Oooops, wrong song.
I was out working some rail fence on “the back 40” a few days ago. Dropped something on the old hatchet and broke off its head. It was a very old and very inexpensive hatchet, no doubt purchased from whatever “home centers” were four decades ago. It’s amazing how light the handle is with no head, very dry and light. No, I don’t know what kind of wood it is.
Of course, it happened immediately after sharpening the blade to the sharpest it has ever been, and it was cutting very well as I trimmed some rails.
What to do? Well, “Mend it Dear Henry. Dear Henry, mend it.” “With what shall I mend it…” OK, enough of that. A neighbor’s birch tree was split and felled in a storm early this year. I salvaged a few bits of it and they’ve been peacefully drying over in a corner of the shop. How about a small branch of that stuff? Yeah, I know. It’s not hickory, but it’s not something soft either.
There’s not a lot to making a new handle. So, no step by step, just a few random pictures. Most of the work was done with a spokeshave. The first and most important step was making flats on both sides so the workpiece could be held in the leg vice. I got close to the traditional hatchet shape without spending a lot of time trying to refine it to perfection. Nor, did I do a lot of fine finishing work. The surface is exactly what the very sharp spoke shave left. (No sanding!!!) There’s enough of a bulge on the end and slenderness in the middle to make a secure and comfortable grip.
The tennon for the head was chisel work of a trial and error (plentiful error) sort. It fits well enough; certainly not perfect but secure. The last bit of securing the head was reuse of a wedge I found in the old handle. It’s not the usual straight wedge, but a hollow cylinder with a conical shape. (I didn’t take a picture of it before hammering it in.)
Last step, BLO.