The alternate title for this post should be: Goldilocks and the Three Chisel Handles, or perhaps even, Chisel Handle Mk. III.
I anticipate that this will be my last post on London Pattern chisel handles. I never planned to write this much about them, but my earlier attempts at turning these were not to my satisfaction and I couldn’t let it go until I was happy.
I have used Pacific Madrone salvaged from firewood for all the handles. I first turned a handle for a Craftsman BP chisel using 1 ½-inch thick stock. This came out very nice, but I decided that it was just too big for the chisel. You can read that earlier post HERE.
Next, I restored a vintage Greenlee chisel. I milled up some 1-inch thick stock and turned another handle. This one didn’t look quite as good and was clearly too small for the chisel. You can read that earlier post HERE. When I tuned this handle, I thought that 1-inch was going to be a good size and had milled up several 1-inch thick banks. Silly me. Since I had the blanks to use, I decided to make some file handles. Those you can find HERE.
Instead of chasing the sizes all over the place, I did what I should have done in the first place. I sat down to draw out a handle. Most tool makers use millimeters and it does make the math easy, so I decided to do the same. I played with the sizes until I had what I thought looked right.
I have to admit that I’m a little embarrassed about my sad attempt at a technical drawing. I enjoy reading Greg Merritt’s fantastic website https://hillbillydaiku.com, and his drawings are incredible. Really, go take a look! Unfortunately, they make me feel like a pre-schooler let loose with a bunch of crayons when I attempt to draw. My Dad was a graphic artist and architect, my Grandfather and my Aunt, very talented painters. But me… not so much. I even took some architecture classes in college but, the pencil refuses to obey my command. I do a little better with straight lines and a ruler (and as you can see, there are a lot of those below). In any case, after much scratching and erasing, I was left with this:
*** I should add a proviso here. I changed one of the dimensions above while at the lathe. I changed the 65mm octagonal section to 80mm long. It just seemed better that way when I could see it in 3D. You’ll see that further down the page. Also, the drawing above is for a chisel with a brass ferule fitted and likely a bolster on the tang . Obviously, a socket chisel needs a taper instead.
I wanted to make two chisel handles that were the same size and replace both the too large and the too small versions I made in my earlier attempts. I had one remaining pice of Madrone in the lumber rack and I cut a board from it that was about 31-32mm thick. I ran this over the jointer and then through the planer to get it down to 30mm.
I then cut two blanks from this board that were 30mm wide.
In my first post on this topic, I said that I was having a little trouble setting up the bandsaw for the 45° cuts needed to make the square blanks into octagons. Well, I’ve since discovered that you can remove the tall re-saw fence from the main fence (this part I knew), but more importantly it’s mounting hardware as well. Re-installing the mounting hardware from the other side allows the re-saw fence to be used on the back. As Ralph would say, There was much joy in Mudville.
My two blanks were much longer than needed, but this was good as it allowed me to choose the best section for the handle.
I turned and fitted the taper, then turned the cylinder before shaping it into a cyma recta. The taper was the most time-consuming part, as I removed and tested the fit several times.
Other than the thickness of the stock, the biggest change in version 3 of my chisel handles is the way I fit the taper to the socket. I my earlier versions, the taper was quite large and extended well past the end of the socket. You don’t want to make the taper so small that the end of the socket touches the handle, but leaving it too long looks sloppy. You can see above, that my large chisel handle had about a ¼-inch of taper left in between the end of the metal socket and the start of the bulbous part of the handle. The bottom handle was worse, about 3/8-inch was left exposed. On my new handles, I paid more attention to these details and left only about 1/16-inch gap. This looks far nicer and really makes the handle look custom fit to the tool.
Below, you can see all the iterations of the project. At the far top and bottom are the original handles, next in are the first attempts that I made for each chisel, and in the center are the two final handles.
I used my usual finish of Watco Danish Oil, and over two days, applied two coats. Once dry, I seated the handles in the sockets with a few sharp taps of the mallet.
These should make the chisels a joy to use for some time to come. I hope the Pacific Madrone holds up well, but all indications are that it will.
Well, onwards to my next project. A ramped shooting board for my new Veritas plane. Oh, and the wife has decided that she wants an end-grain cutting board for the kitchen. I thought that was a woodworkers right of passage that I had managed to avoid, but it looks like I’m on the hook for one.
– Jonathan White