Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Handle Maker of the Past, Railway Handle Corp.

Railway Handle Corp. was located in Kenbridge, Lunenburg County, Virginia. The mill was completely destroyed by fire Jan. 2, 1968. It employed 117 people at that time, and its president was Earl Taylor. Apparently they rebuilt, because they appeared in a 1990 directory.

As of 1939, their handle brands were Ajax, Champion, Dominion, Echo, Perfecto, Sampson, Service, Trojan, and Veribest. As of 1979, their brands were Champion, Dominion, Perfecto, Ranger, Sampson, Service, and Trojan. As of 1990, their brands were Bob White, Champion, Cobra, Dixie Special, Dominion, Fire, Flame Seal, Flint, Patriot, Perfecto, Ranger, Sampson, Service, and Trojan. 

Source for fire: The Danville Register, Wed., Jan. 3, 1968, page 1.

Credit for photo of his Bob White axe handle to reader H. A.

Railway Handle catalogs at Archive.org 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Burroughs-Ross-Colville Plant For Sale

On October 10, 2017 I stopped at the Burroughs-Ross-Colville handle plant in McMinnville, TN, and learned that the handle plant closed in 2016. It is for sale, and I have scanned an extra sales packet. The contact phone numbers are on page 3:
Burroughs-Ross-Colville Sales Packet

There is a complete equipment list which I didn't get, but the handle plant has a number of Defiance copy lathes, and includes the original line shafts (no longer used).

Defiance lathe at Burroughs-Ross-Colville

Burroughs-Ross-Colville office building 10/10/2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Handle Maker of the Past, A.H. Leathers Manufacturing Co.

Allison Haupt Leathers
The business that became A.H. Leathers Manufacturing Co. was a handle mill established by John Bitner Leathers (1833-1894) in 1879 in Mount Eagle, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Two of his sons, William Turner Leathers (1856-1904) and Allison Haupt Leathers (1867-1932), continued the handle business after the father's death.

Seeking a more plentiful supply of hickory, Allison H. Leathers established a second factory in 1898 in Dickson, Tennessee. In 1909, a fire destroyed the Mount Eagle mill, although some machinery was saved. Since the building was uninsured, Allison H. Leathers elected not to rebuild, and he moved the machinery to Dickson.

Leathers began manufacturing baseball bats in the 1920's, and their best selling bat was the Dixie Swatter. When Allison H. Leathers died, and his children owned the company until 1955 when Harry R. Leathers, Jr. purchased the business. When their baseball bat sales dwindled, the company returned to making tool handles exclusively. The business closed before 1998, when the buildings on East Walnut St. were demolished. Leathers tool handles can occasionally be found on eBay and at flea markets.

The portrait is from Find A Grave. Thank you to Rocky Bowker for information about Leathers.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Buy Sears Handles While You Can

Since Sears is closing stores, I suggest you stock up on their tool handles while you can. Most of their handles are stained red, perfect for re-hanging Plumb hammers and hatchets. They sell a 13.5 inch hammer handle, 13 inches finished length, which is the original length for 16 oz. claw hammers. You may need to glue in a couple of extra wedges. Buy a bag of wedges from House Handle or make your own wedges from old handles.
The closest Sears store to me

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, J.M. Tatem Handle Co.

J.M. Tatem Handle Company is the only New England handle manufacturer whose catalog I have been able to find. They were located in Eastford, Windham County, Connecticut. The owner was John Melvin Tatem (1860-1935), who brought his sons James Carlton Tatem and Harry Logan Tatem into the business. Tatem was in business as early as 1900 and through at least 1933. Their products included hickory and lignum vitae mallets, wood chisel handles, brush handles, door stops, barrel bungs, wood key faucets, and chalk line reels.

The label photo was sent in by reader J.P. in North Granby, CT - thank you.

J.M. Tatem axe handles
J.M. Tatem label

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Hickory Handle & Manufacturing Co.

Display case by Hickory Handle & Mfg. Co.
Hickory Handle & Manufacturing Co. of Conover, NC, was a rare instance of a handle maker also producing furniture. According to the book Conover by Donald Barker, 2011, the company began in 1891, making handles and school desks. A 1921 North Carolina industrial report listed their products as "Hammer handles, chicken coops, etc." This appears to be an understatement, judging by the well-made display case pictured here. Thank you to reader Tim for the photo. The furniture side became Conover Furniture Co., later acquired by Broyhill Industries.

According to the 1957 Conover city directory, Hickory Handle was at 302 4th St. SW, and Preston L. Yount was president. Handles produced for Stream Line Tools auto body hammers, also made in Conover, were stamped "Conover, N. Car. USA".

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, American Handle Co.

American Handle Co. was located in the Southside industrial area of Richmond, VA, and was in business through at least 2001. Their handles were branded "Owl".


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Defiance Handle Lathe, 1920 and 2016

I ran across this ad for a Defiance copy lathe in a 1920 issue of The Wood-Worker, a magazine for the wood products industry. To see what looks like the same lathe operating, here it is at House Handle Co.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Eastern Handle Corp.

Eastern Handle Corp.
3015 Falling Creek Ave.
Richmond, VA (Chesterfield County)

Eastern made agricultural tool handles, crosscut saw handles, and baseball bats. A scan of Eastern's Catalog No. A-39, undated, is on Archive.org.

Eastern Handle Corp. handle tag

"Ray Coble Brinser who passed away Saturday, April 7, 2001 was born June 8, 1908 in Richmond, Va., was the son of the late John Wesley and Alda Coble Brinser. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Clareine Sheppe Brinser. He also leaves a number of nieces and nephews. He attended Richmond Public Schools and McGuire University, where he excelled in football and track. Mr. Brinser was a life-long member of Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church. In 1941, the family business, E.C. Brinser & Sons, manufacturer of agricultural tool handles, burned. In 1943, Mr. Brinser, with his partner, formed the Eastern Handle Corp. of which he was Vice President and Superintendent. In 1980 at the age of 72, he began carving in wood. He was self- taught, producing many quality carvings and sculptures in wood and stone."

Eastern Handle Corp. plant

Monday, September 14, 2015

Beaver-Tooth Handle Co., Manufacturer and Retailer

I have just learned of Beaver-Tooth Handle Co., and do not know where they are located. Good news if you have been looking for auto body hammers - they have them. They also carry leather sheaths and axe stones.

Company website

Welcome to the Beaver-Tooth Handle Co. We manufacture and distribute premium grade American Hickory Striking Tool Replacement Handles in standard and hard to find sizes (please note that while we do sell some THP inc handles we are only a retailer they have no information about an order you place with us). We also carry top quality Full Grain Leather Axe Sheaths / Guards, and a full line of Wood and Metal Wedges for Handle attachment. We also have have Vintage restored Axes from time to time.

Our passion is fine quality axe and hammer handles and of course antique and vintage axes, hammers, cross cut saws, and other old tools!

Beaver-Tooth Handles are made from American Hickory right here in the USA. There is ever increasing demand for American grown Hickory from China and other foreign countries. Help us keep our American Jobs and Hickory all here in the USA!  All of our other products including sheaths and wedges are made in the USA.

The operations are located in the heart of the hickory belt between the Cumberland plateau and Appalachian mountains of Tennessee.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

List of US Handle Manufacturers and Retailers

This condenses the information in my posts into one list in pdf format and an Excel spreadsheet:

List of US Handle Manufacturers and Major Retailers pdf

List of US Handle Manufacturers and Major Retailers - Excel

Steel Handle Wedges

Top picture is a variety of steel handle wedges from my workbench. At top left is the most common new wedge available today, and no. 3 is a Plumb screw wedge.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Easy Axe Sharpening Vise

This is made from a salvaged steel angle 1" x 1" x 1/8", 5/16"-18 T knobs, 5/16"-18 x 2-1/2" carriage bolts with the round heads cut off, pronged tee nuts, a strip of aluminum, and foam padding. I screwed the bolts into the T knobs and epoxied them in place (I could not locate T knobs with a screw long enough). The pronged tee nuts went under the 3/4" thick workbench top. This holds the axe head securely and allows me to unscrew the T knobs and remove it when not in use. The aluminum strip prevents steel-to-steel scratches.

Some styles of axes may need a 1/4" thick rubber strip under the poll to tilt the head forward.
Axe sharpening vise
Please exercise great care in sharpening axes. Use cut-resistant gloves (top right corner of picture) and a guard on the file. There is no guard shown because this axe is not sharp yet.

Another axe sharpening aid is a bevel gauge, as shown here:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Removing Plumb Permabond

For several decades beginning in the mid-1950s, some Plumb handles were secured with a plastic resin adhesive called Permabond. This red, slightly pliable material is an epoxy blend. When used with hickory handles, the wood was tapered to be a tight fit at the bottom and a very loose fit at the top of the eye, allowing the Permabond to flow around all sides of the wood. No wood or steel wedges were used. More information and a cross section is on Google Patents. If you have never read a patent and its technical language, check it out (a hammer is a "percussive tool"):
US Patent 2850331
Section of patent drawing 

To remove a handle with Permabond, cut it off close and do not attempt to drive it out. Drill as much out as possible going from the top and bottom, especially in the center. I recommend a dust mask. Sharpen an old  flat bladed screwdriver, making it into a chisel. Using the screwdriver and a punch, remove material from the middle and work outwards. Place the screwdriver at the edge of the Permabond and begin prying and chiseling the Permabond loose from the steel. With luck, you'll find that the steel has rusted a little and weakened the bond, and the Permabond will come off in big chunks.

For more information, you can read this post from Blade Forums on the same subject:

The same procedure may work on other epoxies. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jig For Removing Old Axe Handles

After struggling with a makeshift setup, I built this jig to hold an axe head so I could drive the cut-off handle out. The pictures are before I glued and screwed the oak and 3/4" plywood assembly together. The angle is a compromise, 22.5 degrees. It passed a test of 4 axe heads.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Guide to Carpenter's Hammer Handle Lengths

Here is a page from Stanley's Catalog No. 34, 1941, giving handle lengths for carpenter's hammers. In their current catalogs and labels, some handle sellers now say a 16 oz. claw hammer should have a 14 inch handle. According to the old Stanley catalog below and old hammers in my collection, a 16 oz. hammer has a 13 inch handle. See the chart below for more information. When replacing a handle you can choose the length that suits you, but don't be misled as to what is, or was, the standard length.

V&B (Vaughan) and Sears sell 13.5 inch handles which trim to a 13 inch finished length. The Sears handles appear to be made by Burroughs-Ross-Colville and have an octagonal neck and round grip suitable for any style hammer head. The eye is slightly undersized so they may need extra wood wedges glued in to fit 16 oz. heads. V&B handles can be purchased from Vaughan Manufacturing . Bags of hickory wedges in 3 sizes are available by mail from House Handle Co.

Generally a claw hammer with an octagonal neck originally had an octagonal handle. Parts of a hammer (illustration)   

Click on picture to enlarge

Click on picture to enlarge

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, LaPierre-Sawyer Handle Co.

LaPierre-Sawyer brochure
LaPierre-Sawyer Handle Co.
Jackson, MS

LaPierre-Sawyer was acquired by IXL Manufacturing Group of Bernie, MO, and apparently they were bought by Ames True Temper, located on East Hunt Rd., Bernie, MO. LaPierre-Sawyer produced better than average quality handles.

1962 article:
The LaPierre-Sawyer Handle Co., founded in Jackson in 1902, has been sold to E.L. Keathley of Bernie, Mo., owner of other handle mills in Southeast Missouri; the majority of shares was held by the LaPierre family and, following the sudden death of M.G. LaPierre, his sons, G.M. and Tom LaPierre, decided to sell.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Fleischmann Handle Co.

Fleischmann Handle Co.
Loudon, TN

Fleischmann apparently was a predecessor of Tennessee Hickory Products, which uses the Fleischmann name for its flame hardened handles.

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Cumberland Plateau Handle Co.

Cumberland Plateau Handle Co.
Crossville, TN
This was one of the Link family's mills.
The label reads YOUNG HICKORY

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Sequatchie Handle Works

Sequatchie Handle Works (as an independent company)
219 Handle St, Sequatchie, TN, 37374

Sequatchie Handle Works 1965 Catalog

Sequatchie Handle Works was sold to O.P. Link, which was acquired by Seymour in 2004. The buildings are still there per Google Maps. Per the reader's comment, the mill is operating and belongs to Seymour-Midwest.

How Hickory Tool Handles Are Made

A selection of YouTube videos on handle turning:
House Handle Co. Tomahawks on Defiance Lathe
House Handle Co. Axe Handles on Klotz Lathe
House Handle Co. Hardcore Hammer Handles Step 1
House Handle Co. Hardcore Hammer Handles Step 2
House Handle Co. Hardcore Hammer Handles Step 3
House Handle Co. Hardcore Hammer Handles Step 4

Saw Mill & Axe Handle Lathe - Making a Hickory Axe Handle

Ober copy lathe at Mountainside Craft
Ober copy lathe, Mountainside Craft at an outdoor show

Picture of Defiance Machine Works, Spoke & Handle Wood-Turning Lathe 1895

Defiance Machine Works Catalog from Vintage Machinery

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Hartwell Brothers

Hartwell Brothers, Memphis, Tennessee
2499 Chelsea Ave, Memphis, TN 38108 (not at that location in 2011 per Google Maps)
1249 Fairfax St., Memphis, TN 38108 (group of abandoned industrial buildings in 2013 per Google Maps)
Hartwell also had a Laurel, MS plant. In addition to handles, they produced baseball bats and sold the Grey Gorge line of axes. One unique feature that Hartwell used on some hammer and hatchet handles was the "Vacuum Cup" as pictured below, intended to increase the grip.

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Bruner-Ivory Co.

Bruner-Ivory Co.
401 N Laurel, Hope AR, 71801

The Ivory Handle Factory, incorporated in 1901, produced hardwood handles that were shipped worldwide, in addition to other wood products. It became Bruner Ivory Handle Factory in 1933, was sold to a Tennessee company in 1980 (Link), closed in 2004, and burned on September 25, 2012.

Handle Manufacturer of the Past, Turner- Day & Woolworth Handle Co.

Turner-Day & Woolworth Handle Co.
367 Webb Ave., Crossville, TN 38555

Turner-Day & Woolworth Handle Co. was sold to O.P. Link, which was acquired by Seymour in 2004.The buildings were demolished in early 2008 per Google Maps.

Display at Stout Hardware, Harrisville, WV, 8/3/13 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Council Tool Co., Handle Retailer

Council Tool Co.
345 Pecan Ln., Lake Waccamaw, NC 28450

Council sells retail, including some replacement handles and sheaths.

Company website

Raleigh News Observer slide show of Council's axe forging

Tennessee Hickory Products, Handle Manufacturer

Tennessee Hickory Products
111 Keene Street, Loudon TN

Company website

We are manufacturers and wholesalers of quality hickory striking tool handles and hickory Dimension for over 80 years.

Located in the Tennessee River Valley - Appalachian Hickory wood is manufactured into sledge, hammer, axe and pick handles by skilled craftsmen. The handles start with hickory logs, and finish with a beautifully dipped lacquer, or smooth tumbled wax.

Please go to www.hickoryhandlestore.com if just a few handles are needed.

Tennessee Hickory has a very good website and a downloadable catalog, but they do not sell retail, as they say above. Hickory Handle Store is an eBay store. I recently ordered a 12 inch octagon hammer handle and was very happy with the crisply detailed handle with great grain and the service.   

Marion Handle Mills, Handle Manufacturer

Marion Handle Mills
111 Keene St, Loudon, TN 37774

Now part of or purchased by Tennessee Hickory Products.

Marion Handle Mills on Google Maps

Seymour Link, Handle Manufacturer

Seymour Link

In 2004, Seymour Manufacturing Company acquired the O.P. Link Corporation, which included the O.P. Link Company of Salem, Indiana, the Sequatchie Handle Works of Sequatchie, Tennessee, the Bruner-Ivory Company of Hope, Arkansas, and the Turner-Day Handle Company of Crossville, Tennessee.

For over one hundred forty years, Seymour Manufacturing Company has continued to add new products and product lines until today; with over 3000 different products available for shipment, the Seymour Manufacturing Companies are able to offer World-Class service to thousands of customers worldwide.

Seymour Link handles are sold at Ace Hardware stores and other places. You can probably find Ace stores that sell on the internet who have a wider variety of handles than most storefronts.

Link Handle Catalog (28 page pdf)