Hand Made Hammer Handles 02 25 2010
The head of a hammer will usually outlast the handle. The head gets slight surface rust and some metal fatigue. But the handles tend to rot and corrode around the center of the head.
You can easily make a new one from a piece of hardwood. And it is a good project to do with your son.
You can start by looking for an old hammer you don't like to use because it is old or buy one from a rummage sale.
You can make the handle out of hardwood left on a curb or buy some from a Habitat for Humanity Resale shop. You can even carve a new handle from an old shovel handle. I made more than one handle out of an old shovel handle. The wood in the center of its stock is usually as good as new.
Your working imagination is the limit to your style or design of the handle.
In the pictures you see some of my grandfathers old ball peen heads placed on handles I created. The elongated triangular shape of the smaller handle is very nice to work with. The larger ball peen hammer is made from four pieces of two different kinds of wood, giving it a stronger multicolored handle as the pieces offset in one direction. The effect was created by the way they were glued together.
Clean the metal hammer head with vinegar and sandpaper inside the hole, and outside. Four hundred grit works well. You want to make the head look as shiny as you can to augment your new handle. It is good to file its striking plane straight and smooth with a file also, give a little round off to the edge also.
Make the handle larger than you would expect it to be in the end as you might need to trim off some excess above the head.
Get the piece down to rough size with a band saw or other saw. Then make some marks as to rough size on the stock and freehand sand on a stationary belt sander. Use the iterative process to shape the end to fit the head. Tools needed here are files, sandpaper, small planes etc. If you take a caliper and measure the top and bottom holes of the head you can get an idea of how big that end of the handle should be. Fix the measurement taken from the metal head and hold it to the end of the wood handle. The hole might be somewhat oblong.
When you think you have a good fit when lightly forced on. Use some polyurethane glue and put the head tightly on the handle. When using the vice to hold the piece, make sure you are using a mar free setup, I.e. held in place with wood or/and rags. This is an art.
After setting the head in place wipe it with a thin and tight coat of the same polyurethane glue. This seals in the shine very well and prevents dulling with rust.
Set it in your garage to dry and the next day trim any excess wood off the top. If there are tiny gaps between the head and the handle you can add some sawdust and glue to fill them. Sawdust mixed with polyurethane glue make the glue act differently; use a little less sawdust than you would if mixing with wood glue.
The smaller handle is oak with a red stain. The larger I believe is made from a Poplar snow shovel handle I broke off while heaving 30" lengths of heavy wet snow.
You will be proud of making these handles that exemplify the art of fine craftsmanship. You might even think them too good to use, but don't do that. As you use them they will impart their fine craftsmanship into your works.
Thomas Paul Murphy
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy