In Techniques

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 Knowing how to hang a new handle on a hammer or an axe opens up numerous opportunities to restore your old tools and allows you to bring back to active duty eBay and flea market-bought heads of axes, hammers, mauls, and other striking tools.

The key to properly fitting a new handle to an old tool is to find a handle that matches the eye of the tool as closely as possible. Fortunately, many hardware stores still carry replacement hickory handles in stock.

Recently, I decided to replace my shingling/roofing hatchet’s damaged steel and rubber handle with a new one. I visited our local Ma and Pa hardware store and bought a new handle made specifically for a roofing hatchet; the triangular neck of the handle matched almost perfectly with the eye of the hatchet.

Removing the Old Handle

After sawing off the steel handle close to the hatchet’s head, I drove out the remaining handle portion with a pin punch.

Fitting the New Handle

Then, I attempted to punch the hickory handle through the eye. As expected, this was only partially successful, as you can’t rely on one replacement handle design to fit perfectly with all eye designs on the market. After pushing and tapping the handle into the eye, I marked with a pencil collar line at a distance from the lowest girth line underneath the hatchet head and then removed the head. I used a file to remove wood around that collar area and then tried fitting the handle again. I repeated this process a few times until the fit was perfect and the tip of the new handle was flush with the top of the hatchet’s head.

Hanging the Handle

Using a mallet, I hit the sole of the handle until it stopped progressing into the head. Then I created a better wedge than the one provided by the handle’s maker. Most wedges sold with handles are made of poplar and have a steeper angle than I prefer. Using my band saw, I shaped a new wedge with a reduced slope, and with the help of glue, I drove it into the handle’s kerf. After the glue dried, I sawed off the excess, and with the help of a chisel, I shaved the top of the handle flat. Most handle kits come with a wide wooden wedge and a smaller steel wedge to further secure the hanging. I chose not to drive the steel wedge in and see if the traditional wooden one would suffice. So far, it holds nicely, but if I feel that the hatchet’s head gets loose, I intend to drive it in.

By following these steps, you can effectively hang a new handle on your hatchet, restoring its usability and ensuring a secure fit that preserves the tool’s integrity, making it ready for use once again.

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