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View Full Version : The Fine Art of Replacing a Maul Handle



JMAC
11-16-2009, 09:43 PM
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2598/4111218260_5981a337a6_m.jpghttp://farm3.static.flickr.com/2730/4110454255_b7ccbe5d42_m.jpghttp://farm3.static.flickr.com/2787/4111219090_14b070ddc6_m.jpg

Stopped in at Elmer's Barn and Antique Mall this afternoon. I've been thinking it was time to replace my maul. The hickory handle was getting pretty worn out. Elmer sold me the head for $5.00. I asked him what sort of native wood would make a good handle, thinking I would make my own. He pointed upstairs and said there was a bin of handles up there in the Mall. So, I got a new Ash handle for another $5.00. I took off as little wood as possible to get the head on, and not having done this before, I'd like to ask you woodsmen how far to get that head on. Should I keep going to the end of the bandsawn kerf, then trim the top? Good enough where it is? Wood or metal wedge? Soak in water? ...and anybody using handle guards or should I work to improve my aim or get used to fitting new handles? In my defense, my worn out one has been at it for 25 years...

Paul Pless
11-16-2009, 09:47 PM
I make the kerf as deep as it needs to be to where I can slide the head down on to the shaft until its rather snug, then I trim the top of the shaft flush. You should use both a wood wedge and metal key driven in at 90 degrees to the wedge. I don't soak. I'm sure you'll get some other opposing opinion to mine, but I've never had a problem this way.

Phillip Allen
11-16-2009, 09:50 PM
scrape it to a fairly close fit...install wood wedge (fore and aft with head) and a couple of metal wedges crosswise to that...the depth is not particularly important but the overall length may be, for accruacy's sake...I just trim off the butt end till it feels right

my main experience is as a bricklayer and years of replacing the handles in mash hammers and brick hammers...some guys like the metal handles but those hammers are inferior as the head is compromised to make the handle possible

my broken handles generally arose from someone "borrowing" the hammer which they thought was a crow bar...the hardest part is getting the old bit of handle out

JMAC
11-16-2009, 10:00 PM
Do we have consensus on fore and aft wooden wedge with one or two metal wedges across? What sort of wood for the wedge? I've got a woodshop filled with 25 years worth of scraps....I could use locust or ebony or lacewood or....

Paul Pless
11-16-2009, 10:02 PM
I think the wedges that come with replacement handles are usually a soft wood, but I'm not positive.

paladin
11-16-2009, 10:17 PM
I've got an old used one that might work...it's been in granddads maul for at least 60 years and still works.....

Robert L E
11-16-2009, 10:38 PM
Do we have consensus on fore and aft wooden wedge with one or two metal wedges across? What sort of wood for the wedge? I've got a woodshop filled with 25 years worth of scraps....I could use locust or ebony or lacewood or....

Yes on the consensus. The first thing is to see which side of the head is narrower. The handle goes in that side and should be tight; there will be a gap around the wedge end of the handle. I trim the handle before installing the wedges and leave the handle a bit proud of the head. I like to use a wooden wedge the same width as the fore-aft width of the hole. The wood that the wedge is made out of should be as hard as handle itself. If I make a wedge for an ash or hickory handle it is usually oak as that is what I usually have.

I like the one (or two parallel and evenly spaced) iron wedges to span the hole at a slight angle so that a corner on one side of the wedge and the opposite corner just touch opposite sides of the head when driven in.

When done there sould be no gaps even though it looks like your picture at the start with a gap all the way around.

Bob

Jim Ledger
11-16-2009, 11:34 PM
The Ebony would make a nice wedge.

Don't soak the handle in water. It'll expand against the steel and crush the wood fibers. Then when you remove the handle from the water, it will shrink smaller than before and the head will be loose.

To get a good fit on something like that, get a chunk of lipstick and smear it on your fingers. Rub your fingertip on the inside of the hole to give it a nice even coat. When you fit the head to the handle, the high spots will show up as lipstick smears. Lightly rasp them off and refit. Do that a few times and you'll end up with a good fit. Then wedge.

Tom M.
11-17-2009, 12:05 AM
The best wedge I've seen for that are the round metal ones, pounded in after the wood wedge of course.

Cuyahoga Chuck
11-17-2009, 12:37 AM
I shape the end to fit the eye with a slip fit. I clean th eye and saw a slot for the wedge if there isn't one. The handle goes in with a coating of epoxy and the wedge goes into the slot with another wad of epoxy. Never had one come loose yet.

JMAC
11-17-2009, 06:52 AM
The rust on the old head worked the same as the lipstick. I've got it so that I have to whack the head on with a deadblow with reasonable force, so it's quite snug, but not killer tight. The head did not appear to have a hole that was larger on one side than the other.(checked with calipers).

I wouldn't think the epoxy would bond to the metal, are you using it to get maximum contact between handle and head?

The kerf is a bandsaw slot and has closed up upon putting the head on. Does anyone know about how the taper on the wedge should be? Something like a shim shingle, or more chunky?

Paul Pless
11-17-2009, 07:03 AM
pretty chunky

Jim Ledger
11-17-2009, 07:35 AM
A slender wedge works better.

huisjen
11-17-2009, 07:38 AM
Commercial wood wedges (come with the metal ones in a pack) seem to taper from 1/4" and are about 2" long.

I usually make my own maul handles. I don't have much ash about, but often have a scrap of oak with good enough grain. I rip it on the table saw to around 1 1/4"x1 1/2", then run the 1/2" round-over router bit down all four edges. I use my belt sander with a course belt to work down the bit that the head will fit on.

Handles bought for $5 in junk barns often have poor spots in the grain. Look them over carefully.

Dan

SamSam
11-17-2009, 07:52 AM
Should I keep going to the end of the bandsawn kerf, then trim the top? Good enough where it is? Wood or metal wedge? Soak in water? ...and anybody using handle guards or should I work to improve my aim or get used to fitting new handles? In my defense, my worn out one has been at it for 25 years...
Drive it 1/2" past the end of the kerf. The kerf will let in water/dirt, let rot in. The bottom of the head is a weak spot, it doesn't need the kerf there.
Check the handle and mount it so there is no twist or sideways bend.

I like to mount the pointy end with a slight inclination toward the bottom end of the handle. It just feels better in use, maybe it makes no difference.

A wood wedge in the kerf then a metal one at 90 degrees. There is no kerf for the metal wedge, it has to make its own, wood will break when being driven in.

Don't soak in water, when it dries it will shrink and be loose.

Guards don't hurt if they stay out of the way.

Phillip Allen
11-17-2009, 08:19 AM
Don't soak the handle in water. It'll expand against the steel and crush the wood fibers. Then when you remove the handle from the water, it will shrink smaller than before and the head will be loose.

Well...that would explain the trouble some people have the next day after they've soaked their head in wine and such...I've seen em trying to hold their head on

Torna
11-17-2009, 08:31 AM
I'm with Cuyahoga on this: rasp the handle down so it fits in snugly then put it on with epoxy & wedges & epoxy. The handle will never come loose - though you may still break it from overhits (aka kids in training). In addition to bedding it for a perfect fit, the epoxy helps prevent the situation that Jim Ledger describes when you (or one of the kids) leaves it out in the rain for a week.
Don't worry about getting the epoxied remnants out when it's eventually time to replace it: just drill down through it a bunch of times and then drift out the remains - easy.

-leif