Making a (rather fancy) Plane Hammer

Making a (rather fancy) Plane Hammer

A plane hammer is a tool that I’ve found myself needing for a while now, but every time I find myself at Lee Valley I end up finding other things to spend my money on and keep telling myself that I can make my own hammer. Well yesterday I was in a tinkering mood, so I made myself a rather fancy plane hammer.

Plane hammer - Making a plane hammer; Brass; Purpleheart; Rosewood

Purpleheart scrap for the head of the plane hammer

I raided my scrap pile to find suitable candidates for the hammer and decided on a piece of Purpleheart for the head and some Western Australian Desert Rosewood for the handle. I’ve had the WAD Rosewood scraps for some time now – these are pretty expensive and hard to come by in Canada, and they are a beautiful and dense hardwood, so I was saving them for a suitable project. The Rosewood has lovely purplish red splotches that I figured would go well with the Purpleheart head. For the brass side I used a threaded brass head, like the ones you see in cheap 4-in-1 hammers. With the stock decided upon, it was time to finally make myself a plane hammer!

Plane hammer - Making a plane hammer; Brass; Purpleheart; Rosewood

Rounding the head on the lathe

Initially I planned on making the head a simple round or rectangular shape, but then I figured I may as well have some fun with it. I used a ball peen hammer for inspiration as I’ve never seen a plane hammer made this way before. The first step was to cut the Purpleheart scrap in half and glue it up.


Sawing the cheeks for the handle tenon

After glue up I squared up the piece and rounded it on the lathe.My handle stock was 0.5″ by 1″, so I decided on a mortise 0.5″ wide by 0.75″ long. I clamped the round stock in a vise and bored out the waste, and cleaned out the remaining portions with a chisel. At this point I decided to round the tenon instead of squaring the mortise, as the round stock wasn’t the easiest to chisel straight down on.┬áJust to clarify – it wouldn’t have been safe to chop the mortise before rounding, as that increases the chances of catches and accidents on the lathe.

Plane hammer - Making a plane hammer; Brass; Purpleheart; Rosewood

Rounding the tenon using a rasp

I marked and sawed my tenon cheeks and got to work shaping the rounded tenons with a rasp. It pays to be careful here, taking it slow and trying the fit constantly. When the tenon was going halfway through the mortise, I marked the mortise with pencil to identify the tight spots and rasp accordingly. The resulting fit was pretty good, but had a little play along the length. That’s perfect though as I would be wedging the tenon anyways.

Plane hammer; Making a plane hammer, rosewood, purpleheart, brass

Threading the head for the hammer

I then got to work shaping the rest of the handle using an aggressive rasp followed by a finer one. The idea here is simple, whatever you do on one side, repeat on the other! Back to the head now, I chucked it back into the lathe and got to work shaping it like a ball peen. As always, I like to mark all the points at which features change or start in my workpiece. There were no essential measurements here (except for the  brass end, where it needed to meet the brass head accurately), so I just went until I was satisfied it looked good and ball-peen like.

Plane hammer; Making a plane hammer, rosewood, purpleheart, brass

The head shaped and finished!

As I mentioned earlier, the brass side of this plane hammer was threaded, so I figured I would drill and tap a hole for it in the head. This would make the brass head removable if I ever destroyed the hammer (not that it matters too much, but it’s nice to have the option). With the hole tapped, the only things left to do were wedging the tenon and finishing the hammer.


The wedged tenon connecting the head and the handle

For the wedge, I drilled a small hole at the bottom of the tenon, which I sawed done to. I cut a wedge from a piece of Walnut, just eyeballing the measurements. The grain direction of the wedge should be flowing into the tenon (end grain up). Then it was a matter of applying some glue to the tenon, tapping it into the mortise, and tapping the wedge in place till it would no longer go any further. Once the glue dried I cut the portruding portion off and sanded it down flush. Oh, and finishing – I finished the head on the lathe (burnishing and paste wax), and for the handle I used tung oil and buffed it with paste wax.

Plane hammer; Making a plane hammer, rosewood, purpleheart, brass

The completed plane hammer along with some of the tools used to make it

And there you have it, a rather fancy looking plane hammer! I am extremely pleased with how it turned out, it feels solid and very well balanced. The head-handle joint looks perfect, and the woods used go really well together. I have always had a thing for beautiful tools as I find them inspiring, and I think this one is going in my regular use collection.


The completed plane hammer without any of the tools used to make it!


Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Toolmaking, Tools, 0 comments