turning handles for Irwin chisels

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Forum topic by Jon1094 posted 01-21-2013 06:21 AM 4162 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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41 posts in 2409 days

01-21-2013 06:21 AM

So I spent days trying to find out how to properly make handles for my ugly Irwin chisels. I finally decided to go it alone and make them without instruction. If anyone is having the same problem here is how I did it.

First start by removing the old plastic nasty handles. The best way is to hold the blade in a vise. I used a leather belt to guard the blade. Take a pair of vise grips and pull the handle off. You need to twist it a bit but it will pop right off.

Then form the block to roughly the size you want your handle to be and drill a hole in one side. For the Irwin chisels drill a 3/8 inch hole the correct depth. To get the correct depth you have to remove the old ugly blue plastic handles first.

I then turned it down to a cylinder in several stages.

The mark is for the base of the handle.

Use calipers to make sure that the side that the chisel tang fits into measures exactly the same as the flare on top of the tang so that it fits flush. When the shape is close I sanded to to 400 grit. Then I sprayed the handle with water and let it set for several hours to raise the grain. After that I lightly sanded with 400 again and started with my Micromesh pads.

Micromesh pads are great. They start at 1500 which is equivalent to 600 grit sandpaper. I sanded with pads to 12,000 micromesh to achieve a nice polish. After sanding to 12,000 i applied four coats of General Finishes clear woodturners finish. I let each coat dry for 30 minutes before applying the second one.

Then carefully cut the stock off of the lathe.

This is the tang of the Irwin chisel. Notice the slight flare on the tang? The sides of this tang need to be sanded down just a hair to make sure that the tang is 3/8” and not beyond. Remember that 3/8” hole you drilled? If you don’t sand the sides of the tang it will split the thin wood at the top of the new handle.

This is bad…sand.

This is much better.

Once the tang is sanded use some sort of epoxy to cover the tang. Use your hands to push the tang in a ways. The epoxy will squeeze out. Clean the epoxy off so it doesn’t get on the wood. Then put the chisel blade into soft wood and, covering the base of the handle with a cloth, give it a swing or two with a mallet to seat the tang. It helps if you wipe off the excess epoxy away from the wood and toward the metal. You can clean the metal later easily.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to message me.

18 replies so far

View Woodknack's profile


12431 posts in 2584 days

#1 posted 01-21-2013 06:55 AM

Much improved.

I basically copied the handles on my Marples for an old Stanley chisel except for a weird little hat I put on top (the chisel is junk, I don’t use it).

-- Rick M,

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 2828 days

#2 posted 01-21-2013 09:14 AM

Very nice looking chisels now.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View DouginVa's profile


490 posts in 2477 days

#3 posted 01-22-2013 02:05 AM

Looks nice….def better than those blue plastic handles.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View John's profile


341 posts in 4002 days

#4 posted 01-22-2013 02:07 AM

great project! I hate those blue handles

-- John - Central PA -

View bondogaposis's profile


5094 posts in 2555 days

#5 posted 01-22-2013 02:11 AM

Let us know when you start missing that blue plastic. Great job.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View a1Jim's profile


117340 posts in 3781 days

#6 posted 01-22-2013 03:10 AM

I agree these handles look great and you did a beautiful job of replacing the handles,but the new handles will not stand up to the forces the original handles do plus the original handles are shaped so they won’t roll off the bench like these will. I’m not saying this to put down your fine work but to let others know what there doing when the remove those ugly blue handles. I disagree about Marple chisels are junk,I have used mine for more than 20 years and they hold and edge an cut just as well as the fancy looking chisels that cost $250 with pretty handles do. It all boils down to sharp is sharp fancy handles or not.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Woodknack's profile


12431 posts in 2584 days

#7 posted 01-22-2013 04:46 AM

Jim, I was referring to the Stanley chisel being junk, not my Marples.

-- Rick M,

View a1Jim's profile


117340 posts in 3781 days

#8 posted 01-22-2013 04:54 AM

Sorry Rick us old guys get those brain cloud attacks sometime :))

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View MNgary's profile


303 posts in 2621 days

#9 posted 01-22-2013 05:04 AM

Fantabulous explanation and pictorial guide!

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 3068 days

#10 posted 01-22-2013 05:49 AM

Nice !!!

I think the natural next step for you is to fabricate your own chisels out of steel. They have plans
for that in Fine Woodworking magazine.

Great job on those handles.

View James Lango's profile

James Lango

186 posts in 3738 days

#11 posted 01-22-2013 09:48 AM

Thats a great idea!! I also have an old set of 4 stanelys and hate the red/clear handles. This mite be in the works. Thanks for sharing!!!


View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2350 days

#12 posted 01-22-2013 02:44 PM

I must be in the minority in that I like the blue plastic handles on the Irwin blue chips. I have beaten the crap outta mibe with nary a dent or ding. They’ve also been dropped a lot. Oh well, different strokes I guess.

View John's profile


341 posts in 4002 days

#13 posted 02-05-2013 01:12 PM

watch the video – it’s Popular Woodworking, so of course it’s a tease to sell you another DVD, but nice tip on double drilling for the irwin/marples handles.

-- John - Central PA -

View Underdog's profile


1231 posts in 2239 days

#14 posted 02-05-2013 02:01 PM

Nice! I love the way that Walnut turns and looks when finished. Doesn’t agree with my sinuses though…

Now if I could just figure out how to turn handles for my carving tools and chisels where the handle needs to be tapered to fit inside the taper in the tool shank itself. I can’t imagine how that stays in…

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View John's profile


341 posts in 4002 days

#15 posted 02-05-2013 02:11 PM

Underdog, there’s a video for that one too!

-- John - Central PA -

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