat, or even a rake handle. I think you’ll like it!

    I tried to attach a pine tarred handle. The color depends on the color of the tar (some is darker) and even more than that, the color of the handle. All white wood darkens lighter; heartwood gets darker. They ALL look great.





  • By E.duBois, on 12 August, 2015 at 19:10

    Oh, without some snide it can be so boring.

    I really love tar otherwise, but mostly for other thing, though I never had a nicer looking handle than this one.

  • By syurko, on 18 January, 2016 at 19:36

    Thanks so much for this post – it really does a great job on the handle and as you rightly said, makes the handle look and smell fantastic.  The slightly tacky grip too is over the top helpful.  You really know what you are taking about!

    I also took some “Bear Grease” and put it on the leather protector.  Heat oven to 150degrees – put leather in for 15 min, apply grease liberally, back in 150 degree oven for another 15 min, then another round of a lot of grease.  Let sit 15 min, then wipe off excess.  Really makes the leather look great, more weather proof, and ages it a bit too.

    Bear Grease on amazon….


  • By NeilF, on 23 February, 2016 at 21:56

    After buying my small forest axe, I treated the handle with three thin coats of International Woodskin. This is a UV protecting, waterproof, breathable and flexible treatment for protecting wood designed for use in a marine environment. It’s a sort of cross between an oil, a wax and a varnish. It is expensive, so I wouldn’t have bought a tin just for an axe handle, but since I had some on the boat……

    It leaves a slightly tacky, grippy surface and while transparent, gives a honey-like glow to the wood.

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