Fix Your Tools with Broken Handles

By Mr. Everest

I’ve noticed a trend lately that’s surprising: tools with broken handles are discarded when only the wooden handle is broken. I grew up with acres of woods around me and tools like axes and rakes came in handy every day. I still use them quite regularly and when a wooden handle snaps in half, replacing it costs a fraction of the replacement cost for the entire tool. It just takes a little custom fitting, but anyone can do it.

If your axe handles break, you can always replace them. Photo © Liesl Clark

If your axe handles break, you can always replace them. Photo © Liesl Clark

I replaced the handle for an old axe head of mine this week and I’ve broken the process down into 5 simple steps: I suggest you buy a good quality hardwood handle like hickory or ash from a hardware store or, if you have a good hardwood source nearby, just carve your own.

1) Cut out a piece at the end of your wooden handle to match the slot of your iron that will fit inside your tool head’s insertion hole. You’re making the end insertable into the tool head, so cut your piece making sure it’s not too small. I use a draw cut saw.

IMG_3221 Photo © Liesl Clark

Cutting a “neck” for your handle. Photo © Liesl Clark

2) You can see the gist of it below. You’re just trying to create a wooden neck that will fit inside the eye of the tool.

IMG_3225 Photo © Liesl Clark

Neck for a wooden axe handle. Photo © Liesl Clark

3) Now you need to slide the wooden handle-neck into the eye of the tool head.

IMG_3228 Photo © Liesl Clark

Fit it into the slot. Photo © Liesl Clark

4) I force it by bouncing the bottom of the handle onto a hard surface like stone or concrete and usually the head will pop on. If you have any gaps between the iron head and the wooden neck you can fill that with wooden shims.

IMG_3231 Photo © Liesl Clark

Tamp it down on stone or concrete. Photo © Liesl Clark

5) Drop it in a bucket filled with water and soak overnight. If it’s good kiln-dried wood, a 24-hour soaking is probably fine. If it’s a piece of wood you cut from your woods, it’ll need to soak a little longer so that the wood swells nicely inside the tool head.

IMG_3235 Photo © Liesl Clark

Soak it so it swells. We always have a bucket of rainwater nearby. Photo © Liesl Clark

If your head is still loose after the soaking, you can always drive a metal shim into the top to tighten your fit.

IMG_3782 Photo © Liesl Clark

We heat our home almost entirely with wood. Axes are aplenty in our wood-cutting area by the coop. Photo © Liesl Clark

Repairing our tool handles runs in the family. By observation, our 9-year-old was able to carve his own handle for a broken rake.

Replacing a tool handle is a great carving project for a whittler. Photo © Liesl Clark

Replacing a tool handle is a great carving project for a whittler. Photo © Liesl Clark

It took him 15 minutes to carve a spare baluster we had to the right size, fit the handle into the rake’s slot, and then take it up to the pond for an overnight soak.

Replacing the broken handle on an old rake took 15 minutes. Photo © Liesl Clark

Replacing the broken handle on an old rake took 15 minutes. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you have time for some more fix it inspirations, please visit our Trash Backwards app where we have a workbench category of “fix its” that’ll entertain you for hours:

Click Through For Workbench Fix Its at Trash Backwards

Click Through For Workbench Fix Its at Trash Backwards

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3 Comments on “Fix Your Tools with Broken Handles”

  1. CK
    November 23, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    bad, bad, bad idea to soak wooden handles in water – makes them brittle and only works for a short while. Also giving Kukri (curved) knife to a little girl – I hope she knows how to handle it. It is a very dangerous tool.

    • November 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Hey CK: We’ve been using the water-soaking method in our family for generations and it seems to work every time, with no issues of them getting brittle. The kukri knife is being used there by our son (long hair) and he’s well aware of how to use it, as is our daughter. They spend a good bit of their time in Nepal and have learned much about knife safety and working with a kukri. Many thanks for your concern.

  2. cam
    April 19, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    what time of the years is best to cut and dry wood for handles like rakes and hoes? So that the wood doesn’t warp and split of course also that lads got a real good knife I love the kukri its a great tool

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