Ranchmanben

To wedge or not to wedge

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As I’ve been making more hammers and therefore more handles I’ve gotten to where I never install a metal wedge. I send them with the hammers I sell but have decided that when hung properly there’s no need. Every hammer once mounted gets the head soaked in boiled linseed oil/turpentine for 18-24hrs and then the handle for the same amount of time. I’ve played with longer times but the results are negligible. As long as I soak the head once or twice a year they don’t seem to loosen up. It they get loose enough that a soak doesn’t do the job then it’s time for a metal wedge. Also, it often seems like the metal wedge just splits the grain making a built in fault. 

 

Does anyone else else do something similar or do you always use a metal wedge? I look at hammer handles as a consumable but like everything else, the more care you take of it the longer it lasts. 

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I soak mine for usually a week and don't expect to  do anything else to it until time to replace the handle.  Of course I live where humidities are often in the single digits.

(I have a small tray I fill with linseed oil and stand the hammer vertically in it with the handle up and wait till I see it wicking above the hammer head, Then I take it out and wipe down the head and use the oily rag to wipe the handle down. When used up the rag gets tossed in the forge firepot.  Usually I can get a half dozen hammer heads in the tray at one time.)

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I use a hardwood wedge.  I've found oak to work well on a hickory handle.  Then I use a product called Swel-lock to swell the handle and keep it tight.  Metal wedges are hard to remove whereas a wooden wedge can be drilled out and replaced much easier.  

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I use a metal wedge or round diagonal over a wooden wedge.  Gets very humid in Virginia.   Also heat the head up first.

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I have had some issuers when I don't put a metal wedge that the wood wedge will come out, so I now always do a metal wedge it's a very small metal wedge, about half or less the size of the store bought ones. It's big enough it wedges the wedge in, but doesn't typically split the handle any. I imagine soaking the head may help with that though. 

                     Littleblacksmith 

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Mark, I’ve actually had a coulple of hammers done like you’re talking about. A couple of them have had the wooden wedge work it’s way out in two pieces after very little use. I’ve toyed with the idea of glueing the wooded wedge in but I like to be able to knock the wooden wedge in further if needed. 

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A wooden wedge, a wooden second wedge, and a little glue on both keep things together. 

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I've not used glue with my wooden wedges, but it seems like a great idea.  I've also heard the round pipe-like wedges work really well because they push the wood out evenly in all directions.  Trust me, the Swell-Lock works really well.  I'm thinking I'll have to add a few drops a year because of the effects of heat from forging, but that's easy maintenance.  I've even added the Swell-Lock to handles someone else put metal wedges & square nails in and it had tightened them up without trouble.

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It depends on how the handle fits the eye.  Some of my metal wedges are pattern welded tag ends---I hate to throw anything away...

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Glue is what makes reworking a head difficult to clean out.  I have some that the head was pre heated, wood wedged then metal  wedged diagonally then top end covered with epoxy.  They are still tight today after years of use.

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I gave my hammer a wooden wedge, but it wooden wedge.

So I gave it a steel wedge, and it steel wooden wedge.

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Glenn, is your second metal wedge perpendicular to the first like this one?  Or along side it some how?

BA3A9A9B-FAD2-4DC0-A85E-EE3C5FC9484B.thumb.jpeg.5167593e2ec899fb1334363faac24794.jpeg 

If using swell-lock, I assume you’d use it before soaking anything in BLO. Would that cause any discoloration when you did soak it? Is swell lock something you could dribble down the slot for the wedge right before you drive the wedge in?

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Ben, I have had only one hammer head get loose.  It was recommended somewhere to use a produce named "Wonder Lock-em" (or nearly so).  Probably similar to a swell-lock.  It is marketed to solidify loose chair rungs, etc.  I saturated my wedge area with it and four years later, the hammer is still rock solid.  WL is usually found in hardware stores like Ace, HD, etc.  It is similar to a super glue that apparently swells and locks the wood.

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Just a smear of glue on the surfaces which acts as a lubricant for driving the wedges into the handle. The glue sets up and helps hold everything together at that position.  

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Thank guys. I’ve never had much of a problem with my heads coming loose but I’m always looking for ways to improve my products. I think I’ll look into the swell lock and try it on the next hammer I make for myself. 

Glenn, I occasionally will give the wedge a coat of blo before driving it in to help lubricate it. I don’t know if it helped secure it in place once cured but I doubt it since it very little air is in that joint. I just make sure to drive it in as hard as I can without breaking things. 

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Me personally, I don't want that wedge having any lubrication.  When I pound mine in I use my wooden mallet and pound it in until it won't go any further.  I cut long wedges so that I can then take it to the belt grinder and grind it off smooth.  Then the Swell-Lock is applied until it won't absorb anymore.  I want that friction between the wedge and the wood - nice tight fit.  

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The glue suggested would only act as a lubricant to the wedge/handle interface when first applied. It then acts as am adhesive holding the wedge/handle interface together once the glue has dried. There are many different types of glue and adhesives so choose the one that works well in your application.

 

MSDS Sheet for Swel-Lock 

The ingredients in Swel-Lock are 71-80% dipropylene glycol.

Another product that might work is Chair Doctor glue If a chair has a loose rung, an injection of Chair Doctor glue will first swell the rung and then bond it in position. The secret is the low viscosity. It will soak into the end grain of wood, swell the wood and then freeze the wood in the swollen state as it cures. A film of dry glue lines the wood cells, preventing contraction. The glue can penetrate the narrowest of cracks.

Traditionally the handle was put into the tool and wedged into place with wooden wedges. Part of the tool maintenance was to keep the tool tight to the handle and the wedges in place and tight. 

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ive used wood, steel, Damascus once, soaked them in anti freeze, but what ive found best to keep them tight is using them every day.  Try it and see if it works for you.  :)

 

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I have found that in the trailer because the humidity is slightly higher, it's not much of an issue unless we have a long dry spell with low digit humidity.. 

Where I do find a problem as Anvil pointed out is if the hammers sit for a prolong period of time without use.. 

I have also found that eye shape plays in to how long  a hammer will stay set.. 

I was a big fan of wood wedges and still use these for the main wedge ..  I then use a secondary wedge and prefer metal nearly the full width of the eye depending on how much more fill in is needed.. 

this point about " Fill In" I don't think has been covered much..  The top of the eye should for all intensive purposes be filled completely.. 

The style or type of wedge will fill or spread the wood outwards differently...  If 1 wedge will completely fill the eye all the way around and not fall out, then it will be sufficient to hold the hammer head..  

The second or cross way wedge just pushed the wood outwards lengthwise thus increasing eye fill.. 

What keeps the hammer to hand tight is the compression of the wood against the sides of the eye.. If the wood has enough compression and does "NOT" take a set.. The hammer should stay tight.. 

I've seen hammers with 2 little eye geometry that are always loose until the eye is reshaped.  I've also seen eyes that were off the ratio to large and the handles are always loose.. 

"Eye Fill". wood compression, eye shape. are the keys..

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On 10/11/2018 at 4:57 PM, anvil said:

ive used wood, steel, Damascus once, soaked them in anti freeze, but what ive found best to keep them tight is using them every day.  Try it and see if it works for you.  :)

Very true Anvil!  Good info JLP

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I have a couple of hammers with the round/cylindrical type wedges.  None have ever loosened.  I suppose since they probably expand the wood in all directions instead of two directions like the flat wedges.

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I like the round ones, the S ones, the straight ones and the X ones..  Though of late I have been making my own straight taper with the teeth put in.. I like the these the best because they are what I have on hand at the moment of forge time. 
When I have free time at the metal lathe I'll make some new round ones and this way I can control the taper.. :) 

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I don’t guess I’ve ever seen a wedge that’s an X. I’ve had a couple that were straight with two cross bars on them. I kinda like the idea of a little x. 

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