Rehab an Old Hammer




Introduction: Rehab an Old Hammer

About: I am an employee of Autodesk, Inc.

My dad has a favorite hammer that he's used for years. It's pretty well-worn and the handle is coming loose so it occasionally throws the head. For Fathers' day this year, I decided i would rehab it for him by adding a new handle and cleaning up the battle-scarred tool-head.

You Will Need:

  • A new handle kit. Get Hickory if you can. This should include wood and metal wedges. They come in different sizes, so bring your old hammer with you to the store.
  • Lacquer Thinner or comparable solvent
  • Boiled Linseed Oil
  • Wiping Cloths
  • Chisel (keep it sharp) need one?
  • Japanese saw need one?

It's true that they don't make-em like they used to-today they make them better. Still, this one has sentimental value, and a lifetime of use has earned this hammer a second chance...

Step 1: Out With the Old...

First, we'll need to remove the old handle and clean up the head.

  • Remove the old handle (mine was so loose that it just slid out, but you may need to tap on the underside of the hammerhead with another hammer)
  • Soak the hammer head in a pan of lacquer thinner.
  • Scrub the hammer head with steel wool to remove rust and paint, and give a nice burnished look to the metal.

Step 2: Fit the New Handle

It's time to fit the new handle to the hammer head.

  1. Hold up the new handle against the tool-head and mark the approximate location of the bottom of the head on the handle. Trace this line all the way around the handle. Advanced Readers: We're basically making a tenon here, guys.
  2. With a Japanese saw (or a dovetail saw) score around this line.
  3. Mark lines for the front and back of the hammer head socket on both sides of the handle.
  4. Trim outside of this line from the top of the handle down to the bottom line(again with the Japanese saw or dovetail saw)
  5. Cut more deeply at the bottom line until you reach the front and back cuts you just made. This should establish a shoulder.
  6. make two parallel cuts about 1/16" apart in the top of the handle (on the long side of the square handle top-see image) with a knife, remove the sliver of handle left in the middle and clean up the bottom of the hole with a file

  7. Do similar cuts on the remaining two faces of the handle for the long sides of the socket.
  8. With a sharp chisel, work the shoulders down until the handle fits precisely into the socket. Take your time, and make sure the shoulders are square.
  9. Trim the extra length from the top of the handle.

Step 3: Protect Your Work!

Ok, now the hammer head and handle look great. We want to keep it that way. Were going to use boiled linseed oil, a traditional and natural finish. If you prefer, you could use a clear Rustoleum on the hammer head and leave the handle end unfinished.

  1. remove the head from the lacquer thinner and allow to dry thoroughly
  2. soak the cleaned-up hammer head in boiled linseed oil for a while.
  3. dip the head-end of the handle in the linseed oil. (we don't need a lot)
  4. remove from linseed oil bath and wipe dry.
  5. Allow to dry in the warm sun and continue to wipe dry. (you will be doing this for a few days after we attach the new handle.
  6. With a microfiber cloth, buff the semi-dry linseed oil finish on the head repeatedly


Step 4: Attach the New Handle

Now that we've prepared the head and the handle, we need to join them.

  1. Insert the handle into the head's socket.
  2. Trim the wooden wedge from the new handle kit to fit in the socket (just use a chisel)
  3. drive the wooden wedge into the slit we cut in the handle. you should hold the hammer with the end of the new handle resting on a solid surface.
  4. Trim off the end of the wedge so that is is flush with the top of the socket. (The Japanese saw works nicely)
  5. Drive in the steel wedges perpendicular to the wood wedge

  6. dab a bit on the boiled linseed oil onto the top of the wedges that you've just trimmed to seal them.

Step 5: Finished!

You're all done. Over the next few days the linseed oil should dry out. Wipe it periodically until it no longer feels greasy. NOTE: Included image of the old for before-after purposes.

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    An old farmer said," This is the best hatchett that I ever owned. I have only replaced the head twice and the handle three times."


    4 months ago on Step 1

    Nice work fixing that hammer for your Dad! Careful! Although newer Lacquer thinners are more VOC compliant - old school lacquer thinner are some potent VOC smelly stuff that will destroy your brain cells. Better to give good old white vinegar a try. It's cheap, not smelly and works great on rust - just soak for a few hours or overnight. A wire brush or toothbrush may be all you need to reveal the steel. Cheers!


    5 years ago

    My favorite hammer, a Plumb ,I found under the seat of an old farm pickup someone gave me in 1980. I have replaced the handle twice. It's due


    7 years ago

    Haven't I seen hammers for $2 at my local hardware store?


    7 years ago

    There's a million ways to skin a cat, but your method seems to have worked just fine. Great gift idea!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I used to install handles similar to how you describe here. I've since changed my technique to what I feel is a better method now. I no longer use any kind of a bladed tool to trim the handle to fit. I abrade the handle with a rasp, or sandpaper. This gives me a surface I can more easily read for signs of burnishing, which is a sign that marks where additional trimming is needed to achieve the best fit. Pro Tip: mark one side of the head, and an alignment mark on the handle so as the head, and handle are removed for additional trimmings they go back the same way each time. Eye holes are never symmetrical.

    Running a wood saw next to metal is not such a swift idea either. I do my rough trimming with a hacksaw, then finish up with a belt sander, or file myself. BTW there is a product called Japan Drier that speeds up drying time. I only use linseed oil inside the eye hole, so I don't get so involved myself. My favorite handle finish is spar varnish, which is really polyurethane. Although I've probably used just about everything to finish hammer handles at one time, or another by now.

    What you did is fine, and it'll probably hold up for quite some time, I'm just saying there is a better way of doing it is all. I mean good luck achieving a fit like this whittling. The way I do it is a bit more tedious, but in the end it is much more straightforward. In other words, if you just do it right then you can't go wrong.


    7 years ago

    Looks brand new, great job! I guess your dad is very happy :)