Back in January of 2012, a little more than 4 years ago, I bought a Dewalt 17 oz hickory-handled smooth-faced hammer.
I intended to use this Dewalt hammer as my primary nail hammer, but lost track of it in the bottom of a tool cabinet drawer.
I recently emptied out my tool cabinet to move it, and rediscovered my Dewalt hammer. It’s always nice to find a tool that I forgot I had, especially with some nailing projects coming up.
But… it’s decomposing. The entire thing is covered with a sticky and slimy reside. The handle is just a gummy mess. It’s not falling apart, it’s just… gross. Part of the sticky mess extends up to the clear lacquered part of the handle.
It’s not uncommon for some plastics to decompose in the presence of other materials. I have a certain pencil eraser that decomposed part of a clear plastic pen that it was in contact with and undisturbed for a long period of time.
I have some hammers that stuck to mesh drawer liners after being undisturbed for a long time. I just peeled them up and used them. I guess there’s an interaction between the lacquered finish and the drawer liner material.
But with this Dewalt hickory hammer, the black handle grip is just… uch. I could probably stick to the wall and it’d stay there.
I threw it into a plastic bag and back into the tool box. I figure I should get to it soon before things get worse.
Any idea as to what might have caused this, and how to clean it? I’m guessing that I’m not the only person and this not the only tool that this has happened to.
The issue isn’t localized – it’s the entire black part of the hammer handle that’s affected.
The only thing I could think of is that some other tools outgassed a chemical the led to the decomposition of the Dewalt hammer handle. I had some seldom-used tooling in the same drawer, and while there might have been a little bit of oil residue to prevent rust, it’s not like they were dripping oil all over the place.
Oil will degrade certain polymers, so perhaps that’s what happened here.
My gut feeling is that the handle is trashed and will never be the same. When new, it was soft and grippy. I’m worried that it’ll never be dry-grippy again, and that it’ll be sticky-grippy no matter what I do.
Maybe worst case scenario I dump it in a dark corner of my workshop (again) and hope that when I find it again I’ll have time to strip it down to the bare wood. It would be nice to restore the black grippy area of the handle, but a bare wood-handled hammer is better than a gripped-handled hammer I refuse to use.
Buy Now(via Amazon, and don’t lose it in a drawer for 4 years)
The model I’m specifically referring to is DWHT51411, but there are a few other 17oz hickory handled models with the same handle design.
mike aka Fazzman
If it were me id probably try and find a replacement handle for it and call it done if possible.
Otherwise id just remove the sticky stuff and sand it down and recoat the handle,wouldnt take that much time.
I haven’t seen any replacement handles.
I paid $21 for the hammer. With how much a replacement handle will probably cost with shipping, I might as well buy a new hammer, but that seems wasteful, ignoring for a moment whether I would want to buy another one or not.
MSC sells many hammer handles under $6 to $8 – but you’re probably right that shipping may cost you more than the handle. It might not be worth the labor and effort (sanding or solvents or freezing and scraping) to clean it up – unless you really liked the hammer
Ask DeWalt if there is a remedy. You may receive a replacement.
If it were mine, I’d probably just put a new handle in it.
How about asking for a replacement? I’m sure Dewalt wouldn’t be so proud of having this issue on their products. It cost nothing to try. You can ask in a store, but I would ask to get in touch with the Dewalt rep of your area. I’m sure they will replace it at no charge.
Fresh coat of Plasti Dip?
Thats what i was thinking too, scrape off the old with a sharp knife and try this stuff http://www.lowes.com/pd_42518-61158-11603-6_1z0s2zy__?productId=3543512&pl=1
Alternatively, tons of guys ive worked with just use hockey stick tape or even electrical tape and it works just fine
Eat the $21 and get an Estwing! Really, a big rip claw framing hammer shouldn’t be your primary hammer unless you’re doing a lot of framing.
My rubber east wing hammer is doing the same thing . I like the idea of hockey tape . I have cleaned it like 3 or 4 times washed it will all kinds of cleaners , still sticky , over it .
This is strange – never seen the handle decompose like that… Personally I’d just get rid of it (sure, you can try sanding the affected area, but then it might start decomposing again right after that) and get/use something else, with different handle material.
Not sure if it’s the same problem, but I have a flashlight with a rubberized grip that turned into a sticky, nasty feeling mess after sitting in my truck for a couple of years. Surprisingly, a firm wipe down with Chlorox sanitizing wipes removed the ickiness and the light is like new again.
I’d scrape off the rubber gunk if it’s totally decomposing, but maybe try something like Goo Gone first to try to remove just the sticky residue.
Instead of a buying a whole new handle, personally I’d use it bare or maybe apply something like tennis racquet grip tape.
Second the goo gone. It works miracles. You may want to use a heat gun first to make whatever’s on there liquid and get it off easily with a rag.
I’m surprised that someone didn’t say” What you need to do is, wait a minute, is that thing made in America?”
I had a lot of rubbery coatings (like umbrella handles, knobs on stereos, tool handles) breakdown into a sticky mess like that. Apparently, it’s some sort of rubber paint that makes it feel nice and grippy when new, but only lasts a year or so. Just use some 70% isopropyl and it’ll come right off. You’ll end up with a smooth plastic handle.
I was searching on how to get the sticky off of a cheap rotary tool handle the 70% rubbing alcohol worked great. Thx
Cool another Patrick! I was confused when I saw your comment thinking to myself “I don’t remember commenting here before.”
Don’t put anything with an adhesive on it. You’ll just have the same problem again eventually. Silicone tape is the best idea, as it sticks to itself without any adhesive, and comes in different colours. Plumbers use this all the time.
As for cleaning it first, Goo Gone or just plain lighter fluid will do the trick, and lighter fluid is much cheaper than Goo Gone, or any other branded adhesive cleaner.
Once it’s cleaned, try this latex-cloth tape from Lee Valley. I’ve used it to wrap a backpack rubber handle that was also decomposing to a gross sticky mess. http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=31213&cat=1,130,43332
I’ve used lots of medical supplies and that stuff is very much like Camo Form. I’ve wrapped a steering wheel, shifter, e-brake, and levers with that stuff in my car only to have that stuff stiffen up and fall apart after maybe a year or two in the sun. When I’ve used that stuff to wrap knife handles, it became a little sticky and gooey after a while. So my experience has been varied.
I’ll do a little research on that myself!
Good idea. I was wondering about putting like a heat shrink tube over it. Don’t know how durable that would be though.
I was thinking the same – in the CATV world, we used a lot of thick adhesive-lined heat-shrink stuff over the aerial coax connectors. That stuff would last a very long time on a handle and probably work well too; I’d bet the adhesive would keep it from rotating on the handle. Though finding it and getting a chunk would be a pain (unless you got it from someone in a cable company bucket truck!).
I have this on one of my hammers. As you might expect it will not last, but while it does it has a good feel & is worth the cost. No sticky residue either. Really slick product. If you aren’t a full time carpenter I’m sure it will last near forever as long as it’s not exposed to UV rays in storage
WD-40 does a good job removing gunk, I’m sure there are better products out there, but most folks have a can of this stuff stored somewhere. Check your dremel bit stash, might have one on hand to expedite this task.
throw it in the parts washer to get rid of the sticky stuff and plasti dip it
I have found that rubbing alcohol (70% IPA) mixed with a little scouring powder works well on black plastic that develops a film.
I’m not sure what does it.. But the interior of my Honda did the same thing some time back, most of the grippy lining on the compartments just seemed to melt down and make everything in there nasty.
I would try something like Goo Be Gone or Duck Brand Adhesive Remover (my preference) first. If/when you get the adhesive remover off, I wouldn’t be worried about grip. If it bothers you, just take a rasp or 4 in hand and rough up the handle perpendicular to the grain like on some axe handles. It even feels comfortable to me.I never use a fine grit sandpaper to finish my wood handles. Don’t forget to oil up your handles, I use Beeswax mixed with other natural oils. I prefer natural oils with a long life unlike some which go rancid quickly. Mineral oil is great to mix with Beeswax and doesn’t go bad but I try to cut down on Petroleum products when I can. You can use used motor oil but I’d skip the beeswax. The oil infused handle keeps the wood supple and less prone to cracking as well as keeping water out of the wood. Beeswax tends to stay on the outside making it more water resistant but the oils help try to pull the beeswax in.
I used goo gone on my power drill casing. It took the sticky away, but also removed some of the gripping coating material. Oh well at least it’s not sticky.
Goo gone, rubbing alchol, wd40? Try one or all of those. Once the handle is clean sand it down to bare wood and apply a coat or two of boiled linseed oil. Hickory is a great material for handles. I doubt you will need any kind of tacky grip.
Better yet just drop the handle in some boiled linseed oil if you arent going to use it super soon. Just be careful with the rags after you wipe it down.
Like others have suggested either goo gone or rubbing alcohol will remove the “gunk” also depending on how that goes, a citrus based cleaner will help too.
– as for the ideas about replacing the gription you’ve lost on that hammer save your money and hands, do what all of us used to do long before Ti became a thing that everyone just had to have for everything; get yourself a bike inner tube, yes you’ll need to do some careful measuring to ensure you get one small enough but its worth the time and effort and you can’t beat the cost either – about $2.50. if need be a small amount of contact cement just to ensure it never moves.
I put some on my old Hart’s and they have served me well over the years of daily use.
Just my 2cents from the cheap seats
Sometimes I hear them referred to as ranger bands. I use innertubes to attach things to knife sheaths and I cant stress enough to get one a smaller diameter than the handle. Otherwise you can cut and twist multiples of them to make a handle grip if you need them tighter.
2 layers of double walled shrink tubing. I have wrapped many ratchet and hammer handles over the years, never had a melting problem. Another way to go, wrap with a cushioned grip tape, then overwrap with the double walled shrink tubing, over lapping the tape and handle by 1/8″ to seal it up tight. If you dont like it, just slit down the middle and peel off.
Rubbing alcohol, preferably the 90% stuff seems to work best on cleaning those decomposing rubber handle coatings. Since it’s a wood handle underneath I’d just go ahead and hit it with some paint stripper though, that will get it all off completely and you can recoat it or just leave it bare.
Ah good idea, I imagine the paint stripper would do the trick nicely. You might also give acetone a try.
Let us know what you end up doing Stuart, I’m curious to hear how it turns out.
Heat and a sharp plastic scraper to start.
Acetone to finish. Goof-off if that’s what you have handy.
Strip off the worst of the bad grip & apply a wrap of hockey tape. You’re fortunate enough to have a popular blog, so Dewalt might see this post and act.
If it’s been sitting next to anything giving off Ozone (like electric motors) it might be affected by it. I was working in a lab once and we had a lot of small electric motors going that were connected to a nearby computer, and the rubber feet on the keyboard basically melted (not through heat, just degraded) because of all the ozone.
just wrap it in gorilla tape and use it until it breaks.
Gorilla tape just becomes a sticky mess and fails with warm temperatures. Ive sworn off the stuff years ago because it has always failed me to the point where I could count on it to fail and sure enough it does.
sand and refinish yourself… its super cheap and a fun little project you can share with all of us
Take it back.
Had something similar happen with a K&N “lifetime” air filter a few years back. The rubber surrounding the actual filter element turned into to a runny goo. K&N claimed that they had a miss-formulated “bad batch.” Replaced it without argument.
Re-Grip from Rockler or Woodcraft. Been meaning to get some myself. Thanks for the reminder.
After removing the old stuff, this is a very good option if you dont mind paying the money.
Had the exact same thing happen with my FastCap flatback tape measure. Wrote them asking about what would cause it and any way to “fix” it. They didn’t explain, but sent me a new tape. I wrapped the old one in paper towel and put back in the exact same spot in the drawer. About a year or so later I was organizing and pulled it out, and it had “reconstituted” itself and has been fine for 3 years since.
Wasn’t there a post on this very subject not too long ago?
Try scrubbing it with 409 household cleaner. This spray rubber crap is on a lot of products and it usually starts to get gummy in 4-6 years. It appears to be something that coats the surface making it sticky. We have had success by wiping off the rubbery goo with elbo grease and cleaning solution. Eventually the the rubbery stuff was back to normal. No need to scrape it off the tool. I do not advise acetone, as that usually melts rubber.
Tennis racquet wrap will wear out in time but it’s cheap and more importantly will reduce the vibration. Plenty of options, here is one http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/121535511614?lpid=82&chn=ps&ul_ref=http%253A%252F%252Frover.ebay.com%252Frover%252F1%252F711-117182-37290-0%252F2%253Fmtid%253D1588%2526kwid%253D1%2526crlp%253D53601919689_324272%2526itemid%253D121535511614%2526targetid%253D173528688009%2526rpc%253D0.18%2526rpc_upld_id%253D66849%2526device%253Dt%2526mpre%253Dhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.ebay.com%25252Fulk%25252Fitm%25252Flike%25252F121535511614%25253Flpid%25253D82%252526chn%25253Dps%2526adtype%253Dpla%2526googleloc%253D9010769%2526poi%253D9010778%2526campaignid%253D239125209%2526adgroupid%253D14978428809%2526rlsatarget%253Dpla-173528688009%2526gclid%253DCj0KEQjwid63BRCswIGqyOubtrUBEiQAvTol0THASUDoJai1S0Wa0vOusCZ6OL_SycL8J4zgLlgaQZoaAptd8P8HAQ%2526srcrot%253D711-117182-37290-0%2526rvr_id%253D1004744295404&ul_noapp=true
Reading all these methods – reminded me of my old days in a Lab course as a TA . We had beaker and flask tongs that had some sort of rubber tubing on the handles that would get sticky and was hard to take off. We’d hold the tongs by the tip – give the offending handles a quick dip in a dewar flask of liquid nitrogen and then smack them down on the stone lab bench.
DOW 111 Silicone Valve Sealant and Lube is excellent for plastic maintenance. Use it on power tool overmold, hand tools like Wera SD handles or Snap-On comfort grips. Just apply and rub in, the wipe up excess with paper towel. It extends the effective lifespan and usability of plastic tremendously. It’s also great for gaskets and o-rings in water filter sumps and garden hoses and the like. ALSO: savvy techs use this product, or a similar one, to maintain the weather strips on auto/truck doors. Virtually eliminates difficulty opening car doors in winter caused by freezing temps.
The same thing happened to the handle of an umbrella that I always left in the car. I just wiped it down with a rag to get off most of the gooey stuff and wrapped it with electrical tape. Works great.
I also wrap some of my other tool handles with electrical tape also once the plasti dip stuff starts cracking. It makes a pretty good replacement grip.
I would put in a note to Dewalt and at least ask if they have heard of such or what the rubbery material on the wood actually was. It helps to know what you are dealing with when you can.
I would then use a plastic scraper and scrape as much of the gum off as you can – then soak the end of the handle (or the whole thing) in some solvent. I think I would use paint thinner for less than 30 minutes. not long enough to start affecting the wood. should be bare by then – clean with some simple green, then rinse twice with water.
dry for a day
re-clean or poly the wood.
or just find a nice 6 dollar hickory handle and re handle it – because most old fashioned hardware stores still carry them and they tend to be fairly cheap still. That is if the hammer head isn’t full epoxied on.
Throw it out. The off gassing of whatever chemicals the chinese mixed in will kill you.
Buy an Estwing or Vaughan.
All DeWalt Hickory Hammers come with, “Grip enhancing finish reduces slipping” . The entire handle is coated.
OK, it’s been a year. What did you do and how has it lasted?
I threw it into a “uch, I’ll deal with this later” box, the same as my not-working-satisfactory-right-out-of-the-box Wilton clamp-on vise. https://toolguyd.com/wilton-super-junior-clamp-on-vise/
I’ve been using my trusty Estwing, will eventually get around to dealing with this hammer and its decomposed grip. Maybe it decomposed further in the year since.
Thanks for all the great tips — the handle on my Kawasaki 19.2v cordless drill had the same stickiness discussed above. Used a Clorox wipe to get most of the stickiness off, followed by WD-40 on paper towel to wipe off all residue. Worked great, but don’t know for how long. Also used WD-40 on paper towel to wipe out the plastic storage case the drill had been in for at least two years and will go back in after use this time.
I’ve found dusting it with talcum powder works wonders.