Changing Your Shovel Handle

At some point, serious gardeners all experience it:  a broken shovel handle.  Or rake, or stirrup-hoe, or hoe, or fork.  Something is always breaking, right?

But what do you do about it?  Run down to the store and buy a new one?

For us, a trip to the store involves a pretty serious road trip.  By the time we pay for fuel, it turns into a pretty expensive new shovel.

We’ve learned to keep extra handles on-hand, and simply fix them ourselves when the need arises.

Here’s how we do it:

How to change your own shovel handle when it breaks. Now you can keep your favorite shovel and not purchase a new one each time you break one. This is so easy!

The first thing you need to do is get the last handle out.  This can be a bit tricky.

You’ll want to start by removing any screws, pins, or rivets that are holding the broken wood in the shovel shaft.  One method for getting the wood out of the shaft is to thread a screw down into the top of the broken-off handle.  This will give you something to pull on.

If your shovel has a slit down the back, pry on the slit with a small pry-bar to loosen the wood in the shaft.  Occasionally (or if it doesn’t have a slit), this becomes a big job as you are left pulling the wood out like slivers with a good set of needle-nose pliers.

Do not heat the metal to try to burn the wood out.  While it will help with removal by charring the outside of the wood, which will then fall out; it also removes (softens) the temper from the steal, and your shovel will now bend.

 

Once the old wood is completely removed, insert your new handle.  (You can see in the picture, that there is a bevel in our handle–this is not the correct handle. However, it was what we had on-hand, and thus what we used.)

How to change your own shovel handle when it breaks. Now you can keep your favorite shovel and not purchase a new one each time you break one. This is so easy!Point your shovel toward the sky while holding on to the handle, and thump it on the cement a couple of times really hard.  If you do not have cement at your disposal, use a rock (not the back of your truck).  This will allow the weight of the shovel to drive itself on and wedge itself tighter onto the handle.How to change your own shovel handle when it breaks. Now you can keep your favorite shovel and not purchase a new one each time you break one. This is so easy!

Using the existing holes in the shovel shaft, drill completely through the new handle.  The straighter, the better.  The idea is to line-up your hole with the existing holes on each side of the shaft.  Now insert your new rivet through the holes  (that should come with each shovel–do not buy a handle that does not come with a rivet).  The rivet should always come out the other side of the shaft.

Place the big end of the rivet against a metal surface.  An anvil is perfect if you have one–you can see, we improvised.  Using the round end of a ball pene hammer, round over the protruding section of rivet (hit it until it splays out).  The idea is not to kill it with one really hard hit which would just bend the rivet over. A lot of soft hits will yield a properly formed, tight rivet.

 

How to change your own shovel handle when it breaks. Now you can keep your favorite shovel and not purchase a new one each time you break one. This is so easy!Insert any other screws or pins your shovel may require.  As you can see, ours had one additional rivet on the front that we placed by the same technique.  You should be ready to go.

Since our handle had a bevel (remember we used the wrong one), we clamped tight and welded the slit in the back for a tighter fit.  This is not recommended, but we’re rednecks from the bush.  You run the risk of de-tempering the shaft, or melting a hole in the metal–which is, again, bad news unless you are really handy with welding thin steel.  But we live on the wild side.

The final step is to remove any sharp edges from your rivets or screws or welds if you’ve made them.  We used a bastard file.  For anyone who doesn’t know, files should only ever be used in a forward direction.  If you drag it backwards, you will ruin it.  And if you loan your file to someone else, don’t assume they already know this.  Ahem

 

*Incidentally, changing the handle of most other tools, is a different (but well worth it) process.*

 

9 Comments

  1. Great tutorial. I love simple, practical advice like this that helps us spend less and use what we have. So glad you stopped by The Maple Hill Hop this week!

  2. Great informative, helpful post. I appreciate you sharing it with us at Good Morning Mondays. It was a splitter handle for us this week, it broke off on the 2nd stroke, so was brand new. Definitely not going to fix this but take it back, glad it isn’t too serious a road trip to do so. Blessings to you dear friend, hope the planting and growing is going well. xxxx

    • Ug. It’s true what they say, they don’t make things like they used to. Our favorite shovel belonged to the Farmer’s dad when he was little. We keep changing the handle every few years because we like the shovel head so much.
      Hope you get one you really like.
      Blessings,

  3. Great tutorial. I sitting thinking that all my shovels are handle free., a handle might make my work load a little easier.
    Carole

  4. What great tips!

  5. Great tutorial! Hubby broke a shovel over winter trying to pry something frozen out of the ground. Now I know how to fix it! Thanks!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you back this week!

    Lisa

  6. I use a table saw to cut the end a rod into a cone. Someone may yell at me about it at some point but it works really well if you are careful. Just hold the rod at a slight angle and rotate along the blade nice and easy removing a small amount material at a time. In just minutes you’ll have a clean cone at the end of the rod, instead of spending lots of effort and time with a knife to make a jagged end or using a lathe which is expensive. I’ve done it twice now with great results.

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