Homesteading Skills: Shovel Handles and Seed Types

Readers gain homesteading skills with information on replacing wood shovel handles, and a definition of the terms open-pollinated, hybrid and heirloom in seed catalogues.

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    If the handle broke off flush with the shaft, or too short to provide a hand hold, you'll have to build yourself a grip.

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MOTHER's column gives MOTHER EARTH NEWs readers a chance to ask our experts about a variety of homesteading problems that are in need of a good answer. 

Homesteading Skills: Shovel Handles and Seed Types

Getting a Grip

I need to replace the handle on my favorite shovel, but I can't figure out how to remove the old broken-off stub so I can get the new handle on. As I visit other people's yards, I'm always seeing broken shovels lying around, so a lot of us must have this problem.  

First, file the head off the pin that helps hold the wooden handle in the metal shaft of the shovel. If the pin goes just into the handle, pound the headless pin into the wood; it will come out with the handle. If the pin goes all the way through to exit on the other side, pound in the filed-offend until you can remove the pin from the other side.

Now look at the back of the shaft. If it is not welded together, take a couple of screwdrivers and pry it open, then pop the handle out. If it is bonded shut, things get a tad more interesting.

If the handle broke off flush with the shaft, or too short to provide a hand hold, you'll have to build yourself a grip. Find a good-sized eye screw, then drill a hole—just narrower than the screw's outside threads—into the handle and twist the screw in. (You can't just screw the fastener into the wood; doing so would force the wood to expand and wedge the handle in even tighter.) On the other hand, if the handle broke off high enough so you can grip it, you can skip this step.

Now heat the shaft with a torch until it is hot (but not glowing, or the metal will lose its temper). Make sure there is good ventilation, because there will be plenty of smoke. (If you don't own a torch, you might try heating the shaft over a barbecue grill.) Under heat, the metal will expand slightly and the wood will shrink—giving you just enough play to yank the handle out.

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