Fixing tools

Well that season has arrived when I start looking for projects to focus on. I cut a couple of handle blanks out of a dead hickory sapling Wednesday. I have an old grubbing hoe that had a handle in it that had seen better days. After a few hours of work I had a new handle that is just the length I like and stronger than a factory handle imo.


Nice job Derby!

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Thanks, it should come in handy clearing out some brush next spring.

Derby, that’s a really nice use of your time and materials at hand. It displays your skills well. I expect you’re going to get some good use out that.

It should last a long time. The hickory sapling was killed by a large tree that fell on it, smashing it down almost to the ground two years ago. It had tried to sprout out along the trunk but it just couldn’t survive. It was on a slope with no dirt just loose rock so it was a very slow grower and dense tree. Perfect for a handle

Yeah, I search garage sales when I happen to have some time for old tools in good shape with hickory handles. The ash they use these days is pure crap. Even if you oil them a couple times a year if you store them outside they snap in a few short years. I’ve found old hickory handled shovels with cast blades that are half worn out lying on the ground years after being discarded where the wood was still strong.

I don’t have enough spare time to make your kind of work on that handle a worthwhile investment (handle breaks- tool discarded), but I sure appreciate the quality of your workmanship.


I find that I like vintage tools, in some instances, better than what you can buy now at big box stores. A new handle can turn a broken useless tool to one that will give years more service.

I counted the rings on that hickory “sapling” and it was 29 years old and three inches in diameter, sure made some good dense wood.


Wow! The advance planning required to intentionally grow hickory handles of that density makes the wait for most fruit trees to produce brief by comparison.

Who knows. Your kids and even grandkids might get use from that handle.

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Fruit and nut woods in general make pretty decent tool handles, as does good ash (think baseball bats) but slow, dense growth is key, as noted. Pear, by the way, can make a good temporary bearing for an arbor. I’ve tricked together a couple of hammer handles but not so nice a piece as that pulaski’s handle that Derby made.

There is really not much to it. I just take an old hoof rasp and start at one end. It won’t take wood off very fast so you can see it take shape. The nice thing is you can make it fit your own hands.

Very often trees grown under a canopy make superior wood. Here, red cedar that grows out in the open and quickly has very little dark red heart wood and all but the heart wood rots fairly quickly. The stuff that grows under a canopy of taller natives is almost all heartwood and it can fall on the moist forest floor and still take 50 years to rot (that number is a guess). I used some of the shade grown stuff for my Garden fence, and after 25 years they have stayed solid even though the part in the ground has only the heart wood left. It surprises me that a market hasn’t emerged for shade grown wood for garden tool handles, natural fence posts and anything else we need naturally preserved wood for. Their should be some kind of grade system.

Around here I see a lot of old fence post that I presume are made from red cedar. I guess most of them are several decades old.

Locust is also popular. Usually what they use for split rail around here but the red cedar makes prettier fences.

I got ahold of some locust and burned a little in camp- the stuff is like good coal. You can tell it when you pick up a piece.

It’s so hard that it dull tools pretty quickly, but other than that it’s good for tool handles. I think it’s what bowling alley pins are make of, if they still use wood for that.

I have never tried to make a locust handle. We have lots of hickory here and I like the handle it makes. It is best if you get a big enough piece to quarter split it first then make the handle out of one quarter. I made a handle for my dads cant hook a few years ago . I really like it better than a factory handle, it seems like they always make them too short and just not sturdy enough. When we use it to roll a big log over, dad always makes a wise crack about how much the handle flexed. ( you couldn’t flex that handle if your life depended on it)

I use Osage orange ( hedge ) . My timber jack or cant recently was redone but the original was thin wall pipe . I redone it with 3/4 inch black pipe and welded angle iron over it . See if that keeps it from bending .

I have never used hedge either but it would be much more rot resistant than hickory. Just a small post will last a lifetime here and a hickory tree will rot in just a couple of years if it gets down on the ground

You know we had some locust on our farm down in the creek bottom when I was a kid. Some one told my grandpa it made good rot resistant posts we cut some and put a few posts in. They had terrible thorns on them. They didn’t last very well. I am not sure why, maybe we cut them with the sap up or maybe it was the wrong type of locust. I sure know I hate those thorns, wicked long and hurt like heck if they get into you, lol. Maybe I should try to make a handle out of some and see how it does.

Yes wrong locust . You need black locust = short thorns . There are others with short thorns but not sure how they last . The black locust has yellow wood like hedge . They both have milky sap = lots of oil . So that is what makes them last .

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