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Hammer head is starting to wiggle. Should I just wedge it?


Rick Barter

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Well, I've gotten strong enough to use my 3lb. cross-pein hammer that I got from Home Depot. I've been using it the last couple of days and the head is already starting to wiggle. I can't believe it.

So, should I just get some wedges and hammer them in there? I seem to remember reading (on this list I think) about making wooden wedges or something. My 800g Peddinghaus cross-pein and my 1.5lb ball-pein from Home Depot both have what look like wooden wedges and then a round metal wedge in them. Is this the way to go?

rvb

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Rick: There are as many opinions on how to seat a handle as there are members on this board. :)

I'll go first. A lot depends on where you are. I had handles that stayed firmly in the hammer until I changed job locations to a drier shop. Then they shrank and worked loose. So one solution is to minimize the opportunity for the wood to swell due to humidity.

If you can get the handle out without damage, then remove it, coat the hammer hole and the handle with epoxy, and put it back in. Wedge it immediately and firmly as soon as you put the handle in place.

The best wedges seem to the round ones... sold by Centaur Forge, but ordinary metal wedges work fine. If the top of the handle is split for a wooden wedge, you will almost have to put one of those in, followed by the metal wedge.

Use plenty of epoxy, and wipe off the excess from the top and around the bottom of the hammer head at the handle. This will seal it fairl well and make it less susceptible to working loose.

If you can't get the handle out, just use enough of a wood wedge to fill the split, and then drive a metal wedge in. It will work loose over time and you will have to reseat it, but that is normal hammer maintenance. Then when the handle eventually wears out, replace it as I recommended above.

If you use the hammer with a loose handle, not only is it a bit dangerous, but it is very hard on the handle. The head crushes the wood fibers as it works back and forth, and eventually they just fall away as sawdust.

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One thing that I have found that does not work is soaking the handle in any liquid. The wood fibers absorbe the water, swell and crush. This leaves things even looser than before.

The best wood wedges I have found are made (cut) from broken wooden handles.

The wood wedge compresses the handle against the hammer head, the metal wedge then splits the wooden wedge and further compresses things. They will work loose with use, but as Ed says that is normal hammer maintenance.

I have used the 5 minute epoxy and it has held up well for me. Just get everything to fit real well before you apply the epoxy. Then coat everything real well and assemble, with wedges also coated with the epoxy.

I do mix BOILED linseed oil 50/50 with mineral spirits and wipe the handle and hammer head on a regular basis. It tends to "paint" the metal surface and keep it from rusting, and soaks into the handle and makes it much easier on the hands, read no blisters. I just keep putting it on the handle till no more soaks in, and then try to add another wipe on a regular basis.

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I make my handles from ash then sand and whisker until they are smooth as a baby's posterior. I use Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil for the final finish and steel wool between coats. If you haven't used it, y'all really should try the GOOP suggestion - it's pretty good stuff for this application.

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Thanks y'all. Glenn, where do you get linseed oil and why does it make a difference to boil it? Does it have to be a mix of 50/50 with mineral spirits? What do the spirits do?

I'm very interested because my hands are killing me after today. They're used to hammering on keyboards, not metal yet. :?

rvb

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Here in the desert we have a lot of days with single digit humidity so wood drys out very fast which will cause the head to loosen. Soaking the hammer (head down) in anti-freeze or linseed oil with tighten them right up. If you use anit-freeze make sure the critters can't get into it.

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Dief
Let the handle acclimate to the dry air before you put it in the hammer.

Rick
Linseed oil and mineral spirits can be found in the paint section of Lowes, hardware stores, or Wal-Mart. Linseed oil comes in "raw" and "boiled". Raw will takes forever to dry, and remain sticky till it drys. Boiled usually dries (this location) in 3 days. If you need to use the handle before then just wipe it with a shop cloth and put it to use.

Linseed oil is usually a little thick (for me) and is thinned to flow better into the small places. I was originally told 60/40 linseed oil/mineral spirits but found that the mix is not real critical and I can use 50/50 linseed oil/mineral spirits more easily, just fill the same measure with one unit of each and pour it into a container.

If it is a new handle, use sandpaper to remove the factory glaze till you reach bare wood. Then smooth everything down removing any rough spots or places that hurt the hand. I usually use 100 grit sandpaper as a final pass.

Put a little 50/50 linseed oil/mineral spirits mix on a piece of 3x3" terry cloth and wipe it onto the wood handles, then hang them in the hammer rack. Works well for shovel handles, rake handles, sledge hammer handles and axe handles etc. My suggestion is to only mix a small amount first to see if you like it, and try it on only ONE handle. Use that handle for a while and if it meets your approval, then put it on other handles.

WARNING:
DO NOT put the used clothes containing oil in a pile. It will generate heat as it dries and can produce enough heat to catch fire. Any cloth with oil on it should be put in a fireproof container, or hung to dry naturallly.



I will not comment on how much mix has gone through this bottle or how long it has been in service. I will say that the white area on the bottom of the container indicated that it once contained (insert your favorite brand name here) motor oil and the funnel spout was salvaged from a quart container of (insert your favorite brand name here) 90 weight gear oil. :wink:

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Howdy:

I just soak my hammers once a year in my tempering oil tank for two days...never had a loose head. Living here in the desert things dry out quickly but the heads stay tight.

Now before ya soak, the wood has to be uncoated/unfinished..in other words raw surface...this way the oil can penetrate.

Hope this helps...

JPH

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I have three hammers made by Irnsrgn. He allows about 1/8"-1/4" of the handle to protrude through the hammer eye when he cuts it off and then drives the wedge in further it so that it expands on top and forms a wooden rivet. Three years, three hammers, no loose heads. :D

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Junior: There may be a difference between some round wedges and others. I've had the same round wedge in mine for years with no hint that it ever intends to come out. I had to work hard to get it out the first time I replaced the handle. It has barbs, like the better flat wedges. On the other hand, the flat wedge I used in a hammer I made works loose fairly quickly and I commonly have to reseat it.

One of the reasons I prefer them is that the round shape forces the handle head out in all directions, not just side to side.

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When I handle a hammer I still do it the way my dad taught me a long time ago. I try to carefully fit the handle to the eye so that it will not rock even before it is wedged. I will usually drop the rear edge of the hammer handle against a solid bench or an anvil to seat the head fully. Then I use a full width wooden wedge running along the center of the long axis of the eye. I like to saw or split mine from white oak. When the wooden wedge is fully seated and has been trimmed off flush I drive a fluted steel wedge at 90 degrees to it to finish the process. I haven't had any problems with the handles I have mounted this way. This is the same method described in the replacement handle kits for Plumb hammers though they supply a wooden wedge of an unknown species. (There is no need to saw a slot for the steel wedge.)

I don't care for the round wedges myself but I have a friend who likes them. I don't think they expand the handle as well as the cross driven wood and steel wedges.

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  • 7 years later...

About a year ago, when I first got into smithing, I was looking for something to do at the shop where I had just finished the beginner's classes.  Well, I was put to work making and fitting handles for all the top tools and hammers that either didn't have them or needed the old (at least 5 years of regular use, or 10+ of light to no use) handle replaced. I was given a box of old 18" long wagon wheel spokes and showed how to make handles on the disc sander and bandsaw.  The old guy filling me in told me to fit the top tools just a little loose (so that it didn't jar the wrist as much) and safety wire 'em top and bottom, and to fit the hammers snug, not tight, all the way around the hole.  He then showed me how to make wood wedges from scrap wood, and steel wedges from old lag bolts.  In the bunch, there was a 4# drilling hammer that I've been using since then that I go to before I use my own.  I have a feeling that particular handle will dry out before it even budges.  My only gripe is that, even though it's one of the thicker handles in the shop, it is still a little small for my soup plate hands.

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Here in Tennessee , and I am sure else where Many old timers did as well We soak any loose and New handles with the heads or hoes , ECT on the handles in Diesel for a day or two the oil in the Diesel swells the wood and keeps the heads of tool from getting loose .

 

Just my .02 cents worth

 

Sam

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It really is hard to fit hammer heads for the long haul here in the desert. With retaliative humidity ranging from 0% to 50% wood gets a real workout in taking on moisture and swelling, then giving it up and shrinking back down, so yeah it's bound to get somewhat loose. If you get a really tight fit when it's dry it will swell up when the humidity goes up till the fibers are crushed and then it will shrink back down and be loose after a heavy day of work. Glenn's suggestion of a soak in a 50/50 mix of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits seems to work pretty well at keeping the balance of moisture in the wood and prolonging the useful life of a hammer handle in just about any climate. However if you are moving from the East Coast to the ultra dry of the Southwest deserts be aware of loose hammer heads, they may not stay together long unless you account for the loss of moisture, 5%RH will really suck it out of you!

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My comment:

I enjoy glueing the hammer handles. Such as Mr.Hofi with sikaflex 11FC.

Epoxy seems to me inappropriate because it will be tough and may break out.

Peter

 

-in former times I dryed the handles in the stove and used wooden wedges, sawed by hand -

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Most of my hammers I buy used at flea markets etc..,. I am always amused at how few I find that are correctly handled. The handle should be filed to fit tightly into the eye after a saw kerf is sawn across the end of the handle along the long axis of the head. Use a wooden mallet to tap on the hand end of the handle while holding the handle inverted with the other hand (head toward floor). The inertia will draw the head up on the handle. If it is too tight and doesn't pull up easily,knock the head back off with alternating taps on each side of the head. Then you will see the marks on the handle where wood needs to be filed off. Keep checking as you go and make sure it's not going on twisted. It is fatiguing to use a hammer when the head doesn't line up with the handle. When the head is drawn up real tight, open up the saw kerf with a narrow chisel. I use an old screwdriver ground sharp. Now drive in a hardwood wedge. This wedge must be the same width as the saw kerf and tapered from about 3/8 to 0. Drive it in until it won't go any further and then saw off the handle flush with the hammer head. I then take my screwdriver/chisel and start the split for the iron wedge(s). These go in at right angle to the wood wedge. Now drive in one or two iron wedges. Now I clamp it straight up in the vise and pour a little linseed oil on the end grain of the handle and let it soak in. If it ever gets loose soak in a little more linseed oil, or add another iron wedge.

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