Replacing a Handle on a (forging) Hammer




Introduction: Replacing a Handle on a (forging) Hammer

About: I am Joe, a blacksmith from the Netherlands

Hammer handles break for many reasons;

-Handle too dry.
-Missing and damaging the wood.
-Improper handle placement.
-Unseen weak spots in the wood grain.
and many more.

Regardless if you're a carpenter, blacksmith, farrier, construction worker, we all (occasionally) work with hammers.
It is then very important the handle has been placed properly to make working with a hammer safe.

Nobody likes getting a random hammer head flung at his or her head.

In this instructible I have an example of my own forging hammer of which the handle broke in use.
I thought this was a good opportunity to turn this replacement in an instructible as well.

Do note; the way I show isn't the only way. There are more options than the one I present here.

Step 1: Aquiring the Materials

Before you can replace the handle, you of course need another handle and some other equipment.

Here is a list of materials I used to replace this hammer handle;

-Hammer with broken handle
-Replacement handle (I carve mine out of hickory, but you can buy handles online too)
-Wooden wedge (I make mine)
-Metal wedge (with teeth and steps) (I forge mine)
-Hand drill and drill
-(Metal) Hacksaw
-Rubber faced hammer
-Bench vise
-Something to knock the old handle out (; in my case a drift I use to forge the eyes of hammers.)
-Steel (hard) hammer

optional materials

-Angle grinder with sanding disk
-Very course wood file
-Boiled linseed oil
-Soap stone

Step 2: Loosening Up the Old Hammer Handle.

The old hammer handle is still very tightly placed in the hammer head.
To Loosen it up, I use a drill and drill several holes around the metal wedge. These holes will allow the wood to bend back, so the handle can be pushed out. Otherwise it will just hang in there.

Step 3: Removing the Old Hammer Handle.

I place the hammer in the vise like in the first picture. This gives the old handle clearance so it can easily be knocked out.
I use my hammer eye drift for larger hammers, because the thin end almost completely covers the eye of my forging hammer. This puts a relatively equal pressure on the top of the handle, so it doesn't get compressed.
If I were to use anything smaller, there is a chance the wood becomes compressed and wedges itself stuck.
I would have to drill again, if this happened.

Now with a few taps of the rubber faced the handle is pushed down the eye and comes out.

Anything that else that covers the area of the eye well, should work well too.

If you worry about forgetting what side of the hammer is up, use a bit of soap stone, marker, white out, or anything else to mark with, to mark the "up" part of the hammer.

Step 4: Placing the New Hammer Handle

Before "just ramming in" the new handle, check whether the handle is sized for the hammer eye.
If it's too big, use a course wood rasp, belt sander or angle grinder with a sand disc to trim the top of the handle down to where it just doesn't fit the hammer eye. You want it to be a tight fit.

If the hammer handle is too small, purchase or make a bigger one.

If the handle is of the correct size, I like to pull my course rasp over the top of the handle that goes into the eye, to make it rougher. This gives extra grip inside the hammer eye, so it stays secured better.
I insert the handle and when it sticks in there, I hold it, as in picture two, in the air. I don't rest the hammer on anything or hit with a steel (hard) hammer, as this could split the handle.
Then I hit with the rubber faced hammer on the bottom of the handle to move the handle further down the eye.
Keep turning it 180 degrees every hit and check that handle goes down the eye straight.

This works because of inertia. As I hit the bottom of the handle, the handle is accelerated.
But due to inertia the hammer will stay where it is and thus the handle moves down the eye.

Move the handle so far down the eye that the handle sticks out a bit.
This will make it easier to insert the wooden wedge.

Step 5: Inserting the Wooden Wedge.

Now the handle has been set in the hammer eye, the wooden wedge can be inserted.

Gently push the wooden wedge in by hand, then carefully hit it down with the rubber faced hammer in the air and keep turning it 180 degrees every hit.
A steel (hard) hammer could break the wedge.
As you hammer the wooden wedge down, you will hear the tone become higher.
Keep hitting it until it won't go down any further.
If it proves to be hard to hammer it down, put a little bit of linseed oil on the wedge to help it slide down.
Or use a smaller wedge.

If the wooden wedge splits, it's no problem. As long as it is in there tight, it's ok. You won't see this back later because steel wedge will fill up the rest.
If it does break, take a new wooden wedge.

Place your hammer in the vise and use the hacksaw to trim the excess amount of the wooden wedge sticking out.

Step 6: Inserting the Steel Wedge.

The steel wedge is now inserted to maximally push the handle outward against the hammer eye wall and close all gaps.

There are multiple ways of placing them and many philosphies about it. Whatever way you choose, the goal is to make sure the handle is set tight and stays tight.
In this case I do use a steel hammer, because a rubber faced hammer wouldn't cut this job.
Again, hit it down gently, spin it 180 degrees every hit, in air without resting on anything.

I can happen the wooden wedge is set under such high pressure, it is pushed up a bit when the steel wedge is inserted, like in the pictures two and three.
As long as the wooden wedge doesn't come loose or comes out even higher than the in the pictures, it should be well set.

Step 7: Finishing

You could leave it at the previous step if you don't feel a need to further clean it up.

I quickly take my angle grinder with sanding disc over the top to make it even.
This also shows there are any gaps left and if the wedges would be coming up later.
If you spot this; see if you can fix it with another steel wedge.
Or in the worst case, you'll have to take out the handle and probably replace it (again).

If all is well, you can do the last finishing to your handle.

After replacing a handle, I soak my hammer heads in a bucket of linseed oil for a week and then give them two weeks to dry.

If you have other methods which you feel and/or experienced work better, please use those methods.
The method I present here is merely one of many ways.

Feel free to comment or ask questions.

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    7 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I was wondering if you could make an instructable about making a rounding hammer

    Super Joey!

    Echt tof dat je steeds gefeatured word! Ik wil nog steeds een keer langskomen ( zit helaas binnenkort in verbouwing van nieuwe huis) maar doen we na september een keertje,

    ciao en succes!



    5 years ago

    I do it a bit different in one regard.
    Cut off the handle just under the head, flip it upside down on the vice, anandhen drive the stub through from the bottom.
    That way, you don't even touch the wedge, and the taper in the head is working FOR you so you needn't drill the holes to make room for the wood to compress.
    The only time this doesnt work is with a no wedge hatchet handle (like on a tomahawk). Those are made with the eye of the head tapering smaller toward the handle. Just knock the handle side firmly against a solid object, and the head knocks loose easily.


    5 years ago

    I'm a big fan of new handles. This is satisfying


    5 years ago



    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hammer handles are like baseball bats, they have a sweet side. So if you strike one one side more than the other, you're better off making that the sweet side. I mark a side of the hammer head, and a side of the handle too, so while I am fitting it up, so I do not rotate the pair by mistake. Hammer eyes are not usually symmetrical, so flipping the handle around during fit up makes for a loose fit. If you use a fine file, instead of a coarse rasp, you can see a shiny spot in the wooden handle where it is hanging up in the eye, where wood compresses, while you are fitting them together. You have to look closely to see the shiny spot. Sometimes you can see some rust, or dirt instead of the shiny spot. After a couple of trial fits the rust, or dirt goes away, but you'll always get the shiny spot.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great Ible!

    And timely too, as I have two shingler's hatchet heads that have been without handles for many decades.

    Now, they'll get cleaned, sharpened, and receive new hickory handles. Then, they'll probably sit in my toolbox for many more decades, but they'll be ready to go!