New Handle on an English Mortise Chisel

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Project by Brit posted 01-01-2015 10:56 AM 2137 views 0 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I recently restored a set of I. Sorby English mortise chisels, but the 5/16” one needed a new handle, due to an old woodworm attack and someone beating on it with a metal hammer.

I had an old Jack plane that was surplus to requirements, so I was able to use some old dry beech for the new handle. I was a bit worried about drilling the stepped hole because I was doing it by hand and it needed to be accurate, but after much pontificating, I kicked myself up the jacksie and told myself to ”just do it”.

Then I used a 1/4” and 1/8” chisel to enlarge the hole to match the taper of the tang, which tapered in two directions. The handle is held on by compression, so when the tang was a snug fit with about 3/4” of the tang still protruding from the hole, I lowered the blade into one of the dog holes on my old workmate so it rested on the bolster and pounded the life out of it to drive it home. Thankfully it went without incident and seated nicely first time. Just as well, as I don’t think it will ever come off again in one piece.

Once the wooden blank was on the blade, I shaped it first with a couple of drawknives, then a rasp, then a file, then sanded to P180. Once it felt right, I filed in the convex shape to the top of the handle in both directions and eased the edge. Two coats of BLO and it was as good as new.

Thanks for looking.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

24 comments so far

View Woodfix's profile


335 posts in 2719 days

#1 posted 01-01-2015 11:05 AM

Great work. That is one seriously beautiful set of chisels.

-- I would rather have the most memories, than the most money.

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

555 posts in 2475 days

#2 posted 01-01-2015 11:25 AM

Nice job on the handles. I covet your chisels.
Happy New Year

-- Glen

View CL810's profile


3404 posts in 2407 days

#3 posted 01-01-2015 12:53 PM

Great lookin’ work Andy! Are you planning a bench build since your shop is done?

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View Don W's profile

Don W

17872 posts in 1986 days

#4 posted 01-01-2015 12:53 PM

Nice set of chisels!!!!!!!!!/

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Buckethead's profile


3140 posts in 1288 days

#5 posted 01-01-2015 12:56 PM

Gorgeous restoration. These lovelies deserve the love and care you gave them. It’s great that they ended up in your hands. Congrats on the beautiful set!

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Brit's profile


6573 posts in 2262 days

#6 posted 01-01-2015 01:15 PM

Thanks guys. It was a lot of time on the diamond stones to bring all the chisels back to life, but you soon forget that once they are all done. I consider myself very fortunate to have a set as nice as these are.

Are you planning a bench build since your shop is done?

- CL810

The shop isn’t done yet. I have to put up some dado rail, paint the inside of the windows and door white, lay a new floor, build some cupboards with a low work surface which will be my sharpening station/restoration area and put some French cleats on the walls so I can get some of my tools out of the crates they are currently in. I’m also going to improve the lighting. Then I want to build a folding saw bench with a difference that has been rattling around in my head for ages.

A proper workbench will probably not get done in 2015, but I will throw something together to keep me going until I can build a better one and to help me build it when the time comes.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2199 days

#7 posted 01-01-2015 01:36 PM

Very nice Andy, fine work as expected !
“Folding saw bench ” ? You’ve got one already ;-)

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View theoldfart's profile


7934 posts in 1870 days

#8 posted 01-01-2015 01:56 PM

Great restore Andy, looking forward to posting showing them in use.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View jjw5858's profile


1132 posts in 2021 days

#9 posted 01-01-2015 02:02 PM

Andy, the chisels look fantastic! Great job on this and I look forward to more of your inspiring work in the new year. Take care!

-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View terryR's profile


6229 posts in 1727 days

#10 posted 01-01-2015 02:55 PM

Very nice, Andy!
I love to see another galoot spending hours on a handle, especially for a Sorby tool.

Best wishes for the New Year!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Brad's profile


1129 posts in 2159 days

#11 posted 01-01-2015 02:59 PM

That handle came out really nicely Andy. What a great way to spend New Year’s eve.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View Tim's profile


3029 posts in 1380 days

#12 posted 01-01-2015 06:37 PM

Wow that turned out nice, and fun that you did it the traditional way. The jack plane certainly sacrificed itself to a good cause, that’s a really nice set of pigstickers.

View Slyy's profile


2400 posts in 1074 days

#13 posted 01-01-2015 07:52 PM

Great work Andy, the handle came out exceedingly well! Any plans to put a replacement Sorby cartouche on the handle?

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View mafe's profile


11061 posts in 2508 days

#14 posted 01-01-2015 07:59 PM

Look wonderful.
A beautiful set that is now.
Look forward to follow your shop build in this new year.
Happy new year dear Andy,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Brit's profile


6573 posts in 2262 days

#15 posted 01-01-2015 08:18 PM

Thank you gents, glad you like it.

Slyy – None of the handles have a cartouche if I understand the word correctly. I won’t be doing anything else to the handle I made.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

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