5/15/15 FUN FACT FRIDAY – How to Replace a Wooden Tool Handle

  1. Remove the old handle.   Drilling is the best way to remove a broken handle for replacement, Grip the head in a metal vise, and then drill multiple holes in the end of the handle until enough wood has been turned into shavings that the remains of the old handle can be pulled out. You’ll almost certainly run into a metal wedge or two as you drill. Just work around them with your drill bit, saving them for re-installation later.
  1. Get a new handle, all replacement tool handles are made slightly larger than they need to be to fit tightly in a tool head.
      • Purchase – Hardware stores sell replacement wooden handles, but when you select one, look for growth rings that extend from the front of the handle edge to the back. Avoid side-to-side grain orientation since this makes for a weaker handle.
      • Make your own – cut a piece of wood that’s as wide and as thick as it needs to be to fill the hole in the head of the axe or hammer you’re making the handle for. As you work, keep that all-important growth ring orientation in mind.  After using your table saw to cut your handle blank to thickness and width, tilt the blade over 45º to saw off the corners of the handle blank. Bringing it closer to an oval shape on the saw means less work to do next with the spokeshave.

    3.  Affix the head to the new handle, with the tool handle standing upright on a hard, flat floor, hold the tool head on top then pound both down with three or four sharp blows against the floor.  Inertia propels the head onto the handle – at least a little ways –making marks in the wood in areas where the handle is too large and binding. With the handle gripped in a vise or between your legs, use a spokeshave to whittle away all tight wood about 1/4” to 1/2” down from the place where the head stopped traveling while you pounded. Repeat the standing and pounding procedure, remove the head, then continue whittling down the new high spots that have been revealed. Half a dozen sessions like this and your tool head will be far enough onto the handle to lock it there. You’re good to go when a 3/8” to 1/2” of handle wood extends beyond the top of the metal head. There are two kinds of wedges used together to hold tool heads on handles. Wooden wedges fill the full length of the slot found in the end of all tool handles extending front to back, and one or two metal wedges get hammered in at an angle across the wooden wedge to further expand the wood and hold it tight. Firm blows from a steel hammer are the best way to drive both these wedges. Saw off both the excess handle and wooden wedge so they extend 1/16” to 1/8” beyond the metal tool head, and then drive a metal wedge or two in place. You’ll find they go in more easily if you sharpen the end of the wedges with a file first. By leaving the handle to extend slightly beyond the head, the wood swells more under wedge pressure, holding the head more firmly and for more years of use.




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