Introduction: Fixing Up an Old Hammer
As a Christmas present for my Dad I decided to fix up a hammer that he inherited long before I was born. He received it from a handyman that used to do some work around my Grandparent's house. My Dad wrote an opinion column for a couple of years as he worked as an editor at our local newspaper. He featured this hammer in one of his columns about how for certain projects (and in dealing with certain people) the rounded edges of a worn in tool are better suited for the job than the sharp edges of a brand new one.
The hammer was recently passed to my sister as part of a tool kit for the beat up old Toyota Camry that my parents gave to her. I was able to get her to ship it up to me to fix up so I can surprise my dad with it (If you are reading this Daddio hopefully my writing style isn't too terrible and you aren't too mad that I destroyed the old handle).
If your interested in attempting a project similar to this and don't have an old hammer lying around then you can easily pick one up from a flea market or garage sale. This project was inspired by some of the awesome YouTube videos by Jimmy Diresta: https://www.youtube.com/user/jimmydiresta and uses the finishing technique outlined by David Picciuto on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/DrunkenWoodworker. If you haven't seen any of their videos before check em out but prepared to waste a lot of time.
An old hammer, a hammer handle sized piece of hardwood and some five minute epoxy.
For this project I mainly used a Dremel with a multitude of different attachments and a bandsaw.
Its definitely possible to accomplish this project with hand tools and elbow grease but is a lot easier if you have some power tools. A jigsaw could also pretty easily be used instead of the bandsaw. At the bare minimum you could probably do this project with a coping saw and some sand paper.
Let's get on to the details of how you give an old tool a new makeover.
Step 1: Cut and Drill Out the Old Handle.
The first step in this project is to separate the handle from the steel head of the hammer. I did this by first cutting off the majority of the handle, drilling through the piece trapped in the head and then chiseling out the remainder. The handle that I was removing was fiberglass and ended up producing quite a bit of dust as I was cutting and drilling it so I made sure to wear a respirator and vacuum up the dust right away. The fiberglass really didn't want to come out and ended up tearing up the crappy set of chisels that I was using to remove it. After you get the old handle out its time to start cleaning up the steel.
Step 2: Clean Up the Steel.
After you get the old handle out its time to make the old steel shiny. I started with sanding the steel with 220 grit sandpaper. This worked decently well but was very slow going. I quickly switched to a Dremel. I started with the aluminum oxide grinding stones, moved to the sandpaper attachment, two different metal burnishing attachments and then finally gave it a light polish with the cloth wheel and some buffing compound. Most of these steps throw off some sparks and all of them involve things spinning at high speeds so make sure to wear your safety glasses. Also be sure to clean out the interior of the hammer head so that when you epoxy in the new handle it has a good surface to bond to.
I could have been a bit more aggressive with the grinding but I didn't want to drastically change the shape of the steel and I liked the character that the dings and dents gave to the project. I also could have continued polishing the hammer until it really shined but it is still a tool and will get at least some use in the future. Also the imperfections would be a lot more visible if I tried to give it any more of a polish. After the steel is cleaned up to whatever degree you like the next step is to start making the new handle.
Step 3: Make a New Handle to Fit Into the Steel.
I made the new handle out of a piece of walnut that I got from the scrap bin at a cabinet making shop. Dumpster diving to make my Daddio proud! I drew out a rough shape that looked like it might make a cool profile on two of the sides of the handle blank. I then cut one of the sides out on the bandsaw, hot glued the scrap pieces back onto the handle so I had a flat blank to work with and then cut out the other profile. I then pried off the scrap pieces that I glued on and was left with a handle blank. From here you could shape the rest of the handle with a rasp or sandpaper but I liked how quickly the sanding wheel attachment for the dremel was removing material and stuck with that.
I cut the handle blank over-sized and slowly worked it down until the head fit snugly. Repeatedly checking the fit and drawing a little diagram of the orientation of the hammer head helped me to get a good fit. The steel opening on the hammer head is tapered so that the opening near the top is larger than on the bottom of the head. To mate the handle to the hammer head I cut a notch into the handle and made a wedge out of one of the scrap pieces from earlier. When this wedge is driven into the handle it seals the head of the hammer tightly in place to ensures that head doesn't slide off in use. I should have either cut the notch a bit deeper or the wedge a bit smaller since the handle ended up cracking a bit when the wedge was driven home.
Step 4: Epoxy the Handle to the Cleaned Up Steel.
The next step once you have the head fitting nicely on the handle is to lock it in place with the wedge and epoxy it place permanently. I decided to first apply some blue painters tape to protect the steel of the hammer from getting epoxy on the nice new surface I just put on it. I then mixed up some five minute epoxy and applied it to the inside of the hammer head, the wedge and the portion of the handle that fits within the head. I then drove the wedge into the notch in the handle with another hammer and heard a pretty sickening crack. I had split the handle about 3/4 of an in down from the bottom of the hammer head. I figured there was nothing I could do about it now apart from try and get some epoxy in the split. I don't think the split is really going to affect the strength of the tool but ideally I would have cut the notch a bit deeper to avoid this. About twenty minutes after applying the epoxy I removed the painters tape. At this point the epoxy has set up but hasn't fully cured so its pretty easy to remove the bits that have squeezed out over the painters tape with a sharp knife.
After leaving the epoxy to cure for a day I then used my Dremel with the same sanding attachment to finish profiling the handle and clean up the remaining epoxy. At this point the crack is hard to notice since the epoxy has filled it pretty well. For profiling the handle I ended up getting rid of a lot of the curves that I had cut in on the initial shaping of the handle blank. I thought they would make the handle more ergonomic but they were just annoying. I ended up with a really simple shape that felt good when I held it. The head of the hammer also didn't seat totally straight to the handle at this point but it is only a couple of degrees off and is hard to notice. Now all that was left was finishing the wood of the handle and adding a couple of other finishing touches.
Step 5: Finish the Handle and Add in Some Extras.
There are countless ways to finish wood but I used the combination of boiled linseed oil, wipe on poly and mineral spirits to finish the handle. I applied it as shown in this video and article by the drunken woodworker. I've used it on a couple of other projects and really like how it turns out. I also chose to engrave a message to my dad as a finishing touch. Adding a wrist or belt strap, wood-burning a message or makers mark into the handle or any other finishing touch that you want can be added in this step to personalize the project to your taste.
Hopefully you found this instructable interesting! Let me know if you have any questions on it or if you give new life to an older tool!
I also entered this in the homemade gift contest so if you liked this instructable make sure to vote for it!
Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2015