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Ball-Peen Hammer Upgrade - Need Advice

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 06-06-2017 12:03 PM 1236 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last Father’s Day, I made a set of screwdrivers for my FIL. Well he loved them and so I’ve decided to make it a tradition every year. So this year I’ve decided to make him a set of hammers… well sort of.

Not “make” but “upgrade”. Recently a guy I work with showed me a set of ball-peen hammers he bought at harbor freight. He said he was shocked at the quality. And, he was right. They are well forged, quality, carbon steel. He’s been using them for quite a while and they are holding up remarkably. So when I was trying to figure out what to make my FIL this year, those came to mind. So I went and got these yesterday:

As nice as the heads are, those fiberglass handles suck. Not only are they ugly but they are wayyyy to small IMO. So I thought, good hammer heads at a good price… I’ll make some nice handles and a rack for them and he’ll love it.

Last night I removed the handles from a couple of them to form my handle attachment plan.

The handles are inserted from the bottom through the mortise and into a sleeve that’s inserted into the top. Then some kind of epoxy is used to fill the rest of the tenon. It’s not elegant but it is effective! It took me a while to figure out how to get the old handles off.

Here’s where I need a bit of advice. I assumed the mortise would be oval-shaped with a taper from bottom to top. I was wrong. The oval-shaped mortise tapers in from both the top and bottom to a small neck in the middle. The taper is more pronounced at the bottom than at the top.

I’ve never made a handle for anything with this type of mortise. My plan is to make the tenon on my handles so it conforms to the shape of the mortise from the bottom of the head up to the neck. From the neck to the top, the tenon will be uniform. Then I’ll wedge the top to fill the tenon. I think I need to use 2 wedges though, perpendicular to one another.

Am I on the right track? Am I right about 2 wedges? If so, how do I go about putting the second one in since the first won’t be cut for it?

I welcome any advice from anyone who has experience or just a good idea! FYI, I intend to make the handles from oak and walnut.

Thanks!

EDIT: Update 6/16/17

I got lots of good ideas in the comments. I really like the idea of using a conical wedge and the idea of trying some brass for one of the wedges. I did try the conical plug using some scrap and just couldn’t get it right. I intend to buy myself a set of these hammers and get some hickory and try again though. For now, unfortunately, Father’s Day is this weekend and I just don’t have time for more experimenting.

I ended up turning the tenon to fit the taper of the wide section of the bottom of the mortise and then tapered out a little bit for the top portion. Then I used a spokeshave to get the final fit on the narrow sides. Then cut two perpendicular kerfs and drove it home. Put one wedge in and drive it home then I split that wedge with a chisel and drove the second wedge home. Worked well. No epoxy or glue but it ain’t coming loose.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!



22 comments so far

View JayT's profile

JayT

5825 posts in 2333 days


#1 posted 06-06-2017 01:23 PM

Am I on the right track? Am I right about 2 wedges? If so, how do I go about putting the second one in since the first won t be cut for it?

- HokieKen

Yes, you are on the right track. Any handles I’ve replaced (and just did 3 ball pein hammers recently) used a wooden wedge in a cut in the handle and then a metal wedge driven in perpendicular. Another way (and probably what I’d prefer if they were more readily available) would be to use a circular metal wedge as the second wedge, which spreads the wood in all directions at once and locks in better.

That’s what is used for commercial handles, so there may be a way with just wooden wedges, I just don’t know what the proper technique would be.

Also, you might want to think about the woods for the handles. There’s a reason most commercial handles are hickory—it has a good strength, but also has some springiness to it to withstand the forces without snapping. Walnut would certainly look nice, but is it capable of holding up to the stress it’ll get from peining?

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

6184 posts in 1260 days


#2 posted 06-06-2017 01:41 PM

Thanks JayT. I have seen the metal wedges. I would like to use 2 wooden wedges though for appearance. I’m thinking maybe if I make both cuts in the tenon then I can insert the first wedge. Then split the first wedge with a chisel and drive the second one in. Hopefully it’ll work. I think I’ll try the first one before I shape the handle just in case it fails.

You’re right about hickory. I would use it or ash for myself. However, I feel sure he will never use these hammers. He still refuses to use the screwdrivers I gave him last year. The drivers were oak/walnut so I wanted these to match. Plus, I have an abundance of oak and walnut but no hickory! But no, I don’t think walnut would hold up to heavy use. Oak probably would but I’m sure walnut would fail before too long.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3656 posts in 1399 days


#3 posted 06-06-2017 03:59 PM

I have only restored hammers where the mortise tenons tapers only from the ends, so I am interested in how you make out. Because you can buy replacement hickory handles from the hardware store for ball peen and other hammers. I would go take a look at their selection and see what they do. But I think its a wooden wedge and a wavy steel wedge. They may have instructions. I’ve done one store bought handle. The rest I made from ash, rasp, spoke shave and lathe.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View papadan's profile

papadan

3584 posts in 3490 days


#4 posted 06-06-2017 07:48 PM

I normally use the wood and metal wedges, but like the idea of a round wedge. I would try and shape a brass pipe fitting into a wedge, it would look awesome and work great. MHO

View Ted78's profile

Ted78

401 posts in 2122 days


#5 posted 06-06-2017 07:48 PM

Not exactly on topic, here, but while oak is strong it is very poor at withstanding shock, so it breaks across the grain especially it grew slow and the growth rings are very close together. That is why you don’t see things like axes and baseball bats, skis and such made out of oak, ash, hickory, hard maple hold up much better to shock loads.

-- Ted

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

6184 posts in 1260 days


#6 posted 06-06-2017 07:49 PM

Thanks Don. You’re right about the replacement handles you can buy. They have a wooden wedge and a steel one. I’ve found some stuff online about how to install them. What I can’t find is how to shape the tenon. Do I make the top part straight or taper it out and use the wedge slot as relief to “squeeze it through the mortise? Good idea to go to the hardware store and check out how the commercial ones are made. Thanks!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

6184 posts in 1260 days


#7 posted 06-06-2017 07:53 PM

Dan – hadn’t thought about a brass wedge, that would look pretty cool. Might give that a go if 2 wood ones don’t work out.

Ted – I agree completely. If these were mine, I’d go with a more traditional material. But I really doubt these will ever be users and I just intend them to match the screwdriver set I made. If he does decide to use them, well, I guess I’ll be replacing some handles in the future ;-P

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View papadan's profile

papadan

3584 posts in 3490 days


#8 posted 06-06-2017 07:53 PM

Commercial are straight, all depends on how much reverse taper are on the HF heads. You may need to squeeze them in to have enough wood without “filling” with epoxy.

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3656 posts in 1399 days


#9 posted 06-07-2017 02:37 AM

What if you drilled a center hole and cut two kerfs making an X centered on the hole. Then drove a conical plug into the hole spreading equally the four sections. Then drove 4 little wedges into the four tiny splits. It would look cool.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

6184 posts in 1260 days


#10 posted 06-07-2017 11:38 AM


Commercial are straight, all depends on how much reverse taper are on the HF heads. You may need to squeeze them in to have enough wood without “filling” with epoxy.

- papadan

The ones I looked at yesterday had a constant taper for the first half then straight. It seems that’s how ball peen’s are made, with a slight reverse taper at the top. I think what’s getting me on these HF ones is that there is a “lip” where the taper reverses. I imagine that lip (think of a thin raised web) is meant to be a retainer for the epoxy to lock everything in place. I looked at some pics on eBay of heads and old ones appear to have the reverse taper but not the lip. If the lip proves to be a problem, I should be able to grind it out with a die grinder.


What if you drilled a center hole and cut two kerfs making an X centered on the hole. Then drove a conical plug into the hole spreading equally the four sections. Then drove 4 little wedges into the four tiny splits. It would look cool.

- Combo Prof

OOOOOHHHH, I LIKE that idea Don! I’m going to turn a tenon on some scrap and try that first. If that works and I can make it look decent, that would be excellent. I’ll let you know how it goes.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3656 posts in 1399 days


#11 posted 06-07-2017 06:09 PM

I think something like Red heart for the plug and wedges and ash for the handle would be spectacular.
Now I am going to have to buy some HF hammers.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

6184 posts in 1260 days


#12 posted 06-07-2017 06:19 PM

When I reach for my ball peen hammers, it’s either to peen some pins, to beat something metal flat or to drive a punch. The big problems I have with cheap ones are steel being too soft, faces not being flat and ball end not being ground smooth. These hammers are well-made on all those accounts. With a coupon, the set is $16 including VA tax. So even if you keep the ugly handles they come with, it’s still a gem IMHO.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3656 posts in 1399 days


#13 posted 06-07-2017 07:03 PM

I have restored a couple nice vintage ones and half dozen to go, so don’t really need them. It would just be vanity to buy the HF ones. But I will think about it as a future fun project. I busy with moving to the new house an new shop these days. I should be blogging about that.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View rodneywt1180b's profile

rodneywt1180b

177 posts in 508 days


#14 posted 06-08-2017 12:01 AM

Polish the ends on the hammers. That way they won’t transfer grinder marks and scratches to whatever he’s using them on.
Convince him to use the tools you give him. They’re made to be used. Quality tools inspire quality work.
Rodney

-- Rodney, Centralia, WA, USA www.etsy.com/shop/ASturdyStick

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

6184 posts in 1260 days


#15 posted 06-12-2017 11:50 AM


What if you drilled a center hole and cut two kerfs making an X centered on the hole. Then drove a conical plug into the hole spreading equally the four sections. Then drove 4 little wedges into the four tiny splits. It would look cool.

- Combo Prof

OOOOOHHHH, I LIKE that idea Don! I m going to turn a tenon on some scrap and try that first. If that works and I can make it look decent, that would be excellent. I ll let you know how it goes.

- HokieKen

Just a quick update… I did try this idea over the weekend Don. I think it has some promise but I think it would take quite a bit of trial and error to get it just right. When the conical plug spreads the tenon 4 ways, it doesn’t really tend to spread evenly. At least with the one test piece I did. I think with proper size and shape of the plug and the tapered hole you could probably work it out though. I am considering now though just wedging in both directions THEN drilling a short bore and epoxying a plug in. No structural purpose but just for appearance.

Unfortunately time’s getting away with Father’s Day coming this weekend. So I don’t have time now to “play” with new ideas. I do have a couple of my hammers to re-handle though so I’ll give it a little more effort when time permits.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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