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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.*