Commonly used wood

A small explanation of the woods that I regularly use forging project handles 

Almost all the wood that I use for axe, sword and knife handles is locally sourced, mainly from trees that friends and neighbour are cutting down, or are reducing in size.

As far as possible I try to keep a small environmental footprint.


Ash is one of the most regularly used handle material

The reassume it it used it because once it has been dried and if the wood has been carefully selected so as the grain structural is straight (knot free) then the handle will be both strong, fairly flexible and shock absorbing.

The grain orientation is very important to the handle as it is like a plastic or stainless steel ruler, meaning it can flex sideways but not edgewise.

The colour of this wood when it has not been painted, stained or finished in any way is a very light almost while colour and the growth rings can be seen as darker lines.

Apple wood

Apple wood if cured and carved correctly produces a handle that is both strong, with relative flex and great toughness.

This is not the case with all apple tree wood though with the wood I have been able to experiment with as handle material it has produced a long lived handle (5 year experiment still ongoing on heavily used hammer).

This wood in it natural state looks a reddish brown and has a change of colour between the inner wood and outer wood. once stained it goes a dark red brown.

Pear wood

Pear wood is naturally water repellent and as such makes great knife handles

It is soft to carve when first cut and then after appropriate drying time it goes very hard and durable. very light in colour and stains well.

Cherry wood

Often cherry wood would not be the first choice of handle material as the wood is often too thin.

I have however had some example that have produced remarkable results. cherry carves well once dried and I found that intricate patterns can be carved in it will still retaining it’s strength and durability. 

It is a light red brown when carved and turned an orange red brown when stained. 

I hope my simple Petefire guide to wood that I often use is helpful. I’ve learned most of what I know from experience and experimentation in trying out different wood for knife, sword and axe handles – and for using it in other projects too.