Good Wood for Handles

Oak, hickory, and elm (if you can find some) work well. October 25, 2006

Question
Has anyone made their own wheelbarrow handles? I would like to know what type of wood to use.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, technical advisor, Sawing and Drying Forum:
White oak and hickory are commonly used North American hardwoods.



From contributor A:
Don't forget White Ash. I see it often for this purpose.


From Gene Wengert, technical advisor, Sawing and Drying Forum:
The strength of white oak (MOR) is 15,200 psi; hickory, 20,00 psi; and white ash, 15,000 psi.


From contributor B:
Based on those numbers, it looks as though hickory is significantly weaker than the others.


From contributor C:
I think Gene meant 20,000 psi(MOR)for Hickory. It has an interlocking grain which makes it difficult to split. Elm has interlocking grain too if I remember correctly and used to be used for handles during my grandfather's day.


From contributor D:
As a farm boy (born 1935) whose dad also had a sawmill I would offer this bit of information. Wagon tongues, and sickle mower tongues were constantly breaking, and the smart old time farmer never bought a factory replacement tongue. Instead he headed for the woods looking for a Winged Elm/Cork Elm sapling of the correct size and length. Other vernacular names are Piss Elm, Water Elm, Red Elm, Witch Elm, Wahoo Elm.

This wood, when dry, will bend but never break. I have one of dadís old cant hooks with an elm handle, and even after 60 plus years this handle is as strong as it ever was. All of this leads up to what would make a good wheel barrow handle. If I needed handles for a wheel barrow, I'd find some old farmer and ask him where a stand of piss elm trees could be found.



From contributor E:
Just curious - does the handle made from a sapling have more resistance to breaking than say a handle hewn out of a log? When I was a kid, my old man often made replacement handles out of saplings just large enough to do the job. Most common were like walk behind cultivators that he would wheel and deal with, old hoes, sledge hammers and just about any tool iron that needed a wooded handle. I always thought he was just being thrifty (I was a young dumb kid and I thought he was too cheap to buy new). Funny that you mentioned the pitman on a sickle bar mower, it seems that every one that I remember was a stick of white oak plank just milled and drilled enough at the ends to fit the connections.


From Gene Wengert, technical advisor, Sawing and Drying Forum:
Saplings will be a bit weaker (but if you make them a little larger, that is off set) but they are more bendable, which can be important to reduce shock to the hands.