How to repair a pitchfork handle

Written by laura reynolds
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How to repair a pitchfork handle
Pitchforks are useful for cultivating and moving groups of plants. (tools image by Joann Cooper from

If you've inherited a pitchfork from a relative, you have good reason to keep it in good repair. These rugged old tools were made to last, and modern tools of comparable quality are expensive. Whether yours is an elegant hay fork or dowdy old garden fork, you recycle when you repair or replace a fractured, broken or rotted handle. If the handle is broken across the grain or badly rotted, buy a new handle and replace the old one.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Carpenter's glue
  • Tack cloth
  • Emery cloth
  • Medium sandpaper
  • Metal file
  • Rubber bands
  • Wood clamps
  • Boiled linseed oil
  • New handle
  • Securing bolts or screws
  • Wood scraps
  • Drill
  • Clean rags
  • Mallet and chisel
  • Wood rasp

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  1. 1

    Remove the bolts or screws that secure the handle to the fork's socket. Smooth surface splinters with an emery cloth or medium grit sandpaper. Use a chisel and mallet if necessary to remove rotted parts.

  2. 2

    Separate split wood and smooth the outside edges with an emery cloth to prevent further splintering. Do not sand the surfaces that will be glued back together. Brush off all sanding residue with a paint brush.

  3. 3

    Apply thin coats of carpenter's glue to both sides with a small brush and ease them together until they fit together without shifting.

  4. 4

    Clamp the pieces together with rubber bands, vice or carpenter's clamps and allow the handle to dry overnight. Promptly wipe excess glue from along the joined sections with a damp cloth.

  1. 1

    Cut off any rotted end on the old handle shank; fit the shank of the handle into the fork socket. Rasp or sand around the edges of the handle end until the shank fits firmly into the socket.

  2. 2

    Twist the handle so the straight side of the grain is on top and the curved grain is at the sides.

  3. 3

    Hold both handle and fork and drop or tap it, handle-top down, on a block of wood to seat the handle solidly in the socket.

  4. 4

    Insert bolts or screws through the socket into the shank of the handle. Handles must fit tightly for safe use; if yours doesn't, trim a bit off the end and refit it.

  1. 1

    Sand the handle lightly.

  2. 2

    Rub the handle with boiled linseed oil and let it dry overnight.

  3. 3

    Rub the handle with a dry cloth and repeat the oil rub to completely seal the wood.

Tips and warnings

  • "Dry-fit" pieces before applying glue so you know how they fit together.
  • Garden forks have thick tines and short "D" handles with horizontal grips at the end. Agricultural forks have thinner tines and long straight handles to allow leverage for lifting hay and other crops into bins or carts.
  • Handles often come with pre-drilled holes. If you must drill new holes for bolts in a new or shortened handle, seat the handle in the socket first and clamp it in a vice. Use a drill bit just slightly smaller than the diameter of the bolt.
  • Buy a new handle that matches the old one exactly to maintain your fork's balance.
  • Always wear safety glasses and gloves to protect eyes and hands when sanding, grinding or cleaning tools.

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