Introduction: Replacement File Handles

A few years ago, when my uncle passed away, I was fortunate enough to inherit a number of his tools. And his father was a professional carpenter, so I inherited a number of quality files, made in the USA in mid- 20th Century, with brand names like "Lutz" and "Nicholson." The files held up well over the decades, but in a number of cases, the wooden handles cracked or went missing.

While working on my Brazilian Redwood/Purpleheart mallet a few weeks ago, I realized I have quite a few wood files that are missing handles. So I ordered a set of cheap, lightweight handles online. These handles work fine for the smaller files (under about 7"), but they are too small for the larger files. I tried one on for size, and it felt like trying to balance a whole pint of ice cream in a single-scoop cone;-} So I decided to make my own.

About a year ago, I broke the handle off a shovel while digging in my backyard, and of course I saved the broken handle, (because you never know when a broken shovel handle might come in handy;-). While thinking about what to use to make handles for my handleless files, I remembered the broken shovel handle... Perfect!

Here's how I made a few file handles (and a link to how I made a hammer handle) from a broken shovel handle.


Broken Shovel handle

Handleless files

Steel pipe

"Spring Oak" wood stain

Spar urethane


Belt sander

Hand finishing sander

Coping saw

Power drill

Hole saw drill bits


Pipe cutter


Step 1: Size the New Handle

First I laid one of my larger files with a handle next to the broken shovel handle and marked off an approximate length. I repeated this process, and cut off three pieces for handles.

Step 2: Hole Saw One End for Collar

With the parts of the shovel handle cut into approximately 5" sections, I drilled holes in the top end with a hole saw to fit a metal collar, and give me an approximate diameter for the top of the finished file handle. This was a little bit like peeling a banana;-}

Step 3: Sand & Shape

With the top section cut for the collar, I took it to the belt sander to sand off the old finish, scuff marks, etc, and shape the new handle.

Step 4: Peg the Hole

The end of the shovel handle had a hole drilled in it for a strap or lanyard, but I didn't want that for my file, so I stuck a dowel in the hole. I didn't have a dowel that fit exactly, so I had to enlarge the hole slightly. Dripped a bit of wood glue in the hole, pounded in the peg with my Brazilian Redwood/Purpleheart mallet, and then trimmed the excess with a pull saw.

Step 5: Coping and Fine Sanding

I used a coping saw to trim any excess from around the top where the collar will go, and filed it down a bit for a clean fit. After shaping with a 120 grit paper on the belt sander, I did a finer sand with a hand sander and 240 grit paper.

Step 6: Cutting the Collars

I had a scrap of steel pipe leftover from a previous project, which was once part of steel/wire restaurant-style shelf rack. I cut a few inch length pieces off with a pipe cutter, and filed down any rough edges on the inside.

Step 7: Fit Collars to Handles

This pipe worked perfectly for making the collars, because it has a slight taper to it - a bit narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. It's manufactured this way to hold the brackets that would hold the shelves, but also works perfectly for a file handle!

Step 8: Tape and Stain

I taped off the collars with a bit of painting tape, and stained with light coat of stain.

Step 9: Seal With Spar Urethane

After the stain dried, I added a coat of spar urethane.

Step 10: Finished

I'm very happy with the finished product. These handles have a great, solid feel to them and are far superior to the smaller ones I bought online. I can see them serving me well for many years to come, and keeping these files company for another century.

I could have made a few more of these from my scrap shovel handle, but I decided to save a section to replace the handle on an old Boiler Scaling Hammer.

Step 11: Bonus Handles!

After I used a section of the broken shovel handle to replace the handle on my Boiler Scaling hammer, I had the old hammer handle that I cut off, and I realized it still had a little life left in it. It was pretty beaten towards the head of the hammer, but there was still enough meat left on the bones that I decided I could get two more file handles out of it.

Using the tools and techniques outlined above, I fabricated two more file handles from the old hammer handle for a few smaller files I had; one with a cheap plastic handle, and one with no handle at all.

So all told, from one broken shovel handle, I managed to make handles for 5 files and one hammer, with enough wood leftover to possibly replace the handle on one more hammer! Stay tuned!;-}

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Your price is the same, but I get a small commission to help me build more cool stuff!;-)

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