I removed a couple small dowel rods that were on the handle end. The split was pretty good that went through the handle and down about 6 inches.
I used some small screwdrivers to wedge into the end of the tiller.
I got some low density filler and mixed it into some epoxy. I took a ziploc sandwich bag, cut a small part of a corner. With the ziploc, put some of the thickened epoxy mix into the bag and used it to inject into the split. Much like how cake decorators use the icing bags.
I was able to get the epoxy down into the crack and filled the holes the dowel rods were in. I also used some of the epoxy for filling in around a couple bungs (I found they're not being used to cover screws, at least the one on the very end). Removed the screw drivers causing the epoxy to ooze out where I used a clamp to compress it until it cured.
Sanded everything down smooth. At one point, I was using 80 grit on the top since that was in the worst condition. I then used 100 and 220 grit. There is still a few dark parts that show up with the varnish but I didn't want to take too much material off. I think it just adds to its character.
While trying to figure out how I was going to varnish, I decided to bend a hanger around a shelf in a closet and hung the tiller on it with screw drivers in the mounting hole. I used a trash bag under it in the case of drips. The space between the shelf and the tiller was very close but I made sure there was no contact.
The first coat, I mixed mineral spirits with 25% varnish. I wanted to make sure it soaked into the wood.
Second coat, I did while the first was still tacky (over night). I waited for the proper drying time of 24hrs, went outside to sand and for the 3rd and 4th coats, about 50/50 mix.
I did the 5th coat (shown below) with 50/50 again and for the next few coats, I will be going up to about 75/25 that, I think, will fill in what's left of the grain that's still showing and smooth out even more.
I like how it is coming out and looking forward to getting it back on the boat when it warms up. I think the Epifanes finish looks a lot better than the previous finish. For a 32yr old piece of wood, it's turning out very nicely. I still need to get a bolt to replace the bronze one I broke off. I found some 6" stainless bolts that should be long enough at Jamestown Distributors with hex heads I think might work out..