Wood Tool Handles

Today, we will explore the various types of wood species available to use in order to manufacture wood tool handles. We will discuss the differences between each species and which is best for a specific type of tool. In addition, we will cover some basic tool maintenance you can complete to ensure their lifespan is long.

Wood Tool Handle Species & Tool Performance

Wood tool handles are an important part of the comfort, control, and overall longevity of the product. Often, the correct species is the difference between a wood tool handle that lasts for a long time and one that does not.

Hardwood & Softwood Tool Handles

Hardwoods and softwoods can be easily distinguished by the tree they come from, among other factors. Simply put, hardwood trees have leaves that change color and fall off during autumn. Softwood trees, on the other hand, have needles that remain on them all year.

Hardwood species include woods such as hickory, oak, and ash. They are widely known for their strength and durability. Heavy-duty tools like axes, sledgehammers, and shovels, greatly benefit from having handles made from hardwood species. These tools require great resistance to wear due to the nature in which these tools are used.

Softwood species, such as pine, are softer and less dense than hardwoods. These species are better suited for lighter tools and handles. Items such as brooms, rakes, and certain tool handles such as float handles are great candidates for handles manufactured from softwoods.

Wood Species for Tool Handles


Hickory has been widely used for tool handles for a long time. It is a heavy wood with a fairly straight grain, known for its strength and shock absorption.

Ideal uses: hammers, mallets, axes, and more.


Oak is both strong and flexible with an uneven grain texture. It’s one of the strongest woods available on the market.

Ideal uses: chisels, spades, wheelbarrows, and more.


Ash is prized for its straight grain and shock-absorbing qualities.

Ideal uses: shovels, hoes, wheelbarrows and more.


Maple is dense and durable. It has a fine grain that allows for intricate designs.

Ideal uses: chisels, gouges, and more.


Beechwood has a fine texture and a great resistance to wear.

Ideal uses: planes, saws, wheelbarrows and more.


Pine is a softer wood that is easy to grip.

Ideal uses: brooms, rakes, float handles, and more.

Moisture Resistance

You should consider moisture resistance when manufacturing or buying different tools, especially for tools that are often used outdoors or in damp environments. Many hardwoods have a natural resistance to moisture. However, it’s still important to apply finishes and/or treatments to these hardwood tool handles to increase their lifespan.

Aesthetics or Ergonomics? Why not both?

Wood tool handles don’t have to sacrifice function for aesthetic appeal, or vice versa.

Think about what wood species you want to use and think about what best suites not only your needs, but the style and function of the tool handles.  Remember, it is most important that the handle feels comfortable in the hands of the user, as well as safe.

Maintenance and Care

Varying levels of maintenance may be required depending on the species that the wood tool handle is made from. Manufacturers should be able to provide their recommendations on how to care for their tool handles. Caring for these handles may include activities such as periodic oiling, sanding, or refinishing.

Wood Tool Handle Species – Conclusion

The choice of species when manufacturing wood tool handles is a critical one. It directly impacts the tool’s performance, longevity, and overall quality. There are various wood species available on the market. Matching each species to the ideal type of tool, manufacturers can craft tools that will work well for the end user.

Ready to Begin?

If you’re in need of custom wood components, please feel free to reach out to H. Arnold Wood Turning for a free, no-obligation estimate. We bring your ideas to life at competitive prices while making life easy.