Loose hammer head

To my dismay my newly acquired goldsmith’s hammer has a loose head.
Was very inexpensive.

Yes, I know, one gets what one pays for, and I should have known
better than to buy it. However, the hammer head seems well made, and
the handle is formed nicely (fits my hand well), but it is so poorly
put together that the head wobbles on the handle.

Would cost more to ship it back than I paid for the hammer, and not
worth a trip to the post office. So I am trying to fix it on my own.

A friend suggested removing the head from the handle and soaking the
handle in water, but the head doesn’t want to come off.

Any suggestions other than to mark it up as a bad purchase and just
purchase a good, well made one.



A friend suggested removing the head from the handle and soaking
the handle in water, but the head doesn't want to come off. 

Hold the hammer by the handle, hammer head down, don’t have the
hammer rest on anything, and give the end of the handle a couple
good hits with another hammer or mallet. This will tighten up the
head by driving the handle into the head. Then soak it. I’ve heard
soaking hammers with wooden handles in automotive antifreeze will
give the wood a more permanent swelling than just water. Of course
keep open containers of antifreeze away from animals. They are drawn
to the sweet taste and it is quite toxic.

Rick Copeland

Drive a nail into the end of the handle, a wedge would be better. If
you try to swell the wood with water it will only shrink again as it
dries out, and rusts your head.

Hi Alma

An old trick is to use a square toothpick as a micro wedge. When all
the slack is taken up use Crazy glue to seal.

Lee Valley has something called Chair Dr but that swells wood to


Hi Alma,

I had the same problem develop quickly with my inexpensive repousse
hammer that I bought over three years ago. My hubby’s final solution
to the problem (after he tried a couple of other things) was to
drill a pilot hole into the part of the handle that goes through the
head, and then he screwed a short, fat wood screw into it. This
spread the wood and has resulted in a really tight-fitting,
apparently permanently fixed head, which has so far done at least two
years after the repair, with no movement whatsoever - and it gets
used a lot! Might be worth a try.


Any suggestions other than to mark it up as a bad purchase and
just purchase a good, well made one. 

Alma, loose hammer heads aren’t difficult to fix. You can, if you
like, simply force epoxy glue into the gaps between handle and head,
and for a light hammer like a goldsmiths hammer, this likely is
enough. Or just do what’s done in the first place to mount the hammer
head. Normally this is some form of steel wedge driven into the wood
at the end, which expands the wood end of the handle to fit tight to
the head. Sometimes a loose head simply needs to have the wedge
that’s almost certainly there, hammered in a bit more (some of them
are tubular, not straight, but the same applies. Or, simply add some
more wedge action. Take a larger nail, file or grind the point to a
more gradual point, either symmetrical or as a wedge, and hammer it
into the wood between the head and the existing wedge, till it’s
tight. Saw off the remaining nail and you’re in business.
Occasionally, with the hammers who’s wedge is one of those tubular
affiars, there may not be much exposed wood left to work in, so you
may have to use smaller nails. It sometimes then can take more than
one to do the job. But that’s OK. Still works fine. Do be careful,
however you do this, not to hammer more length of nail or wedge into
the wood than the head’s thickness, or you’ll be splitting the handle
below the head. Keep the length you drive in, less than the head
thickness, and you’ll be fine.

Soaking a hammer head can cause the wood to expand, but this is a
temporary solution. It shrinks again as it dries out. Better to just
tighten the head and be done with it.


Any suggestions other than to mark it up as a bad purchase and
just purchase a good, well made one. 

Screw a drywall screw into the top of the wood.


From David Huang http://www.davidhuang.org I learned to use super
glue (the thin variety) on both openings of the hammer head: where
the handle and hammer head meet and on the top around the handle at
the opening. Read through his Art Prize entry stages of work where
you will find it along w/ photos, as I remember. He has raised w/
the same hammer for more than 3 years and has not had to reapply the
super glue. Works like a dream! No soaking, no chair rung glue, just
plain old super glue, ready in 5-10 min.

There ya go,
Kay Taylor

A blacksmithing solution would be to whittle wedges to fill between
the head and the handle, then soak the whole thing, head and upper
part of the handle in water. To step it up a notch, do the soaking in
water and anti-freeze. The ethelyne (sp?) glycol prevents shrinking
after the wood has swollen to make the head tight. This
"loose-headedness" happens when the hammer has been stored in an
especially dry place, either in the inventory of where ever you buy
the hammer, or sitting in your shop. The handle may well have fit
tightly when the hammer was first made.

I should have also included tightening any wedges IN the handle
before soaking.

If you can get the head off the handle right now, it would make for
a great opportunity to improve its finish. Cheap hammers usually come
with a cheap finish: mill ground with sharp edges.

Sharp edges usually aren’t desirable, because if you hit a bit of
metal in any way other than exactly perpendicular, that edge will
leave a pretty little crescent-moon shaped scar that will take ages
to sand out. You can dress a hammer with its handle still attached of
course, but then you’ve got a foot or more of wood to get in your

When I bought my goldsmith’s hammer, also cheap, also with a loose
handle, I pulled the handle out and used a bench grinder to put first
a bevel the entire way around the broad face. When I had an even
bevel, I ground down the corners again to make a smooth, shallow
dome. I did the same to the pein, to make it rounded rather than
angled. I then smoothed out the grinding marks on both ends with
emery paper. I can’t remember exactly what grit I took it too, but
I’m pretty sure it was either 220 or 400. It wasn’t a mirror polish,
because I’ve got a separate hammer for planishing. The point is to
make sure you get out each and every single bit of the rough texture
left by the grinding wheel.

That done, I slipped the head back on the handle and used a mallet
to tap the head down until it would go no farther. I cut off the
extra wood so that there was just a tiny bit of handle sticking out
over the head, and then took a small wedge and drove it down into the
wood, to spread it. A nail would work, although it might be good to
grind down two sides of it so that it is rectangular in cross
section, rather than round: round is more apt to wiggle out over
time. If you mess much with gravers, the cut off ends left from
shortening them to fit your hand make excellent wedges for small

Anyway, drive the wedge in and see if it is still loose. If it is,
and there is room, drive a second wedge. If there’s a great gap to
fill, no number of wedges will be enough to keep the head on tight,
and it would probably be best to just start over with a new handle of
the proper size.

Alternatively, when my father would cut wood for his heater during
the winter, he would leave his sledge hammer and splitting maul
sitting in a bucket of antifreeze. The antifreeze will make the wood
swell just like water, but it doesn’t evaporate when it dries, or at
least, it doesn’t evaporate quite so quickly.



I’ve used antifreeze to fix this problem. Soak the head and the
portion of the handle where it’s loose for at least 2 days. The wood
swells and the head fits much tighter.

Hope this helps.

Hi Alma;

Don’t soak it in water. That will work for a while but when it dries
out it’ll be even looser. Try soaking it in automotive anti-freeze.
I’ve heard that works. If done properly, the handle will be attached
by means of a wood wedge crossed with a steel one. If the anti-freeze
trick doesn’t work, you may have to dig those wedges out, put in a
thicker wood one and re-insert the metal one. Let us know how it
works out. It usually doesn’t work for long driving the existing
wedges in deeper.

David L. Huffman


I occasionally get loose hammer heads.

I tap the base of the handle on a hard surface to seat the hammer

& then I smack the wedge (the metal in the wood in the hammer head)
w/ another hammer. This causes the wood to spread & tighten.

& viola! I’m good to go.

Be well, do good work,
Cristine McC

Alma, here is my first line of attack for wobbly hammer heads… This
is quick and easy and generally yields results… If not then i move
up to the more time consuming stuff…

Grasp the hammer by the handle with the hammer head up and the
handle end down.

Bang the handle end down a couple of times forcefully up on the top
of you stump, [this drives the head further, deeper onto the
handle]… Put it in a bucket, head down, add just enough antifreeze
to cover the head completely…

I do this to all my hammers about every three years, my heating
tends to dry out my studio and when wintertime starts is when the
problem starts… Antifreeze is good because it lasts longer than
water and doesn’t dry away as easily…

it will however remove the varnish from the wood on cheapy hammers
so thats why i just add enough to cover over the heads… let it
soak for 24 hours, wipe them off with a cloth and you are good to

that generally fixes my problems without having to use time, elbow
grease or wedges… I can do a dozen hammers in 20 minutes…

good luck…
Mark Kaplan

Antifreeze definitely does a better job of expanding wood. I know a
carriage maker who uses an antifreeze/water solution to tighten up
old wagon wheels.


Soaking the handle in water is a very temporary solution. If you are
really stuck, submerge the whole hammer before you want to use it -
if you have an ultrasonic cleaner, use that because it’s faster. The
head doesn’t need removing.This will only last for an hour or so -
it’s something we do if we don’t have time to fix something.