Old Chisel New Handle Homemade Woodworking Tools
by Don Heisz
I had high hopes for this chisel when I saw it.
Where did I get such a thing? Well, since I am very rough on my tools, one might expect that I just happened to do it myself. But not this time. No, I was driving along one day and happened to pull over to go look at something. When I opened the door, I found a bucket in the grass. In the bucket were some worn out tools, mostly for taping drywall. This chisel was in there, too.
Since it was abandoned, I snatched it up.
I think it is deserving of a new handle. And I have just the piece of wood for it. It came from a pallet that John and I found on a jobsite several years ago. You may recall that wood was used on at least one of John’s projects. The wood is very hard and perfect for a chisel handle.
It didn’t take much effort to get the old handle off. A nice design feature of the rusty old chisel is that the handle sits in a socket. Once the handle was off, I sanded all the rust and dirt off the chisel. I used a palm sander, which did not in the slightest heat up the steel. Once the majority of the rust was gone, I rubbed Danish oil over it to keep it from rusting and also to make it look more spiffy.
Of course, to make a handle for a chisel, one must employ a lathe. I recently rescued my lathe from the floor of the basement and even quickly made a stand. Some of you are probably familiar, from reading Offcuts (which I write) that I purchased this lathe an age ago and it has sat on the floor, not even once turned on, since I got it. Well, I finally got around to setting it up a
nd using it for such massive projects as imitation Fisher Price Little People and pseudo-Japanese wooden dolls (see here). The lathe itself seems like it may have spent some time sitting in someone’s back yard (the plastic is faded in a suspicious way) and bits have been randomly falling off it. The switch was missing the security key (like a lathe needs a security key), so I took the switch apart to fix that … and promptly broke the entire switch. But I fixed it by making it always on … by accidentally gluing it permanently in the on position with super glue. So, I turn the lathe on and off using the switch on the power bar it’s plugged into.
You will notice a rather Spartan design to the stand. I wanted as close to nothing underneath the lathe as possible to make it easier to clean. You see, I have a problem keeping the shop clean and anything that can make it easier to sweep up should be implemented.
Anyway, back to the chisel handle. I cut the piece of maple (for maple is what it is) roughly to size and pounded it into the lathe (the lathe is not very cooperative). I quickly roughed it out round and then used my fancy plastic calipers to measure the outside diameter of the end of the socket. You may notice the ends of the jaws of my calipers are a bit messed up. That’s what happens when you touch fancy plastic calipers to wood still turning in a lathe. Luckily, I purchased 5 of them at once to accommodate for the likelihood I would do something stupid.
Unfortunately, I can’t find the other 4.
It did not take long to get the handle shaped properly. I then sanded it with 40 grit sandpaper, then 150 grit, then 400 grit, then I used wood shavings to give it a good polish. Wood shavings are not to be underestimated.
I then marked the proper length for the part that slips into the chisel socket and tapered it according to measurements from the existing handle (which, while beat up, still fit snugly in the chisel).
As you can see from the picture below, I then mounted the handle in a chuck and started painting it. I put it in the chuck because I got ahead of myself and removed it from the lathe and cut off the end a bit too soon. It was not possible to put it back on the spur centre so I put it in the chuck. Anyway, it worked out. This, however, is not paint. It is red ink. So, the ink soaks into the surface (where paint would sit on the surface) and is pretty much impossible to chip.
The ink is applied with the piece spinning. It spins until dry.
Here it is drying on the lathe.
Once the ink was dry (the black is ink, also), I rubbed it down with more wood shavings since the ink raised the grain. Then it needed another coat of ink. After that, I coated it lightly with Danish oil to help seal it. Since I plan on using this chisel, I only put one thin coat of oil on it. No need to make it a showpiece if it’ll soon have the spliters beat out of it.
Once off the lathe, I made the final cut on the ends and hammered it into the chisel socket.
A very good fit, in my opinion. The handle very securely went into the socket.
So, I’m fairly pleased with it. Any excuse to use the lathe, you know. I will need to sharpen this thing, though, since it’s about as sharp as a dead man’s wit. But, once sharp, I’m sure it’ll chop out a great many hinge pockets and strike plate preps. I gave it a nice long handle, which means it’s good to use on the lathe. But perhaps I’ll never use it that much. I did, after all, discover the name brand etched in the rusty steel once I oiled it. I recognize it as being about as close to the bottom of the barrel as anything can get. Ah, but maybe I lucked out.
It was fun, anyway.
Be sure to read Offcuts every week, whether or not I post something new. Sometimes, old things are better than new things.