Introduction: Hatchet (Solid Steel) Restoration and Wood Handle
After going through some camping stuff I found an old hatchet that I always enjoyed using because of the weight and head size. It was extremely rusted and the rubber handle was cracked causing it to slip off while being used. I decided that I would try to breathe life into this old hatchet for something to do, as well as have a really nice kindling hatchet for hunting and camping trips.
The hatchet is entirely drop forged steel so just swapping out a new handle was not an option I decided to make a custom wood handle secured similar to a knife handle.
Step 1: Rust Bath
Place Rusted hatchet in rust bath for 36-48 hours
Once it has been removed most of the rust should be gone.
Step 2: Sanding
After I removed the hatchet from the rust bath I began sanding it. I started with sand paper for metal in this order
***Continually apply WD40 while sanding***
- Emery Cloth
- 600 Grit
- 800 grit
- 1000 grit
- 1500 grit
Each time I changed sand paper grits I would sand the previous "grits" scratches out Ie. 800 removes 600's scratches
Mirror finish means its done
****Sharpen hatchet only after project is complete*****
Step 3: Handle Wood
Choose the type of wood you want for your handle. For any type of handle you will most likely want a hard wood. I went to an exotic wood store where I live and decided on a combination of Birdseye maple and Purple Heart.
If using two kinds of wood make sure to glue them together and clamp firmly for 24 hours.
I traced the tang of the hatchet on the inside of the wood to get an idea what shape of handle I would like to make. I then used a combination of chisels and a dremel to remove about half the width of the tang from the wood.
repeat for other side
Step 4: Cutting Out the Handle Shape
There is no really easy way to do this if you don't own a band saw ,but overall its not too hard.
Once you have drawn your handle deign on 1 half of wood you can now cut it out. I just used a jigsaw because I didn't have a band saw.
After you have cut out one side, simply trace the cut piece on the other half of wood and cut.
**Don't worry about the curved parts when cutting these can be fixed during sanding so just cut straight lines its going to look blocky for a bit but we will fix that.****
Step 5: Rough Sand and Trimming
I do not have a large stable sander so flipped a belt sander upside down was able to easily and safely sand my handle.
Clamp the two pieces firmly together with a single C clamp that can be hand tightened. Work one side at a time and begin to sand the curves and shapes into the wood to make it start to look like more of a handle.
After I got my shape down my handle was to thick so in an effort to reduce sanding time I did a quick chop on the chop saw
Step 6: Detailed Sand
Using the belt sander I shaped the handle to how I wanted it to look once finished. I did all this work on the belt sander little bits at a time and checking each side to make sure it was fairly symmetrical.
**The hatchet is NOT attached at this point I also sanded the inside of the handle to make the tang fit tighter. I used the clamps to hold the wood together and take the photos**
Step 7: Drilling the Handle for Pins
Use at drill press to drill the handle. I used a 3/16 inch bit because I had 3/16 brass rods I am going to use for the pins.
You will need to get a small metal rod I used brass, other things will work like a hanger or something along those lines.
great video on drilling steel if you are wondering -
Step 8: Resin and Pins
I went to a hardware store and bought some two part epoxy resin that mixed itself as your applied it.
After drilling the metal tang I used those holes as guides and then drilled the wood. Then I made sure the brass pins were cut to just slightly larger then the handle width. I added the epoxy resign to the tang as well as the wood on both sides and in the holes drilled. I basically covered the entire inside of the handle and pins with resin. Then I put the handle together wood first then the pins hammered into place. I added a little more resin to the pins and then left it to set for 48 hours.
Step 9: Final Sand
After the Resin had set for 48 hours I did a final sand to make sure all my seams were even and remove excess resin. This handle is now complete and ready for varathane if I decide to add it.
Step 10: Creating a New Sheath
I went to a leather store in my area and grabbed a few things. I had never worked with leather before but this was fairly simple. I traced the hatchet then cut out the design and attached the hardware.
Step 11: Complete
ALL DONE !!
Now I can sharpen. Its good not to work with a sharp hatchet through this process for safety sake.