Replacing Your Shovel Handle – Like the Wonder Woman You Are.

I know. You have superhuman strength and you broke your shovel handle.  Way to go Wonder Woman.  Here’s how to replace that shovel handle. 

Rusty shovel with broken handle prior to replacing the handle, propped against brick wall of house.

I dug a hole and broke my shovel.  I’m a gardening beast with the strength of 12 oxen who just watched the movie Rocky. There’s no other explanation for it.

Either that or I didn’t take care of my shovel handle and left it out in the sun and rain every garden season since its birth. Regardless of how it happened (pretty sure it was the oxen strength) my shovel handle broke a couple of weeks ago when I was moving my asparagus patch in the garden.

Instead of buying a new shovel, I cleaned my old shovel up and then replaced the handle.

If you too are super human and broke a shovel handle, here’s how you can replace it.


How to Replace a Broken Shovel Handle

Materials

new shovel handle
rivets (often come with shovel)
chisel (an old one that’s past its prime)
hacksaw
hammer
drill & bits

Steps

  1. Clamp your shovel tightly into a vice.
  2. Using a chisel, angle grinder or hacksaw remove the rivet holding your broken handle on to the shovel head shaft. If the rivet is very tight use a chisel to pry it up just enough to maneuver a hacksaw blade into the space.

Chisel sliding under head of rivet head on shovel handle being held in vice.

for everyone in the comment section having a heart attack over using a chisel, please note you should use an old chisel.

2. Once you have enough room for your hacksaw blade, use it to cut the head of the rivet off.

Hacksaw blade running under rivet head to remove it from shovel handle.

 

Rusted shovel handle being held tightly in a vice showing rivet with the head removed by hawcksaw.

 

3. Using a punch or a narrow screwdriver, pop out the rivet.

Punching through a rivet from old, rusted shovel head to remove old handle.

 

4. Once the rivet is out you have the mess of a handle left inside the shaft to deal with. All the wood needs to come out.

Removing the wedged in wood from a broken shovel handle is a difficult job, but it IS doable with these tips.

Removing the wood is the biggest pain in this whole process.  You have to chisel and hammer and drill until all the wood comes out.

Drilling out the remnants of a shovel handle from the shaft of a rusted shovel head.

TIP

If you know your shovel handle is on its last legs, replace it BEFORE it breaks.  That way when you remove the rivet holding the handle to the shaft, you can just pull the shovel handle out with a couple of whacks to the shovel head.  This is a lot easier than chiseling out the broken wood.

Cleaned out shovel head, prepared to receive a new handle.

5. Grab yourself a new shovel handle.

Karen Bertelsen (wearing chartreuse pants) holding a brand new shovel handle.

TIPS

  • Shovel handles are different than brook handles. They’re thicker and longer.
  • When you’re picking a shovel handle, pick one that has obvious straight lines and obvious grain.  This is important when you’re positioning your new handle into the shovel head.
  • Some shovels come with rivets.  Others don’t. If yours doesn’t, make sure you buy a couple of rivets.

Close up view of the face grain on shovel handle.

This is a good example of seeing the face grain of the wood. It’s the stuff that looks wiggly.

 

Close up view of the stronger edge grain in a shovel handle that should face forward.

This is a good example of the edge grain of the wood. It looks like straight lines.

Your handle should have visible straight lines and visible wiggly lines.  Pay attention to these.

6. Seat your new handle into the shovel head by holding it like you see in the picture below and giving it a few whacks against a cement floor or sidewalk.

**  MAKE SURE THE STRAIGHT GRAIN IS AT THE FRONT AND BACK OF THE SHOVEL HEAD. The curvy grain should be at the sides.**

If you set the shovel handle this way it will be much stronger and harder to break.

Karen Bertelsen seats shovel handle in the midst of a messy basement workshop.

 

7. Once the handle is seated you can drill a hole through the handle where the new rivet(s) will go.

Shovel head held tightly in a vice while a drill kicks up sawdust, creating a hole in the new handle for a rivet to go through.

 

My handle came with a plug in the end. Inside were two rivets.  Shovel rivets have a head only on one end.  They hold in place when you hammer the other end which flattens it out.

New shovel handle with a blue rubber cap removed that covers a discrete hole in the top of the handle that holds two rivets.

8. When the hole is drilled into your handle, knock a rivet through it. It should slide in fairly easily.

Hammer aimed over new rivet being placed through hole while replacing old shovel handle with new.

 

9. Flip the shovel over so the end of the rivet without a head is facing up.  Place your handle on a strong solid surface and whack the end of the rivet several times with a hammer to flatten it out.

Hammering the end of a rivet end to flatten it out over a shovel handle.

Flattened out, now the rivet has two heads and can’t fall out.

Gleaming hand hammered rivet that's been flatted out while replacing an old shovel handle with a new one.

10. Add a coat of beeswax and mineral oil (like my Beeswax Board Butter) to your shovel handle to protect it from the elements.  You can also use something like Thompson’s Water Seal.

 

Old shovel head with a properly replaced new handle, resting against a porch pillar in front of an apple espalier.

 

 

You’re done!  Unless of course you want to add your maker’s mark.

The Art of Doing Stuff cleaver logo stamped on a new shovel handle.

Why do all this? Why not just get a new shovel? Reduce, reuse, recycle, revamp.  Also, there’s that feeling of accomplishment you get when you achieve something that would make Charles Ingalls proud.

You can do it.  You’re Wonder Woman.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

 

Replacing Your Shovel Handle - Like the Wonder Woman You Are.