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 ..
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
" >> ......The world has gone crazy. Guess I'm showing my
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
I think you just disclosed the origin of that olde expression, "Now, don't
fly off the handle about this, but..."
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."
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
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
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
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.
Carl West email@example.com
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
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.
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
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
Andy Dingley firstname.lastname@example.org
< 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.
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
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.
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?
R> It has been a while since I posted, but I thought I would pass on several
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
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."
I received a lot of e-mails, and there are some postings here also, about
the shape of the hammer handles I use. If you will look at the following
it shows a variety of my hammers,
all with the same basic handle design. I form every one by feel, and no two
are identical, which is probably a good thing, because switching hammers
changes any potential pressure points. The hammer that is second from the
left is the offending hammer that did all the damage to my hand, and that is
now properly shaped. It is a Chinese hammer, and is one of the hammers I
give to my apprentices. I do not have all of my hammer handles shaped this
way, only those that I tend to use for long periods of time, or to use with
a lot of force. The Repousse' hammers on the right can easily be in my hand
for 8-9 hours in a day. The Peddinghaus hammer in the center has a new
looking handle in it, even though I have had it for three years, because I
simply have not used that hammer like I thought I would. I bought two of
them of different weights, and have not found them to be hammers that I will
normally choose for a task. The Ferrier's hammer on the far left is my
favorite hammer, and the one I use more than any other for general forge
work. The hammer to the right of the Peddinghaus is a converted ball peen.
It has a 45 degree angled peen on the ball end (hard to see), and the other
end I formed into a square shape. I use that hammer a lot too, as well as
several others. BIG ball peen hammers are wonderful to forge into hammers of
this type, and are far more useful for everyday forging when reshaped like
this than their original shape, although you do want a full assortment of
normal ball peens in your rack too. Most ball peens in my opinion have too
small a radius for the ball on the end. I like to reform them to have a
flatter curve in many cases. When you are dishing the backs of leaves, a
flatter curve does a much nicer job if the curvature isn't extreme. And of
course, dish them hot on the end grain of some kind of hardwood log. I make
wood anvil tools that are simply sections of Madrona tree with a hole
drilled in the bottom, and a 1" square rod driven in to allow it to fit the
hardy hole on my anvil. I have four anvils in my shop and two of them are on
removable casters so that I can roll them over under my exhaust hood for
work such as hot dishing of leaves, otherwise the shop would be full of
If you are interested in my shop layout or tools, go to my Shop at a Glance
I have lots of images there of all
parts of my shop and my tooling. It is there, as well as my Shop
Construction Page, which is linked from the Glance page, to give beginning
smiths ideas that may be of value to them for tooling, general shop layout,
and specialty features to consider when building a shop.