Garden Woodworking

Fork Handles

Repairs are part and parcel of keeping a home.

I did intend to write up an outdoor project I started many years ago, but a more recent bit of outdoor work interrupted. We have a good garden and veg patch, and there’s always opportunity for digging. Wear-and-tear happens though, and sometimes repairs are necessary. In much the same way that Trigger had a Broom, we have garden forks and spades. Time for a new handle.

The delivery person didn’t appreciate me calling her Ronnie. I probably should’ve ordered more than one, then the joke would’ve made sense. This was to fix a small, Border Fork, which is quite a bit shorter than a normal garden fork. I was a little disappointed with the choice at this size – I couldn’t find an all-wood handle, and I couldn’t find one at the right length and with the right diameter. (For future reference, if you know of a place that could supply this size of replacement handle, please let me know with a comment!) This would require quite a bit of chiselling to fit.

First challenge was to find out what secured the metalwork to the old handle. A careful view revealed a metal pin that had been pushed through the wood handle and filed flat against the socket. This pin would have to come out before the remains of the handle could be removed. A few taps with a nail-set would shift it.

Now I could remove the old wood from the socket. One suggested method for getting old wood out of an implement like this is to chuck the metal piece on a fire and let the scraps burn out. I felt this would affect the finish of the metal, and besides, I couldn’t fit the piece in our wood stove, so I resorted to a combination of drilling and chiselling.

Chiselling was to dominate the next part of the project. I needed to take the diameter of the shaft down by somewhere close to 1cm. The shape of the shaft needed to be approximately conic, but with a slight curve at the end. I would need to work this bit by bit, checking regularly to make sure I’d not taken too much off a particular part.

This was the first time I have attempted to chisel a conic section. I only have flat chisels, so keeping the curved shape would be tricky. Plus, I quickly learned the problem of the wood grain having a direction. Chiselling was easy on one side, but considerably more difficult on the other, as the grain didn’t run exactly down the length of the handle. Working from bottom to top I could take fine strips off the lower half of the handle but the chisel would cut into the wood on the upper half. I would need to turn the piece around and work the upper half from top to bottom. This would require extra care at the sides to handle the change in grain direction.

Bit by bit, the metal piece began to fit the handle. I kept testing, seeing how far the stem fitted, and where and how it would move when wobbled. I managed to keep the shape of the stem smooth and a good fit so that it would be snug when pushed in to within about 1cm of the collar. At that point I could hammer home the shaft into the socket to create a tight and secure join.

Then all I need are a couple of galvanized screws to secure the pieces together, and once again we have a working border fork.

By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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