SReynolds

(Wooden)Hammer Handle Tip

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Been buying up loads of different styles and weights of hammers, for forging that is. My instructor insisited on a very large hammer and found that "not so large" hammers work as well. Especially with lighter weight stock.  

 

But they are generally sold w/broken or weak handles. The local blacksmith supply sells handles for 2.49 (compared to the local Ace hardware for 8.99). Nice big Hickory handles, too!

 

I can't seem to keep the handles tight, the head from slipping/working off.

 

I found that the use of a carbide burr, used to enlarge the bottom of the hammer hole, will match up with the taper of the handle. Makes sense to me........

 

I also can't get that wedge to do much to secure the handle inside the head. Thus I had this great idea that if I take a few of the thoudands of hand forged nails lying about and cut the head off, they serve quite well as a wedge to excpand the wooden handle inside the head. I have been drilling a very small poilot hole to help align the nail.

 

You's guys have any tips to share when it comes time to replace a wooden handle?

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Fit the handle as you normally would, wedge and them soak the finished head in anti freeze. Handles that I use this technique on go for years without ever loosening up. Soak the head upside down in a shallow pan and add enough liquid to cover the head. I leave them to set overnight and they are good to go in the morning.

Peter

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As others have said, shape the handle to fit the hammer, then wood wedge and steel wedge it into place.  Water or other liquids expand and crush the wood fibers and when they dry out the heads are loose on the wood as it is smaller after being forceably crushed.

 

I have used glue as both a lubricant AND a adhesive when inserting the hammer handles. Once installed the wooden wedge and the steel wedge are lubricated with the glue and seem to go in easier and stay longer. YMMV

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Note that antifreeze is an "attractive poison" for small animals and a tray of it may result in the agonizing death of pets and wildlife that can access it. Take precautions!

I myself use linseed oil, soaking hammers stood upright heads down in a small tray until I can see oil wicking up over the head. I then take them out and wipe down both the head and the handle to clean and protect them. The oily rags I burn in my coal forge so *NO* chance of unplanned self ignition.

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There is animal/ pet friendly anti freeze available out there.  Most NAPA stores have it, green bottles of course I'm sure most auto stores have it about twice the cost but less likely to dry out.   

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Greetings SR.

 

You say you have a hard time with the wood wedge...   Most factory wedges are way too thick to fit into the slot provided in a new hammer handle..  I suggest slimming down the wood wedge than after a proper fit up of the handle take a hack saw and widen the slot in the handle so that the wedge fits deeper into the slot..  I prefer to add epoxy on assembly and a final steel wedge..   Just my 2c  I hope this helps..

 

Forge on and make beautiful things

Jim

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In my humble opinion the best wood wedges are not cut but split along the wood grain.

It may take a second try to get a good fitting wedge but made from hardwood that´s easy to split you get a sturdy wedge in no time

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Also note that a lot of the wedges provided with the handles are made from a soft wood like poplar.  Not only are they far too obtuse in their taper, but the wood likes to crush rather than spread the handle.

 

If you use linseed oil, thin it down 4:1 with paint thinner or lacquer thinner.  This makes it soak into the wood a whole lot better.

 

Using standard wood glue to help hold the handle and wedge in place isn't a bad idea.

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I have a severe problem here in coastal South Carolina with hammer handles staying tight.  In the summer it's really humid and in the winter it's a bit dryer.  I now epoxy the handles in the heads.  I get the handle fit right, get my epoxy mixed up and put on the end of the handle and in the eye of the hammer head, drive the handle in tight, drive the wooden wedge in, drive the metal wedge(s) in perpindicular, and wipe off the excess epoxy. 

 

This isn't a permanent fix however.  At some point generally after 2-3 years the epoxy lets go.

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Try shaping the handle to the point that you can use a rubber mallet to drive it in.

 

Then remove the head and lubricate it liberally  with full strength boiled linseed oil and then drive the handle in again.  The lubed handle will go in further than it did when it was dry

 

Lube the wedge with linseed oil  and drive it in.    A wedge made from some scrap hickory works better than the one that came with the handle. If the steel wedge looks flimsy then make one yourself. 

 

Once the linseed oil has set up nothing will come loose, ever.

A little like a double hung window with the frame painted over two or three times with oil paint.

 

While you have the can of linseed oil open you can apply some to any other hammerheads and they will remain waterproof and humidity proof. 

 

P.S. When you cut off the excess handle, dab a little linseed oil on the exposed raw wood. 

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no, I don't have a problem w/the wooden wedge. I throw that out. You can't drive a wood wedge into that slit in the end of the handle once you force the end of the handle INTO the hammer head. It closes that slit, tight. How you going to drive wood into something like that???????? 

 

I have problems with the steel wedge. It is useless. I use hand made nails as the wedge. W/o the head. I can drive them into the end of the handle and then use a drift to drive them down, well below flush. I use about four hand forged nails and they hold that head in plce. Never lossen.

 

I see the local blacksmith supply sells ROUND steel wedges. Wondering how well they'd work, but I have found the key to holding a hammer head in place. I do not intend to experiment with anything else.

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I like to cut the wedge from the previous hammer handle---and use the tag ends of pattern welded billets as the steel wedge

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I simply clamp thehandle in the vice and resaw with a back saw, makes the slot wider, also make sure the slot is 1/2 or a bit threw the head when instaled, not from the top. Drive in. Cut if the exeses. Press, set wedge cut of the rest if the exese. Set steel wedge.

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DO NOT cut the handle and wedge flush with the top of the hammer but leave them to mushroom a bit. This helps hold the head of the hammer on the handle. - Jr Strasil

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I forge my wedges out of 3/16" x 1/2" A36; nick it and quench...one heat. It will harden and stiffen a little bit. Break it off on the anvil after quenching. For fun, I take another heat before nicking and repeatedly parallel/notch it on the hardie with light blows, so it kind of resembles some of the store bought ones. I doubt if that helps.

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the wooden wedge goes into the slot, then the metal at a angle to the wooden wedge to lock it in...

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From a lecture by my dad:-

The hammer eye should taper in from top and bottom.

The handle should be shaped so it fits the bottom taper and is parallel beyond the middle of the eye or waist.

(OP it is much quicker to shape the wood than the hammer head, and the splinters are much nicer....carbide burrs euugh! If the sawn slot is closing up when you are driving the handle in you have not taken enough wood off the bit above the waist)

The saw cut should end below the mid point of the eye and the wooden wedge should be shorter than the saw cut's depth. The saw cut creates a flexible hinge which prevents the split traveling down the handle. If the wedge goes beyond the bottom of the saw cut it will cause a split.

If the handle comes loose it needs rehydrating, water will do, linseed oil will do better and will not evaporate away as rapidly.

Or just use epoxy...

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I'm impatient, I use an acetylene torch to shape the wooden handle till its close. The char is scuffed away easily and the wood left is dry as it gets. I drive the handle into the hammer head then drive a split hardwood wedge in from the top (I've been using purple heart cause I have pieces in abundance around the shop) followed by a steel wedge 90 degrees to the wood wedge. I've waxed the end grain on some heads to keep them sealed.
Wood swells when moist and shrinks when dry, drive a handle when it's shrunk and you'll likely never have a loose head again

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Always learning, always hoping to improve. Alan's comment about if you can't get the wedge in you didn't dress the end of the stick good enough was a gem. Alan's father took the time to pass on something of great value to his son, most of us have to learn these things the hard way, and / or Google / Iforgeiron...These kinds of things are much easier if you grew up doing them. The poplar wedges are kinda wimpy, especially if you didn't dress the end of the handle enough.  Funny if you fit the handle really well to the eye, and saw the slit wide enough and deep enough, the soft wood wedge will do a good job.  You want it to be somewhat obtuse so that it fills the top of the hourglass. But that also means the head can't be crimping the slot closed.  If your hurrying and mistakenly believe that the handle fits the eye just fine, it just needs a little persuasion;-) right, you can try a cheat is to start the wedge in the slot, then start the handle in the eye.  But it is good to remember fewer regrets and few repairs if you do it right the first time;-)

 

Another gem is you want the head locked between the shoulder and the wedged end.  Alan is right you want the part of the handle in the middle to not be compressed by the eye, let the wedge fill up the top half of the hourglass.  I have rehafted a bunch of hammers over the years, some I got right, and they were tight and right.  A BUNCH I messed up and they loosened up and didn't stay where they were put.  I have reforged a number of hammers to improve the eye, often to make it take a larger handle;-) cause I hit too hard and drive too deep sometimes... Some lessons;-)

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