Wheel Barrow Handle Replacement

August 11, 2017

My wheelbarrow is probably my most versatile and widely used tool.  I used it for typical yard work tasks but I also use it to move things that are too heavy or awkward to carry like lumber or slabs.  I recently dropped a slab onto it and broke one of the handles. Since I have plenty of wood, I figured I could quickly and enjoyably make a new set of handles in a couple hours. 

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1 - broken handle

The status of the broken handle.  Snapped right off where the handle connects to the barrow.

2 - disassembly

First thing to do is to disassemble the wheelbarrow. The whole thing is held together with carriage bolts and I also realized that there was a pair of wedges that adjusted the angle of the barrow relative to the handles.  These didn’t need replacement but I figured I might as well make new ones so everything matches.

4 - stock layout

I have a chunk of ash that I cut about a month ago.  It’s from a small log that had been sitting for a few years so although it’s not completely dry, it’s certainly dry enough for something utilitarian as this project.  I can easily get the stock for both handles side by side and I’ll have an offcuts that I can use for the wedges.  I also have enough stock that I can make the handles a bit longer than the stock ones.  I always found them to be a little short and would constantly end up kicking the stand on the wheelbarrow as I walked.

5 - transition points

The stock is milled down to size and next I can start forming the handholds.  I’ll mark some rough transition points so I have some guides as I work.  That will help my produce something that resembles the original shape.

6 - drawknife

The biggest thing that got me excited about this project was shaping the handles.  I knew this would give me a good opportunity to work on my shaping skills and would give me a chance to use my drawknife for something other than bark removal.  I started roughing in a profile with the knife.  I was going for a round shape but the most important thing in my mind at this point was to shape something that would be comfortable in my hand.  I kept removing material until the handle’s diameter and shape felt comfortable in my hand.

7 - rasp

The surface left by the drawknife was pretty faceted so I smoothed everything out with a rasp and sandpaper.

8 - hole transfer

The last detail on the handles was to drill the holes for mounting the wheelbarrow to them.  I used the original and transferred the hole locations with a square and drilled them a bit under 3/8″.

9 - wedges

The last bit of woodworking is to create the wedges.  I milled up the offcut from the slab and traced the wedge shape onto it.  I cut the angle on the bandsaw and used a hand plane to get them both to the same size.  There are a couple of mounting holes drilled through each wedge and a counterbore to fit around a plastic washer that seals the barrow and makes it watertight.

10 - finish

For finish, I applied a few coats of Outdoor Oil which I had left over from the bed swing project.

11 - reassembly

Once the finish was dried, I could reassemble the wheelbarrow.  This went smoothly as all the holes lined up correctly.

11 - installed wedges

A view of the wedges on top of the handles.

12 - back view

The shape on the handholds differed but most importantly, they are both very comfortable in the hand.

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