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Top tools with loose wooden handles

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Hi to all out there in the world,


I got a question about fastening wooden handles to top tools.

It is recommended to make the fit of toptool handles loose to prevent damaging the handle or hurting the blacksmiths wrist if an errant blow occurs.

Ok so far the theory...

But what does this mean in real life? I'm wondering how to fit the handle loose, but avoid the tool coming off the handle during using it?

I find it very annoying if the tool slips off the handle every few blows.


So, how do you fit loose :) 

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Hm, I have never heard of such a thing (granted that isn't saying much), but I have seen people who use a steel handle that is just some round bar wrapped around the head of tool rather than using a wooden handle going through an eye. Here is a picture I found as an example.


I suppose the thought process is the same. More give in the handle means less force transferred up to the arm. I've never done it myself as I generally just use a wooden handle with a tight fit. But I think this approach might be easier than trying to put a handle on loose purposefully.

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I had a set of top swages that came with the hoard that used wagon wheel spokes for handles.  They were fit sided to side in the eye but had air space top and bottom of the eye, perhaps like that?

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Hi Frazer,

That's my preferred method too if I make tools by myself. Wrapping around the tool not to tight and you end up with a little "loose"

But now I found some old  tools wich I would like to use in future. And they all have hammer eyes. The special point of these eyes is, they are parallel and not hourglass shaped as necessary for handhammers. 

I came across this topic, because in all German blacksmithing books this loose fit is always recommended to avoid bruising the wrists. However, they don't explain further how to realise this "loose" fit :(


Thomas, can you move these tools easily on the handle?




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Think I found the answer :) 


Here I copied such a statement for example:

Die Hämmer erhalten gewachsene Hartholz Stiele die aber nicht verkeilt werden damit bei schiefen Schlägen auf den Hammer keine Prellungen entstehen durch die die Hand verletzt werden könnte


Here I tried to translate with help of Google translator:

The hammers have grown hardwood handles that are not wedged, so that if the hammer is hit at an angle, there are no bruises that could injure the hand...

I'm sure everyone will catch the main idea :)


After reading this I think I missinterpreted the whole thing. It doesn't mean loose in the manner of something wobbly or so.

The point is, the handle itself should fit but then it is not wedged in place as usually done with handhammers.

Furthermore I found in the book of -Otto Schmirler : the smithy's craft and tools -

some drawings and photographs where obvious stick out is noticeable, but no wedges.

So, I've learnd today to understand "loose" simply as not wedged :)20210107_000133.thumb.jpg.0ff20e9931c3736f9bfe4ba8ec3cb17c.jpg






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Good Morning,

I fit top Tool handles slightly loose with some stick-out of tool handle hole. I drill 2-1/8" holes sideways through the handle stick out and weave a piece of Coat hanger through the hole so the head will not fall off. I believe the slightly loose head allows the effort of the blow to go through the Top Tool to your work and not transfer up to your Elbow. 'Tennis Elbow' is painful!!


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I have top tools with both loose wooden handles and welded steel handles.  No problem with the wooden handled ones, but the metal handles hurt my hand and wrist every time I use them.  I heated and fitted PVC pipe to most of them and it helped somewhat, but I'll never make another top tool with metal handles again...welded or twisted.  Next step; to cut off the metal handles and attach a wooden handle somewhat like the old sinew or rawhide wrapped tomahawks.  Now to find some rawhide!

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Top tools, and especially those used under a power hammer, sometimes benefit from a spring being welded as a  section of the handle, usually near the tool.  The spring can absorb much of the vibration of the hits or slightly off center hits.

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As Swedefiddle mentions above, a retaining pin arrangement can be helpful, *especially* if it's an asymmetric tool.  That allows you to flip the tool around for left-or-right side configurations.  For example, this fuller that is useful for shoulders:


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My stickout's not quite that much, but you'll come to find what works for you.  Probably would've only given a small clearance between nut and head, as well (don't want the head wandering *too* far around).

 Many ways to address the problem, so long as it works and isn't unsafe, it ain't stupid.

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I know what you mean and I wondered if that long stickout would be disturbing at working.

On the other hand if you place the bolt too close to the end/edge of wooden things, you may end with splitting the wooden end ( bad writing style, I would be a terrible writer :) )

There is a rule of thumb that recommend to stay away from wooden ends 1" or so...

But you're right I will see if it works




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