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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The status of the broken handle. Snapped right off where the handle connects to the barrow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The surface left by the drawknife was pretty faceted so I smoothed everything out with a rasp and sandpaper.
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″.
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.
For finish, I applied a few coats of Outdoor Oil which I had left over from the bed swing project.
Once the finish was dried, I could reassemble the wheelbarrow. This went smoothly as all the holes lined up correctly.
A view of the wedges on top of the handles.
The shape on the handholds differed but most importantly, they are both very comfortable in the hand.