Making Your Own Chisel Handles

You don’t need to personal a lathe to make alternative handles
that may really feel like an extension of your hand.

by Roger Holmes
pgs. 84-88

From the February 2002 problem #126

Buy the issue now

A number of months in the past I needed to face the disagreeable reality about my
chisels. Given to me years in the past by my father, my trusty previous set
of Marples bevel-edge chisels had run out of metal. Floor and
sharpened to stubs, they’d to get replaced.

Some research into the chisel market revealed a
surprisingly massive choice. The essential consideration, it
appeared to me, was efficiency – which blades would take the
keenest edge and maintain it longest. However after I’d plowed by means of a
stack of opinions (not being a software metal skilled, I relied on
the exams and expertise of others) and narrowed the sphere, I
discovered I’d ignored a second essential consideration: handles.

Irrespective of how marvelous the innovative, if the software feels
like a billy membership in your hand it’s of little use. A number of of
the top-performing chisels had clunky handles, whereas the
handles I preferred finest have been hooked up to chisels that didn’t charge
so excessive. Marples chisels, whereas not on the prime of the league
efficiency scores, have been a superb worth for cash. However as an alternative
of the leather-washered, properly proportioned ash handles of my
previous set, they arrive at the moment with quite billy-clubbish handles of
composite or ash. Ultimately, I discovered myself shopping for a number of
chisels as a lot for his or her handles as for his or her metal.

The extra I thought of it, the extra this appeared an sad
compromise. It was as soon as widespread follow to promote unhandled
chisels. Craftsmen purchased the chisel blade then purchased or made
a deal with. Is smart – and in the event that they made their very own deal with, it
was cheaper. Few, if any, software retailers promote unhandled chisels
at the moment. However you possibly can nonetheless get the perfect of each worlds. Ignore
the deal with and purchase the software for its metal or its worth for
cash or no matter else appeals to you. Then minimize off and substitute
the offending deal with.

You possibly can flip a chisel deal with on a lathe in a couple of minutes. If
you don’t have a lathe, you possibly can form one with drawknife,
spokeshave, aircraft or chisel nearly as shortly. Sounds easy.
And for probably the most half, it’s. Most bench chisels are hooked up
to their handles by a tang, as proven within the drawing. The one
actual difficulties in rehandling a chisel contain making the
pilot gap within the deal with for the tang. The outlet have to be sized
to make sure a decent match with out splitting the deal with. And it should
align the deal with and the blade on the identical axis. So, earlier than you
slice off the handles of your favourite chisels for alternative,
rehandle an analogous, however much less valued, chisel (or two) for

Off With the Previous
Earlier than you possibly can placed on a brand new deal with, it’s important to do away with the
previous one. First, mark the estimated size of the tang on the
deal with – 2″ or so ought to do – then minimize off the highest of the
deal with above that time. I minimize each composite and wooden handles
with a hacksaw. If I’ve miscalculated the tang size, I gained’t
spoil the tooth of my good backsaw.

Noticed off the highest of the previous deal with with a hacksaw – you gained’t
injury the noticed tooth in case you hit the tang by mistake.

In the event you’re eradicating a wood deal with and also you need to reuse the
ferrule, subsequent make just a few noticed cuts simply above the ferrule down
to the tang. Then cut up away the rest of the deal with, utilizing
one other chisel as a wedge. Chances are you’ll now be capable of drive the
ferrule off the tang with a hammer and chilly chisel. Or chances are you’ll
must bore out a number of the wooden from contained in the ferrule to
loosen it. In the event you don’t need to preserve the ferrule, simply minimize
by means of its size with the hacksaw and pry it off the tang.

After making noticed cuts on the prime of the ferrule in to the
tang, cut up a wood deal with away from the tang.

The method is comparable for a composite deal with, which is forged in
place across the tang. Utilizing the hacksaw, I minimize off the top of
the deal with. Then I make lengthwise cuts right down to the tang to
quarter the rest of the deal with, which makes it simpler to
cut up.

To take away a composite deal with, noticed lengthwise right down to the tang
in three or 4 locations, then cut up the stays of the deal with
from the tang.

Tang Varieties
Tangs on my previous chisels are
four-sided and tapered to a degree. Some are irregular and bear
the marks of forging. They’re seated within the deal with in a
stepped pilot gap, as proven within the drawings on the next

Tangs on a few of my newer chisels are forged, not solid. These
for wood handles are faceted on 4 sides, however not tapered.
They seat in a single pilot gap. The corners of tapered and
faceted tangs dig into the wooden to make a decent,
torque-resistant match.

The chisel blade within the middle has a solid, four-sided
tapered tang. The opposite blades have forged tangs. The left one,
for a composite deal with, is cylindrical, with small “fins”
alongside its size. The proper blade, for a wood deal with, has
4 faceted faces however no taper.

Tangs for my composite dealt with chisels are cylindrical, with
small raised “fins” alongside their size to key them into the
composite materials fashioned round them. Pushed right into a wood
deal with bored to the identical diameter because the tang (or barely
smaller), the fins may be sufficient to make sure a decent match,
notably for a light-duty chisel. I floor sides on the
tang and sized the pilot gap accordingly to be on the protected

Grind flat sides on a spherical forged tang made for a composite
deal with to make sure a decent match within the new wood deal with.

To make sure that the perimeters of the tang dig into the wooden, the
pilot gap needs to be smaller than the tang. For a
square-section tapered tang, the bigger of the stepped pilot
holes will be the identical diameter because the diagonal throughout the tang
as measured about one quarter the size of the tang from the
bolster. (The bolster is the flared part between the
chisel’s slender neck and the tang; it seats towards the top of
the deal with.) Take the measure for the smaller gap about
three-quarters of the size of the tang from the bolster. For
an untapered faceted tang, make a single pilot gap of smaller
diameter than the tang’s diagonal measure. The distinction in
the scale of the outlet and the tang will be bigger in softer woods
than tougher woods, which have much less give and can cut up extra

These brief cylinders of brass or copper bind the deal with simply
above the bolster of the chisel. The bolster and ferrule work
collectively to forestall the deal with from splitting when the chisel
is pushed by a mallet. Chisels and gouges used solely with hand
stress want no ferrules. However most chisels have ferrules even
in the event that they’re supposed for superb paring work; some carving instruments do
not. For a lot of chisels, the best danger of splitting the
deal with comes when becoming the deal with, so a ferrule is an efficient
precaution whatever the software’s supposed use. Chisels and
gouges subjected to heavy banging are sometimes fitted with a steel
hoop on the prime of the chisel to forestall splitting at that finish.

The dimensions of the tang and bolster largely decide the scale of
the ferrule. In the event you’re changing a wood deal with, you possibly can reuse
the ferrule or use one the identical measurement. If you wish to match a
smaller ferrule otherwise you’re changing a composite deal with, make
positive there can be sufficient wooden contained in the ferrule to
accommodate the tang. Typically, the diameter of the ferrule
have to be a minimum of that of the chisel’s bolster.

In the event you don’t reuse a ferrule, you can also make your personal from copper
tubing bought at shops.  Or you should purchase brass
ferrules for just a few cents apiece from Lee Valley Instruments. These
are available in a wider vary of diameters than can be found in copper
tube. It’s good to match the deal with to the ferrule, so at all times have
the ferrule you plan to make use of earlier than you make the deal with. Some
chisels are fitted with leather-based washers that slip over the tang
and seat between the bolster and the top of the deal with. I feel
they’re supposed one way or the other to cushion mallet blows, however I can’t
say I really feel a distinction in use. I like them anyway, so I minimize
them out of a chunk of shoemaker’s sole leather-based and put them

Making the Deal with
That is the enjoyable half. You may make any sort of deal with you possibly can
think about. Turning handles on a lathe is fast and simple – you possibly can
make and discard half a dozen earlier than you discover the one you need
and nonetheless be completed in an hour. Shaping handles with drawknife,
spokeshave, aircraft or chisels takes longer, however can produce
deal with shapes – faceted or flattened for instance – which can be
unobtainable on a lathe. And you’ll mix turning and
hand-shaping. If you wish to rehandle a chisel however don’t need
to make the deal with, you should purchase a traditional boxwood sample in
a number of sizes from Lee Valley.

You may make handles in all kinds of shapes shortly and
simply on a lathe.

Industrial handles are generally fabricated from ash, beech or boxwood.
However any moderately exhausting wooden will do. I’m trying ahead to
making some handles of osage orange, a local right here in Nebraska
that has tight grain, a beautiful orange shade, and is hard as
nails. Firewood suppliers are glorious sources of ash, maple,
birch and different native woods that make superb handles. In the event you can
cut up deal with blanks from the log, you’ll be certain that the grain
will run parallel to the deal with’s size, the strongest

On the Lathe
Turning is the best approach to make a deal with. No matter form you
select, you will need to match the ferrule snugly to 1 finish.
It needn’t be a pressured match, however it shouldn’t rattle round on
the wooden, both.
The nice benefit of a lathe is in boring the pilot gap for
the tang. I mount a chuck and bit on the top inventory and feed
the deal with onto the bit by turning the tailstock’s dead-center
wheel. This bores a gap proper on the deal with’s axis, making certain
that the chisel blade and deal with can be correctly aligned.
Use machinist’s bits – the tapered nostril makes a neater, simpler
entry than a brad level or different spur bit. Full the
deal with’s form (and rub end on the spinning deal with with a
fabric if you want) earlier than you bore the outlet.

Bore the tang pilot gap on the lathe utilizing a machinist’s
drill mounted in a chuck on the top inventory. Feed the deal with
into the spinning bit with the feed wheel on the tail inventory.

To affix chisel and deal with, slip the ferrule in place on the top
of the chisel deal with, add a leather-based washer if you’d like one and
begin the tang within the pilot gap. You possibly can repair the chisel in a
vise and drive the deal with on. I choose to upend the chisel and
deal with and bang the top of the deal with on a machine desk or
different heavy piece of iron. Carried out this fashion, the blade’s personal
weight drives the tang into the deal with and I don’t need to
fear concerning the blade slipping within the vise. It takes some time,
however until you’ve badly underestimated the scale of the pilot
gap, the bolster will ultimately seat snugly towards the top
of the deal with. Even when the outlet is a bit too tight, splits are
often contained by the ferrule.

Seat the tang within the deal with by repeatedly hanging the top of
the deal with towards an iron plate or machine desk.



Hand-shaping a
Deal with

In the event you don’t have a lathe, otherwise you desire a faceted deal with, it’s
simple to form one by hand. The tough half is boring the pilot
gap within the deal with in order that the blade and deal with can be
aligned. A blade that skews off the deal with centerline will be
very awkward to make use of. I feel the best technique is to bore the
gap in a sq. deal with clean earlier than shaping the deal with. With a
drill press the outlet will be bored very precisely. Or the clean
will be held firmly in a vise for hand drilling. Set a sq. or
two as much as gauge the angles.

After making cuts on the nook to forestall splitting alongside
the deal with’s total size, kind the ferrule seat with a

In the event you’re unsure concerning the alignment of the tang pilot
gap and deal with, you possibly can assemble the blade to the deal with

Subsequent, kind the seat for the ferrule. Make noticed cuts in at every
nook to forestall splitting past the ferrule seat. Then pare
fastidiously with a chisel till the ferrule matches the seat snugly.
In the event you’re assured that the pilot gap is properly centered alongside
the size of the clean, you possibly can form the deal with, then
assemble it with ferrule and blade as described beforehand. If
you’re unsure concerning the orientation of the pilot gap, you
can assemble the deal with and blade, then form with drawknife
and spokeshaves, as proven within the pictures. This could be a bit
awkward in spots, however it lets you make changes within the
deal with to offset an off-center pilot gap.

Draw traces on the deal with alongside the axes of the blade.

Form the deal with parallel to the axes to make sure good
blade-handle alignment.

Rehandling a chisel or gouge may be very satisfying. A do-it-yourself
deal with will not be stronger or extra sturdy than one from the
manufacturing unit. However it’s actually extra private and is price doing
for that motive alone.

From the February 2002 problem #126

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: