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Replacing Wood Handles for Striking Tools II

2016-11-08

Clean the head using emery cloth, and check closely. Look for cracks, especially around the eye, that weaken the eye and make the Striking Tools dangerous to use. If you find any cracks at all here, discard the tool. Minor chipping and rust probably means nothing.

Hold the wood handle up to the head to check shape and fit. Slightly large is OK, slightly small is OK as well. However, far too large or far too small means you need to return the handle and find the proper size. Correctly sized wedges force the eye contact when there is a minor size difference, but the wood only spreads so far before it’s weakened. When the handle is far too large for the eye, fitting it may weaken the wood. A good fit at the outset is the way to go. Use your sandpaper or wood rasp to shape the insert section of the handle as needed, testing the fit every few strokes or scrapes. Using your hands, push the handle into the eye until it goes past halfway.

Insert the fitted handle into the eye. The best fit needs a soft-faced hammer to drive the new handle into the eye. You do not want to remove the handle from the eye after this insert, though it can be done if things aren’t perfect (you’ll need your dowel again if you do). The handle on the top of the tool is a bit too long at this point. Support it well, and saw off any extra material (this step can be left until after wedging, if the extra length is 1/4 inch or less).

Another flea market chisel is useful here, to open up the slot for the wooden wedge. Try to use one that is just about the full length of the head’s eye. Again, emphasize the flea market chisel here. You don’t want to use a finely tuned, excellent chisel for this job.

Select a wedge for size, and place its smaller end in the wedge slot in the handle eye end. Slowly tap the wedge into place. There are different arguments about which wedge is better, metal wedges or wood wedges. Steel wedges do crush and tear internal wood fibers as they go in, whereas wood pushes them apart. Wood is a touch harder to drive well, tending to split. Either way, starting with a good fit helps the handle stay for a good, long time. Usage usually dictates dual wedges, that’s the way most handles are packed, with one large wood wedge and one or two smaller metal wedges. The wedges are also available individually in hardware stores.