|Project by fatman51||posted 06-16-2016 08:16 AM||3074 views||2 times favorited||12 comments|
I never know whether to post such a project as a blog, or as a project, but I made these handles, and it was quite a project.
Have you ever picked up a dry honey locust branch and decided to make chisel handles? I did so because I have a bunch of old flat tanged chisels that I have reground for fine detail work. Every chisel in the set started out as a 1, 3/4, or 1/2 inch chisel. Some of the assorted makes shown are Great neck, Fuller, or unknown Tool Steel – Made in USA, but most of these were crudely finished Stanley tools from a decade or so ago. In spite of the poor finish and the chincy factory handles, the steel is actually pretty good. All were made in the USA and the lone Great Neck pictured was well beveled on the edges. Being a person who uses chisels of one kind or another every day, I have always kept a few of the unmodified tools around for random tasks well suited for a thin sharp chisel and, as I stated, I have gradually reshaped the irons of many until I created a whole set of finer tools that were in need of decent handles. When I scored a bunch of dry honey locust logs, I collected some of the branches for this purpose.
Rot resistant, close in strength, and somewhat harder than white oak, honey locust seemed like a fine wood to shape some octagonal handles out of and not nearly as toxic to breathe as the ipe I often use to make such things. It is also a very attractive material, as shown in the pictures. Cutting the tree limb into sections, I flattened one side of each with a hand plane and squared them to the desired center on the table saw (I could have skipped this step for most of them), chucked each in the lathe and turned them to my center, cut the octagons on the table saw, and chucked them back into the lathe to finish turning. I used three different sizes of brass or bronze bushings for the ferrules. Wherever possible, I centered the ball end of the handle on the center of the rings such that a similar grain pattern is visible from any vantage on most of the handles. I drilled the pilot holes for the tangs in stages such that they are tapered to match the tangs, which I sharpened so that they would not split the wood when I drove the handles home. I dipped the handles in shellac, letting it flow into the tang socket, which should help the chisel iron stay in the handle.
The picture above, taken from the internet, is an example of the original Stanleys.
Above and below are pictures for comparison. The handles I made lack the finger rest or tang seat of a proper London style handle, making them shorter. My chisel looks quite delicate next to the Buck Bros butt chisel and Narex bench chisel in the picture. Of course, it is not a tool intended for such heavy work as these. The steel is harder and takes a finer edge, but is more brittle. Each of the octagonal handled chisels is well balanced with its handle and ferrule sized and shaped to put the balancing point where the ferrule meets the iron. Where the sturdy honey locust and heavy brass/bronze ferrules can take a beating, these tools are not meant to be beat on with a hammer, but to be used by hand or tapped lightly like a carving chisel. With finely beveled edges these are a good tool for cleaning up dovetail pins and sockets.
The above tool is marked Great Neck, Made in USA. This and the Longer of the two skew chisels, marked Fuller, were better finished than the other tools with better quality, but damaged, factory handles. I did not have to improve on the beveled edges of either of these two tools.
I hope you like my handles and thank you for looking.
Update, June 27, 2016: I was just looking at a couple of Blue Spruce dovetail paring chisels and was struck by the similarities I found with the refined Stanleys featured on this page. For the money I would have spent, I feel like I did well with this set. We have been using them in my shop and I have carried a few of them with me when visiting my father’s and brothers’ shops. They continue to hold an edge, everyone likes the balance, and I would not be surprised to see some more of my local peers order the comparable, and potentially nicer, Blue Spruce models. The shape and balance of such chisels as these is great for small dovetails and fine paring work.
-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin