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!!!!


15 comments:

  1. That sounds like a good method, I usually end up beating it off with a hammer which is not the easy way unless the tool is one that I found out in the weather somewhere and the wood has rotted. I have never broken a pitch fork and have one that has to be 60 or 70 years old. You just have to treat them kindly and not try and move round bales with them. My problem is that the fork sometimes get loose in the handle and I usually put a wood shaving in the hole and drive it on again which tightens it up pretty good.

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    1. Sf - I have never broken a pitchfork either. My Step Dad however could break a ball bearing let me tell you.

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  2. PAINT A PITCHFORK! My god you Americans are extravagant. Quick wipe over with an oily rag every now and then is all they get here even in our damp climate. Never had one rust out or break a handle in 40 years either!

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    1. Anon - As I said it impresses the hell outta the peasants :)

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    2. Yes... and impresses the cows lol :) I,ll paint mine like our flag !

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  3. This has nothing to do with pitch forks but I'm looking for a pig or two to buy. Do you know anyone that sells pigs?

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    1. Eileen - OOOO that might be hard right now. Allt he piggy raisers I know of have sold off or lost their young ones due to this pig diarrhea epidemic that's been going around. You could try a sale barn. What ya want them for? I would suggest if it's for raising your own meat to try and find a couple of ruptured feeders. If you want I can look into it more deeply for you.

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    2. Their for my son-in-law. He wants to raise them for ham and bacon and all that good stuff but my daughter isn't to keen on the idea. The last pig he had he ended up giving it away instead of slaughtering it but I don't know why. He gets a wild hair up his butt and does some crazy stuff. Maybe it would be best to hope he doesn't find any pigs so thank you for the offer but I think it would be best not to give him any info. as I keep thinking about it. He's usually normal but at times he's a nut.Oh ya. I hit a deer and it took out the radiator.

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  4. Excellent....listen, I've got this potato rack and well, you know....

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    1. Stephen - Is it one of them with a grill type shelf or one with the little spikes?

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    2. Just joking, Bubba. Lord knows I put enough handles in hoes, racks, axes, and one very old froe. My old potato rake (spelled it rack in my comment) is the grilled shape. Sadly my potato digging days are well over. Dammit.

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    3. HAHA I actually had to look up what a potato rack was :)

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  5. PP,

    Are you sure your Step FIL isn't breaking them deliberately to keep you busy????

    Good save on a good pitch fork, thank you for sharing.
    I will remember this because I've broken the handle on shovels before.

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    1. Sandy - I think he gets angry with them and/or tries to move too much hay at a time. As I said though my SF could destroy a ball bearing though.

      Shovels are a bit more complicated because of the rivets running through them. You really need a steady hand or a drill press to get the hole lined up on the new handle. One method I use for that is to start with a very small drill bit that seems easier to pilot hole with before going at it full bore if you will.

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  6. My dad used to paint his tools bright pink. No one ever stole his tools and he could always find them after the job was over.

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