Saturday, March 29, 2014
Repairing a Pitch Fork Handle
Nine times out of ten these days it seems putting a new handle on anything is more trouble than it's worth. I know it didn't used to be that way but in our current throw away culture it has almost become more economical to just toss whatever was broken and buy a new one. The replacement handles are often just as expensive as a new tool and anymore you can never find one that fits properly. Doesn't seem to matter what tool it is either from Axe handles to Silage Forks.
Now I know there are plenty out there who will be chomping at the bit to write how you buy only pure gold plated this or that and it never breaks... Spare me. This post isn't for you I guess.
Personally I have no clue how my Step Father manages to break these pitch forks but he sure does a good job of it. I have never in my lifetime actually bought a pitchfork because there have always been plenty around to use but in all the time I have used one I have never managed to actually break one either. This year I had four broken pitchforks to repair.
These pitchforks manage to find their way to my porch as presents. Some how I became the designated tool handle fixer person around here. What used to happen was one would get broke and someone would buy a handle for it then either couldn't figure out how to get the forks out of the part of the old handle or they couldn't figure out how to get it to fit in a new handle. The old tool head would get tossed aside and rust away.
Then one day I decided I was going to fix one and ever since these random broken tools will show up on my porch placed there by the tool fairy I guess.
Anyway most of the tools just require a bit of wood shaving or what-not to put back together but pitchforks in particular are a real pain.
This is how they look when I get them. The fork handle is broken right at the line where the metal cover over the handle ends. The fork is stuck inside the handle and cover which is filled with wood. If I see someone with the broken tool they always ask the same question...
"How ya gonna get the wood out?"
I open the door to the wood furnace and chuck the thing inside placing the metal cap in the coals and leaving the actual tool head to the front out of the flames. Usually I hear someone start going on about ruining the temper yadda yadda... I just look at em like they are a Femocrat and go on about my business.
While I certainly wouldn't want to leave the tool in the furnace long enough to get it glowing nor set the actual metal directly into the coals, burning out the wood from the cap that isn't going to be reused anyway doesn't hurt the temper or change it in the slightest. Like the cheap mild steel they use these days has a real temper on it anyway. Besides on a pitchfork you really want it more pliable than brittle regardless.
After just ten minutes or so you can usually open the door grab the end of the tines with a glove on and dump the charred wood right out and remove the little metal cap(s). Sometimes there is a second cap over the end as well.
The heat will make the tool surface rust quick but I wire that off anyway.
Now the second problem I always run into is the pitchforks always have a huge tang on them while the replacement handles have a small hole. I drill out the hole a bit usually to about a 1/4 inch then take the pitchfork and grind the tang down so it can be driven into the handle a bit easier. You can see the grind marks on the very top picture from one I repaired earlier today.
You can also see the really large tang on the back fork in the picture above too that I haven't ground down yet.
At this point once you have the tang ground down I use a 12 inch wrecking bar with a nail pull hole to hammer the tool head into the handle. A four tine fork you place the bar between the middle tines but a three or a five tine fork means you have to slip the middle tine through the hole on the wrecking bar. Place the butt end of the handle on a solid board that is on the ground and hammer the fork into the handle by striking the wrecking bar with a hammer.
If you really want to get creative you can heat the tang up but I find getting it in takes so much time the tang cools too fast to matter. I sometimes coat the tang in a bit of oil to make the process easier.
Wire brush the surface rust off and give it a paint job if you want, new paint always impresses the peasants I have found.
I have repaired the same few pitchforks over and over using this method and never had one fail at the tang. If they break again it is always at the end of the metal cap. Always. Honestly I have never met anyone as hard on tools and equipment as my Step Father so if it can be broken he will find a way let me tell you. I have also yet to see a pitchfork of less than five tines that didn't use the inserted tang method nor have I come across one that was actually riveted into the handle. That seems to be a shovel and rake thing.
I basically use the same method for removing wood handles from axe heads, mauls etc. except you have to place them directly in the flames. That is why this time of year is a good time for this because I have such a small fire going. If I forget about them it doesn't get hot enough to do any damage to the tool head.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!