London Pattern File Handles

Just a short post today.  Some of you may have read that I have been experimenting with turning some London Pattern Chisel Handles.  I did the first for a Craftsman BP chisel that’s original handle was completely ruined.  The second was for a Greenlee Chisel that I picked up at a flea market and restored.  You can read the earlier posts here:

I felt that the first attempt was too large and the second too small.  However, when I milled up the 1-inch thick Madrone to make the second handle, I made several extra octagonal blanks, not knowing that I was going to later think it too small.  So now I have extra octagonal blanks that I have decided are too thin to use for chisel handles.  What to do with them?

I figured that they would be a good size for file handles and decided to make some of those.  The thing is, file handles really want a ferule so that they don’t split.  I didn’t have any brass tubing on hand and didn’t want to wait for an order to arrive.  So, I went to my local HomeDepot thinking that I would buy some copper pipe couplings and use those for ferules.  When I got to the store I found something that I think will look much better than copper.  They are brass straight couplings used for fixing Pex pipe together.  They have ribs on them, but I can remove those with a file.

A brass straight coupling used for Pex pipe.

A brass straight coupling used for Pex pipe.

I mounted one of the Madrone blanks in the lathe and turned one end down to the size of the inner diameter of the coupling.  I slid the coupling onto the blank and put it back in the lathe.  With the brass turning, I used a file to remove the ribs.  I then removed it from the lathe, flipped the coupling around, and then repeated the filing for the other side.

Filing the ridges off at the lathe.

Filing the ridges off at the lathe.

Ridges gone.

Ridges gone.

Next, I needed to cut the large central rib away from the coupling and leave two individual ferules.  I used a hacksaw while the lathe was turning being careful to cut through the brass but not the wood.

Cutting the brass ferule.

Cutting the brass ferule.

This resulted in two ferules ready for use on the file handles.

Cut through and ready to be removed from the lathe.

Cut through and ready to be removed from the lathe.

When I looked at the six remaining octagonal blanks that I had milled, I discovered that one of them had split while sitting on the bench over night.  This one is relegated to the fire pile:

One of my octagonal blanks did this while sitting on the bench for a few days.

One of my octagonal blanks did this while sitting on the bench for a few days.

With ferules made, I proceeded to turn the file handles on the lathe.  You can see in the photo below that one of the ferules still has the larger brass rib that made up the center of the coupling.  I left one like this as an experiment.  I don’t think that I care for the look and wouldn’t do this again.  The top file handle has a coat of Watco Danish Oil on it, while the others are bare.

Five file handles. (The top one has a coat of Watco Danish oil)

Five file handles. (The top one has a coat of Watco Danish oil)

These 1-inch thick turnings are a good size for file handles, but as you can see below, this size does look a little small on a large chisel.

Here you can see how they compare to the chisel handles I made earlier.

Here you can see how they compare to the chisel handles I made earlier.

A couple of coats of Watco on all of them.

A couple of coats of Watco on all of them.

Well,  I think that made for a good use of the remaining 1-inch blanks that I had.

I’m going to do one more post on London Pattern handles as I’m still not happy with the size of the first two attempts.  I have since turned a couple of handles that are sized in between the first attempts.  These seem much better, but I will have to save all that for the next installment.

More soon.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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8 Responses to London Pattern File Handles

  1. I think that’s a great idea “up cycling” that straight coupling!

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks. I plan to buy a piece of thick walled brass tubing from amazon at some point, but haven’t got around to it yet. These worked well in a pinch.

      Jonathan

  2. I would use that rib – drill a slight counter bore and epoxy it in there. That should up the strength of it a lot. If not I agree with you that it doesn’t look right with these handles.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Ralph,

      I agree that the rib would make the ferule stronger. That might be important if the tool were a fairly heavy duty chisel, but I probably shouldn’t have done it on a file handle. Aesthetically, I just don’t care for it. Oh well, it was worth trying.

      Jonathan

  3. jenesaisquoiwoodworking says:

    Hey Jonathan

    They look fantastic. I used the copper you referred to for my file handles a few years ago, but think yours would be a lot stronger. The first few handles I made I only used a friction fit for the rings, but by winter time with our massive swing in humidity they came loose. Now I tend to use epoxy and friction to keep them there. It makes a huge difference in the pleasure of using a file when it is a handle you made yourself. Very clever work on the lathe to modify those couplings into such perfect ferrules.

    All the best my friend.
    Gerhard

    • Jonathan says:

      Gerhard,

      I remember that. Didn’t you make like a thousand handles??? The copper you used looked really good with the Witpeer wood you turned. I found that turning the wood blank to a thickness to match the inner diameter of the ferule was a bit of a tricky proposition. Lots of taking the blank out of the lathe, testing the fit, putting it back in the lathe, and taking a hair more off. I found that it was very easy to quickly go from too thick to too thin. On the handle with the ferule that had the rib left on it, the fit was just a hair too lose for my liking. I added a little epoxy to that one.

      All the best mate,

      Jonathan

  4. Matt McGrane says:

    I like the look of the madrone. We have lots of madrone trees in the Santa Cruz mountains here, between the SF Bay area and the Pacific Coast. My wife calls them “refrigerator trees” because on a hot day, you can feel the smooth madrone bark (the rough bark flakes off frequently) and it is very cool. These trees are never straight – at least the ones I see. I’ve wondered if the wood was good for wood working projects. Maybe the forest wouldn’t mind if I cut off a few pieces …

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Matt,

      It really is a beautiful wood. I have a massive Madrone tree in my back yard and a smaller one out front. You’re right about them never being straight. They seem to like to live along the edge of the forrest especially along the highways. They corkscrew up looking for the light. The problem with this is that much of the wood has tension built into it. I have heard (but have no first hand experience) that cutting and drying your own boards is very difficult. The wood is very prone to warping and checking. With small chunks like I used on the lathe, most of these problems become irrelevant (unless of course you count that one blank of mine that split). I have seen kiln dried Madrone boards for sale at Edensaw Hardwoods in Port Townsend, WA, but have never bought any.

      Take care,

      Jonathan

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