Claw hammers have been in use since the era of the Roman empire and appears often in Medieval tapestries and paintings. Claw hammers, of course, are named for the curved, claw-like split peen at the rear of the head, used to extract nails from wood. A well made steel-head hammer can last for many, many years and prove to be a valuable member of your toolbox, provided you use it properly and take care of it.
The force of levering boards apart and pulling nails tends to loosen or strain the handle. In order to ensure the hammer head has a rigid attachment to the shaft and handle, the Adze Eye hammer developed. The eye is the hole in the hammer head which the handle fits into.
In the adze eye design, the eye is tapered and twice as deep as a standard hammer eye. This allows the shaft of the handle to be spread out by wedges driven into it’s top. Even stronger is the modern steel or fiberglass shaft hammer, where the head is permanently fixed to the shaft. The downside of this design is that replacing the handle is not possible if it becomes damaged.
How to Replace a Hammer’s Handle
If you break or damage an adze eye hammer’s wooden handle, you can salvage the head and make a new handle. Here is how.
- 1. Saw off the handle near the hammer head and drive the remaining portion out with a punch or screwdriver. Save the metal wedges.
2. A new handle can be purchased or fabricated yourself. There is a good tutorial for turning a handle on a lathe Here. Hickory wood makes the best handle material.
3. Place the new handle in a vise or clamp and cut two slots, evenly spaced, across the top of the shaft. The depth of the slots should be 2/3 the depth of the adze eye.
4. Drive the hammer head onto the shaft.
5. Cut the shaft flush with the hammer head.
6. Let the hammer sit in a warm oven about an hour in order to totally dry the shaft out and ready it for fitting.
7. Back in the vise now, drive in the two metal wedges to the slots. Tap each one alternately in order to spread the shaft evenly in the eye.
8. File or grind the metal wedges so that they are flush with the head.
9. Shellac finish the exposed wood of the shaft
- To drive a nail, hold the hammer towards the end of the shaft, this is the area where it is balanced to deliver the greatest force.
- If a nail is small and you are having trouble holding it in place, push it through a thin piece of cardboard or craft paper. Hold the nail in place by holding the cardboard, driving the nail until the head is just above the surface before removing the piece of cardboard.
- For hard to reach areas, if you don’t have a ladder handy, you can set the nail firmly in the crotch of the hammer’s claw and use the extra reach of the hammer’s length to reach the spot and stick the nail where it should be driven.
- To straighten out a bent nail, set it on a vise, revolving it as you tap lightly with a hammer.
- To pull out a long nail, go in stages, using blocks of wood to raise the hammer head and give more leverage.
Hammer heads are measured in weights and are available in sizes ranging from 7 ounces to 20 ounces. Light weights are best for finish and decorative work, larger sizes are good for rough carpentry work. Store your hammer hanging on a rack rather than loose in a drawer or toolbox, to prevent it from damaging other tools and vice versa.