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replace pitchfork handle
Posted by Jim Nielsen at 2010-02-19 12:17:12
I need to replace a pitchfork handle. I think I remember my dad saying you could heat the tang on the head of the fork before tamping into the handle. Is this a good idea?
Response by Kirk Ross...Nova Scotia at 2010-02-19 21:06:14
Response by carlheth rolla mo at 2010-02-19 22:41:49
Since the tang on the head are tappered heat it up hot enough to burn the wood as you drive it in. Do not drive it all the way in leave it out about 1/2" and drive it back out until it cools off and then drive it in all the way. If you drive it all the way in with the metal hot, when the metal cools it will shrink and be loose.
Response by LC at 2010-02-19 22:42:46
I would'nt heat the tang. It is true that metal will expand (get larger in OC) when heated but unless you have good control of the heat it can also weaken the metal and make it more prone to rusting.

I would shape the handle end with a rasp or grinder to closely match the shape and size of the tang. It would be ok to oversize slightly so that it fits snug once it is fully entered into the tang. To get it all the way to the bottom of the tang, turn the fork with the metal tines in the air and stike a block of wood with the top of the handle. The weight of the metal tines and forceful stop against the wood block with jar the metal tang down onto the end of the wood handle. Below are some info from another blog. It is similar to what I have described but he mentions using oil as a lubricant to make the wood slide down into the tang easier.

Re: Help replacing pitchfork handle
It's actually a fairly simple process, just difficult to explain in writing.
The easiest way to remove the old handle is cut it off just beyond the tang, and drill out as much wood as you can from the furrel. Very often, there will be a pin thru the furrel wood handle and tang, that needs to be ground off on one side and driven out. It usually will be riveted flat, so it's hard to find. Then, suspend the fork over a notch in a sawhorse, or the end of a 2X6, and drive the old handle off with a hammer & bar. If you have a small air hammer it works a lot faster.
The new handle should have a hole slightly larger than the smaller flat dimension of the tang.
Start the tang into the new handle with the back end of the handle on the floor and tap the tang in about an inch. Then, the trick, hold the handle in one hand, suspending the fork tips above the floor a good 6" and using a mallet, drive the sucker home. Dipping the tang in oil first helps a bit. I know it sounds insane, but that's the way it works.
Finally, drill a new pin hole thru the furrel of the new handle and tang, and install a rivet and peen it down.
If you don't have a good mallet, you can accomplish the same thing by sharply striking the end of the handle on the floor, it just takes more hits. Do NOT strike handles on concrete floors or steel, use a wood block if you use this method.
Happy handling

12-19-2001, 09:56 AM
#5 (permalink)
Bronze Member

Join Date: May 2000
Location: Golden, IL
Posts: 92
Re: Help replacing pitchfork handle
Thank you for the input. I figured it was possible, but wasn't too sure of the details. As with most things, having an experienced insight takes away a lot of wondering about details that really don't matter in the end anyway.

Thanks, and happy Holidays

Hershey, PA

12-22-2001, 10:20 AM
#6 (permalink)

Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Fredericksburg, TX
Posts: 281
Re: Help replacing pitchfork handle
I replaced a pitchfork handle some years ago and it was a pain! I spent way too much time shaping the part that goes into the receiver using a fine-stone grinder, rasps, files and sandpaper. When the handle starts to fit pretty good but sticks someplace and you don't know where, you can take an ordinary lead pencil and rub around in the inside of the receiver; this will show you where the high spots are.

Unfortunately, we are a throw-away society. The cost of a replacement handle almost equals the cost of a new tool. I have a metal-box wheelbarrow, for example, that needs new handles. The box, wheel, tire, etc. are in perfect shape. However, when I priced new handles at three different stores recently (ACE Hardware, Parker Brothers Lumber, Tractor Supply) the price for ONE replacement handle ranged from $12.95 to $14.95. I can buy a new wheelbarrow, identical to the one I have, for $29.95 at ACE Hardware. This bothers me; I'm used to taking care of things and fixing them when they need attention.
Response by Berta at 2010-02-20 05:54:52
I'm pretty sure I've heard that advice as well but I can't recall why it was important.

Perhaps when you warm the tang it expands and then when the handle is in it cools and contracts tighter for less wiggle?
Response by K.C. Fox at 2010-02-20 06:47:13
I never did just drove out the tines & drove them back into the new handle.
Response by Dale Wagner at 2010-02-20 12:35:46
Some people sure make a lot of work out of a simple thing. Get a 3 pound hammer and drive the fork out of the broken handle. Get the fork lined up in the new handle and tap it in. When it gets hard to drive, support it in a vise, use a bar as a punch and use your bigger hammer to drive it home.
They don't make decent forks nowadays is the reason for replacing handles. Used to have bundle forks, alfalfa forks, barley forks, chaff forks, 4, 5, 6 tine manure forks in this area. Other places probably had other forks specialized for other material.
You scrape down sharp edges on cracks with a piece of glass to get it smooth enough to suit and wipe the handle down with linseed oil to increase the spring in the handle so it don't break but don't use too much or it will get like rubber. When the spring is perfect, the effort needed is half.
Response by grady at 2010-02-20 12:41:48
make yourself some wheel barrow handles out of 2by4s..you probably have enough short pieces laying around to make them..you can also make them out of angle iron if you have any ot that laying around..always be gathering up stuff that looks useful that you see laying around or that people want to give you..something will turn up eventually that you can use the stuff for..
Response by Jay Moyer at 2010-02-20 17:50:18
Does anyone know where to get hay fork handles any more? I have a really nice 4 tine fork, very long thin tines about 18 inches long and 18 inches wide, handle on it is smooth, thin, and strong and by my dads estimation 50+ years old, has been used much as its everyones favorite, I have never seen another like it. I dread the day it breaks because every replacement fork handle I have seen is shorter, much chunkier, lousy ferrules, and doesn't have the same angle of bend.
Response by K.C. Fox at 2010-02-20 17:55:00
always make wheelborrow handles out od 3/4 inch pipe they dont rot off if bent you can stragiten. just my thoughts what I do.
Response by Jim at 2010-02-20 19:06:17
Thanks to all who were so generous to reply. Even though there is a difference of opinion on the best method, it helps me make my decision when I see the reasons each one gave for their particular point of view. I am an infrequent visitor to the Front Porch, but with such a knowledgeble group available, I'll be back soon.
Response by KM NE ID at 2010-02-21 12:11:04
Follow up question: Where can you find the good forks now days. Our local hardware store carries some but the tines are larger diameter and they bend. I have a couple of old forks that have been here my entire life and then some that are still the favorites. One is a loose hay fork and a big one at that. This one rarely gets used as it is too big for most bales hay. They other favorite is a 6 tine manure fork that is getting well worn on the tines and handle. So where can I find a good one? KM
Response by Sara at 2010-02-21 16:19:09
Yep, they don't make pitch forks like the old ones anymore. Buy ours at farm estate auctions. The old ones are really quality.. nice long sharp tines. Bought a new fork, 5 tine I think, used it once, springy no good dull bugger, it was really work using it, throw your back out. One of my favorites for pitching hay to horses is a bundle fork, 3 tine. The straw forks, 4 tine, are really nice for moving large ammounts of grass straw, straw etc. We just buy new handles for the old forks when needed. Hubby found another old discarded fork out in the SE quarter section, half buried in the dirt.. it will get a new handle. Don't know how many pitchforks I have found in the old (100yr) junk piles on this place, some have broken tines. I use them for protecting flowers/little bushes in the flower beds etc. Nothing nicer than a good old pitchfork. Won't use the new ones.
Response by Jerry Hicks at 2010-02-22 07:02:20
Sara I think that is true of a lot of hand tools. The old ones are a lot better than what is beeing turned out now. I try to buy all of my hand tools at estate auctions or junk sells whether it is a pitch fork, an axe or a hammer. I just don't think the Chinese can compete with those old timers! It might be time to break out the shave horse and draw knife and start laying back good handles.
Response by Mule Man at 2010-02-22 08:50:56
I drive the old one out and drive the new one in . Sometimes you may have to trim a little.
Response by Dave Schulz at 2010-02-22 12:34:02
I have been replacing shovel handles with homemade ones that I carved out of sarvisberry.We don't have hickory out here, so I use what is available.
Response by Sara/Jerry Hicks at 2010-02-23 19:45:51
A draw knife is one of my favorites! Just can't pass up a good one at a yard/farm sale.. so nice to use. Priced some axes at the second hand store yesterday... wow.. he wanted $$$ for the good ones and the poor quality ones! Back to the pitch forks,tools etc.... its just like the old saying..."Ya git what you pay for!"
Response by K.C Fox at 2010-03-01 23:27:22
I'm looking at two peices of broken hedge fence post that ought to make a hammer handle, keep looking for a peice long enough for shovel handle. Just not long enough. grampa had some corner post 14 feet long 6" TOPS. dont know how to dig a hole 8' deep thats how far in the ground they were.
Response by Jerry Hicks at 2010-03-02 07:25:06
It sounds like I need to dust off my shave horse and start cranking out some handles. And hurry before the Ash borer kills all the Ash and Hickories around here!

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