New Handles for Old Tools

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Blog entry by Brian S posted 03-31-2012 04:02 AM 2601 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A couple of weekends ago I received a wonderful request: my mother-in-law had an old offset socket chisel that belonged to her grandfather, which she wanted to give to her son (my brother-in-law) as a gift (confused yet?). This is one of those beautiful old socket chisels which has been used heavily over the years, and is missing the handle. Aside from a slightly mushroomed socket, this chisel was in terrific shape – no rust, no fuss.

So I turned (get it?) to the lathe, and made a new handle from some curly maple I picked up a few months back. Due to the short amount of socket remaining, I had to epoxy the handle in, and a good whack will almost certainly break this handle off again, but since it is an offset chisel, it is really better for paring anyway, and I expect it has many years left. I ground a new edge, re-flattened the back, sharpened it up, and then made an edge cover for it from some sturdy canvas I had around. Leather would have been better, but I haven’t got any.

Oh what a joy it is to take this old tool and give it the little bit of love needed to make it a worker again!

Next up, I turned a handle for some of my larger bastard files. For this wood, I used the stuff I found in the mystery bin that might have been Jarrah (more here). It turned beautifully, and resulted in a nice, solid-feeling handle.

For the ferrule, I used one of those brass “compression nuts” that you get in the plumbing department of Home Depot.

I simply turned down a tenon, put some epoxy on it, and screwed the compression nut on. Then I sanded it on the lathe until it was round. I’ve never tried this kind of ferrule before, and I must say that I really like it. It’s a solid ferrule that looks terrific and feels like it will never give out.

Lastly, several months ago I made these handles for turning tools. A friend of mine was generous enough to mail me some high-speed-steel rods that he had ground down in to small-scale turning tools. I made this pair of handles to hold the rods.

As you can see, embedded in the handle (underneath the ferrule) is a piece of steel pipe, the inside diameter of which is exactly the diameter of the HSS rod. Through the side of this pipe a hole is drilled and tapped, and then a hex screw is inserted to allow the HSS rod to be locked in place with a hex wrench. The top handle is one of the first handles I ever turned, and it isn’t the most ergonomic or attractive shape. But the handle below that is my next attempt, and is worlds better. Both are made from hard maple.

Thanks for looking!

-- Brian

3 comments so far

View hhhopks's profile


651 posts in 2399 days

#1 posted 03-31-2012 04:09 AM

Looks great.
Thanks for the brass compression nut idea.
I have to try it out.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2790 days

#2 posted 03-31-2012 01:50 PM

You did a really nice job on that historical tool. I hope your brother-in-law shows it the proper respect. How are you planning to finish the new handle? An oil soak like Mafe does his.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View Brian S's profile

Brian S

108 posts in 2615 days

#3 posted 04-01-2012 03:23 AM

I do like Mafe’s stuff, but I’ve never felt that any of my stuff really needed an oil soak. Just a couple of coats of BLO is my favorite finish for tool handles.

-- Brian

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