Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Reviving a long-lost hammer

This was a nice project for a lovely mild November Sunday afternoon - breathing new life into a rusty old hammer head found some years ago in a garden

This involved cleaning off decades of rust and adding a sturdy new ash handle, hewn from a log foraged in the woods a year or two ago.

Here it is - what a beauty. This is a forming hammer, used for beating out curves in metal panels. Not the sort of thing you need every day, but handy occasionally, so good to have one without having to buy one. The head is about seven inches long and pretty heavy. The handle here is about fourteen inches long


Before 

Here is the forlon looking implement. I have had this so long I can't recall where I found it now. It's pretty old and had been buried in soil for many years. The log is ash, from the Chilterns. It was one of many left lying about in woods after thinning out trees.   Ash is good and springy - a traditional tool handle wood. This has been in the shed about 2 years and was fairly well seasoned.


Here's an end shot. The hammer is very pitted with rust.


Feels nice and heavy, but looks much worse than it is.


The log. Looks like about 13-15 years old.


To start with I popped the log in the vice...


So I could plane a flat side...


thus...


This monster is a planer/thicknesser that can take 13"x6" baulks of timber. By making multiple passes through it, the log was converted into a thick plank. Here it is early on...


The planer can take up to 1/4 inch off on each pass. After several goes, it looks like this

I tried out various tools for the best shape. The axe handle felt good in the hand. It was a good starting point. The final handle design was adjusted to allow for the fact that the hammer head is symmetrical on each end (unlike the axe, which has an asymmetrical handle to match its asymmetrical cutting head)


To start with, a rough outline was sketched out...


This was shaped out with a bit of hand planing then a LOT of shaping on the belt sander, starting rough with 80 grit...


Till it looked like this. The head is not fitted yet.


To fit the head, the hammer head hole was used a template.


To leave a cutting guide..


The vertical cuts were made with a good old fine toothed tenon saw...


like this...


To get a tenon that fitted the handle hole involved some stop cuts (perpendicular to the grain) to form the shoulder and then some work with a course wood rasp to form the curved shape.

Here, I am checking the hammer head for a fit. This was done by filing and rechecking in small increments. The handle tenon was left just slightly wider than the hole, so that when the head was hammered home into the hole later it would produce a really good tight fit.

You can see the rasp on the bench behind. Its a 15" beauty.


Then a lot of finishing on the belt sander to get a really even curve. This started with a 80 gauge sanding belt to rough form, then a well-worn 180 grit belt to get a good smooth shape.


The hammer head then needed de-rusting. This took at least an hour of sanding with the belt sander...


And a tungsten carbide tipped blade in the angle grinder which speeded things up...


But left it looking pretty rough...


At which point it was time to get out the awesome filing sander. This is such a fantastic tool...


After a while, the rough marks were smoothed out...



And after a load more time smoothing out the saw tooth marks, it was time to switch to a fine sander. This is a cheap and cheery orbital sander, starting with 80 grit and working down to 180 grit...


You can see it is getting there...



Eventually, the head was polished up using a random orbit sander with a super fine 400 grit sanding disc... This is a 125mm sander with a 180mm sanding disc. The floppy edges allow finer polishing...




Until it got really smooth and shiny...



Then 'twas time to fit the handle. This was hammer on by driving the handle into the hole in the hammer head with a wooden mallet.


Once the head was on, I used a sharpened length of 15mm copper tube as an annular wedge. using a circular wedge should distribute the expansion of the wooden tennon evenly out into the hammer head...


Cooper is ductile and gets mashed when you smack it in with a steel hammer...


Conveniently, both ash and copper are no match for a hardened multi-tool cutter, so could be sawn off neatly...


leaving a very neat fit...


With some more sanding, it ends up very plush...


Here is the finished hammer, prior to sealing the wood...


A bit more sanding with the fine grit sanders took off the dirt surface and left a super smooth handle...


And this was then sealed with French polish. Between coats, the surface was made super smooth using steel wool...


Here are some tool porn shots of the finished beast...


mmm...


The imperfections of the rust pitted hammer head and the rustic handle add to its charm...


I probably won't need a former hammer for ages, possibly years, but good to have one for those odd occasions.

I should update this picture, taken back in 2015, when I had at least 15 hammers. I think I have found a few more since then, lurking in the recesses of the shed - ha ha!


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