Harbor Freight hammers

I picked up a few inexpensive Chinese hammers from Harbor Freight a few weeks ago, just to see how they work out. These have wood handles
and smallish heads, in the 1-2 pound range. When you look on the top of the head in the eye where you'd expect to see a wedge, there is a smooth white plastic looking filling. Today I was using the smallest one for the first time and the head flew right off. I realized what that white stuff is. It's hot glue, like from a hobbyist hot glue gun!
I like the hammers so far but it looks like I'm going to have to rework all the head fastening. Takes some of the joy out of a new 2# crosspeen for $2.59 ..
Grant Erwin Kirkland, Washington
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On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 15:33:38 -0700, Grant Erwin

Chuckle..been there, done that. Unlike the fiberglass that is in the top of an Irwin, etc..that simply cosmetic.
I always make a point of digging that stuff out of Chinese hammers/hatchets etc and pounding in a wedge. Once you do that. they are useful.
Gunner
" >> ......The world has gone crazy. Guess I'm showing my age... I think it dates from when we started looking at virtues as funny. It's embarrassing to speak of honor, integrity, bravery, patriotism, 'doing the right thing', charity, fairness. You have Seinfeld making cowardice an acceptable choice; our politicians changing positions of honor with every poll; we laugh at servicemen and patriotic fervor; we accept corruption in our police and bias in our judges; we kill our children, and wonder why they have no respect for Life. We deny children their childhood and innocence- and then we denigrate being a Man, as opposed to a 'person'. We *assume* that anyone with a weapon will use it against his fellowman- if only he has the chance. Nah; in our agitation to keep the State out of the church business, we've destroyed our value system and replaced it with *nothing*. Turns my stomach- " Chas , rec.knives
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Grant Erwin wrote:

I think you just disclosed the origin of that olde expression, "Now, don't fly off the handle about this, but..."
Jeff
-- Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
"If you can keep smiling when things go wrong, you've thought of someone to place the blame on."
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the head fastening.>
Fiberglas resin makes good "glue" for holding new handles in.
Gary Brady Austin, TX
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Gary Brady wrote:

The good quality ones use epoxy not polyester. "Fiberglass resin" is usually polyester.
Ted
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Grant Erwin wrote:

I had to replace my HF 2# cross-peen hammer yesterday. The head started flying off. Once the glue fell out, I put a wedge in the top of the handle, and did the "soak in water upside-down" trick. The handle is just too small at the top inside the hammer casting. I ended up getting a made in USA 2# cross-peen for $6.50 at a REAL hardware store. No glue, and a nice & tight hickory natural finish handle.
Hope this helps
--
John L. Weatherly
Nashville, TN
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"John L. Weatherly" wrote:

What's worked well for me:
-------------------------
Shave/grind/whittle/chew the handle to a jam fit in the head
Take it out and hacksaw a kerf running fore-n-aft down into the end of the handle just a hair past where you expect the head to go
Use a triangular file to relieve the top of the kerf slightly
Drive the handle into the head using a mallet
Start a hardwood wedge into the groove you made with the file
Set the wedge against the anvil, and with the mallet drive the handle and head down onto the wedge as far as it'll go (until the wedge starts to crush)
Hacksaw the wood even with the top of the head
Make a barbed wedge of iron on the end of a piece of 1/8" by X stock
Grip the stock with the wedge sticking up out of the vise, drive the hammer down onto it so that the metal wedge crosses the eye diagonally
Hacksaw the metal flush with the head
File smooth
Wax and/or oil the wood showing in the eye
-------------------------
All of the driving is done on the butt of the handle, striking anywhere else will tend to drive the handle _out_ of the head. Not what you want.
This is best done during the driest time of the year, in New England that's winter.
I tend to get about ten years before I need to drive another metal wedge, longer if the hammer's been kept dry.
The "soak in water upside-down" trick is is a short term expedient and sometimes it's what you need to do, but in the long term you'll end up with a looser head when it dries out. Making a barbed wedge and installing it is a matter of minutes if you have a hammer, anvil and shear.
- Fritz
-- Carl West snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net http://carl.west.home.comcast.net

As always, put on rubber gloves, wear eye protection, stand on an electrically insulating mat, dress in old clothes, avoid electrical shock by working with one hand in your pocket, and do it outdoors in a well ventilated area. Lastly, to avoid personal injury, have it done professionally. - http://www.homemetalshopclub.org
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I wrote this ages ago for uk.d-i-y . Shame to waste it.

Remove the old shaft. Saw it off closely at the bottom of the head, then drive it upwards and out. Clamp the head firmly and use a drift. Remove the wedge if possible to re-use it. Drilling is often easiest, to break up the shaft, then chisel (with your nastiest chisel) radially in from the edges to break up the shaft.
The new shaft should be hickory, or maybe ash for a big one. Avoid other materials (except for jeweller's hammers, etc.). Wait for a dry day. If you can't get one, make sure the hammer shaft is at an appropriate dryness for your future working and storage requirements. Over-dry shafts are as bad as wet shafts (both will work loose).
Clean up the head. Wire brush, phosphoric acid, paint, wax or whatever you like to use on your hammer heads. Check for cracking on the faces. Polish the faces if necessary.
Get a spokeshave (wooden are easier to handle than iron). Now take a hammer shaft of the right size, with a shank that's too big. Use the spokeshave to make the shank the right size and still parallel. Adjust the head's position on the shaft from the bottom of the head, even if this leaves a long excess. Don't buy hammer shafts where the shank is already tapered to a point "so it doesn't need to be trimmed to fit" (they only fit badly).
Now saw _twice_ down the shank, along the axis of the hammer head, to make a wide groove for the wedge. Don't make the groove too narrow, or you'll split the shaft when fitting a large head with a large internal taper. Never extend the slot beyond the bottom to the hammer face.
Trim the shaft to length.
Cut the wedge. I use a bandsaw, but you might be back to the spokeshave. Start with a huge piece of timber so you can hold it. Old hickory hammer shafts are good - you may already have one to hand. Make sure it's at least as hard as the new shaft - certainly use a hardwood. Use an appropriate taper, depending on the taper in the upper part of the hammer's eye hole. Get the taper right first, then worry about the size. Width is obvious, the thin end should be barely narrow enough to enter the slot, and the length should be at least 1/2" too long. Check the taper, with the shaft removed from the head.
Now assemble. Set the head firmly before you put the wedge anywhere near it. Check the head is square on the shaft, in both axes.
Drive the wedge in with a hammer, not a mallet. With a hammer you can hear when it bottoms, you can't with a mallet. If you got it spot-on, there should be a small gap at the bottom of the wedge above the slot end, and the shaft is flared out to grip the hammer head right to the top surface.
Trim the top of the wedge flush with the shaft (which should be the right length already.
Use an iron wedge or wedges (on a big hammer) to lock the wooden wedge in place. These iron wedges must be sharp and not burred over, so buy new ones if the old one has suffered. They're also there _only_ to lock the wooden wedge, not to hold the head on.
Seal the top with some candle wax, then run a small gas flame (lighter) over the top to neaten it. This seals the timber and avoids moisture cycles working the head loose in the future.
Pickaxes, sledges and Japanese hammers are different. Ask again.
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Good stuff, Carl and Andy.
Thanks
--
John L. Weatherly
Nashville, TN
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Andy Dingley snipped-for-privacy@codesmiths.com
< Check the head is square on the shaft, in both axes.
I thought this was for a hammer handle.
I seem to remember the original. A very food-for-thoughtful post. Frank Morrison
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wrote:

...>>

i have had a HF 24oz Claw hammer for 5yrs, still as new but it only gets occaisional use, which is just about what they are suited for. a lot of HF hand tools are like that, if you intend to make a living with them, good luck. --Loren

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I got a nice Chinese cross-pein hammer from Pacific Industrial. Handle attached to head with a steel wedge. The first time I used it in earnest, the wood handle shattered in my hand. After digging them out with an ex-acto, the splinters and the rest of the hammer went in the trash.
Bob
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Grant Erwin wrote:

Choose from the following responses:
1) You get what you pay for. 2) Buy American, your job depends on it. 3) Fast, Good, Cheap, choose two. 4) Of course the Chinese deserve WTO status 5) All of the above 6) None of the above
Charly
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It has been a while since I posted, but I thought I would pass on several comments regarding Harbor Freight hammers, and hammer handles in general.
First, the quality of the Chinese hammers varies to a great extent, but most are actually pretty good, so far as the steel goes. I bought a large lot of 2 pound smithing hammers a number of years ago to pass out to my apprentices, one to each man at the start of his time in my shop. The first task he has to do is remove the handle, clean out the "potting," reshape the hammer handle to fit his hand properly, and then properly set the handle. It takes most of them a full day to do this right.
Since I now make or remake most of my hammers, especially Repousse' hammers, I always put a lot of time and care into shaping the handles to fit my hand correctly. I recently learned the importance of doing this carefully and correctly. I had a piece of ironwork that needed to be cold "adjusted," and it was a simple matter of inserting a feather wedge and driving it home repeatedly, and testing the fit each time I removed it. It was a task that took half a day to do the four parts that needed precise fitting. For such general bashing of cold 1/4" thick by 2" wide iron I don't use my good smithing hammers, but one of the Chinese hammers that I reset the head on, but never bothered to shape the handle. That was a huge mistake. By the time I was done I had a distinct pain in my right hand at the base of my middle finger. Over the next few weeks the pain got much worse. I finally gave in and went to the doctor. I was quickly referred to a specialist in hand problems. I had created a problem called "Trigger Finger," and after six months of treatment I can either just live with it and be careful, or have an operation where they cut one of the "pulleys" in the hand. What struck me right between the eyes was what the doctor said to me. He asked me if I had been using a hammer with a straight handle a lot lately! When I explained what I had done, he explained the reason to form the handle carefully. A straight handle will apply the impact shock to the exact same location on your hand each time you strike, where a formed handle distributes the force, and also shifts the point of impact on the hand each blow, preventing the damage I had caused.
Well, I can tell you that my general "bang around shop hammer" now has a very nicely formed handle, like all the rest of my 50 or 60 hammers. It was pure stupidity, and laziness for me not to have worked the handle on that one hammer too. It has caused a problem that I will live with until I lay down my hammers permanently. I have been hammering iron since 1958, and not until this year did I manage to cause permanent damage to my hand. Now-days most of my heavy forming and shaping is done with my power hammer, or I use my fly-press, but one time of carelessness and ignorance cost me the remainder of my life to have a painful problem I need to care for and be careful of. Shape your hammers carefully, and that means they need have a very narrow neck to take out the shock, a smoothly contoured swelling in the center to allow you to grasp it firmly, and another narrow section toward the back end for the contours of your hand to fit into.
My personal mentor, Nahum Hersom, an 85 year old Repousse' artist, taught me how to form my handles years ago so that you can hammer all day without having your hand get tired. As he showed me, you should be able to come up behind any smith at work and basically lift the hammer right out of his hand at any time during the stroke, except at the moment of impact. The hand needs to be relaxed, with the shape of the handle keeping the hammer in place in your hand, preventing it from flying out. Shaping your hammer handles correctly is arguably the most important thing you will do in tooling up of your smithy.
Heed the above words, or not. It is only your entire future of hammering that may be at risk if you don't shape your handles carefully. As I said, I have hammered since 1958 without a problem, and four hours of hammering with a poorly shaped hammer handle and I now have a permanent lifetime injury. Don't do that to your hand. Being lazy or careless just isn't an excuse. I regret my stupidity, and will continue to do so for the 15-20 years of my remaining life. I have learned how to work around the problem, but it was sure a lot nicer when I didn't have to.
Yours,
Ron
--


Golden Age Forge
http://www.reil1.net/gallery.shtml
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Ron, thanks for your comments, and sorry about your injury! Would you care to pass on any techniques for shaping the hammer handles? Do you use a spokeshave? Belt sander? Do you start with a store-bought handle and shape that, or do you make handles entirely from scratch?
Thanks!
Grant Erwin Kirkland, Washington
Ron Reil wrote:

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A broken piece of heavy glass makes a great scraper when smoothing and shaping a handle. Most modern bottles are pretty thin, think about an old milk bottle or coke. Sharpening is easy, just break it again.
#################### Keep the whole world singing. . . Dan G (remove the 7)
Grant Erwin wrote:

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By the way, of the 3 HF hammers I bought a few weeks ago, all 3 heads have now come off their handles. So like many items made in Cheapistan, they are best regarded as a "kit".
Grant Erwin
Dan G wrote:

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Dan G wrote:

I guess it would but here's an alternative: After reading an article on the wonders of cabinet scrapers, I cut out about a 3 or 4" square from an old circular saw blade (not carbide tipped) with my plasma cutter. I ground and filed the edges nice and clean and square. I then formed the classical burr with a piece of hardened and tempered to straw drill rod. Works great, cost nothing and seems to need re-dressing less often than the article suggested.
Ted
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I use a farriers rasp, rough side to really remove wood and file side to smooth. This may not be smooth enough for some, but sand paper will correct that. Good tool for hot filing as well. Doug Ron, thanks for your comments, and sorry about your injury! Would you

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Great info there Ron!
You just explained why my hand was sore after I spent about an hour and a half chiseling off a "bulge" along one edge of our home's 120 foot long blacktop driveway.
We'd had the old driveway completely torn out and replaced last spring.. I complimented the paving company on the nice job they did and paid them off. A couple of weeks later I noticed the line of one edge didn't follow the same smooth curve as the other edge, but bulged out about 5 inches wider than it should have been in over about a 20 feet portion of its length..
Once I saw that I couldn't stop noticing it and got pissed off every time I looked at it.
I figured it would be easier and quicker to DIY it than to try and get the paving contractor to come back and do it. I attacked it with a 4 inch wide mason's chisel and my old 5 pound short handled sledge. The job went easy enough as the weather was hot and the blacktop was still "green", but took lots of heavy hammer strokes to complete. When I got through my striking hand was hurting and remained somewhat tender for about a month.
I don't think I did any permanent damage thank G-d, but that hand sledge of mine has a straight stiff handle. This weekend I'm gonna attack it with a spokeshave and belt sander and shape it like you described. I hope I know when to stop when thinning nown the neck part, or I'm gonna get a graphic description of something "flying off the handle."
Jeff
--
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

"If you can smile when things are going wrong, you've thought of someone to
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