This wheelbarrow is still in great shape except for the wooden handles. Today I am going to replace the handles. Here is what you will need.
- 2 x 4 or other wood to get 1 1/2" square blanks
- boiled linseed oil
- table saw
- miter saw
- disc sander
- drill press
- draw knife
If you do not have all of these power tools do not worry, you can substitute hand tools for the ones you do not have. This is an easy project and does not take much time. This is also a good way to get a wheel barrow if you find one at an auction or sale. Brand new these wheel barrows can cost over $100.
Step 1: Remove the Old Handles
This is my dad's wheelbarrow. The handles have seen much better days but the PVC tub is in excellent shape. There is no reason to throw it out but with rotted handles it is useless for anything other than a small, leaky bathtub! So, I am going to replace the wooden handles. I have done this before several times and this works really nice, making even better handles than what came with the wheel barrow.
I removed the old handles from the tub. This was a little tricky because the carriage bolts were pretty rusty. So, I just sprayed them with some penetrating oil, tapped the nuts a few times with my wrench to work the oil down into the threads and waited a few minutes.
After a few minutes the nuts released just fine with minimal trouble.
Step 2: Measure the Handles and Find Some Wood
I measured the one handle that was in the best shape and found that I needed a piece of wood about 60 inches long. I rummaged through my scrap pile until I found a 2 x 4 that was long enough and in good shape.
You could use hickory or ash but I have found that a southern pine 2 x 4 like you would buy at the lumber yard works just fine. I have also used Douglas fir from larger dimensional lumber. If you have to buy a new 2 x 4 let it sit in your shop for a few weeks to dry out a little more. They always seem to come from the yard terribly wet and will cause them to warp as they dry out. You do not want them warping after they are built and installed on the wheel barrow.
Step 3: Cut Your Handles
I cut my handles to 59 inches in length. I determined this to be the best length for my particular wheelbarrow. Your wheelbarrow may be a little different, so spend a little time measuring and deciding what is best for yours.
Using my miter saw I cut the 2 x 4 to 59 inches. Then I set my table saw to rip it to 1 1/2 inches. My goal is to have two handle blanks that are 1 1/2 inches square.
Step 4: Form the Rounded Grips
On the end of the handles that you will grip, you will want to form a rounded grip. This is much more comfortable in your hands than the sharp edges of a square handle.
To form the grips I started by measuring down 6 inches from the ends and marking all the way around on both blanks. Then I clamped the blanks and used a draw knife to roughly round out the grips. A draw knife makes pretty aggressive cuts in pine so you will need to refine the grips a bit more. In this step, you are just getting a rough shape.
I was aiming for a grip diameter of about 1 1/4 inches. I refined the shape of the grip on my disc sander. This step also smoothed the grip out so it will feel comfortable in your hand and avoid splinters left from using a draw knife.
Step 5: Drill Holes for Bolts
Now I drill the holes to attach the handles to the wheel barrow. I measured the old handle to get a rough idea of where to put the bolts. I did a little double checking with the axle parts and stand and confirmed that I was close enough. I then drilled the bolt holes on my drill press using a drill just slightly larger than the bolts so I had a little wiggle room in case my measurements were not close enough.
Step 6: Sand
Using my random orbit sander and some 80 grit sandpaper, I gave the handles a good once over. You don't need to get crazy here with sanding because it is not going to last. Just smooth everything over, ease the sharp edges and make sure there are no splinters that will end up in your hand.
Step 7: Re-Assemble and Finish
Now you just have to put the whole thing back together and put a finish on the wood.
I sprayed my nuts and bolts with a little more penetrating oil and then cleaned them up with a brass wire brush. If your bolts are too rusty or have areas where it looks like the diameter of the bolt has rusted away just replace them.
It is a little tricky to hold everything in place while assembling if you are doing it by yourself so you may want a helper. Tighten all the bolts up just be careful not to pull them through the tub. Just snug it up until the lock washer flattens out and that is good enough.
Now just wipe the handles down with a good coat of boiled linseed oil and let it dry. It is a good idea to put a second coat on the next day.