How to Repair Old Garden Tools
There's still some life left in old tools! Here's how to get them in shape
I’ve inherited a lot of older gardening tools that have lost the pins holding the handle to the tool’s head. I’ve tried looping a wire through, but that’s too loose. Inserting a nail seems dangerous. What do you suggest? —Debra Nissen, Frederick, MD
Roger Cook replies: Wires and nails aren’t going to cut it. Here’s a better way to reconnect the heads and handles of your gardening tools.
First, clean out the metal socket or collar of the tool head and lightly sand the tapered end of the wood handle to make sure the fit between collar and handle is snug. When it isn’t, often the collar has opened up. Squeeze it back into shape with a vise, pliers, or a few taps with a hammer. If the handle is still loose, pad out its thin end with some construction adhesive.
Now line up the hole in the handle with the rivet holes on the collar, then hit the opposite end of the handle on the ground. This will drive the tool head down tight onto the handle. If you’re really lucky, the hole in the handle will align with the rivet holes and you can insert a No. 10 stainless-steel carriage bolt an inch longer than the diameter of the collar.
If not, you’ll have to drill a new hole through the handle using the rivet holes as your guide, and insert the carriage bolt. In either case, you may need to enlarge one rivet hole slightly with a drill so that the small square shoulder beneath the head of the bolt sits tight in the collar and prevents the bolt from spinning.
Place a washer over the bolt’s threaded end, then thread on and tighten a nut. Lock it down with an additional nut snugged tight with a wrench. Finally, cut off the bolt’s projecting end using a grinder or a hacksaw, and file the cut end flush with the locknut. Your rakes, shovels, and hoes should be as good as new, if not better.