There are lots of reasons to restore and old tool. Many times itís removing the
abuse of the ages, some times itís "unrestoring" someone elseís attempts.
The following article lists the steps I go through. Now not all hammers (or
other tools) get this kind of full treatment. Many times itís just a quick
cleaning and reseating the handle is all that is necessary. But sometimes
a piece needs a little more help

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 my desk!)
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 chisel.
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.

 Total time for all of this, Iíd say about hour and ½ without interruptions.
Not something I would do with every hammer mind you, but I
hope this shows what can be done to restore some of the history that is rusting away.
As I say, all in a dayís tools!
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Last Updated 6/10/2006
Copyright 2006 Anthony V. Seo