Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mod your tools

I don't spend as much time woodworking as I would like.  But at least I'm at the point where I know my preferences.

When tools have wooden handles, the wood tends to be varnished -- and I don't like it.  When you perspire, the handle gets slippery.  Even when you don't perspire, I still don't like the feel.

I subscribe to a woodworking discussion list, and one of the guys mentioned that he always removes the varnish from store-bought hammer handles.  So, I thought I'd try it.

Here's the three-pound hammer from my "splitting wedges" kit.  This is the "in process" shot:  most of the varnish is gone, but I'm still working on removing the rest.
The pink tinge, by the way, is pink spray paint:  for any tool where there's a risk that I'll set it on the ground outdoors (trowels, pruning shears, this hammer...), I give it a slash of pink spray paint, to reduce the risk of my losing the tool among the clippings, fallen branches, etc.  I paint it on both sides, because I don't know which side will be up.  So, another "tool modification".

For removing the varnish, I could've used sandpaper -- but it's faster to use a somewhat coarse file.  Here's a shot of the file after perhaps twenty swipes across the handle:  the file is clogged with sawdust, which means it stops cutting.  Luckily, I have a file card (cost me five bucks, I think, at the local hardware store).

And, here's what the file looks like after a few swipes of the file card (cleaning the file along the diagonal teeth of the file, rather than against the teeth).  The file is all cleaned up and ready for a few more swipes -- until it gets clogged again.  Repeat, repeat.

For most of the filing, I held the hammer in my woodworking vice, on my workbench.

Here's a shot after I've removed all of the varnish -- except for a small ring around the neck(?) of the handle, which doesn't matter because I don't grip the hammer there.

And, here's a shot after a few wipes of my "tool handle" mix:  a 50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and methyl alcohol (to thin it).  I actually think it looks better than the original varnish -- although, in this photo the oil is still wet, so the appearance could be temporary.

Anyhow, the process didn't take too long, and the handle indeed has a nicer texture:  more grippy.


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