Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Another hammer handle

Here's one where, instead of tightening an existing hammer handle, I actually made a hammer handle from scratch.  My younger brother has done a similar project, with an axe handle:  his turned out cleaner; mine is more... "rustic".

I worked on it during my week off between Christmas and New Year's, and finished it off this weekend.  I also worked on a hewing hatchet handle -- and I'll share the news of that once I do a little more grinding on the blade.

So:  it all started with a large branch that was lying on the footpath, a few houses down.  After it had laid there for about a week, I dragged it home.

Not sure of the type of wood:  some sort of eucalypt, I presume.

Here's a photo of the branch -- with my black rubber boot on the blue step-stool, as a size comparison:

I picked away at it, cutting it into firewood over a number of sessions -- but then I noticed that it had a number of straight-grained sections.  So I started to save the "clean" sections between knots as future legs of stools, and also tool handles.

I think that the branch had already long since been dead on the tree -- which is why it blew down in the storm -- so it had started to split.

What I did is I took the section that had already started to split and used a splitting wedge to continue the split all the way through (the red line, in the piece of wood on the left).  From one of those halves, I split it again -- resulting in a quarter of the branch.

And that quarter became the hammer handle.  (Bit of a spoiler:  the above is the hammer handle that I made.)  As you can see from the red portion of the completed handle (which is the "heart" of the branch), I strategically oriented the grain of the wood so that the impact would be "with the grain" -- which is the strongest orientation.

I already had a smaller hammer for pounding star-stakes (fencing stakes) and driving the splitting wedges -- but I wanted something heavier.  I could "choke up" on a sledge hammer -- but the extra length of the handle just gets in the way.  And I had a spare hammer head that I had bought at an estate sale (or something; I forget).

First, I rough-hewed it with a regular hatchet.  Somewhat ironically, I was working in parallel on handling a hewing hatchet:  hewing it with a hewing hatchet would've been a little easier -- but I didn't have one... yet!

Next time...   :)

After the rough hewing, here are the shaping tools I used:  a drawknife, and two inexpensive rasps (the trick is to wrap a rag around the tip of the rasps, so you don't cut your fingers).  Afterwards I made a "strap" of coarse sandpaper, backed with masking tape for strength, and rubbed the handle; and then I sanded it with the grain with a finer grit of sandpaper.

Here's the result partway through the process.  You can see where I've marked a section that I need to further remove.

Shaping the end of the handle to fit snugly into the eye of the head was the trickiest part.  What I did was get the end so that it would start to fit -- then tap the head onto the handle...

... and then remove the head and see the dark, smudged and rubby parts were.  These indicated the raised areas that were preventing the head from progressing further.

Note in the "whacking" photo that the hammer head is pretty much there -- and in the photo immediately above, that I've cut the slot for the wooden wedge that will tighten the hammer.

By the way:  as you can see in the "whacking" photo, and also in the photo below, I've made marks on the end of the handle, and on the hammer head, to indicate the orientation.  I wasn't sure if the eye of the hammer was completely symmetrical, so I wanted the hammer head to be in the same orientation to the handle each time.

I won't describe the wedge-making and wedge-inserting process in this blog entry, because I've already covered that here.

Here's the nearly-completed hammer handle, with my rubber boot as a size reference. As I mentioned above, I'd wanted a heavier hammer than my existing one (on the left).  The original one is 1.3kg (including the handle); the new one is 3.3kg (including the handle).  For the Americans:  that's 2.9 lbs versus 7.3 lbs.

And:  here's the final product:

Two differences that you'll notice:  one is that there's green stuff on the handle.  That's a wipe-on dye that I bought.  I foolishly didn't test it on a piece of scrap wood -- and it wasn't so much a "dye" as "vaguely diluted paint".  I didn't like it, so sanded off most of it.

The sections that remain green are the recessed sections -- which I suppose gives the surface a three-dimensional feel.  Ah well:  I like green, so...

The recessed sections, by the way, are the result of my desire to have the handle go "with the grain", for strength:  in the initial stage, as I mentioned, I split the wood for the handle.  Some of the split ventured into the area that would become the actual handle:  hence, the recessed bits.

On the other hand:  it actually makes it nicer to hold, because you can feel where your hand is located along its length.  And it makes it a little grippier, as well.

The other difference is that I splashed some pink paint on the hammer head.  It's a little ugly -- but this is a "working" tool, not a purty "display piece".  I tend to work right up to the last available light, so I'm usually putting away my tools in the dark (or, near-dark).  So I always put some pink paint on my "yard" tools, so that they don't blend in to the dirt and leaves -- and I can find them.

If I totally hate it, I can always wipe it off with some solvent. 

Anyhow:  way more interesting (and personalized) than just going to the hardware store and buying a handle.


Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home