Hammer Restoration




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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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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

Step 4: Check Dimensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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!

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.

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45 Discussions


4 years ago on Step 21

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.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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

Thanks for sharing, enjoy the Pro Membership.


4 years ago

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!

1 reply

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.


4 years ago

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!


4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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.


4 years ago on Step 21

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.


4 years ago on Step 21

Nice job. A suggestion on the wedge, commercial wedges are available. If you make your own keep it rough finish to hold better.


4 years ago on Introduction

Your hammer handle is great! I will fav it for future reference. I love modifying/repairing my tools using whatever I have available.

Here is a chisel plane I made from a pallet.

Raw material (Oak Pallet):

Result: Chisel plane to clear corners of my picture frames made from upcycled old barnwood!


4 years ago on Introduction

Well done, sir!

I'm dron the people who is cutting a tube and welding it for the hammer head - simple, quick and repairable. But yours, if it was me, put it behind a glass :-)

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I used a lower control arm bolt as a hammer handle. It was too bent to put back into a car, but it makes a heck of a hammer handle, that's for sure!


4 years ago on Introduction

Next time you wedge a hammer head try using a wooden wedge where you put your steel wedge, then drive steel wedges perpendicular to, and through, your wooden wedge. That way you get spread in two directions. Instead of epoxy the classic treatment is to soak the end in linseed oil too.

I've restored loads of hand tools, but the last tool I restored is a power tool, so I'll skip pictures I guess. Oh what the hey, here's a hatchet I put a handle on. The pictures have been in my image library forever. I posted those pictures to show Rimar in my


article comment thread.

I still wanted to post some brag shots of my arbor grinder rebuild here.

So, here's a shot of me jigging it up to get dimensions I needed to make the frame


Then I wanted it to sit good where I planned on keeping it on my grinder bench


So I plumbed it in place. I don't even have a picture of it finished, so I'll take one now.


Not what you wanted, but it is what I got lately. I think the last hand tool restoration I can remember doing was my Stanley 27?


Ain't she a beaut?

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Good call with the bi-lateral splitting to secure the head, and with dual material. I'll give it a go next time I replace a handle.

The hatchet handle looks great, but that planer is something amazing! Thanks for sharing pictures of your restorations, enjoy the Pro Membership!


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Thanks! You liked my bench grinder? It is a rebuild, I blew the motor up on the first one I made, so I had to completely remake it to fit a totally different motor. It is nothing compared to this grinder


Look to the right of the weldment I am doing in this picture and you can see some of the stock I used in that other grinder.


That's some manly thick steel I'm welding there! That one piece of angle got all bent up by the track hoe that pulled it out of the building it got salvaged from. That bend I liked initially, but it caused me all sorts of grief down the road.


Trying to square it up some.



I had to do some real tricky setup to get it to work out. I had to model the square tube sweep in cardboard to cut it the right angle to get it to all work out.

I don't do the double wedge all of the time myself, but I've taken enough hammers apart now to have seen the method enough times. Really it is usually a triple wedge, one wood, then two metal. It looked like yours may have benefited from it too.

Another trick I use is I mark one side of the hammer head, and one side of the handle, so while I am fitting them together I do not accidentally flip them around, and get a poor fit up. Hammer eyes are never symmetrical. Although your handle, and head are easy to tell apart, and not symmetrical looking themselves. So it was easy for you to avoid accidental rotation. I've done a lot of hammers, and handles, where that mistake was too easy to make.

If you look very closely at the tenon when you pop it out of a hammer head while fitting it up you will see little shiny spots where the wood has been compressed. Those are the high spots that you need to take down to achieve a tight fit. The shiny spots are usually a bit darker too, but if you take the handle out a lot while fitting, then they get harder to see. So I like to point their existence out, so folks look for them.

Filing is the right way to go. So I'm glad to see you did that. Whittling, or using sandpaper is less precise. Since I've switched to filing I've achieved my best results.

I drew a graphic to illustrate the triple wedge.

King Hippo

4 years ago on Introduction

Excellent work, but why doesn't the dinosaur glow in the dark? :)