Replacing Your Hammer Handle
For enthusiastic home improvers, hand tools are the life blood of a successful project. In fact, for some, a favorite hammer or hand saw can elicit the same care and affection as that of a faithful pet. It may be true that real men don’t eat quiche, but there are a lot of us out there (men and women) who are sentimental about our tools. For example, we have an old six inch china bristle brush that belonged to our dad. That puppy is as good as new and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It is for this reason that some folks will go to great lengths to repair and rejuvenate a damaged tool. Often, it would simply be easier to chuck an old hammer with a broken handle and replace it with a brand-spanking-new one from the local hardware store.
Waste not, want not! Emotions aside, it doesn’t make good sense environmentally or economically to toss an otherwise perfectly good hammer (or other tool for that matter) just because it has a broken handle. If the head is in good shape all that is required is a new replacement handle.
Most hammer handles are made of wood, with hickory one of the most popular. A replacement handle is about one third of the cost of a new hammer. Plan to spend in the neighborhood of three to five dollars which should include the wood shim and metal wedges. When shopping for a replacement handle it’s important to bring both the broken handle and head along so that a close match can be made. The key is to match the throat of the handle (that’s the narrow part) with the eye (that’s the hole in the head in which the handle is inserted.
Another important factor when shopping for a replacement handle is length and mass. In order for the tool to maintain proper balance the size and length should match the broken one as closely as possible. Furthermore, if the grip is too large it can cause fatigue during frequent use or event result in a long-term injury.
With replacement handle in hand you’re ready to “nail down” the replacement process.
First, use a hand saw to cut off what remains of the broken handle. Make the cut as close to the eye as possible. Lay the head on a small block of wood with the top down and claws facing up. A vice works great if you have one. Using an electric drill, remove the remains of the handle from within the eye. The eye of most hammer heads are tapered larger at the top therefore making it easier to push the old material out through that side. Make sure to wear safety goggles to avoid getting a wood or metal shaving in your eye.
Next, insert the throat of the new handle into the eye of the tool. The fit should be snug, but not so tight that you can’t get it in without too much difficulty. If such is the case try shaving down the throat a bit with a razor knife or belt sander. A touch of soap or machine oil will help it slip on easier.
Once you have pushed the head onto the throat of the handle as far as it will go, holding the hammer vertically, firmly strike the butt end on a wood block. This action will force the throat deep into the eye until the point of refusal. Be cautious not to strike it on anything stronger than wood such as metal or concrete as you could damage the butt. Never use another hammer to drive the head onto the handle–metal to metal contact could damage both tools and send metal particles flying.
With the handle snugly in place use a hand saw to cut off that portion of the handle that projects beyond the top of the head. Holding the hammer vertically with the butt on a block of wood, drive the wood shim into the kerf or groove at the top of the handle. Chance are that you’ll need to use a chisel or screwdriver to pry open the kerf just enough to get the shim started. Finish the job by inserting at least one metal wedge at a right angle to the wood shim. A dab of marine varnish at the top of the handle will provide a good water seal and extend the life of the tool.R
Who says only cats can have nine lives?
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