Do your wooden-handled tools loosen or break? The culprit could be the design.

Many wooden-handles are ground horizontally (Figure 1a above), which creates a sharp shoulder to accommodate the tool head (Figure 1b above).

“That sharp shoulder is just like having a cold shunt in your steel,” says Matt Lybeck, a Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., farrier. “Your handle can snap off there.”

This type of design eventually will lead to an ill-fitting tool.

“After using it for a while, the tool head will start to loosen,” he says. “You’ll see people thumping the bottom of the handle on the anvil to get it to fit farther on the handle.”

The tool becomes a victim of its own design.

“They’ll keep trying to thump the tool head on,” Lybeck says, “but it can’t go anywhere because you have that shoulder there.”

To maintain a better fit, Lybeck utilizes a different technique.

“Place the tool head on the end of the handle and trace around the inside of the eye (Figures 2a and 2b),” he explains. “It can get tricky. Some of the deeper handles won’t let you get a pencil or marker down there to mark the wood. I’ve tried balancing the hammerhead on there and hitting it with spray paint so I have a precise line to grind to, but I’ve found that works 20 to 30% of the time.”

After drawing the lines, grind the handle vertically (Figures 3a and 3b).

“When you grind the tool end vertically and it’s flush against the belt, it allows you to look down right between your handle and the belt,” Lybeck says. “When you grind it this way, you’re feathering it into a continuous radius and it will result in an hourglass-type shape.”

Inevitably, the wood will wear away with use. While a hard shoulder that’s ground horizontally won’t allow the tool head to move down, the radius will.

“When it starts to loosen up,” he says, “you can bang it on the anvil or tap it farther in with a hammer and the tool head has somewhere to go.”

Get more tool tips from Matt Lybeck by reading, “Tool Prep Makes Your Job Easier” in the July/August 2018 issue of American Farriers Journal.