Auto Body Hammer Resto

Tool Restoration

H.D. Smith & Co.

I haven't done a tool restoration since the Wiss snips back in September.  Not that I have to do them all the time but they sure are fun.  So now I've completed the restoration of an H.D. Smith auto body hammer given to me by my Uncle, who also gave me the Wiss snips!  This should be a quick post so - let's get into it!

A (Very) Little About H.D. Smith & Co.

Before we get into the hammer itself, I thought maybe we could make note of the old H.D. Smith & Company.  The company was started Plantsville, Connecticut by, you guessed it - H.D. (Henry D.) Smith in 1850. In the beginning the company drop forged iron carriage parts, and by 1900 had begun to patent a number of hand tools, among them a forged steel hammer in 1907.  

As you'll see on our hammer later, H.D. Smith used a logo with an "S" inside a circle from as far back as November 7, 1871.  Alloy Artifacts has a lot more interesting information on the history of H.D. Smith on their website.   

So, What Have We Here? 

A few times now, for no other reason than he's a nice guy, my uncle has picked up some old tools for me.  This time, in addition to this red auto wrench, he snatched this vintage auto body hammer!   

She'd certainly seen better days.  This old cloth electrician's tape says a couple things - it was old, and it was covering something up.  My money said that handle was broken.

And of course, the head had some rust issues - just the way I love it!

A strong, well-built handle is essential to any quality tool. The hammer handle-making process has been perfected over hundreds of years. Hickory wood has long been thought of as the best material for hammer and axe handles. It is a heavy wood with a fairly straight grain. Hickory is also uniquely shock-resistant, a valuable characteristic for an impact tool. - The Hammer Museum

Let's Look At That Handle 

I have no idea what was going on with the wedges in the handle.  When I took it apart it seemed like some of the pieces were just large staples.  Not only was there no actual metal wedge, there wasn't even a wood wedge in the handle.  I suppose they (whoever they were) just drove in whatever little piece of metal they had on hand when needed.

Next I removed all that classic old cloth tape...

And there it was, the handle had three different splits, one of which ran about half way down the handle.  Of course, as predicted, that explains the tape!

And in a jiff - all two parts of the hammer were separated!

Rust Removal

Take another look at the picture above and take note of how rusty the hammer head was.  It was bad enough that some spots were scaly. Clearly some bit of work needed to be done to get that rust off, so I started with Evaporust...

As always the Evaporust did a really nice job, to the point that I didn't even need to use the wire wheel.   

However, I did run the edges and the faces on both ends through the belt sander. I took out as much of the pitting as I could, but I just didn't have the heart to go deep enough to remove all the pitting. It just seemed like I would have taken off way too much material.

After putting in a bit of effort with a little Flitz metal polisher, the hammer faces turned out pretty good..

Poplar is very soft, which makes it a great wood for axe handle wedges. It will expand and fit the gaps well when needing to properly hang an axe (or a hammer). Also, it is a very renewable resource as Tulip Poplar grows very fast. - Thrane Axe and Saw Company

Ford(?) Blue

A close inspection of the hammer head before all the sanding and cleanup showed that blue was the original color.  It was a kind of dark blue, but I had a can of model enamel that was Testor's equivalent to Ford Blue, although I think Ford's was a little darker.

Of course, after a quick painting I put it in the shop oven for a couple days to kind of bake the paint onto the hammer head.  I don't know if it really works that way, but it just makes a little sense to me so, why not?

I don't know, but I thought I'd include a kind of romantic shot of the oven baking away in the shop.  Interesting the things we consider romantic sometimes!

Some random tool restoration posts from 2022...
✤ Webbing stretcher upholstery tool - December 2022
Baily No. 5 jack plane restoration - October 2022
✤ Stanley No. 199 utility knife - August 2022
✤ Hand-cranked bench grinder - January 2022
And a random flower post from September 2018


With the hammer head all cleaned up and painted, it was time to hang it onto a new handle.  Over the years I've begin to have a little collection of metal and polar wedges for the hammers, so I didn't have to buy any for this little project.  

However - the eye on the hammer head is pretty small (small hammer, small eye), and I didn't have a metal wedge small enough.  So I clamped one in the ol' Channellock and ground the sides a bit so the wedge was a perfect custom fit! 

Then, before I cut the relief for the poplar wedge, I drilled a hole through the handle neck.  This helps to prevent the new handle from splitting when installing wedges.  A little trick I learned from Scoutcrafter on YouTube.

Then I cut the relief with a hack saw.  Normally I use a back saw but because the neck is kind of thin, I wanted to be a little gentler with the cutting.

Once the handle was nicely shouldered...

It was wedge time!

Putting in the wedges is always a bit nerve racking.  It's not particularly difficult to do, but this is the stage where, if you're going to split the new handle, you're gonna do it here.  But there's no finessing things at this point.  The wedge has to go in.  So, with a little glue on the wedge, I went at it.  And et voila! - No split!

Then the metal wedge (also a bit rough on the nerves) was driven perpendicular to the poplar wedge. And all of this was topped off with a bit of boiled linseed oil which I'll do every day for a week, then once a week for a month, once a month for a year, then yearly.  All of this, the relief cut, the bottom hole, poplar wedge, metal wedge and linseed oil will work together so this hammer head won't come off for decades!

After that, a couple coats of amber shellac finished off the handle...


And almost as quickly as it began, this restoration was complete.  Oh yeah - there's that circle S logo for H.D. Smith.

I also took a little acetone to the "Drop Forged" lettering just to gussy the hammer up a little...

Also, I've mentioned a couple times that this hammer is a little on the small side.  Here it is next to my everyday hammer, just to give it a little proportion.

A little beauty shot for your viewing pleasure!

Just one more!


And to wrap up this restoration, here's a peak at the new old auto body hammer in its natural habitat.  The only blue hammer in the stable! 

Thank you so much for stopping by - see ya' next time!
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