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A few days ago, my wooden rake handle broke during use, so I grumbled about it, went to the hardware store a few days later, bought a new handle, and set about installing it.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to get to even get started because the remnants of the old handle are still wedged firmly in place. I tried to check a few Youtube videos on this, but they're either focused on repairing the broken handle or skip right over how to get out the remnants.

The second video I linked mentioned that I might need to use a chisel or a drill to get out the remnants, but didn't provide any details on how to do so and more or less suggest it was going to be a big pain in the neck.

For reference, these are relevant details about the rake:

  • Plastic frame;
  • Cause of the brake was probably too much exposure, so the portion that was outside was easy to break, but what's inside the frame is really wedged in there;
  • I've been digging at it with a couple screwdrivers and pulling pieces using my pliers, but haven't had a means to really pull out massive pieces.

I have been considering drilling, but I don't want to mess up my bits nor the frame. Specific concerns about drilling I have are heat related as well as not being able to tell when I'm hitting wood versus plastic. Can anyone provide some clarifying guidance on if this is a good idea or issues that might come up?

Below are some pictures for reference, note that I've already removed the screw that typically holds it in place:

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  • Drill bits should not be harmed by wood or a plastic frame, is this a leaf rake? I was trying to think of a plastic frame. If your bits are long enough I would try to drill the wood out. Staying to the middle incase it is screwed in. Possibly 3 holes in a line the use a flat blade screwdriver to twist or chisel. – Ed Beal Aug 16 at 1:26
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    WD-40 might be your friend here. Juice up the embedded handle/plastic contact surface. Wait a bit, then try twisting with a needle nose. I'd hesitate to go after the wood with by drilling. That plastic handle is liable to get holed and ruined. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 16 at 1:29
  • @EdBeal less worried about the bits and more about the frame. Looks a bit like this: lowes.com/pd/Blue-Hawk-24-in-Leaf-Rake/1000377423 – Pyrotechnical Aug 16 at 1:31
  • Ok I was guessing leaf rake all the ones I have had screwed in or had a bolt through holding the handle that’s why I suggested 3 in a row and a screwdriver if a screwdriver is just wedged in the expanded wood may not let it turn but if some of the wood is removed it might help. – Ed Beal Aug 16 at 1:46
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    Can you post a picture of the actual broken rake, please? I started writing an answer and then noticed the "plastic frame" detail which nixed that answer. Sometimes there's a retaining screw or rivet that needs to be removed. With other setups the whole handle needs to be unthreaded (it's screwed in at the bottom of the socket like a paint roller extension or broom handle) and some do both. IF it's just jammed in (unlikely) a slide hammer (autobody tool, mostly) might yank it out. Or screw in an eye bolt or hook and attach a rope, then yank on it. – Ecnerwal Aug 16 at 2:07
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Drill a series of holes with a 3/16" or 1/4" drill bit.

Use a flat blade screw driver to pry and work and brake up the wood.

Use a pair of needle nose pliers to pull the pieces out.

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I finally had a chance to get back to this project and I'd generally state that the Youtube comment that suggested this would be a big pain in the neck was pretty accurate. This becomes doubly true when you've got a toddler to keep occupied.

Drilling a series of holes as suggested in Alaska Man's answer sort of worked, but not particularly well. Due to the tight space, the wood didn't really have anywhere to go, so I couldn't really drill more than 1 hole at a time and then I'd have to sort of ram the drill against the edge of the wood. This was doubly difficult because the depth of the wood in the frame was right up against the limit of the length of my drill bit.

My overall solution was not pretty, but it did work (rake frame was fully re-usable with the new handle):

  • Drill a bit as far down as you can get (I used stainless steel bits);
  • Dump the remnants out as best as you can (may need to use pliers to get stuff that doesn't want to move);
  • Clear any residue in the bit and resume drilling the same hole, but shove the bit against the sides to try and knock more material loose into the space that's now available;
  • After ramming the left and right sides, start a new hole in order to get a little deeper into the middle of the wood;
  • After you drill a bit deeper, knock the debris loose and then try and pull the whole piece out using pliers.
  • If it doesn't come loose, just keep repeating the above steps until it does.

I found after about 15 minutes of this process, it finally popped out in one piece with what was left.

I'm not sure, but I suspect the wood itself expanded a fair bit due to persistent exposure to the elements. This is further evidenced because the wood that I was drilling out wasn't hard, rather, soft and pulpy so it was pretty common to have the drill bit get gummed up.

I think that factor combined with the fact that there wasn't a lot of space for the wood to go is what creates the overall difficulty. That and toddlers.

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