It’s hard to fault a well-crafted wood axe handle. They flex on impact, feel comfortable in hand, and look impressive.
But a growing number of people prefer composite axes and hatchets. If you’re wondering what their appeal is, then keep reading. This article looks at 13 benefits of the composite axe handle.
Quick tip: Check out our Fiskars X25 splitting axe review if you decide that a composite handle is right for you. It’s one of our favorites in this style of tool.
What are the benefits of using a composite axe handle?
Fiberglass is lightweight, shock-absorbent, and durable, making them ideal for making hatchets and axes. In addition to its enviable performance, a composite axe handle will require less maintenance and is weather resistant.
1. Superior durability
Composite-handled axes are stronger and more durable than wooden ones. Made from high-grade fiberglass and epoxy resins, they can withstand heavy-duty tasks like splitting knot-riddled, tough logs.
Unlike other materials, these handles won’t wear down or become brittle over time. Expect to get many years of use from any fiberglass tool.
Hint: Check out our comparison of Composite Vs. Wood Axe Handles to find out which is best.
2. Impressive looks
While many traditionalists love the look of a meticulously crafted wood handle, there’s a lot to like about the new era of axes. They’re often designed using the manufacturer’s brand colors, which tend to be bold and vibrant. Good examples are the Fiskars bright orange and Gerber’s vivid green.
When you’re out in the forest or on a job site, colorful handles aren’t just about looks. They are super-helpful in the outdoors, making for much easier spotting.
3. Shock absorption
Composite handles offer improved comfort and shock absorption. They absorb shock on impact, reducing arm and hand discomfort. This feature can make a big difference if you’re splitting several cords of rock-hard elm!
Fiberglass materials are light compared to traditional wooden handles. Some manufacturers now make their axe handles hollow, reducing vibration and mass. Less weight leads to more accurate swings and less body fatigue.
5. No imperfections
It’s hard to find perfect wood. Weak points and knots may exist, or the grain may run in the wrong direction.
In comparison, composite handles are produced to a specific standard. Any variation results from production error, but the material is high-quality and reliable in most cases.
6. Weather resistance
Composites are weather resistant and won’t crack, warp, or swell in hot or wet conditions like traditional wooden axes and hatchets.
Tools made from fiberglass are ideal for outdoor use. Toss them in the back of a truck, and they’ll withstand much more heat and rain than wood.
Many axes made from a composite material will also have a special coating or grippy layer on the handle. Anti-slip rubber protects against slipping during wet conditions and provides extra cushioning against vibration.
7. Splinter free swinging
No one enjoys those nasty splinters that come from traditional wooden-handled tools. This won’t be a problem with a composite-handled axe, as all surfaces are made from non-splintering materials.
8. Trouble-free maintenance
Composite axes require minimal maintenance. This feature is ideal for anyone who wants to skip maintaining their tools after every use. You’ll still need to look after the axe head, but there’s no need to oil, thin, or replace handles.
9. Easy to source
There are sustainable, fast-growing tree species, but they don’t make good axe wood. Hardwood varieties, like hickory, are harder to find throughout the world. Fiberglass can be produced in large quantities as a raw material for tool making.
Fiberglass handles are non-conductive, making them a safer choice for use around electricity. An axe with a composite handle won’t conduct electricity like a steel one. So there’s less chance of electric shock. This won’t impact most axe users, but some workers operate in dangerous conditions.
11. Corrosion resistance
Most composite handles are made from non-metallic materials and won’t rust. They’re less susceptible to corrosion than a steel-handled axe. Some models also feature a powder coating on the blade, which adds an additional layer of protection against corrosion.
While fiberglass isn’t a natural material like wood, it will last much longer than wooden axe handles. That means you buy one axe to last a lifetime.
13. Cost effective
If budget is important, investing in a composite product is your best choice. When comparing similar axes, a composite-handled tool is generally cheaper than a wood option. The up-front cost is reduced, and the axe or hatchet will usually last longer.
What are the disadvantages of composite axe handles?
- Almost impossible to fix: If a fiberglass handle becomes damaged, it’s tricky (or impossible) to repair. Forget sanding down a handle, so it’s easier to grip or replacing a loose head. Instead, the whole axe must be replaced. Die-hard survivalists or toolshed tinkerers may prefer wood for this reason. Find out all the benefits of wood axe handles here.
- Aesthetics: While some love the look of a sleek new composite axe, others prefer a well-made wood handle. It is a personal preference, and no convincing will change either side’s opinion.
- Customization: It isn’t easy to customize or personalize a fiberglass handle. Owners of a composite axe can’t engrave or thin it to size.
- Axe feel: Old-school axe users will tell you that nothing compares to the feel of wood handles like hickory, black locust, or ash in hand. They provide impressive flexibility, weight, and balance that synthetically made axes can’t match.
Some valuable benefits come from investing in an axe with a composite handle. Increased strength, easy maintenance, weather resistance, and cost-effectiveness are all compelling reasons to buy one. The added benefits of reduced vibration and impressive looks will seal the deal for many.
Are fiberglass handles the best? That comes down to personal preference. Visit the mainstream axe forums and social media groups, and you’ll find a big following for wood-handled axes and hatchets.
We love wood and composite axes; no, we’re sitting on the fence. There’s a place for both on hardware shelves.
Fiberglass axes last forever; you can throw them the hardest, teeth-rattling jobs. They barely flinch.
But there’s something about a wooden axe that is hard to put into words. They’re comfortable in hand and do a great job. Check any “best axe” page on the interwebs, and you’ll see multiple axes with wood handles on the list.