Making polyehtylene hammers

Hi all,

I have been able to buy a rod of ultra high molecular weight
polyethylene (UHMW-PE) to make some hammers.

But before I start off half-cocked I am seeking advice on to form
the rod to make cross-peen hammers. I’ve checked the archives and
have had no luck. I’ve also “googled” the net with the same results.
Hence I am seeking the advice of them members of this forum. I just
have have a very limited number of hand tools and hope that they
will do.

Thanks in advance for your help.

in “balmy” Victoria where I got sunburned on Saturday (if you can believe it)


My inclination would be to make a CAD model of the desired hammer
head and have it milled on a CNC mill from the UHMW plastic. Lots of
small shops can do this, for less than you think. Once the model is
made in CAD it can be modified very quickly to your future
needs/desires, scaled up or down, etc.

For work like this I suggest Brant at E-Wax in Chicago 630-968-6011.
Excellent model builder, CAD maker and CNC manufacturing for
jewelers and other trades.

Good luck, I’d think you have a marketable product…

The Gemcutter

Hello David,

I have been able to buy a rod of ultra high molecular weight
polyethylene (UHMW-PE) to make some hammers. 

I’ve made a couple such hammers and found them VERY useful. They’re
not going to win any beauty contests but they work well and have
turned out to be quite durable so I’m not complaining.

The tools I used were:

- one hammer handle (store bought or home made)

- hand drill 

- drill bits, I found that the brad-point drills used for wood
served nicely 

- heat gun 

- a sturdy screwdriver or a screwdriver bit for the drill or

- one long wood or gyproc screw 

- cut-off disk for flex-shaft or dremel (fine toothed hacksaw
will work just as well) 

- rat-tail wood rasp for shaping the hole through the head that
will accept the handle 

- (optional) flat wood rasps for final shaping on the head once
it's mounted on the handle 

- a dog dish 3/4 full of water 

- one pair of heavy work gloves, preferably leather, that you
don't mind messing up a little (hot plastic). 

The basic procedure is dead simple, it just takes a little finesse
to get it right:

- roughly shape the hammer head with saw, rasps, etc. At this
point you just want to approximate the final shape. 

- drill a hole through the head in order to accomodate the
hammer handle. A little undersize is best. Elongate the hole with
the rat-tail wood rasp until it looks like it is relatively close
to accepting the hammer handle. 

- slowly heat the hole with the heat gun. You'll find you need
to rotate the head around a lot under the heat so this is where
those heavy gloves come in handy. The UHMW will suck up a lot of
heat but don't rush it or it will either get too soft or it will

- once the plastic around the hole is soft enough to easily push
with your thumb, but not so soft as to be runny or sticky, shove
the top of the hammer handle into the hole. I found it best to
lightly clamp the hammer head in a (padded) machinist's vise,
this gave me an easy way to straighten the handle in relation to
the long axis of the hammer head. 

- once the handle is fully through the hole and properly
oriented in relation to the head quench it in the water. Leave it
in the water for 10 seconds or so in order to draw off the heat. 

- eyeball your work. If you really need to adjust it you can
re-heat the head but you're likely to scorch the head, the handle
or both. Getting it right to begin with is by far the better way
to go. 

- at this point the head should be solidly attached to the
handle with little or no gaps or spaces. 

- a little clean-up of the plastic around the hole may well be
necessary, rasps are good for the rough work and a bastard file
will finish it up reasonably well. 

- drill a small hole cross-wise through the head and handle to
accomodate the screw. Run the screw through and trim as
necessary. The idea is that you're locking the head to the

- do your final shaping on the hammer faces (squaring up,
adjusting the taper, etc). 

- a final light touch with the heat gun will smooth out your
file marks. 

- voila! Enjoy your new UHMW hammer. 

I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to contact me off-list for
details/clarification/whatever if you are so inclined.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit at

Hi, I made a bunch of mallets out of UHMW years ago, after attending
a lecture by David Pimentel. Here’s the basic process:

  • Cut the rod to an appropriate length. Typically, the head of a
    one-inch diameter mallet is about 5" long, the head of a 1.5-inch
    diameter mallet is usually around 6" long, and the head of a 2-inch
    diameter mallet can be 6" to 8" long.

  • If it is to be a cross-peen mallet, cut one end into a wedge-form.
    The shape of the wedge will vary according the work it will be used
    for, but usually, the wedge is less than half the length of the head.

  • Find the point where the mallet balances. Note that if the mallet
    is a cross-peen, the balance-point is not at the mid-point of the
    length. Mark this place as the position for the eye.

  • There are two ways to create the eye for mounting the handle.

  • Option A: Drill two holes next to each other. Use a bur in a flex
    shaft or drill to turn the two holes into one oval hole to
    accommodate the handle. Install the handle.

-Option B: Drill a round hole for a handle that is round at the end.

To keep the mallet-head from spinning or coming off, drill a hole
through the mallet-head and into the handle; insert a screw or rivet.

(The above is an excerpt from the book about basic shell forming
that I am writing with Betty Helen Longhi.)

Cynthia Eid


We got burned in Sequim too (Olympic Peninsula), was great

This is not really how to form the material you have, but about a
way to form a plastic sold by Douglas and Sturgess in San Francisco
area, called Adap-it. It comes in small pellets that you heat in hot
(not boiling) water and it turn from a milky white to a clear blob
that can be formed in any shape you want. It sticks to most any
surface (we use it to make larger handles on our dental tools for wax
work), it can be reheated and reformed, is strong, does not deform,
etc. I did a “temporary repair” on a friends glasses frame, where the
bow attaches to the frame, and he wore those glasses for over a year.
Strong stuff. I would recommend anyone wanting fast easily made
hammers and other tools get a bag of this stuff and give it a try. We
ALWAYS have some around, even in the cars, camping gear and in my

I am not affiliated in any way with Douglas and Sturgess, I am just
one very long time and very happy customer of theirs.

John Dach