The subject for
todayís help is a smaller cross peen hammer. Looks to be of probably late
19th century vintage and was probably hand forged out of mild
steel. The head weighs 6 ounces. As you can see this has been subject to
a fair amount of shall we say, over use. The face is a bit sloping and
mushroomed, the handle is pretty well checked up and has the usual 3 lbs.
of hardware holding it on and of course there is the rust and pitting from
being left out places where it shouldnít have been.
The first step
of course is to clear a spot on the
workbench to work.
Well on second thought, that
will take longer than
the project. (And for those of
you who are going into
shock at seeing more
tools in one place
than you could ever imagine,
you should see my desk!
On second thought,
I wish I could see
The real first
step in all of this is to remove the old handle. This had a small iron
wedge along with a Phillips screw that had been put in with the correct
tool (another hammer of course!). The wedge came out with a pair of carpenterís
pliers (and if you donít have a couple of these laying around, they are
the handiest item since outhouse paper started coming in rolls.) Next I
cut the old handle off with a hacksaw. Tip from a pro, always use a hacksaw,
you never know what kind of junk is in there. The PA Dutch handbook clearly
states that if one roofing nail will hold the head on 3 will do it all
the much better! There is a bit of staining and itís hard to see in the
picture, but there is the tip of the screw showing. Using a punch I knock
the screw out and this time the remaining section of handle came with it.
On a lot of the bigger hammers, I usually will drill from the underside
with a brace and a diamond shaped metal bit (which work right nice for
end grain, especially for excavating chisel handle remnants out). I drill
deep enough until I can see the wedge end and then with a punch knock that
out. Most times that is enough to get the handle piece out, but sometimes
you have to finish drilling all the way through, then work it out with
The next step is
to clean the head. A quick trip to the grinder is called for to remove
the mushrooming and to dress the face a little. Sometimes it is light enough
that a file will work. After grinding I go over the entire head with a
file to blend in the grind marks and to start getting rid of some of the
other patina as well. A piece like this is never going to be perfect.
I then sand the
head, first using 100 grit to again blend in the file and the grinder marks.
The next step is with a wire brush, (not a wheel, I have seen far too many
tools, especially early ones close to ruined by wire wheels), this gets
down into the pitted areas a bit. They wonít go away, just wonít look as
bad. Then it is wet sanded with 400 grit wet/dry paper. A lot of times
I will just dry sand with 400 grit but since Iím going for extra pretty
on this guy, why not. The other advantage to wet sanding is that any dark
spots really show up well so I can clean them a bit better.
Time to make a
handle. One of the problems with a lot of these early hammers is that the
eye is usually pretty big. I started with a commercially made handle that
came off of something else, this had a pretty good knot on the side, but
since I was going to be cutting it down, that wasnít a problem. Cut it
to the length I wanted, then started fitting the end to the head. As you
can see the weapons of choice there are a rasp and pocketknife. I donít
clean the rust out of the inside of the eye, until I am pretty much done
fitting the end. This way it shows where it is binding. I get the head
to go about 4/5thís of the way down the handle without sticking.
That that little bit of extra seating helps. Too much though and you risk
cracking the eye. The handle is then shaped again with the knife and rasp.
The handle is scraped to get rid of the finish, then sanded a bit to bring
out any spots (rasp marks etc), then scraped down again.
Now to cut the
wedge slot. For smaller handle like this one, I will use the hacksaw (and
for you detail freaks, thatís a Millers Falls "Buck Rodgers" hacksaw that
looks like it was used by old Buck hisself to build a space ship with!)
I saw in about 2/3ís of the way into the end. The handle then gets a final
clean up (usually gets a bit messed up in the vise cutting the wedge),
then it gets a quick wipe down with black walnut stain and once that dries,
a coat of paste wax. While all that is drying I make the wedge. I always
save the cut off pieces and busted chisel handles just for this purpose.
I split a section off with a chisel (W. Butcher 1 inch firmer). Then the
wedge gets sized. I use the pocketknife to trim it down and taper it. The
head is then seated on the handle. A couple of light taps with the mallet
puts it on good and tight. The wedge is inserted, again tapped in with
the mallet, a quick side tap with the mallet will break it off pretty clean.
One quick paring pass with the chisel to make it pretty and a wipe down
with the stain rag to blend it in.
Finally the finished
product. I didnít get the face as squared off as I would have liked too.
The peen has one pesky little spot as well. But itís back to being a good
usable hammer. With a little care and feeding sheís probably got another
century of use awaiting her.