Introduction: Make a Handle for an Antique Hammer

Picture of Make a Handle for an Antique Hammer

This is a story on how I made a handle for a BFH that is all that is left from my blacksmiths tools. After all these years I finally put a handle on it.


Some times you just need a Big Freaking Hammer. And yes this is a sledge sized 10lb hammer head with a really short handle. The idea is that the weight and gravity do the work and all the smith does is guide the hammer.

I obtained my hammer head back when I had a handful of pigs before I lost my farm. Pigs will root and root and if there is something under the dirt they will find it and turn it up. The hammer head was the coolest thing that they turned up but they also rooted up a couple bottles and some old broken bricks. I kept the bottles the bricks went back into the earth.

Back to the hammer. After removing rust and dirt using a wire brush a piece of scrap denim and the bore cleaner and oil I was able to make out several marks. a 10 (it is a 10 lb head) and the makers mark of Iron City inside a 6 pointed star. A quick search on the maker turned up a little about a company that manufactured mining tools from 1854 - 1956 This hammer head could have been made pretty much anytime between those dates. Being a straight peen 10 lb hammer and with other things that were found around it I am going to guess about 1900. We found a 1890 Indian Head Penny a few feet away from it. A chicken had it in her beak

These are the tools that I used.

  • The shave horse made in this Instructable.
  • The work bench made in this Instructable.
  • Drawknife
  • Hatchet
  • Dead Blow Mallet
  • Palm Sander
  • Reciprocating saw
  • 2LB Drilling Hammer
  • Wire Brush
  • Lanskey Puck sharpening stone.

Materials used.

  • Rusty hammer head
  • Block of Hickory
  • replacement wedge kit for hammers over 4 lbs. ($3 menards)
  • Hoppes bore cleaner (worked good for removing dirt and rust)
  • Hoppes Elite Gun Oil (figured may as well protect the metal I just uncovered)

Step 1: Split Out the Wood to Be Shaped.

Picture of Split Out the Wood to Be Shaped.

Ok safety first guys. Touch up the edges of your cutting tools. I absolutely love the Fiskars Hatchet It is easy to sharpen and holds an edge like a really good pocket knife. My drawknife on the other hand jeez this thing is rough I am going to have to work on that edge. But it was $10 so I cant complain too much. Make sure you wear safety glasses and hearing protection when you are banging on stuff.

You don't want to force the tool to cut. I was not pounding my hatchet but gently tapping it much like one would a wedge. The dead blow hammer ensured that it did not go bouncing all over the place or skipping off the hatchet.

I started off by splitting out a chunk of Hickory from the block about 4 inches wide and a inch and a half thick. To split this out I held the hatchet along the grow rings of the larger block and drove it in with the dead blow mallet.

After the section was Split out I set it on the head and figured I needed to halve the section I chopped out.

Make sure to keep all your chips and shavings after all hickory makes good Bar-B-Q and I wound up with quite a pile of shavings.

Step 2: Shave That Stave

Picture of Shave That Stave

I am going to let the pictures tell this story.

With your feet locking in the piece of wood, use a light touch and square up the piece of wood split from the larger block. You may need to work on the edge if your draw knife is not shaving well. My factory edge sucks so I shaved a bit honed a bit and shaved a bit.

After you have the rough corners whittled off the soon to be handle line it up with your hammer head and test fit. I smacked it in a bit with the dead blow mallet to mark the handle into a rough shape of what to carve away.

Carve, Sharpen,Test Fit, Repeat... until your handle extends all the way through the head.

After the handle fits the head it is time to start carving it to fit your hand. I basically went for something that was filling to my grip but was not perfectly rounded. I like a bit of an oblong shape to my tool handles as it keeps the tool from twisting in my grip if my hands are sweaty.

Step 3: Finishing the Handle.

Picture of Finishing the Handle.

Well not so much finishing but getting it ready to insert into the head.

I sanded all the knicks off the handle and finished up the smoothing and rounding to ensure that there is a less chance of splinters.

I left the imperfections and worm marks in the handle as I feel that they leave character, After all this hammer head is somewhere between 60-150 years old. The handle should look used and well loved.

the hammer head left a rust mark from the final test fit so I made a line mostly center and cut a channel for the wedge kit that I picked up.

Step 4: Clean That Head Up

Picture of Clean That Head Up

Once again this is a story told in pictures.

Use a wire brush and remove some of the rust and grime from the hammer head.

After wire brushing the head you will notice that the makers marks are starting to be visible.

Spray every surface with bore cleaner.

Let it sit

Wipe it off with the denim rag.

Apply oil and wipe it all over the hammer head.

Step 5: This Is It. Put It All Together.

Picture of This Is It.  Put It All Together.

Take handle that you just fashioned from a solid block of wood in a most ruggedly manner. Insert it into the hammer head until it bottoms out and give i a couple taps for good measure.

Inspect your handy work and insert the wooden portion of the wedge. I then used my mallet and drove it in untill it bottomed out and I cracked the excess wedge. Then I used the sawzall to cut it flush.

After the wedge is flush cut, insert the metal wedge into the wooden end and tap it with a drilling hammer to get it started Then I set the hammer on the garage floor and gently smote the handle untill the metal wedge was driven into the handle and wooden wedge.

There ya go you just restored a Big Freaking Hammer to use. Now you can either use it as is, or use linseed / tongue oil to protect your new handle. I wiped a bit of linseed oil on mine as i like the light color of the wood and oiled the hammer head again, as the previous coat had soaked into the rust that remained on the head.

You are now set to use it as a door stop, a book end, play Thor, or smash stuff.

Comments

Chuck Hickory (author)2015-06-16

If you want a better fit of the head on the handle
Put the head on by hand then turn it upside down and hit the bottom of the handle with a wooden mallet. This forces the head on evenly It's not really that important with a hammer but with a axe or mall it makes a big difference. Have a great day!

NathanSellers (author)2015-04-04

What a fun project. Pretty ambitious work cutting the handle out of a stump and then shaping it. It turned out looking great.

Thanks, It was a lot of fun to make as well. I am waiting for the spring storms to start around here to gather a "windfall" My hopes are to hand hew some 1"x planks and make a couple primitive stools for my kiddos.

chalawandan (author)2015-03-19

Love doing this sort of thing with old hammer heads, hickory is hard to come by here but other woods are ok such as sycamore. Nice ible. Have a look for a proper old edge tool drawknife, way better than than modern thing you look to suffer with.

Yes I am definitely going to keep my eyes peeled. It is starting to be yard sale season around here and out in the country stuff like that comes about pretty often. The new Drawknife that I have can be made to be decent. But I will need to borrow a bead blast cabinet to get rid of the paint. Then properly temper the steel and sharpen. It is not bad steel just the poor finishing was covered up with red paint.

Oh I won an auction for a antique that appears to not have any chips so we shall see what I can do with a proper knife. If this fails then there is always the Mora knife I found on amazon.

The new draw knife came into day and it only took a quick couple passes with a diamond stone for it to be razor sharp. SO MUCH BETTER.

Make sure you keep your tool sharp The cheap modern production one may wind up being turned into a Froe as it is Ok as a blade but it won't go razor sharp.

sixsmith (author)2015-03-19

I made several handles for an 8lb sledge that I found in the dirt. The first few I made out of pecan because I didn't have hickory, and I figured "pecan is in the hickory family, it ought to work." it was a mistake, way too brittle. after about 3 or 4 of those I went to the hardware store and bought a sledge handle, but I wanted a short handle, so I cut it down and shaped it to fit one hand.
I got to say, some times a little persuasion is all you need :P

MoTinkerGNome (author)sixsmith2015-03-19

That is awesome. A lot of my coworkers are giving me trouble saying things like Ya know they make these fiberglass handles now....

Yeah But I didnt have a block of fiberglass sitting next to my smoker. Oh and if you can find it get green wood as this well dried stuff was hard like concrete.

sixsmith (author)MoTinkerGNome2015-03-22

From what I've read by Roy Underhill, you want the most dry seasoned wood you can get for ax handles, I'd assume it'd be the same for an hammer. green wood will shrink and loosen up on you.

Haha, one of my old camp coworkers borrowed my full handled sledge and broke the handle, he wen't out and bought a fiberglass handle to replace it. I told him to take it back to the store. It's a lot easier to rehandle with wood than it is fiberglass.

MoTinkerGNome (author)sixsmith2015-03-22

I am sure you are correct. The block of Hickory was given to me about 2 years ago. It was twice that large but I have been whittling off some for Bar-B-Q. So yes really dry and hard.

I think my biggest problem was that my draw knife needed far more work on the edge then I thought. I have since picked up a better sharpening stone. It seems that the Lansky puck I was using is only a coarse and a medium. I have added a coarse/fine arkansas stone and a extra fine diamond hone. I went through and resharpened all the kitchen knives so I am ready to give the draw knife a go again. That and I saw a video on how to sharpen one. *crosses fingers*

seamster (author)2015-03-19

Love this! I wish I had an old hammer head to clean up and restore like that. It turned out so nice!

MoTinkerGNome (author)seamster2015-03-19

Thanks, It is getting on yard sale season just find some old mantiques and get tinker on I am sure you can find a project. The funny thing is that looking on the bay the head is now worth $50 just by cleaning the rust off of it. LOL

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Bio: Howdy, I am a bit of a tinker gnome. I like playing with hardware/technology along with making stuff I want out of old stuff ... More »
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