Introduction: Hammer Restoration

Picture of Hammer Restoration

The humble hammer is a cornerstone of a carpentry kit. When your trusty tool handle breaks or in need of repair you could just go to the store and buy a new one, or maybe even buy a replacement handle. But not you, you're a maker. You fix and mend, you personalize your toolkit as it's a reflection of who you are, giving you maker cred that gets you noticed whenever you brandish it.

When the handle on my hammer broke I knew it was time to not only fix my tool, but make it uniquely mine. I made a new handle from sturdy ash, which has excellent shock resistance, making it ideal for a tool handle. I decided to model my handle after the shape of a hatchet handle which would give me maximum leverage when striking, and even added a little embellishment to the handle to let everyone know it was mine.

Step 1: Break Hammer

Picture of Break Hammer

I'm pretty good at breaking things. This inexpensive hammer broke where the head meets the handle after a particularly rigorous session of hammer time.

Upon closer inspection it appears that the handle is some kind of plastic or epoxy. I've had this hammer for some time, and I'm a little surprised it lasted this long. In some ways I was happy this ugly hammer broke, giving me an opportunity to remake it into something awesome.

Step 2: Sketch New Handle

Picture of Sketch New Handle

Referencing the old handle for rough sizing, I sketched out a new handle design on a scrap piece of ash from an earlier project.

Knowing I didn't want a straight handle shape, I printed some pictures of hatchet handles as reference and sketched onto the wood until i had a profile I was happy with.

Step 3: Cut Profile

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With the design penciled on the wood I went to the bandsaw and cut the rough shape out.

Step 4: Check Dimensions

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After the rough shape has been cut I compared the new rough shape to the old handle for sizing, ensuring that my handle was approximately the same length as the original and meets the new design I was going for. With everything checking out I could move on to shaping the rough handle into something more ergonomic.

Step 5: Trim Width

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Depending on the scrap you have, you may have to reduce the width of your handle. You can rip your scrap piece before you start roughing out the profile, but I chose to do it after. The caveat to trimming down the width after shaping the profile is to ensure you have enough material to safely feed it through your table saw.

Step 6: Shaping the Handle

Picture of Shaping the Handle

Once I has happy with the sizing I could start shaping the handle on the bandsaw. Holding the piece at a 45 degree angle I carefully trimmed off the edges and began shaping the handle to match the design I had sketched.

Step 7: Shaping the Eye

Picture of Shaping the Eye

The eye of the hammer is where the handle is inserted into the head. I made a few measurements of the eye opening from the head and transferred it to the eye of the handle. I cut the rough shape for the eye deliberately large, then shaped it to the correct profile with a hand rasp.

Step 8: Trimming Body

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With the head fit to the handle I made marks where I could trim the handle profile down near the head.

Step 9: Refining Handle Shape

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Back at the bandsaw the shape was refined further, careful not to remove too much material as the final shape will be refined by hand with the rasp.

Step 10: Rasp

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With the majority of the bulk removed from the handle and the rough shape made a hand rasp was used to smooth out the contours of the handle and give it the final shape.

Taking time here will yield the best results. Starting with the rough side of the rasp the handle shape was refined, take break from the rasp and hold your handle to determine how it fits in your hand. When you're happy with the progress switch to the fine side of the rasp and work the handle until it's smooth.

Step 11: Compare

Picture of Compare

After shaping with the rasp I compared the new handle with the design intent and the old hammer handle. My handle was slightly longer and had a more ergonomic shape.

The final shaping was done with the fine end of the rasp until I was satisfied with the shape.

Step 12: Hanging Opening

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I wanted the option to hang my hammer from a peg board, or tie something to the handle. I drilled a small hole through the base of the handle, then used a countersink bit afterwards to smooth the hole transition and enlarge the opening.

Step 13: Sanding

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The fine end of the rasp leaves a decent finish, but you can really make the grain of your wood handle stand out by sanding it smooth.

Starting with 100 grit sandpaper, then working up to 220, and then 320, I sanded the handle completely smooth and free of any rasp marks.

Step 14: Make Wedge Slit

Picture of Make Wedge Slit

With the handle shape finished the wedge slit can be cut into the handle eye.

Use the bandsaw to cut a slit down the majority of the eye of the handle. A steel wedge will be inserted into this slit when the hammer head is on to hold the head in place.

Step 15: Steel Wedge

Picture of Steel Wedge

To ensure the head stayed on the handle we'll drive a metal wedge into the eye slit when the head is installed. This steel wedge was made from a scrap of steel bar stock that was about as wide as the eye. I ground a taper in one end of the steel wedge with an angle grinder.

After the wedge has been tapered the head can be put onto the handle eye, then the wedge can be inserted.

Protecting the wood handle from damage with a shop rag, then brace the hammer in a bench vice and drive the wedge into the handle eye forcing the eye apart and holding the head to the handle with friction.

Step 16: Trim Wedge

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With the steel wedge securely hammered into the eye and holding the hammer head in place the excess can be trimmed. Using the angle grinder trim the top of the eye and excess wedge from the hammer.

Step 17: Epoxy

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After trimming the excess wedge I filled in the small voids in the eye with 2-part epoxy. This will help secure the wedge in place, but is more to fill in any cavities and make a clean top.

Allow epoxy to cure completely before moving on.

Step 18: Finishing the Head

Picture of Finishing the Head

Using a sanding disc or flap wheel the hammer head top can be smoothed out. If your hammer head is in rough shape like mine was you can also use the sanding disc to clean up the head and bring it back to a nice shiny finish. This is also a good time to fix any hammer head imperfections. My hammer had a slight slope on the hammering face that I squared up with the angle grinder and sanding wheel.

After I used a scouring pad to smooth out the finish left by the sanding disc.

Step 19: Laser Etch (optional)

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Your hammer is done! Or, is it?

I decided to go the extra step and laser etch in a design on my hammer, totally personalizing it. Having access to a laser cutter is pretty rad, but you could also use a wood branding iron to burn in your own design.

I'm into dinosaurs and wanted one on the handle of my hammer.

Step 20: Apply Coating

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The last step is to protect your piece. I decided to to coat my ash hammer handle with paste wax.

Using a shop rag I rubbed the paste wax into the handle. This gave the wood a deeper colour, and helps seal the wood from staining.

Step 21: Hammer Time!

Picture of Hammer Time!

All done; time to hammer some things!

Drive a nail, flatten some metal, pry something apart. This restored hammer has a new lease on life, and will fill you with pride whenever you use it. Your hammer is a tool that needs to be used to be loved, so get out there and get hammering!


Have restored your own hand tool? I want to see it!

Share a picture of your tool restoration in the comments below and be awarded a 3-month Pro Membership on Instructables.com.

Comments

good_apollo made it! (author)2016-02-17

Thank you for posting this Instructable! It has inspired me to make my own handle for my favorite welding bench hammer. I used a sturdy section of an old broken shovel handle to rough out the general shape of the old one using a table saw and a jig saw. Then fine tuned it with a hack saw, file, and belt sander. I then cleaned up, but didn't totally remove, all the abuse that the actual hammer head has taken over the years with a pass over with a grinder and a 60 grit flapper wheel for safety sake, kind of like you would do to clean up a chisel. I still need to finish the wood with something but can't quite make up my mind on which product to use. It didn't come out exactly how I had pictured it (got a little thin towards the top) but I'm new to woodworking and I know what I did wrong. Is the old crusty shovel handle/new hammer handle going to work and not break over time? Who knows, but its comfortable and now I'm hooked on making my own handles so the next one will turn out better!

mikeasaurus (author)good_apollo2016-02-19

I love this reuse of a shovel handle. I know buying a new handle is cheaper, but there's a personal touch that comes with shaping and making your own.

Glad you liked the project, and I hope you make many more handles for all your tools as you need them. Thanks for sharing so many great pictures, enjoy the Pro Membership!

kidintheworkshop made it! (author)2015-07-14

this was my grandad's tool his yankee handyman drill and this tack hammer that had a broken handle

Did you make a new handle for that hammer?

yes i did

elicitone made it! (author)2015-01-22

As with all T-Squares used for cutting, the top gets cut thru and eventually breaks. I had a blue plastic one... plain jane... no measurement markings. It finally broke the other day, so I decided to make a wooden one on the CNC machine.

I figured if I was going to make one, may as well design a nice woodland scene to put on it.

So now that I have the TAP file made, the next time it breaks, all i have to do is load and cut... Poof!!! Brand new Top

mikeasaurus (author)elicitone2015-01-22

Excellent design. I want a CNC machine in my own shop one day.

Thanks for sharing, enjoy the Pro Membership!

Corinbw (author)mikeasaurus2015-03-28

there is a CNC at my school work in the CAD room, but I have lost all of my solid works skills and knowledge, it makes me sad because now I can't mill anything unless have a friend do it for me. So cool I love the square, you should sell those square tops for those of us who break them often

elicitone (author)mikeasaurus2015-01-22

Thanks a million... and keep up the great work on the instructables! Yours are always well written and great photos to go along with them.

nic3006 made it! (author)2015-01-29

Here is a plane I restored. Got it at a garage sale 5 bucks.

Corinbw (author)nic30062015-03-28

ooooh what kind of wood I love it. So classy

mikeasaurus (author)nic30062015-01-30

That plane looks great! I love giving old tools new life.

Thanks for sharing, enjoy the Pro Membership.

neodymium made it! (author)2015-01-19

Nice work on the hammer! I like the
design you put on the hammer. Next time I rehandle a hammer I'll have to
try that with my soldering iron.

This is my favorite tool I've
restored so far. An old 30's-40's 15-91 Singer sewing machine. I got it
for free from craigslist, and it was literally filled with grease crud
and the fabric wire jackets were crumbling. I had to completely rewire
it, and spend about 10 hours taking it apart piece by piece, taking
pictures of every step so I could put it back together. The motor and
light were salvageable, and the enamel finish was hardly chipped after
cleaned. Now it can sew through 1/4" of nylon fabric, haha.

It's not a hand tool because it has a motor, nor is it something most people would consider to be a "tool", but it is still my favorite restoration, and I do consider it to be one of my tools.

josuchav (author)neodymium2015-03-06

Love the old Singer. I FULLY agree it's a tool and I am jealous of it. Good job on getting it back up to speed.

mikeasaurus (author)neodymium2015-01-19

Great restoration! I'll count the sewing machine as a tool, as I love a good story about bringing an item back to life.

Enjoy the Pro Membership!

neodymium (author)mikeasaurus2015-01-20

Thanks for the pro membership!

I also love seeing when people turn something that most would consider garbage into something really useful. Less waste, a good looking product, and a good story behind it.

The Green Gentleman made it! (author)2015-02-27

Okay, took me a bit, but I did it! I didn't have a tool with a broken handle, but I had a kids' fork with a melamine handle that crumbled. Here's my take. Thanks for the inspiration!

Looks great. Is that an oak handle?

Thanks for sharing your restoration, I love the way it looks. Enjoy the Pro Membership.

Thanks! I had a piece of red oak lying around. The improvised rivet was fail, so I used a wooden peg. Thank you for the membership!

radamquigley (author)2015-02-22

Nice instructable. We cleaned out a friend's family farm when her folks past last year. Found many tools that will need to be restored. I think we have about 15 or so hammers. Going to love getting started on the restoring this summer.

markstutzman made it! (author)2015-01-30

Here's a hammer I re-handled recently. The wood isn't stained, it's Osage Orange, which is bright yellow when freshly-cut, and ages to a nice yellow-brown.

mikeasaurus (author)markstutzman2015-01-30

That handle has a nice colour. Thanks for sharing a picture, enjoy the Pro Membership!

Uffe made it! (author)2015-01-25

Did Not restore the head but made a new handle for an old hammer i found.

mikeasaurus (author)Uffe2015-01-25

That's a nice looking hammer handle. Great restoration!

Thanks for sharing, enjoy the Pro Membership.

Seth of choas (author)2015-01-12

....if I've restored a sword, does that count as a tool for the pro memebership?

Ooh yes,

Please please post pics.

TASM

Seth of choas made it! (author)TheAppleSauceMan2015-01-13

This should be all of the photos ^_^

Very nice!

Looks like a replica Confederate Cavalry sword (correct me if i'm wrong).

Its come up well. Now back to my current sword restoration; restoring a replica katana!

TASM

nice! it's a Confederate Cavalry sabre, but close enough. :P Have fun on your next project!

nice! it's a Confederate Cavalry sabre, but close enough. :P Have fun on your next project!

Neat sword. But, is it really restored?

I'll do that as soon as i get home then

redmarkonthewall (author)2015-01-20

This is really cool to do, it's a shame that not many people repair as opposed to replace. I have one bone to pick with you however.. You said the face of your hammer had a slight curve to it that you straightened or flattened out (I don't remember your exact words).. You seemed to imply this was an imperfection however domed face on a regular claw hammer allows a skilled hand to sink a nail below the surface with minimal surface damage. You should have left it as is, just shining it up would have been adequate. Just my two cents, great job otherwise!

Good catch. My hammer face was sloped from years of abuse, it was an improper angle that needed to be repaired. I mainly cleaned it up.

terrible tinkerer made it! (author)2015-01-19

Hi mikeasaurus, Let me 1st say I really like your work, your robosaurus is just great & the tale you spun threw me for a loop! Needless to say I had to see more of your work & that's how I came across your ible. I can appreciate the work you put into making your handle as I also find the bandsaw an indispensable woodworking tool mainly for resawing lumber, green, air-dried or found, & also for fleshing out projects.

I'd like to add a few of my own projects to your growing list, hopefully in time to score a 3 mo pro membership. The hatchet handle I made from white ash using a spokeshave, rasp then a pc of glass, which takes a fine sliver of wood much like a plane leaving a very smooth surface, after getting it close to size with my bandsaw. The ball-pein handle is ash again, the mallet I made from a fallen hop hornbeam (ironwood) & the square from scraps of cherry & ebony. I guess the last 2 don't qualify as they're complete fabrications but I wanted to show what can be made from wood if one has a mind.

O yeah, I finished all with double boiled linseed oil applied with 0000 steel wool.

Great idea having people show their work - some very fine work here!

Thanks.

Glad you shared your work, those hammers look great! Thanks for sharing, enjoy the 3-month Pro Membership

Tom Howbridge made it! (author)2015-01-18

Stanley 5001 chisels, here is my tool restoration https://www.instructables.com/id/Chisel-restoration...

I have a video aswell

I just got some chisels from an old workshop and they are in need of repair. I'll reference your Instructable when I refurbish them!

Thanks for sharing your restoration. Enjoy the Pro Membership!

Thanks Mikeasurus, it's very satisfying when u turn something from being a lump of rust to shing steel thanks for the pro membership :)

Rachelisabella (author)2015-01-15

I'm trying to do the slippers with LEDs and you told me where to get battery holders,thanks btw but where do you get the leds I tried Home Depot but can't find anything.thanks!

ClenseYourPallet made it! (author)2015-01-13

So my refurbished tool is an early 1900s drill press. It was my great grandpa's and it has been hanging in our shop for as long as I can remember. About a year ago I redid the press for my dad's birthday. When I started it was completely covered in rust and froze up. It took a lot of work but it now is functional and looks pretty cool too.
Thanks for the great instructable

zwilmes (author)ClenseYourPallet2015-01-15

Wow! That is a true piece of engineering, and the paint job helped its looks too. I'm with the other commenters here in saying that I love old tools and pick them up to restore or just put to use whenever I can.

Totally digging that restoration, what a great present for your dad!

I have a collection of vintage tools and love making them functional. Thanks for sharing your picture, enjoy the Pro Membership!

zwilmes (author)2015-01-15

We have a source of osage-orange, or hedge-apple, wood that we use for various projects. A couple of years ago, I replaced the broken fiberglass handle of my 22oz. framing hammer with an osage-orange handle. Now just about every time I touch a hammer I break the handle off, and believe me, I've tried to deliberately break this one, and it just will not break. Just an idea for future hammer-crafting projects.

The Green Gentleman (author)2015-01-12

Wow. That's so much nicer. I'm gonna break all my hammers, just so I have an excuse to do this. Only, not as well, and stuff.

Thanks!

Give it a shot, it's not hard. This was my first attempt at hand shaping a handle.

I think you might be bringing slightly [read: a ton] more wood-working skills to bear than I currently possess, but since I have a sad pair of garden shears swathed in duck tape, I'm gonna go for it!

The only way to get better is to get building. I have built shelves, display cases, work benches, ammo crates (to store beer bottles) and many other things in my different home shops. Now I've tackled bathroom renos, kitchen renos and such - but I wouldn't have remodeled my wife's kitchen if I hadn't first bashed together a night stand that had crocked shelves and hammer marks. Long story... but here are three quotes that I have hanging in my shop, and I try to build things with them in mind..

"We will develop our abilities and take pride in them." – Paul Cummins

"Have no mania for perfection, build to the best of your ability but
don’t drive yourself crazy." - Someone from Wood Working Mag

"The time you enjoyed wasting, is not wasted time"

Oldbear: Yah, I'm workin' on it. Slight lack of space in the garage. I was cutting bottles last night in the 2'X2' space I was able to secure between my wife's car and the wall. I like the quotes though.

baelza.bubba (author)2015-01-14

I love the restoration, but I have a suggestion, were you to have laid out your design on the other side of the curve, you would have had the grain follow the groin in the wood. As the hammer is cut, it has a weak cross-grain that dissects the shaft by almost 3/4 of the width. I would expect that the hammer should stand up to a lot of use, but would be more survivable if the design were reversed :) Thanks for the great article and your excellent prose.

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