Introduction: Ball Peen (aka Ball Pein) Hammer Restoration

Picture of Ball Peen (aka Ball Pein) Hammer Restoration

I have a half dozen old hammers of different types with damaged or broken handles. Like the vise restoration I did last time, I had zero experience replacing hammer handles and was a little nervous about ruining a cool old hammer. After watching some videos and reading through a few excellent instructables, I decided to tackle my grandfather's old ball peen hammer. Before you begin, you will need a replacement handle, wedge set and some sealant (all are described in the following steps).

Step 1: Disassemble the Hammer

Picture of Disassemble the Hammer

Using a vise or clamp on the handle, carefully cut off the hammer head. Place the head on a support which will allow you to knock the wood handle cutoff down and out of the hammer head eye (the hole in the hammer head that the handle is driven into). I used an old blunt punch to drive it out. Keep the driven out piece to help with shaping the replacement handle. I also kept the old handle, which I am going to reshape and reuse for a smaller hammer.

Step 2: Clean Up the Old Hammer Head

Picture of Clean Up the Old Hammer Head

I used a wire brush on an angle grinder to remove years of rust and buildup. This is an important step, so that you can see if the hammer head has any hidden defects (deep cracks, etc.) which would cause concern. I used some sandpaper wrapped around a wooden dowel to clean out the eye. Some people might wish to smooth out all of the old marks or even polish the hammer face, but I am planning on using this hammer, so they stayed.

Step 3: Select or Make Your Handle and Install

Picture of Select or Make Your Handle and Install

There are some superb videos online for making hammer handles if that is the route you want to go. I would suggest watching videos from Jimmy DiResta or Brent Bailey Forge. Both are amazing makers and excellent at giving you invaluable tips.

You can also buy some quality handles online or from the local hardware store. There are a couple things to know about hammer handles if you chose to buy them.

First, you'll need to find a handle roughly the same length as the hammer originally had. Make sure and measure the entire length of the handle, including the part that goes into the eye.

Second, you'll need to pick the right type of handle shape for the hammer's eye. There are two basic shapes: square (usually used for for claw hammers) and oval (for mallets, sledges, etc.).

Third, you'll need a wooden and metal wedge that are the appropriate size for the handle and hammer head eye opening (i.e. the wooden wedge needs to be wide enough to fill the entire length of the slot cut into the wooden handle). Most online or store hammer handles come with a sized handle and wedge set. Check this before you buy. Cost for the handle and wedges range from $4 to $9. If you decide to make your own handle or your purchased handle does not come with a wedge set, you can buy a set of those as well. Wooden wedges come in different sizes, as do metal wedges, but metal wedges also come in flat or circle shape. Flat wedges are driven in perpendicularly to the wooden wedge, while circular metal wedges are driven in the middle of the eye.

Using the piece of the old wood you removed from inside the hammer head eye, mark up the new wood handle with a pencil for a close approximation of the wood you need to remove for a tight fit. Go slow. Remove a little at a time, checking hammer head fit frequently. As my old barber used to say, "I can always take more off, but I can't put it back on." I used a rasp, but others I've watched used a draw knife, spoke shave or band saw. You want a snug fit. Make sure the hammer head sits squarely on the handle with the wood coming all the way through the eye.

Although you don't have to, this is a good time to sand off the thick clear coat that comes on the purchased wooden handles.

Now you are ready to drive the wooden wedge into the handle slot. With the hammer head snuggly on and while holding the hammer handle in your hand (not resting against a bench), drive the wooden wedge into the slot until it will go no further. Turn the hammer 180 degrees between hits. If you try doing this step with the handle on a solid surface, the wooden wedge will likely break. Next, do the same with the metal wedge. Perpendicular to the wooden wedge if metal wedge is flat. In the middle of the eye, if the metal wedge is circular.

Either cut off or grind off any extra wood and wedge material sticking out of the top of the eye and apply Wonderlokking glue to the wood in the eye to swell it and seal it.

Step 4: Paint & Clear Coat Hammer

Picture of Paint & Clear Coat Hammer

Prepare to finish the handle by taping the hammer head off. Stain the wooden handle as desired. Allow to dry for 24 hours. I used clear coat per directions on can, but some prefer wood finish/protection oil.

Completely unnecessary step: I wiped the hammer head off with acitone and taped off the sides and faces. I used Rustoleum Verde Green Hammered Spray Paint for an old school look.

Enjoy your new hammer.


charlesd.parker.33 (author)2016-06-17

Something to take with you:

I once restored an heirloom family axe. It was in the family so long, the handle had been changed out three times and the head once.

Ha! Love it!

blue LED (author)2016-06-13

Restoring a favorite hammer is more about keeping a great tool alive than pure economics. Also keep in mind the new tool is made in China to whatever spec.s are deemed as needed for a profit by that maker and the tool company customer. Whereas a old tool is most likely made in the U.S. or Europe, of better grade materials and has "stood the test of time" by not being part of the "use it- throw it away" process of today. So you choose which is right for you and your tool cabinet.

Good instructable --thumbs up

ksjunto (author)blue LED2016-06-14

Very well said. For me, a big part of doing these Instructables is also learning and sharing skills that were commonplace a couple generations ago. There is something deeply satisfying (to me) in taking something broken or barely useful and getting it back into shape.

nehmo (author)2016-05-20

In terms of cost, my local Lowe's wants almost as much for a handle as it does for a complete hammer. I have some old ball peen heads, but it's hard to justify restoring considering the ecnomics.

ksjunto made it! (author)nehmo2016-06-14

I more than understand. I've been lucky in having access to a few old handles that I can reuse. In fact, the handle cut off the hammer in this Instructable I used to make this little hammer.

mlawing (author)2016-05-20

Great article!

ksjunto (author)mlawing2016-05-20


mlawing (author)2016-05-20

Great article!

Meglymoo87 (author)2016-05-19

Nice work :)

ksjunto (author)Meglymoo872016-05-19

Thank you!

shogun21Jimi (author)2016-05-17

cool project - nice finish

ksjunto (author)shogun21Jimi2016-05-17

Thank you!

dave5201 (author)2016-05-16

My cousin Don always tells me that he has an old ball pein hammer that his dad gave him. He said he has replaced the handle three times and the head twice. But seriously, very nice Instructable. I have a couple of candidates in my workshop that could use some restoration.

ksjunto (author)dave52012016-05-16

Thank you Dave. Kind of you to say.

The Asian Prodigy (author)2016-05-16

I can't wait to break my bones with my restored ball peen hammer! Thanks!!

Ha! Be safe...

lglira (author)2016-05-14

Thanks very useful project and well documented

ksjunto (author)lglira2016-05-14

Very kind of you to say. Thank you.

mdu plessis (author)2016-05-12

Nicely done, a well thought out and documented instructable!

ksjunto (author)mdu plessis2016-05-12

Thank you!

HariKarier11 (author)ksjunto2016-05-14

You did a nice job except you shouldn't be able to knock the cutoff handle with the wedge still in it out of the hammer head the way you did. The handle goes through the small opening and when you put the wooden wedge in it, it fills the width of larger opening and the steel wedge splits the wood the opposite way filling the rest of the void. I don't know who put the handle in before, but their the one to blame, you did like most of us do and put things back the way we found them. I could be wrong but I tried to look at the before and after photos before I commented. If I'm wrong I'm sorry but maybe you can teach others the right and wrong way. Good luck in your endeavors.

ksjunto (author)HariKarier11 2016-05-14

Thank you for your comment and suggestion. I wIsh my pictures were a little better so that fine details could be seen. Whomever put the handle on the hammer did it correctly (wooden wedge with metal wedges perpendicularly in place), but the handle was approximately 100 years old and had some bad splits in the wood making it less than ideal to safely or comfortably use. The head was moderately loose in the eye, so knocking it out was not difficult. If the handle was fairly new or just firmly in place and won't budge, you could use a drill or Dremel tool in the eye to carefully remove the wood around metal wedge, and then pull the wedge to allow some freedom on movement. Fortunately, I didn't have to do this step on this hammer.

ScrappyGirl (author)2016-05-13

I can't thank you enough! I have lots of hammers, I used them all and look for old good hammers. Now I can restore some of them, thanks!

ksjunto (author)ScrappyGirl 2016-05-13

That's very kind of you to say. Thank you! If you have 8 minutes, this video from Brent Bailey Forge is really helpful to watch:

ScrappyGirl (author)ksjunto2016-05-14

That was brilliant, nothing like seeing the visual of your task. Thanks so much! Now I am getting all my hammers that need new handles out! ;)

BeachsideHank (author)2016-05-12

Nice restoration!

Some guys will try and burn out the remains in the socket, bad idea, that can distemper the tool, better to just poke it out like you show.

ksjunto (author)BeachsideHank2016-05-12

A great point. Thank you!

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