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How to replace the shaft of a hand shovel

Shop for Shovels

An example of where the shaft of a shovel may break Replacing a shaft may take time but it will certainly save you money. This guide applies to both wood and fibreglass shafts. For a steel shaft, it is recommended that the shovel is replaced entirely.
  Wonkee Donkee says 'Check that the length of the replacement shaft is the right size for your frame.'

When should you replace the shaft?

An example of waterproof tape If the old shaft is just rough to the touch then repair it with waterproof tape to give you a stronger grip as well as protection against wear and tear.

Replace the shaft, however, if it is splintered, broken or loose.

Before you begin

This shaft has grooves or threads It is important to buy the correct replacement shaft for the shovel head.

Some have grooves (or threads) where you simply unscrew the shaft from the socket then screw the replacement back in until it can no longer turn.

Don’t twist too hard or you could break one of the threads.

This type of shaft is secured in place with a rivet or a screw Other shafts however, have smooth tapered ends and are riveted in place.

The process of replacing this type of shaft isn’t quite as straightforward as the screw-in handle but the end result is usually longer lasting.

Removing the broken shaft

Hold the shovel in place by its socket in a bench vice if you have one

Step 1 – Secure shovel

Clamp the head of the shovel in a bench vice.  The socket and the broken shaft should point outwards towards you.

On the other hand, ask someone to hold the shovel for you.

Place it horizontally on the ground, blade up, and put a foot firmly but without applying too much pressure on the socket (the sleeve where the blade meets the shaft) to anchor the shovel.

Remove the rivet with a pair of pincers

Step 2 – Remove screw

Use a drill to remove the screw that secures the old shaft in the socket of the blade.

Alternatively, if it is a rivet, use a pair of pincers.  Clamp the edge of the pincer’s jaws onto the head of the rivet and prise it out.

This may involve a lot of twisting and turning!

Step 3 – Remove shaft

Remove the remainder of the shaft from the socket.  For stubborn pieces that refuse to come out, drill one or two 6.35 mm (1/4 inch) hole(s) in the wood to help loosen it.

Then tilt the head of the shovel with the socket pointed downwards and tap the edge of the blade with a mallet.  The lodged piece should ease its way out after a few blows!

Step 4 – Clean socket

Once this is removed, clean the socket and remove any debris.

Inserting the new shaft

Step 5 – Test the shaft

Insert the new shaft – tapered end first – and try it for size. Take your time as you only have one chance to drive the shaft in.

Some replacement shafts that are secured with a rivet may not be a perfect fit and will probably be too large.

If this is the case, use a wood rasp or knife to shave down the shaft until it fits.

Use an orbital sander or do it by hand The top of the shaft should be tapered gradually to drive into the socket later; use the original shape of your new shaft as a guide.

Try the handle for size between each filing then sand to a smooth finish. 

If it is too loose, make a wedge out of a piece of hardwood, like oak, and slip it into the socket.

Tap it down until the shaft is snug in the socket.

Tap the bottom of the shaft on the ground gently a few times to lodge the shaft in the socket

Step 6 – Insert new shaft

Once you are happy with the size of the shaft, slide it into the socket as far as it will go.

To drive the shaft into the socket, hold the shovel upright and give it a few gentle raps on the ground.  Don’t force it in: this may split the wood.

If you are using a wooden shaft, examine the direction of the grain before fastening the shaft in place.

If you are using a wooden shaft…

A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener compared to a screw

Step 7 – Secure shaft

Now secure the shaft in place using a rivet or screw.

A screw will more than likely need to be tightened from time to time. If you don’t keep an eye on this, you could lose the blade – mid-shovel and maybe with a blade full of cement!

Although a screw is easier and faster to use, a rivet is a more permanent fastener.

If you are attaching the shaft with a rivet…

Using an 3mm (1/8″) bit, drill a pilot hole (a starter hole to allow for the insertion of another drill bit or screw) through the hole of the socket of the blade and into the shaft.

Next, use a bit that is the same diameter (width) of the rivet to make the hole larger. This is where your rivet will go.

Use a drill to tighten the screw in place

If you are attaching the shaft with a screw…

Drill a 3mm (1/8″) pilot hole about 6mm (1/4″) in through the hole in the socket of the blade.

Position a 4 x 30mm (8 x 3/8″) screw into the pilot hole and tighten.

A shovel with a newly replaced shaft Now you’ve given new life to your shovel and at a fraction of the cost of replacing the shovel itself.